Recently my wife and I had the pleasure of staying at Londolozi, one of South Africa’s most renowned private game reserves, which lies in the centre of the Sabi Sands Reserve. The Sabie Sands Reserve adjoins the Kruger National Park, and forms one of the largest private reserves in the world. We were both pleasantly surprised and amazed by our experience and here are our top five reasons why.
No 1: The History – Londolozi, meaning “the protector,” was founded in 1973 by John and David Varty. They saw the potential for Londolozi to play an important role as the protector of land, animals and community. They introduced photographic safaris, started rehabilitating the land and offered sustainable employment to those within the community. Londolozi remains a family run business to this day; it is a true leader in eco-tourism and has become the heartbeat of the community in which it operates.
Nelson Mandela stayed at Londolozi on many occasions and recognised the impact they were making. He saw Londolozi as a great shining light, an example of what he wanted progressive South Africa to be; a country where all people, regardless of race, could work together in harmony to create sustainable economic growth through the natural habitat and tourism.
No 2: The Ultimate Safari Experience – We have been on many safaris in Africa, but our experience at Londolozi was by far the most memorable. Our ranger Shaun was excellent; he discovered a passion for animals at a young age and went on to study zoology before starting a career in guiding. Our tracker Elmon, was a kind, soft spoken man born and raised at Londolozi. He has spent his whole life tracking animals in the Sabi Sand Reserve. One of Elmon’s best experiences was tracking at Londolozi for Nelson Mandela.
The highlights of our early morning and afternoon game drives were seeing over one hundred elephant in the space of a few hours, finding a female leopard and her cub resting-up after a feed and witnessing wild dog hunting down and devouring an impala before two female and one male lion stole the kill.
The leopard is one of Africa’s top five most elusive animals and Londolozi is not only well known for its leopard population but also for its guide and trackers’ ability to locate them for their guests.
The backdrop of our game drives was the red and orange glow of the sun rising and setting behind the iconic African landscape. The clear nights boasted stars that shone brighter than we had ever seen as the hippos grunted, buffalo and elephant grazed and the smell of wild aniseed filled the air. We felt utterly blessed to be in such a special place.
No 3: Village atmosphere and next level service – From the time of our arrival each member of the Londolozi team took the effort to get to know us and what we liked and disliked. They went well out of their way on many occasions to make our stay a wonderful experience; like presenting a surprise glass of champagne with our eggs benedict and the perfect Gin & tonic for sun downers. We felt utterly spoilt. The food was prepared and served with love by world class chefs along with a superb selection of the finest South Africa wines.
We soon discovered that the staff all lived in a self-contained village on site, and that many of the families had worked at Londolozi for two and three generations. The staff are all extremely proud to be part of the Londolozi family and we felt like we were being welcomed into their home to share this special part of the world.
No 4: Luxury Accommodation – What we loved about Londolozi was that its history and origins lie at its heart. The original Sparta Camp, founded in 1926, lies at in the centre Londolozi; from there, spread out over a kilometre, are its five main lodges Varty, Tree, Grantie, Founders and Pioneer. Comprising of thirty-two private suites in total, each camp has its own style. There is something to suit every occasion from the romantic getaway, special occasions or soul regeneration, to a multi-generation family holiday. Each of the camps has its own main lodge, deck area overlooking the river and boma where guest can read a book, soak up the view, mingle and swap stories around an open fire. There is also a healing centre, gym and yoga studio were guest can relax and rejuvenate.
We stayed at the newly refurbished Varty camp, which was a fantastic introduction to Londolozi. Our suite featured a king size bed, large open bathroom with island bath tub and a walk in shower, which all over-looked the Sand river from a private deck and plunge pool. It was the perfect place to relax in between safari drives.
No 5: Photography – Londolozi began in 1973 by offering photographic safaris and can still be considered a leader in this field today. They have a fully equipped photography lab and equipment available for hire, which can save you lugging kilograms worth of camera gear halfway around the world. There are well trained experts on hand that can assist with putting the finishing touches on those once-in-a-lifetime images captured on your safari. We were able to print our best leopard photo onto canvas, ready to display and show-off in our own home.
Apart from the outstanding food and accommodation it was the superior warmth and generosity of the staff that really shone out above everything else. We truly felt as though we had been welcomed with open arms into the Londolozi family and we can see why so many make Londolozi a repeat and must-stay destination while in Africa. If you are thinking of traveling to Africa and would like to stay at Londolozi, then please get in touch.
All images © Jacqueline Hamilton