Located in the heart of the South African savannah, Londolozi – literally “protector of all living things” and once a favorite of Nelson Mandela – is an ecotourism paradise. It is a lodge where elegance abides by harmony with nature.
Arriving at Londolozi immediately feels like coming home. Greeted with beaming smiles, we perch ourselves at the bar for a welcome drink and are introduced to the team looking after us for the duration of our stay. There’s something in the air at Londolozi, perhaps Nelson Mandela was right when he said, “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. Londolozi represents a model of the dream I cherish for the future of nature preservation in our country.” Derived from Zulu, “londolozi” means “protector of all living things” and we get the feeling of sanctuary and harmony from the very start.
Londolozi was founded by the Varty and Taylor families in 1926 and, to this day, the Varty family oversees every detail that goes into the day-to-day running of the lodge. Checking in to our suite, it’s as though the safari adventure has already begun. The suites are designed by the Vartys and are the epitome of safari chic. Modern luxe furnishings are mixed with animal prints and there’s a separate lounge area and work station that overlooks the Sabi Sand bush, where you can spot wildlife in the distance. Adjoining the lounge, there’s a plush, king-sized bed beckoning you to take an afternoon nap and a huge bathroom with rain shower and bathtub. Outside, there’s a plunge pool sunken into a wraparound deck and we raid the minibar, pouring ourselves a glass of South African wine while soaking up the afternoon sun.
Come late afternoon, we head down to the lounge, which is a breezy, open space that flows out to an open-air dining deck. We pause for a snack and tea before heading off on our first safari. Our guide and tracker are a great team and work together to find a leopard with its kill in a tree within the first hour. We’re in awe and incredibly grateful that we have this sighting all to ourselves. We snap away with our cameras and spend the evening watching this amazing display, as hyenas circle below.
Concluding our first safari, we head back to the lodge and sit down to dinner under the stars on the deck. We share a fabulous meal of fresh salad and perfectly cooked beef filet accompanied by South African wines. The tables glow beneath the light of flickering lanterns and it’s magical to listen to the sounds of the bush.
The following morning, we’re up at 5 a.m. and sleepily stumble to our morning safari drive. Greeted with an Amarula coffee, we perk up and are treated to a spectacular sunrise. We spot elephants grazing, antelope bounding across the land, and zebra playing. The bush is so full of life and we can hardly take it all in before heading back to the lodge for breakfast.
Downtime can be spent at Londolozi’s photography studio editing photos from your safari. Or at the Healing House, a tranquil spa that offers treatments using essential oils sourced from South Africa. We book a massage and expert therapists lull us into a state of deep relaxation with a blend of oils we chose ourselves. We leave rejuvenated and ready for lunch.
Our guide has a special surprise in store and takes us on a short drive to property down by the river. There lies a secret treehouse and we’re greeted with a spectacular picnic. We graze on biltong, deli meats, cheeses, and fruit and sip champagne while spotting hippopotami in the river and birds in the sky.
On our last evening, following a safari ride filled with sightings of baby leopards and baby hyenas, we have a communal barbecue dinner with our rangers under the stars. There’s an open fire grilling up meats and vegetables and it’s great to mingle with other travelers.
The following morning, we’re reluctant to check out. We feel part of the Londolozi family now and have witnessed so many once-in-a-lifetime animal encounters. We depart with a tear in our eye and feel as though we’re leaving a piece of our heart at Londolozi. More reason to return one day.
“Protector of All Living Things”
Londolozi is not only a magnificent safari lodge in a special wilderness of South Africa. It is a model for how we could all, across the wilderness and in the world at large, live better. Live more ethically, sustainably, and consciously. Through the design of the camps and suites, the land conservation, wildlife protection, gastronomy and food gardens, waste-reduction program, vision for eliminating single-use plastics, harmonious healing treatments and retreats, and local empowerment initiatives, the owners have created the kind of experience that takes travelers deeper. That enlightens and inspires.
Dave Varty, the lodge’s co-founder and co-owner, is a man with immense experience, knowledge, and foresight regarding just about all things wild and wonderful. Since the age of just 16, he has been pioneering the restoration of landscapes, now known as the rewilding movement.
Find out more about how Londolozi is driving the concept of conscious luxury travel in this interview with Dave Varty himself: “Londolozi, a Model for a Better World.”