Reviewed by Chloe Sachdev
Why book Londolozi?
For elegant camps steeped in history and conservation.
Set the scene
Even if you’ve never been, Londolozi exists in the imagination. Its sprawling cluster of five thatched roof safari camps, in varying sizes and shades of taupe and beige and built in an ancient riverine forest around waterfalls and tangled vines, is the blueprint of every Ralph Lauren-meets-Out of Africa bush camp fantasy.
Established in 1926, Londolozi has been owned and run by the Varty family for nearly 100 years. The word londolozi comes from the Zulu language and means “protector of all living things”. This isn’t just a throwaway line, but rather a mission statement. A pioneer of the ‘luxury eco-lodge’, proving that profit from wildlife can aid its conservation, it created (and sold) the ‘Conservation Corporation Africa’, successfully exporting the ‘Londolozi’ model to over 45 other lodges. Endorsed by Nelson Mandela, who recovered from Robben Island at the family camp, he described it as “a dream I cherish for a model of nature preservation in our country,”.
Londolozi is more like a village. Each of the camps—Founders, Pioneer, Private Granite Suites, Varty and Tree camps—have their own communal open-air lobbies, plunge pools and various rooms and suites attached, and feel like deeply stylish African homes layered in natural clay, khaki and sand-coloured linens. The Founders Camp, fresh from a refurb, has been specially designed to accommodate families with 10 rooms, including a convertible children’s room, while others like the Tree Camp, a more secluded treetop hideaway with six suites is better for honeymooners. All have wide views across the bush or river; some are wrapped around ancient trees, others flanked by granite rocks, but all have the same contemporary yet earthy vibe, with soft-sand tones and natural materials like dolerite rock walls, thatched pitched ceilings, and scatterings of beautiful African beadwork, baskets and artwork.
Food and drink
Excellent. Like most top-notch safaris, you are fed well. From the sunrise treats at early morning pre-game drives and big breakfasts (think breakfast burritos and bagels and all manner of pastries) to three-course lunches of zingy salads and homemade pasta. We had hearty dinners of slow-braised beef brisket, and tamarind braised duck legs, with ingredients bought from either local suppliers or plucked from the impressive on-site vegetable garden. It’s not just about what’s on your plate, but rather the experiences that stick with you—cocktails at sunset under a giant fever tree, dinner with your toes in the sand over candlelight in the ‘boma’ and fire-side banquets.
Beyond their conservation credentials, the Varty family have spearheaded the emotional wellness trend in Africa. Brother-and-sister team Boyd and Bronwyn Varty, who trained under Oprah Winfrey’s life coach Martha Beck, have cultivated a program that takes lessons from the bush (tracking, instincts, and silence) and develops them into programs for personal transformation. This can look like multi-day wildlife wellness retreats, which involve silent treks and life-coaching sessions, or sessions at the Healing House spa, led by their aunt BeJay Watson, an energy healer, yogi and reiki master. Here, on a deck overlooking the bush, rounds of yoga and deep breathwork take you into a meditative zone, the sound baths and deep tissue massages bliss you out, and the ice bath and Himalayan sauna sessions jolt you back to life. While most safari spas are an afterthought, this feels like a destination in its own right.
On the outskirts of the Kruger National Park, the Sabi Sand Reserve is a vast and protected park known for the Big Five and huge leopard population. This means that you’re pretty much guaranteed to see the waddle of big beasts and furry creatures. During my 90-minute transfer from Skukuza airport, before even checking in, I spot flashes of zebras, warthogs and springbok, and even a cuddle puddle of lions between the wispy blades of blue buffalo grass. From there on, it was a non-stop parade of wildlife, from grazing elephants and giraffes to multiple encounters with sinewy leopards.
Warm and friendly. You can feel the jovial family ethos amongst the staff, and it rubs off onto the guests. Fire-side chats go long into the night, and owners Bronwyn and Boyd are regulars around the camp, chatting to returning guests, many of whom have become close friends.
Excellent. Some of the camps welcome children ages six and up, with interconnecting suites and rooms that can be converted into kids’ rooms. There’s a kids’ ‘cubs den’ with full time supervision both day and in the evenings and kid-friendly meals.
Beyond just a game lodge, Londolozi sees itself as a platform to restore and heal the land. Taking its impact seriously, it has created a ‘Futuristic African Village’ that includes a plant nursery, vegetable gardens, wastewater recycling treatment plant and solar farm.
There is a wheelchair friendly room. And each disabled guest that is visiting has a full consultation to ensure that access is possible.
Anything left to mention
For photographers, both professional and beginners, Londolozi has a high-tech photographic studio, with top-notch cameras and equipment. Plus, specific photographic safaris for anyone that wants to learn the art of wildlife photography.
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