September 7

5 Amazing Facts You Didn’t Know About Londolozi

September 7, 2022

When it comes to luxury travel and impeccable safaris, one name is often found at the forefront – Londolozi. I hear the name at least five times a day! I'm well aware of Londolozi's stellar reputation. However, I have gained a newfound respect and (deeper) appreciation for the brand. I was recently lucky enough to attend somewhat of a "tell-all" at Rhino Africa HQ, where the guest speaker was none other than Londolozi's Creative Director, Bronwyn Varty-Laburn. She's the great, great, great-granddaughter of Charles Boyd Varty, who established their private reserve. Here are five amazing facts you didn't know about Londolozi...

Family of multiple generations enjoying time together in the wilderness

The Londolozi family, Image Credit: Londolozi

1. Londolozi Began From a Tipsy Purchase 

"My great, great, great grandfather got drunk at a tennis match and bought Londolozi, site unseen, off a map that was put down on the table…" – Bronwyn Varty-Laburn.

As legend has it, while at a tennis match and a few drinks down, Charles Boyd Varty bought the land that would later be known as Londolozi Private Game Reserve. Back in 1926, the area was originally a bankrupt cattle farm – derelict from lack of upkeep. It would take about five days to get there by train and buckboard wagon (a wagon pulled by mules).

Later, Charles Boyd Varty and Frank Unger (the great-grandfathers of the Varty and Taylor families) bribed a train driver to stop at siding 61 and, subsequently, ventured out into the vast, untamed wilderness. Whilst exploring what is the Sabi Sand Game Reserve today, they discovered a stunning spot on the banks of the Sand River. Little did they know that, in little less than a century, this particular location would become home to Londolozi's sumptuous Varty Camp.

Dining table set for two overlooking the river at Varty Camp

River view from Varty Camp, Image Credit: Londolozi

2. Many of Londolozi’s Roads Are Named After Winnis

"My family met a wonderful man called Winnis Mathebula. Winnis was a man that lived in Satara, and we were looking for a hunter-gatherer who knew the area very well." – Bronwyn Varty-Laburn.

If you've ever been to Londolozi – or have seen a road map of the area – you will notice a particular name pop up quite periodically, namely "Winnis". There's Winnis's wallows, Winnis's clearing and even Winnis's donga, but who, or what is Winnis? In the early years, Winnis Mathebula was one of the greatest naturalists and trackers of his day. He joined the Varty family during one of their first visits to Londolozi in 1926 and was employed to help them track lions.

His tracking skills, knowledge of wildlife, and passion for nature have been passed down through generations of the Varty family. In fact, some of the earliest memories of brothers John and Dave Varty encompass days spent tracking lions and leopards with their father Boyd and Winnis Mathebula.

An old sepia photograph featuring Winnis in the early years of safari

A young Winnis (front left), Image Credit: Londolozi

3. The First Londolozi Experience Only Cost 3 Rand (15 US cents)

"Londolozi was born at 3 Rand a day – bring your own food, musical instrument, and Land Rover if you had one." – Bronwyn Varty-Laburn.

From Winnis, the two young brothers learnt many things. But, as they grew into young men, they realised that Winnis was not their only mentor. Nature started teaching them too.

In 1969, after their father passed away, John and Dave Varty wanted to share their wisdom of the wilderness. Schooled by the land, the brothers shifted focus to ecotourism and photographic safaris – teaching others to appreciate nature in its purest form. For only 3 Rand a day (15 US cents), people were invited to bring their own food, musical instruments and Land Rover (if they had one). And the Vartys would take them out on walking safaris – passing on the wisdom of the wild.

Safari-goers enjoying a simple bush tea amidst an aloe garden

The first experiences were super simple, Image Credit: Londolozi

4. Londolozi is Not About Being Sexy

"We didn't get into game reserves because it was the sexy next best thing to do… everything that happens there is done with passion and with love and with a deep sense of authenticity." – Bronwyn Varty-Laburn.

Derived from the Zulu language, Londolozi means "Protector of All Living Things". And the definition rings true to the values of the Varty family. The Londolozi brand is undoubtedly sexy, but there's so much more to it. At the heart of Londolozi, there's a deep understanding of what it is to come from nothing and recognise not only how important nature is but how important people are. And the Varty family are really vested in the people around them and those who stay with them.

Therefore, Londolozi embraces the concept of not owning the world but inspiring the world to change and innovate. They are true conservationists who strive to make a difference in the world and inspire others to do the same. Londolozi understands that, through travel, one can inspire conservation and ignite a love for the wilderness. Travel is one of the most magical ways of allowing people to feel, without telling them how to feel. Like music, travel has no language, and yet everyone understands what's being said.

A 4x4 game drive vehicle filled with guests viewing endangered wild dogs

Londolozi making a difference through conservation, Image Credit: Londolozi

5. Londolozi’s Logo Illustrates Three Things in One

"People were like, 'is it a butterfly? Why do you have a butterfly? Is it a flower? We don't know?' But it definitely got people talking..." – Bronwyn Varty-Laburn.

Londolozi's logo is very unique in the sense that different people depict different things. Some see a flower, some a butterfly, and others see a leopard. All of these depictions are true, and all have meaning.

The main shape illustrates a leopard orchid. The leopard orchid is a very beautiful plant found throughout the Londolozi wilderness. When it blooms, the bush comes alive with waterfalls of yellow freckled with little brown spots. Within the logo's orchid-shaped petals, another unique image emerges – the face of a leopard. Not only is Londolozi known for being a leopard-rich land, but they also have a reputation for being one of the best leopard-tracking lodges in South Africa. The leopard's eyes, nose and spots create a somewhat obscure pattern which, in turn, gives the logo as a whole the look of a butterfly.

The butterfly is, of course, a significant symbol to Londolozi. It is the ultimate symbol of transformation. And Londolozi is all about transformation.

A logo depicting four petals of a orchid and a leopard's face within

An orchid, leopard and butterfly in one, Image Credit: Londolozi

Book Your Trip to Londolozi Today 

To learn more about Londolozi, or any other luxury safari lodges with similar values and experiences, contact our Travel Experts today.

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About the author 

Michelle Welvering

Growing up, Michelle always wanted to become a world-renowned artist, a kickboxing-champion and an eccentric explorer – aka a Kickboxing Exploring Artist! After pursuing an education in Fine Arts and opening her own Kickboxing gym in Pretoria, an unexpected twist led her to a six-year stint as a travel consultant in South African tourism. She believes that all things happen for a reason and, driven by adventure, she was eager to find a more “wild” and cultural space to call home. This led her to wander the Western Cape coastline, fall in love with the city of Cape Town and, of course, her workplace, Rhino Africa.

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