We speak to Bronwyn Varty of South Africa’s Londolozi Reserve about gaining a deeper reverence for wildlife, connecting with the local Shangaan people and Nelson Mandela’s visits to the property.
On the banks of the Sand River at the edge of Kruger National Park, the proudly family-run property Londolozi Reserve, is renowned for its resident leopards and sightings of the Big Five, as well as its steadfast commitment to conservation and community involvement, standing true to the name Londolozi, which in Zulu means the protector of all things. Bronwyn Varty, along with her brother Boyd, is a fourth generation custodian of the property.
As one of South Africa’s original game reserves, Londolozi was the pioneer of conservation in South Africa, even garnering the endorsement of Nelson Mandela: “During my long walk to freedom,” he said, “I had the rare privilege to visit Londolozi. There I saw people of all races living in harmony amidst the beauty that Mother Nature offers. Londolozi represents a model of the dream I cherish for the future of nature preservation in our country.”
“I have been privileged to watch four generations of leopard be born, learn to hunt and live at peace at Londolozi.”
From growing up on the property to the present day, Bronwyn has witnessed the changes that have occurred in the landscape and with the reserve’s wildlife. “Land has been restored,” she tells us, “and so have the river catchments. I have been privileged to watch four generations of leopard be born, learn to hunt and live at peace in Londolozi.”
“Londolozi is most famous for leopard viewing,” Bronwyn explains, “but we have many animals that can be seen throughout the year such as lions, elephants, giraffe, buffalo, hyena and rhino, as well as zebra, kudu, impala and waterbuck.”
“Everyday is a gift. What is so rewarding about safari is the fact that no two days are the same.”
This wealth of extraordinary wildlife isn’t taken for granted, “Everyday is a gift,” she says, “What’s so rewarding about safari is the fact that no two days are the same. It is like opening a book but the chapters keep changing. Safari is one of the most memorable holidays you will ever have.”
Londolozi is also involved with the Good Work Foundation, an NGO based in Mpumalanga that offers education, with an emphasis on digital learning, to disadvantaged children and adults. The reserve even has its own on-site GWF digital learning centre.
Bronwyn tells us: “It is a centre where people from the community can come to learn and have access to technology and education that they otherwise wouldn’t have had.”
Guests at the reserve have the opportunity to connect with the local community themselves by meeting the Shangaan people on Londolozi’s daily village walks. “Guests walk along the path called ‘Freedoms Way’ that Nelson Mandela once walked during his visits to Londolozi.” Bronwyn explains, “A guide imparts knowledge of the traditional culture of the Shangaan and the history of Londolozi.”
“Guests are then invited to a craft centre where they can purchase necklaces and bracelets made by village,” she says, before adding, “It’s a wonderful way to learn about the history and people who make Londolozi the place that is today.”
“Londolozi has been in the family for 86 years and it is always redefining the essence of safari.”
Ultimately, the family endeavours to give visitors to the reserve an unforgettable experience. “Our greatest wish is that guests leave their safari with a greater connection to each other, the planet we call home and a deeper reverence for wildlife. Londolozi has been in the family for 86 years and it is always redefining the essence of safari.”
Bronwyn concludes: “Our aim for the future of the reserve is always to explore and create a safe haven for animals while giving our guests exceptional service and a wonderful safari experience.”