Sitting idle during the nationwide lockdown has provided me with the time to reflect. I am lucky enough to be with my family during this time which has led to my sister, Amy Attenborough, and I more often than not laughing about the quirky characters you find at Londolozi as well as reminiscing on the amazing sightings each of us has experienced there.
Amy is a former Londolozi guide and member of the media team, who I unfortunately never overlapped with in terms of working together. However, we do share some unforgettable memories with one another at Londolozi when I visited Ames during her time there. It is in amongst these memories that Ames and I are going to share two snapshots which had a profound effect on both of us and that ultimately highlights the value of reflection.
A small group of us headed out on a calm winter’s afternoon. The sun was still warm on my back when Ames turned to me and told me that we were close to one of her favourite spots on Londolozi. We meandered along a road that passed through open crests which soon gave way to Guarrie thickets and then into riverine vegetation, mostly dominated by thick Weeping Boer Beans growing out of huge termite mounds. Everything was big.
Of all the bush places I had visited growing up, none of them told a story of age like this place did.
Hugging the edge of a dry riverbed we passed through pockets of dappled sunlight as the trees grew in size and number while the rest of the bush faded away. The vehicle slowed down and I noticed that the conversation had dwindled, not from discomfort but by choice. Ames turned to me, her eyes bright with excitement yet her face and tone serene. “This is the Leadwood forest,” she explained.
The vehicle stopped and I looked up, allowing my eyes time to drink in the scenery. Solid grey trees with wrinkled bark dotted the dry earth like ancient time stamps. We climbed off of the vehicle and stepped through the invisible barrier, deeper into the forest. Standing quietly, we watched a herd of elephants in the distance use their tusks to dig holes in the riverbed and then siphon clean water off using their trunks. A heavy blanket of calm settled around my shoulders as I watched the powerful yet tender movements of the herd from the safety of the massive guardians towering above me. Rubbing my palms along the evenly cracked bark I wondered what these thousand year old trees had seen.
A deep exhale some way off to our left drew us away from the elephants. Cautiously we approached where the sound had come from. Another deep breath. There! A bull rhino kept its head low to the ground as it grazed on tufts of grass. Unaware of our presence, it strolled behind a termite mound. In single file, we stealthily crept up onto the mound to watch the rhino feed noisily until his large rear drifted out of view into the bush.
I smiled with appreciation, at the people who shared this moment with me and at the landscape that allowed it, knowing that it was one that would stay with me for a very long time.
Reflecting on this vivid memory, I realised that this was one of the moments that pulled me in the direction to where I am today. A place where I do what I love, with like-minded people, hoping that I can inspire some of the wonder I explained above in guests from around the world. Another one of these moments is anchored to a specific animal, a Londolozi leopard in fact.
But I’ll leave that for Ames to share with you tomorrow…