Expert Reviews – Londolozi GR

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The Land of the Leopard
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When hunting along the Sand River gave way to photographic safaris some thirty-five years ago, the old hunting camp location was rechristened Londolozi: a name derived from the Zulu word meaning ‘to protect’. It was a pioneering concept ahead of its time; but, decades later, visitors to Londolozi reap the rewards of this far-sighted partnership between wildlife and people. It would be no stretch of the imagination or exaggeration for me to say that today Londolozi is renowned as probably the best place in the world to view the usually elusive leopard. I really like that the rangers and trackers at Londolozi have an excellent knowledge and passion for the area. However, my best-ever Londolozi sighting happened right at the lodge itself … One day, while enjoying a lazy afternoon siesta on my room’s secluded riverside deck, I was awoken by the magical sound of elephants cavorting in the Sand River below. After an hour of watching these gray giants drinking and going about their business, I stepped onto the aerial walkway that linked my luxurious room to the main lodge. But, before I could get going, my ranger intercepted me and signalled that I should freeze. Not far off, a male leopard was carefully stashing his waterbuck kill up a leadwood tree in the middle of camp. A minute later he melted back into the bush from whence he had come.

Leopard Heaven
Overall rating

Londolozi is a small (1400 ha.) but perfect private reserve in the game-rich woodlands of the Sabi Sands. You can clock up all the big five here, but the abundance of cover makes this a leopard heaven. Here beside the Sand River are dense forests, shady dongas (gullies) and lofty marula trees into whose leafy canopies a leopard can safely hoist its kill out of reach of lions and hyenas. Furthermore, Londo’s leopards, although truly wild, have become incredibly well habituated to the presence of tourist vehicles, promising great photos of Africa’s most elusive big cat. Listen out for the moment when the tracker perched on the jump seat of your 4WD whispers the magic word ingwe – Shangaan for leopard – and get your camera ready!

Accommodation comes in the form of five luxurious lodges (all part of the Relais & Chateaux group of elite hotels). My favourite is the Tree House, but all offer a full-on five-star experience. Add breeding herds of elephant and buffalo, great lion activity and the strong conservation ethic of the Varty family and you will understand why Londolozi has such a good reputation.

Protector of all living things
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The name Londolozi means “Protector of all living things”, and it more than applies to this superb private reserve that forms part of the same complex as MalaMala and Sabi Sands. It is also one of the older reserves in the area, and has been in the same Varty family since it opened in the 1970s. Back then, it offered simple hutted accommodation aimed at down-to-earth bush enthusiasts. Today the accommodation is the ultimate in bush chic, as reflected in it being the African first game reserve in the world to be accorded Relais & Chateaux status. What hasn’t changed is the high quality of guiding, and the superb wildlife viewing. As with neighboring MalaMala, close-up encounters with leopards are the house specialty, but a dull game drive here is a rare thing indeed, as is as guest who walks away without having ticked all of the Big Five.

Luxury and elegance in the heart of leopard country
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Londolozi is situated in the centre of the Sabi Sands Reserve, west of Kruger National Park. It’s one of the most famous parts of Sabi Sands and an excellent choice, if you can afford it, as its owners, the Varty family, have a long-running commitment to conservation, their taste is impeccable and their vehicles have exclusive access to a vast area. Head out on a game drive from one of Londolozi’s five glorious lodges and there’s no absolutely danger of getting stuck in a queue, waiting for another lodge’s guests to move on from a sighting.

In my view, Londolozi is one of the very best places in Africa for leopard fanatics because you’ll be in like-minded company. I found that the owners and staff love talking about them and it’s highly likely that you, like me, will be sharing your safari with equally besotted fellow guests. The chances of encountering these magnificent cats are superb and you’ll have the privilege of watching them at your own pace. I particularly enjoyed the fact that you can look up the life histories of the individuals you have seen: each has a page on the Londolozi website.

The leopards of Londolozi
Overall rating

Renowned for the excellent Big Five wildlife sightings and leopard sightings in particular, Londolozi is one of the older parks in Sabi Sands. It was founded by the famous Varty family more than 80 years ago. They pioneered the leopard habituation for which Sabi Sands is so well known. The little rondavel style accommodation of the early days has been replaced with sheer sophistication and style. On the property are several lodges, each with a different theme. Food is excellent. Expert guides will take you on 2 drives a day and a walk in the bush is optional.

Average Expert Rating

  • 4.4/5
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