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By Bina Joseph

Of all the elements associated with Africa, the ethnic names of people, places, and things have to be the most evocative. Other-worldly, polysyllabic, ineffably musical and mysterious, they immediately invoke mind-pictures of impala gamboling through rolling savannah, the surround sound symphony of indigenous avian twitter, and fierce, blazing, purple and flame-colored sunsets over the silhouette of the misshapen baobab trees, with the rolling call of the king of the jungle in the distance.

Londolozi, a Zulu name meaning “protector of all living things,” perfectly echoes the above and is singularly appropriate as the moniker of one of Africa’s finest game lodges. A group of five different camps, it is driven by a determined, ambitious conservation ethic that embraces the entire natural environment: far-sighted, progressive land management, wildlife breeding, preservation, and rehabilitation, and pro-active community participation.

Its 14,000 hectares are situated along the Sand River at the core of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, in the famous Kruger National Park. Accessible by road or by air, this verdant, untamed wonderland assures exceptional safaris (a Swahili word meaning “true journey”) and an authentic wilderness experience.

The inexorable rhythm of nature endures. Each dawn witnesses a miracle, with a chorus of birdsong enlivening the perfumed air: cuckoos, bee-eaters, hornbills, kingfishers, shrikes, weavers, and barbets. Herons, egrets, storks, and flamingos provide waterside elegance. In spring and summer the early evening air is often permeated with the scent of baked potato emanating from the tiny pink flowers of the Potato Bush. This most distinctive of smells is forever associated with South Africa.

The best time to explore the bushveld is in the cool, dry, winter months from April to September. The days are balmy, the mornings crisp and crystalline; the bush is a slide-show of color and variegated game viewing.

The first game drive of the day takes place before dawn, before the torpor that animals flee from comes with the midday heat. The evening drive commences before sunset. The atmosphere resounds with the booming snorts of hippos. Greater kudu, zebra, giraffe, and wildebeest are all a veritable feast for the human eye and the camera lens. Breeding herds of elephant and buffalo roam throughout the Londolozi reserve, while white rhino and lion concentrations are among the highest recorded.

Most wondrous is the empathy between leopards and rangers and trackers that Londolozi is renowned for. In 1979 John Varty, co-founder of Londolozi, and naturalist Elmon Mhlongo initiated a historic relationship with a mother leopard. This enabled entry into her secluded world for over three decades, during which they observed, aided, and were witness to the founding of a dynasty of Londolozi leopards that exists to this day; viewing them is one of life’s truly treasured experiences.

Many of the rangers and trackers at Londolozi are native sons, with a vast knowledge and understanding of, and a deep connection to, the fauna and flora. They are a fount of memorable tales which they willingly recount. Each game drive is a unique experience. Shaangan trackers perch on the hoods of the safari vehicles, searching out fresh animal tracks and signs, while the rangers drive in pursuit with consummate skill through labyrinthine wilderness.
 
A Londolozi safari is about immersion and participation that endows a recharged and enlightened mind-set eager for the next life-changing experience.

There can be no greater endorsement than Nelson Mandela’s statement: “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.”

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