Mixing Nelson Mandela's Spirit With Navajo + Peruvian Practices, Londolozi South Africa Opens Healing House Spa


Londolozi is one of South Africa’s original private game reserves, considered to be a pillar of global ecotourism. The word Londolozi comes from the Zulu word meaning ‘Protector Of All Living Things’. The Londolozi Game Reserve lived up to its name, in the reflections of Dave Varty’s 2013 blog post ‘Remembering Madiba’.

As the helicopter landed in the front of Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa and outstepped Nelson Mandela, I knew that this would be a defining moment in my life. Madiba had been sent by an old friend, Enos Mabuza, to spend a few quiet days relaxing at Londolozi after weeks of hectic media exposure following his release from prison earlier that year.

A rare photograph of Nelson Mandela arriving at Londolozi in 1991.

A rare photograph of Nelson Mandela arriving at Londolozi in 1991.

During these amazing days at Londolozi, Nelson Mandela saw Africa’s Big Five wildlife — lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo — for the first time in his life. The term ‘Africa’s Big Five’ was originally coined by big-game hunters, and refers to the five most difficult animals in Africa to hunt on foot. Today the term is more frequently used by safari operators offering well-heeled tourists glimpses of animal majesty.

It was at Londolozi that Mandela — or Madiba — as he was called with reverence in South Africa and beyond, came to understand the power of the eco tourism safari industry as a development tool. Eco tourism promised opportunity, careers, social upliftment, jobs and education for those who had been caught in the indefensible disaster of the apartheid trap. 

Londolozi is situated on the Sand River it the heart of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve within the Greater Kruger National Park. In 1993, Londolozi became the first game reserve in the world to be accorded Relais & Châteaux status.

This award came nearly 70 years after Londolozi founders Charles Boyd Varty and Frank Unger, came up with a plan to buy an almost inaccessible piece of land on the banks of the Sand River, camp under its 1,000-year-old ebony trees, and run hunting safaris there.  In 1969, Varty’s grandsons Dave and John, and Dave’s wife Shan took stewardship of Londolozi, ditching guns for cameras in an entrepreneurial launch of South Africa’s first photographic safaris.

This Could Just Be The Most Forward-Thinking Wellness Offering in Africa

Writing for CNTraveller, Francesca Syz takes us to Londolozi and the reopening of its most exclusive offering — the three-bedroom Private Granite Suites, positioned perfectly for watching elephants frolic from its new bar, and the 10-bedroom Varty Camp, which sits in the footprint of the family’s original mud rondavels. 

Londolozi has also opened its first spa, the Healing House, and London-based Syz describes it as potentially “the most forward-thinking wellness offering in Africa.” In a story that spans generations Dave and Shan Varty have been replaced by their children Bronwyn and Boyd, who are the newest visionaries behind Londolozi.

Trained by Oprah’s life coach Martha Beck, the duo is heavily impacted by Beck’s belief “that the senses are deadened by desk jobs and smartphones and that you need to learn to listen to your body, the ultimate navigational tool, to tap into your innate wisdom”. Beck struck a deep cord in the modern-day hearts of Bronwyn and Boyd.

Impacted by their studies with Navaho medicine men and Peruvian shamans, sound — long considered to an original healing fix — is at the center of their rituals. These practices render Londolozi’s new spa as a fusion experience of ancient global practices that now harness the energy of the African wilderness. Read on at CNTraveller.