Londolozi shot to prominence in the early 1990s when it was the first private reserve to receive Relais & Chateaux status. But it was the model of wise land use –promoting the well being of land, animals and surrounding communities – and the praise it received from Nelson Mandela, that truly secured Londolozi’s international fame. Furthermore, Mandela’s endorsement created the space for the model to be exported across Africa.
“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” – Nelson Mandela
By the turn of the century the economics of the Londolozi model was proven beyond a doubt. However, there was increasingly a trend towards questioning the potential harmful impact of ecotourism. Tourism and ecotourism are growing rapidly, compounding the stress on the environment, as increasing numbers of people want to get out and enjoy the natural and cultural wonders of the world. The question is now being asked: ecotourism at what price?
While Londolozi was being run under a management contract Dave Varty was in the privileged position of being able to observe the direction the industry was taking without actually being part of the trend. The lessons learnt through observation have set the ground for a fundamental shift in the Londolozi conservation approach.
As before, when the Varty’s took their farm from hunting to ecotourism, the new shift in direction comes from a perfect alignment of virtue (protecting the last wilderness spaces) and necessity (the land’s true value is being rapidly undermined).
The Varty’s do not subscribe to the ‘chain of lodges’ approach that most ecotourism operators are adopting nor do they think it wise to overburden the land with bricks and mortar infrastructure. The new Londolozi model has at its core a reduction of the lodge operation’s footprint, an increase in land and a focus on the richness of experience inherent in the African bushveld.