At its essence, Londolozi is itself a seed of change; the reach of its impact crosses borders, from the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve where the lodge lies in South Africa, to the homes and hearts of those who visit – people in all corners of the globe.
Spearheading this inspiring African lodge are owners, husband-and-wife team, Dave and Shan Varty, themselves models of the Zulu word “Londolozi” – “protector of all living things”.
6 QUESTIONS WITH SHAN VARTY, THE MOTHER OF LONDOLOZI
In a few words can you explain how you have tried to use Londolozi to help make the world a better place?
One of Londolozi’s core philosophies is to be an advocate for the planet, the people and the wildlife that call South Africa home. Londolozi endeavors to create a space where the human spirit can reconnect with the wilderness, a place where people start to understand the power of cooperation, harmony and love.
The partnership between wildlife and community is very apparent at Londolozi. Why have you emphasized this?
Our values are founded on the African tradition of Ubuntu “I am because of you” and only when wildlife, people and land can work together can we find abundance for everyone. It is best stated by our late president Nelson Mandela who visited Londolozi: “During my long walk to freedom, 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.”
What is your fondest memory from Nelson Mandela’s visit to the lodge and what did you learn from his visit?
Nelson Mandela has taught the world so much. For us at Londolozi, it was his humbleness, dignity and ability to listen. He showed us that all great work and change begins within each of us, first, and then, through kindness, is extended to the world. He treated everybody with the same respect and dignity.
The early stages of Londolozi were filled with challenges. What drove and still drives you to continue and succeed?
The early years at Londolozi were challenging because we were pioneering a blueprint and creating a conservation development model for the African safari industry. At the heart of this journey were people, and it is the interactions and special relationships with all of those we met on the way that, to this day, inspire us and drive us to continue. I am a firm believer that people are at the heart of any successful endeavor.
You travel a lot for work and leisure. How does the wilderness of South Africa, specifically the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, compare to the other reserves of the world? In what way is it different and special, and in what way is it similar and connected?
The Sabi Sand Game Reserve lies within 6 million acres of Transfrontier Peace Park. It is a unique safari destination in that it creates intimate, close-contact interpreted game viewing of leopard, lion and cheetah. Its diversity of species large and small and the ability to view at close quarters is unmatched. A combination of location and a long history of trust creates a unique viewing experience.
You’ve seen and helped to create the change in perception from hunting to the photographic safari. What is key when working to change people’s perceptions and attitudes, particularly about such a controversial matter?
Respecting that there is a time and a season to each era, hunting has served and played its role in conservation over the years, but rising global consciousness has now focused on the art and creativity of photography. In this digital age, photography is growing exponentially as more and more people come to understand the intelligence, beauty and energy of the natural world. Change always begins when people feel something and then have the opportunity to experience it.
Londolozi creates work for 270 people, who in turn support over 2,700 dependents. It supports local businesses and community projects and delivers world-class digital education to rural school children, through the Good Work Foundation and the digital learning centers at the lodge. They protect the wildlife and natural ecosystems and work to restore the rivers through various conservation projects. And lastly, through guests’ visits, Londolozi helps to preserve the ancient art of tracking, pioneer emotional literacy, promote Ubuntu and maintain a greater harmony for humanity.