Lon­dolozi Game Re­serve Sabi Sand, South Africa | TRAVEL

Sabi Sand, South Africa

Upscale Living Magazine - - Content - | By Heléne Ra­mack­ers

Lon­dolozi. The very name con­jures up images of be­com­ing en­am­oured by the ma­jes­tic re­al­ity of wit­ness­ing co­pi­ous leop­ard sight­ings. Since I can re­mem­ber, and be­came aware of the ex­is­tence of Lon­dolozi some­where in the late 1980’s, it has been my deep­est de­sire to visit the place where leop­ards take cen­tre stage. When the op­por­tu­nity pre­sented it­self to visit the place of my rever­ies, I was met with the quandary of who would ac­com­pany me on this jour­ney to the habi­ta­tion where roset­ted crea­tures reign. The de­ci­sion was sim­pli­fied by the fact that my daugh­ter sees her­self as a leop­ard afi­cionado and at 11 years old, she would revel in a trip to a place of such beauty and the pos­si­bil­ity of feast­ing eyes on her (and my) fa­vorite mam­mal.

Our trip starts at Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Air­port where our Air­link Avro RJ85 flight takes us di­rectly to Nel­spruit In­ter­na­tional Air­port, which saves the pre­cious time you might have with the flight be­ing a mere 2 hours and 35 min­utes. At Nel­spruit In­ter­na­tional Air­port, we are wel­comed by an Air­link rep­re­sen­ta­tive, who takes us to the Trans­fer lounge area be­fore our on­ward jour­ney with Air­link’s Lodge Link ser­vice to the

Lon­dolozi Airstrip in Air­link’s Cessna 208B Grand Car­a­van, an­other in­ge­nious way Air­link has de­signed to make air travel so much sim­pler to con­nect you from the city to the doorstep of your sa­fari des­ti­na­tion; it is has­sle-free.

Field Guide Greg Pingo is at the Airstrip to meet us and trans­port us to the lodge. We are heartily wel­comed at Founder’s Camp where we will be stay­ing for two nights. Camp Man­ager Si­mon Sambo is at the ready to greet us and ush­ers us to the deck, where the most de­lec­ta­ble lunch is be­ing served. We feast on the in­cred­i­bly tasty and ten­der 1926 Burger, con­sist­ing of 100% Rump mince, BBQ and parme­san fries, at­ten­tively served by our but­ler Re­mind Mg­wena. The food choices are ex­ten­sive and the lunch menu changes ev­ery day. Today there is Fish & Chips - Beer bat­tered seabass with tartare sauce; Kale Cae­sar – Kale, Chick­pea crou­tons, Boiled Egg, Parme­san shav­ings; Mid­dle East­ern Chicken Skewer – Cu­min yo­ghurt, Pita, Mi­cro salad; Char­cu­terie – Gor­gonzola wedge, Camem­bert, Gherkins, Welsh Ched­dar, Rocket, Parma Ham, Baby Ci­a­batta, Onion Mar­malade; Cake of the Day – Lemon & Yo­ghurt.

It is time for our first game drive and Greg, to­gether with tracker Equal­izer Ndlovu will see what they can find. The un­usual sight­ing of a wilde­beest hang­ing around with a herd of im­palas has every­one in stitches. A white­backed vul­ture is perched on a bare tree branch against the bluest of skies. He even­tu­ally takes flight, show­cas­ing his im­pres­sive wingspan. A lilacbreas­ted roller is show­ing off his beau­ti­ful col­ors and a bit fur­ther in the grass­lands, a rhino is peace­fully graz­ing while its calf seems jum­bled by the windy con­di­tions, scur­ry­ing about in ri­otous fash­ion.

A cute tree squir­rel is star­ing in­tently at us. We ap­proach the Mhangeni pride, all sev­en­teen of them ly­ing about, soak­ing up the warm­ing rays of the sun. The li­on­ess is try­ing to avoid pesky flies by throw­ing her head back­wards, dis­play­ing a pro­trud­ing tooth on her bot­tom jaw. Our drinks stop is next to the wa­ter­ing hole where piles of dung have us and the other guests on our ve­hi­cle ne­go­ti­at­ing the area to evade step­ping in drop­pings. A few drinks and eats later it is all but for­got­ten. Back at Founders we are es­corted to our room by the night porter, en­sur­ing guest safety. De­spite the liv­ing area be­ing fenced, an­i­mals might still ven­ture into camp on oc­ca­sion.

This is the first time I can de­light in the lux­u­ri­ous sur­rounds of our ac­com­mo­da­tion, Room 8, set ad­ja­cent to the din­ing deck and boma area. Two three-quar­ter beds are cov­ered in silky white bed­ding with hand­made scat­ter cush­ions adding an el­e­ment of con­trast. Com­fort and class is in­ter­twined with stylish fur­nish­ings whilst main­tain­ing a feel­ing of na­ture by jux­ta­pos­ing smidgens of colour against neu­tral fit­tings. The clean lines and white ameni­ties in the bath­room add to the em­pha­sis of un­clut­tered­ness which is the per­fect an­ti­dote to the over­whelm­ing feel­ing of in­com­pa­ra­ble wilder­ness ex­tend­ing from your deck view.

Din­ner is served in the Boma where an enor­mous fire has been ig­nited to ward off the evening chill. Tonight Sous Chef Sipho Khoza takes us through the menu choices and they are Cauliflowe­r, Dill & Cu­min Soup - Gar­nish char­grilled flo­rets and spring onion; Salad Se­lec­tion – rocket, let­tuce, cu­cum­ber, cock­tail toma­toes, parme­san shav­ings, olives, feta and cashews with Lon­dolozi sexy dress­ing; Salmon with lemon herb cream sauce; Fil­let with mus­tard sauce; Chick­peas with spiced toma­toes & spinach; Chef’s Se­lec­tion; Sliced crispy pota­toes with rose­mary & gar­lic, White choco­late & granadilla mousse / berries / choco­late bark with pis­ta­chio & cran­ber­ries. To con­clude the evening, the Lon­dolozi Choir en­ter­tain the guests with a di­vine song and dance rou­tine.

A pre­lude to a good night’s sleep for me is hav­ing a cleans­ing shower. At Lon­dolozi you can ei­ther im­merse your­self in your bath over­look­ing the river with the sooth­ing suds of the spe­cially crafted 1926 Fra­grance Range cre­ated by Shan Varty or in­dulge in the won­der­fully fra­grant and gen­er­ously sized glass bot­tles con­tain­ing Shower Gel, Sham­poo and Con­di­tioner.

Morn­ing has bro­ken and so has the won­der­ful smell of fresh pre-gamedrive cof­fee. The ta­ble is laden with straight out-of-the-oven baked bread, rusks, fruit skew­ers, por­ridge, ap­ples and or­anges. Greg is head­ing in a Southerly di­rec­tion and we stum­ble upon a herd of ele­phants feed­ing on the shrub­bery. A young ele­phant is ex­tract­ing a branch from his mother’s mouth. Fur­ther north, a hyena is ly­ing in a wa­ter­ing hole, cool­ing him­self be­fore the day starts to warm up. Much to my cha­grin, the ma­lin­ger­ing leop­ards are play­ing tru­ant today. As I fin­ish my thought, Equal­izer points to­wards the cam­ou­flaged bushes and then we see her – the ex­quis­ite Nh­langu­leni 3:2 Leop­ard. She crouches in the grass, seem­ingly stalk­ing some­thing. She dis­ap­pears out of sight and all we can spot is her out­line as she moves swiftly through the grass. Sud­denly she re-emerges and po­si­tions her­self on a large flat rock, sur­vey­ing her sur­round­ings.

Break­fast is served on the deck and while I feast on a de­li­cious Lon­dolozi break­fast, con­sist­ing of eggs, ba­con, black mush­rooms, oven roasted thyme toma­toes, rocket and sausage of the day, my daugh­ter opts for crois­sants and pan­cakes. She is sched­uled to have a Cub’s Den ac­tiv­ity and ex­cite­ment abounds and she wolfs down her food. The fam­ily el­e­ment is a very im­por­tant fac­tor at Lon­dolozi and kids are of­fered a wide range of ac­tivi-

ties to keep them oc­cu­pied. With the ex­per­tise of Cub’s Den Man­ager, Jo Be­necke, we de­part with Greg to do some track mould­ing. Af­ter cross­ing the Sand River, they dis­em­bark the game drive ve­hi­cle to find an­i­mal foot­prints. Jo has the plas­ter of paris ready to mould what ap­pears to be a lion paw print. Across the river, we see them ly­ing in the shade of a tree – the very lions whose paws we are about to cast in stone. Greg sug­gests we take a closer look at the lions while wait­ing for the mould to set.

The Tail­less li­on­ess and her niece are ly­ing fast asleep in the soft sand while two cubs are more alert than the adults. At six­teen years of age, this is prob­a­bly the last lit­ter that the Tail­less li­on­ess will pro­duce and boy, are they cute! As we head back to col­lect the mould, a herd of ele­phants is cross­ing the river and hav­ing loads of fun quench­ing their thirst. The day has heated up enough for us to try out the plunge pool on our deck. What a stun­ning place to have a swim with the Sand River as your van­tage point.

Af­ter lunch, the evening game drive al­ways holds the prom­ise of see­ing noc­tur­nal an­i­mals on the prowl. Greg and Equal­izer are fol­low­ing the tracks of the Mashaba fe­male leop­ard that has three very young cubs hid­den in a den site. Fresh tracks are spot­ted over the ve­hi­cle’s tyre prints, con­clud­ing that she has to be in the area. The track­ers are now on foot, search­ing in the dry riverbed, but she seems to be run­ning away from them as she veers off in a dif­fer­ent di­rec­tion all the time. Dis­ap­pointed, we leave her be as keep­ing her cubs safe is of paramount im­por­tance to their sur­vival.

We are re­warded with the spec­ta­cle of two gi­raffes fight­ing in the Sand River. Keep­ing a close eye on them is the aunt of the Tail­less li­on­ess while the li­on­ess’ cubs are nurs­ing. Greg an­nounces that we must go be­cause ‘we are al­ready late’. Speed­ing through the re­serve we even­tu­ally see the twin­kling lights of the drinks stop, where Founders Camp Man­ager Christy Jor­dan and Op­er­a­tions Man­ager Will Ford, to­gether with Greg and Jo await our ar­rival. This is a special oc­ca­sion and while the hosts and guests get bet­ter ac­quainted, Jo and my daugh­ter play co­pi­ous rounds of a ball­game called Bull. Back at camp, our Boma din­ner is a ver­i­ta­ble feast. A mag­nif­i­cent sun­rise her­alds the new day and by now I’m des­per­ate to see an­other leop­ard. Lon­dolozi is renowned for its leop­ard sight­ings and I will not be happy if they elude us today. Greg drives us in an East­erly route and Equal­izer is con­cen­trat­ing very hard to see where the foot­prints are head­ing. An­other ve­hi­cle has joined the search with Greg and Equal­izer on foot to get a dis­tinct idea of where these il­lu­sive crea­tures might be hid­ing. The ra­dio mes­sage comes through loud and clear – ‘we found them’! I am so ex­cited I can hardly con­tain my­self.

On top of a ter­mite mound in the shade of a tree we see her – the Tam­boti 4:3 fe­male leop­ard glanc­ing up­wards look­ing at her Im­pala kill in a tree. She is not alone – she has two fluffy cubs who join her and we sit for a while watch­ing them play­ing be­fore she moves to the other side of the ter­mite mound and starts groom­ing her one cub, much to his de­light. She gets up to scale the tree and pauses be­fore look­ing up with her cub join­ing her. We leave the in­cred­i­ble sight­ing to make way for an­other ve­hi­cle, ex­ul­tant in the knowl­edge that Lon­dolozi is in fact, leop­ard heaven.

Sad to leave, we are driven by Equal­izer to the Lon­dolozi Airstrip with a packed break­fast of crois­sants, ba­con, fruit juice, a muf­fin and a ba­nana to board our Air­link Lodge Link flight to Skukuza Air­port. The Cessna 208B Grand Car­a­van is our mode of trans­port and we are suit­ably im­pressed with the clean­li­ness of Skukuza Air­port. Home­ward bound, we are flown from Skukuza to Cape Town In­ter­na­tional by Air­link in the Em­braer 145/140/135, un­doubt­edly the best way to travel. www.lon­dolozi.com.

For more about the Lon­dolozi leop­ards, visit http://leop­ards.lon­dolozi.com/

Lon­dolozi also pro­duces a very in­sight­ful blog – blog.lon­dolozi.com

Thank you to Lon­dolozi for host­ing us. Views ex­pressed are the au­thor’s own.

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