Jeremiah, a local tracker who has been working at Londolozi for 30 years was waiting in the Land Rover as our Cessna Caravan arrived from Johannesburg. He delivered us to Pioneer Camp, our home for the next three nights.
The word "Camp" has many meanings, but luxurious multi-roomed lodges with chandeliers, a private plunge pool, Ralph Lauren Decor and gourmet food don't immediately spring to mind. Imagine a large entrance hall with day bed & ensuite. Then, a sitting room with a large, wraparound suede sofa, and an enormous picture window where it feels like you are living IN the bush. Everything you could possibly want is here: books & desks, a refrigerator, bar and coffee and tea making facilities with as many teas, coffees, cookies and plungers to satisfy your needs. Even WiFi.
The enormous bathroom has a large shower, two vanities, and a bath with large window framing the outdoor shower. In the middle of the room is a round white ottoman.
Shame we can't stay here and play. We have lunch at 2.30 and our first game drive at 3.30.
Our guide is Tom and tracker is Jerry (Jeremiah). We are impressed by their knowledge as they lead us to some pretty spectacular wildlife: hippopotamus, wildebeest, warthogs, impala, buffalo, a female leopard, and a roaring lion. These animals are living in the wilderness so finding them is not easy. Jerry's tracking skills are evident as he identifies footprints and all the other signs to locate them.
After stopping for Sundowners - sunset cocktails, we return at around 7.00 pm, to a gravel car park that has been transformed into a restaurant. It's rather lovely. There is a large, raised open fireplace. Lanterns are everywhere and candles are concealed in tall paper bags. We sit in a circle around the fire with our fellow guests who hail from the USA and the Middle East.
Londolozi comprises multiple Camps: Pioneer, Founders, Granite, Varty and Tree Camp. Varty, Founders and Tree Camp have 10 rooms or suites whilst others are more private. Although all are within walking distance, they are totally standalone, each having their own facilities, staff and chefs.
The day commences at 5.15 am when your wakeup call is delivered on a tray to your chalet Here you will find tea or coffee accompanied by fruit, juice and yogurt. This sets you up for your glorious sunrise and misty morning game drive which commences at 5.45 am.
By morning tea at about 7.30/8.00 am you will have seen your fair share of game and worked up an appetite for the gourmet breakfast that awaits your 9.30 am return.
After breakfast you have many options: sleep, read, swim, visit the shop, the gym, do a yoga class, have a massage, do a cultural tour or visit the Cinematography Centre.
It doesn't take long to adjust to a new schedule, and it's well worth it
Our second day starts with a bit of a checklist. "Okay guys, what do you want to find today?" My husband wants more leopards, whilst one of the other guests loves giraffes. Everything changes once there's a message over the 2-way radio that something 'special' has happened.
We were tracking wild dogs but soon got a call that lions were on the move. We soon found three strategically hanging on to one impala carcass, and sat within two metres for a good hour as they wrestled to get their share of the kill.
The first close encounter, can be daunting, but we soon learn the rules of Safari and find ourselves very close with some of nature's most wonderful creatures.
Questions of comfort stops and pausing for morning tea and sundowners are soon answered. One evening came upon an area lit by lanterns and moonlight. A table had been set with ice bucket & glasses, canapés, champagne, wine and cocktails. All this was for four guests, one of whom was having a birthday.
This had all been prepared by staff who had left the scene just prior to our arrival, keeping watch long enough to deter hungry animals and destructive baboons.
Londolozi is a place where your needs for company or privacy are very much gauged by management and staff. It was soon noted that we are gregarious. Tables for two soon became tables for four and six. We ate outdoors in different locations each evening - the deck, the Boma, the carpark turned restaurant - even when it was cold, there were log fires and blankets. Food was cooked on open grills and all served "a la" five star restaurant.
One evening we were entertained by the 'Londolozi Ladies Choir' with lots of loud singing, clapping, and yodelling and much shaking, rattling and rolling of hips, and stomping of feet.
After three days at Londolozi, we have shared the territory of "The Big 5: Leopard, Lion, White Rhinoceros, African Buffalo, and Elephant; and hippopotamus, baboons, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, mongoose, crocodiles, warthogs and a variety of antelope.
We left Londolozi with a tear in our eye; excited by our adventures and totally fulfilled by the magic of our experience. The staff impart a true sense of belonging to this family business which has been here since 1926 and preserves so much that nature has to offer whilst giving back to the community and individuals in many ways. We got a lot more out of Londolozi than we expected.