Londolozi 'Cathedral of the Wild' Teaches Us 'Ubuntu'

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Londolozi Private Game Reserve is a 58 sq mile game reserve in South Africa. Named for the Zulu word meaning “protecting it”, Londolozi is part of the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, situated on the western border of Kruger National National Park.

Imagine us sitting together, nestled within the trees of Londolozi’s famous Tree Camp, tiny humans located with a conservation ecosystem pulsing into larger spaces as we move now beyond Kruger National Park into Limpopo Transfrontier National Park. Here, let me give you a map. We are looking at 6 million acres of pristine wilderness in this big picture view of Africa beyond Londolozi.

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If you are a regular friend of AOC — we visited Londolozi in February 2019, following news of the reopening of the three-bedroom Private Granite Suites. They are positioned perfectly for watching elephants frolic from its new bar, and the 10-bedroom Varty Camp, which sits in the footprint of the family’s original mud rondavels (western interpretation of original African huts). 

The Spirit of Nelson Mandela Lives At Londolozi

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Studying the history of Londolozi last winter, we learned that decades earlier — when Nelson Mandela, leader of the movement to end South African apartheid, was released after 27 years in prison on February 11, 1990 — he went to rest at Londolozi. That story is told in our earlier article, and also recalled by Boyd Varty in his 2013 book ‘Cathedral of the Wild’:

“A very great man will be visiting us,” Dad told me. “Someone who’s going to change our country.” A major figure in the African National Congress was coming to Londolozi. I expected someone dressed in a sharp suit, his eyes hidden behind designer sunglasses. Yet when I walked into Nelson Mandela’s bedroom with the breakfast tray, I found no stiff head of state but a warm, unaffected man.

Mandela sat up, and I put the tray next to him. He thanked me graciously and began chatting about the previous night’s game drive: “Oh, last night we had an amazing time. We saw a leopard. We saw it jump onto the back of a buck.”

I watched just now this 2013 TED Women Talk delivered by Boyd Varty, who learned literally minutes before going onstage that his beloved Mandela had passed. Boyd’s is one of the finest TED Talks I remember watching — and only regret that at 12 minutes long, it would have 8 minutes more at Big TED Talks. I want those 8 minutes more from Boyd. Introducing the talk, TED writes:

"In the cathedral of the wild, we get to see the best parts of ourselves reflected back to us." Boyd Varty, a wildlife activist, shares stories of animals, humans and their interrelatedness, or "ubuntu" -- defined as, "I am, because of you." And he dedicates the talk to South African leader Nelson Mandela, the human embodiment of that same great-hearted, generous spirit.

I returned to Londolozi to launch AOC’s first Pinterest ad. Yes, I’ve just rained all over this beautiful moment with a pragmatic thought — but one that is very cemented into the idea of Anne of Carversville and my own personal identity. After all, whether we want to admit it or not, we are all children of Africa.

During their time in Africa, the Varty family has come to believe in safari — and especially the photographic safaris now a cornerstone of their client experience for four decades as an alternative to hunting big game — as a journey that immerses the senses and awakens the spirit. To encounter wild animals in the bush is to discover an essential truth about ourselves and our world.

Honing one’s photography skills at the camp makes it one of the most inspiring schools and photo labs in the world. Imagine reviewing the day’s safari images on a large monitor in this atmosphere.

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Nelson Mandela once described Londolozi as “a dream I cherish for a model of nature preservation in our country.” The more you read and understand about the Varty family and the global, Peruvian and Navajo spiritual practices they’ve brought to the experience of staying there, the more empathy you feel for the entire idea of planning a visit.

Top 20 Resorts in South Africa: Readers' Choice Awards 2019

News came a few days ago that the camp had earned the top spot in ‘Condé Nast Traveler’ Reader’s Choice Awards for South Africa. About 600,000 people responded — an indication of just how seriously luxury travelers take the process of rating their experiences. The rest of Africa is handled separately in a Top 30 list.

The decor of Londolozi attracts me deeply, so much so that I could just move in. I can also see GlamTribal Jewelry being sold in the shop — but, of course, it’s not made on the premises. Nor is it world-renown art.

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Still, the spirit of the decor is very much reflected in much of my GlamTribal Jewelry — specifically its modern, rustic, African androgyny in a large part of the collection. Absolutely no piece of handcrafted jewelry or travertine coasters and art tiles can inspire the experience of visiting this South African paradise.

But if — like most people — you are tethered to your own daily lives, unable to join the CN Traveller crowd in understanding why Londolozi is rated #`1 among South African resorts, these small gestures of web writing and handcrafted beauties offer a vicarious experience of “someday”. Perhaps the first step of a small purchase — especially when 10% of your purchase supports elephant conservation in Africa — is stage one in joining the human family on hallowed ground, walking on the pathway of Nelson Mandela at Londolozi.

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