“Some things never change”
I’ve heard this saying countless times throughout my life, but this has never been closer to the truth for a place like Londolozi – a place where time bends and weaves its magic through the tapestry of history. Leading up to 2026, our centenary year, I can’t help but marvel at how Londolozi stands as a testament to enduring traditions, ancient rhythms of nature, powerful connections, and timeless beauty that have defined this wilderness haven from 1926 to now, and will continue to do so through time.
The Heartbeat of Londolozi
Picture this part of Africa a century ago – pristine, beautiful and entirely wild. Imagine the courage of the early pioneers, Charles Varty and Frank Unger, disembarking from a train which would only return one week later, setting out across the dry bushveld to discover the land they had purchased – an unknown destination on the banks of an unknown river. It was on the banks of the Sand River, that the heartbeat of Londolozi began, and it all began with a fire.
The flickering flames of the nearly 100-year-old campfire at Varty camp have served as the timeless heartbeat of Londolozi – illuminating stories that bridge generations. They transport us back to an era when adventurers like Charles and Frank boldly ventured into the unfamiliar wilderness. Since then, fearless travellers have gathered around this very fire, sharing their tales of adventure and songs beneath the expansive, star-studded African night sky. Over the years, this fire has remained a cherished gathering place where stories find their voice, melodies resonate from a strummed guitar, laughter echoes into the night, and lifelong friendships are born.
Among the countless timeless Londolozi traditions, this age-old campfire gathering remains one of my personal favourites. To this day, as the moon ascends the sky and the stars reveal themselves, the fire is aglow, extending a warm welcome to its visitors who partake in the same time-honoured traditions that began all those years ago. The heartbeat of Londolozi endures, ever-pulsing beneath the starry African skies.
A Love Affair With Leopards
Throughout the passing years, the profound connection between Londolozi’s inhabitants and the majestic leopards that gracefully roam the lush landscape remains a poignant constant, and an enduring, cherished tradition. Before the 1970s, encounters with leopards were a rarity, as these enigmatic creatures possess the remarkable ability to vanish from sight as they wish. It was in 1979 that an extraordinary encounter altered the course of Londolozi history when a young female leopard, known today as The Mother Leopard, chose not to flee from Dave and John Varty, but rather, revealed herself to them.
This pivotal moment marked the inception of a remarkable journey. John Varty and tracker Elmon Mhlongo dedicated 12 years of their lives to closely following and meticulously documenting her every move through film. Their efforts culminated in the creation of the first documentary of its kind – The Silent Hunter. These men managed to capture on film what had barely been witnessed in real life – leopards mating, numerous litters of cubs, hunts, territorial patrols and everything in between. This is how the incredible kinship with leopards began, and how the love affair with The Leopards of Londolozi came to be.
Since then, the Leopards of Londolozi have enthralled generations of guests with an almost unrivalled leopard-viewing experience in the heart of one of the most wildlife-rich reserves in the world. The lineage of the Mother Leopard is still carefully tracked, with the current population of Londolozi’s leopards serving as a living testament to this enduring legacy. Over the last 4 decades, this dynasty has been chronicled by the many guides and trackers, past and present, who have contributed to documenting the lives of these magnificent creatures – what an incredible tradition!!
The Leopards, spirits of the Londolozi bushveld, remain a symbol of mystery, elegance, and indomitable grace. From the pioneers of yesterday to the rangers of tomorrow, these feline spirits have been both elusive muses and revered guardians.
Sipping Serenity with Sundowners at Londolozi
The tradition of stopping during afternoon drive for sundowners at Londolozi remains an unchanging thread that connects generations of wanderers. What is it about an ice-cold drink, standing in the heart of Londolozi, watching the sunset surrounded by your loved ones that have led countless Londolozi guests and staff to continue the same tradition year after year?
I came across this image, and I couldn’t help but smile. This photograph was taken in the 70s, and when I look at it, I think about how these original Londolozi staff and guests created something so magical, a timeless tradition which still happens each and every day at Londolozi. I can imagine how, as the sun dipped below the horizon, these travellers gathered to savour the moment, enjoying their drinks while watching the firey sun illuminate the sky with wonderful colours. Fast forward to today, and the same ritual endures, drawing guests, staff members and seasoned adventurers alike to share in the breathtaking spectacle of Londolozi in all her glory – shared memories, moments of reflection, contemplation and gratitude for being alive, and for sharing experiences like this. It is a timeless tradition in my eyes, a tranquil pause in a world of wilderness where the beauty of nature unfolds before your eyes, and the allure of sundowners remains as irresistible as ever.
A Village of Tradition
What has always been an integral part of Londolozi is our village life, our shared community and Ubuntu. Our community’s connection to the land has infused Londolozi with a cultural richness that transcends centuries. Traditions have thrived alongside the ever-changing tapestry of life at Londolozi, creating a harmonious coexistence between the land, its inhabitants and our people that is as unyielding as the African sun.
“During my long walk to Freedom, I had the rare privilege to visit Londolozi. There I saw people of all races living in harmony amidst the beauty that mother nature offers. There I saw a living lion in the wild. Londolozi represents a model of the dream I cherish for the future of nature preservation in our country.” – Nelson Mandela
Some of my favourite moments at Londolozi have been in our Futuristic African Village. At Londolozi, all of us are a family. We gather to celebrate, mourn, support, and learn from each other. From gathering for meal times as a family to playing soccer on Women’s Day, to planting trees in honour of Madiba, celebrating the inaugural Londolozi Heritage Day fashion show, Fitness Friday runs, and most recently supporting the Springboks at the Rugby World Cup. This village is a beautiful mix of people from different backgrounds, who have lived as one for decades. This bond remains steadfast, a true testament to the enduring unity of land, people and wildlife.
Dedication to the Guest Experience
For generations, Londolozi has upheld the timeless tradition of delivering a guest experience like no other. Rooted in a hands-on, family-feeling approach, we have always strived to redefine hospitality standards in the industry. Ever since I arrived four years ago, I have always loved the meticulous attention to the small details that have such a lasting impact on our guests. The feeling of “coming home” is what Shan Varty describes when reflecting on what she wanted the very first guests to feel when visiting Londolozi.
We believe that luxury means nothing without soul. It is truly in the smallest of details, in the beginning, it was simple touches, such as placing fresh wildflowers next to the arriving guest’s bed even if they had to be placed in an empty yoghurt container. We also began leaving handwritten welcome cards for our guests – which is still done for each and every guest visiting us today! – Shan Varty
When you arrive at Londolozi, you are greeted like an old friend. From warm, personal welcomes to thoughtfully curated game drives, every moment at Londolozi is a symphony of genuine care and meaningful connections. It’s a place where the rustling leaves and vibrant sunsets aren’t just scenery, but integral components of an unforgettable journey, forging memories that endure for years to come. These traditions may seem small, but they are rooted in everything we do. At Londolozi, the guest experience is more than a stay; it’s an immersion into a world where traditions, warmth, and nature coming together in perfect harmony.
A Global Londolozi Family
Now this is one that I’m sure most of you will agree with me on.
The unexplained frequency and feeling of The Londolozi Effect has had a profound impact on those who have visited or worked at Londolozi. Through the passage of time, guests at Londolozi have metamorphosed from wanderers into family members, transcending the boundaries of mere acquaintance. The Londolozi Family has grown, stretching across continents and cultures, each member bound by a love for this remarkable place. Whether huddled around a campfire or sipping sundowners beside the Sand River, the ties that unite guests and staff have deepened over the decades, cultivating friendships that stand the test of time. Although this is a tradition that is felt, and not seen, it is possibly the most beautiful. By just visiting Londolozi, or keeping up to date with our latest safari stories on the blog – you, our Londolozi Family, are integrally a part of that tradition.
As Londolozi journeys from 1926 into 2026, some things indeed remain eternally unchanged. The campfire still dances with stories of yesteryears, our unwavering love affair for leopards endures as an unbreakable bond, sundowners continue to mark the finest conclusion to each day, harmonious village life thrives, dedication to the guest experience remains our priority, and guests are embraced as cherished members of our extended family. Londolozi is a testament to the timelessness of Africa, where past and future coalesce in the present, and the heartbeat of the wild continues to echo through the ages.
Londolozi is a testament to the timeless allure of Africa, where the rumbles of the past and the aspirations of the future seamlessly converge in the present moment, ensuring that the traditions celebrated in years gone by are still upheld today. In this shared journey, we remain united, bound by the enduring spirit and timeless traditions of Londolozi.