The Zulu word Londolozi means ‘protector of all living things’. The phrase has a universal resonance and embraces all living things everywhere. Little wonder then that the cause of Tigers and India’s long alluring wilderness drew the Varty family to Sher Bagh and Ranthambhore last month. The Varty family name has been synonymous with the restoration of wildlife and an entire ethic of preservation across the African continent and particularly South Africa for over four decades now. Londolozi, their private game reserve in the Sabi Sands area of South Africa, bordering the Kruger National Park is a model for conservation and eco-tourism. Apart from being the best spot on earth for the viewing of leopards in the wild, Londolozi is a pioneering luxury destination which has created the benchmark for some of the finest eco-tourism practises. Furthermore, both Londolozi and Sher Bagh are members of the Relais & Chateaux family.
As SUJAN’s private saloon pulled in, bearing the party at Sawai Madhopur Junction we knew this was an opportunity to display the best of our world; the thriving, pulsating rhythms of Ranthambhore’s wilderness to living legends of the Safari world.
Sher Bagh’s connection with the Varty’s is over a decade old. Dave and Shan Varty’s son, Boyd, a fourth generation scion of the Londolozi family first came to Sher Bagh, and Ranthambhore as an 18 year old lad for a bit of work experience when Jaisal first began running Sher Bagh, back in 2000. The association has persevered and we were delighted to welcome other member’s of the Varty family; Shan, Dave, their daughter Bronwyn and her fiancé Rich Laburn who were accompanied by their friends Pippa Clark and Siddharth Sriram, Sher Bagh veterans themselves.
Our troupe of Manganiars aroused uplifting evocations for Dave. Bronwyn and Richard were moved by the atmosphere and sheer drama of the Ranthambhore landscape and Shan’s infectious positive energy permeated every moment of the three days’ they were all here. These were three days of exchanging ideas, visions and experiences, of learning, reflection and repose and of course, three days of magnificent game viewing in Ranthambhore National Park.
The profusion of game – we passed herds of cheetal that varied from groups of 12 to nearly 50 – the unmissable beauty of jungle vines entwining Mughal palaces and Rajput chhatris’ was soon followed by Dave’s first sighting of a wild tiger. Brat’s (T19) dominant sub-adult cub welcomed him with a dynamic snarl; a view that visibly moved ‘The Great Safari Man’. A close appearance by Brat’s other male cub was followed by a demonstration of raw power and primordial awe for the great beast when an hour later, Ustad (T24) – currently Ranthambhore’s most infamous male tiger – crossed the road ahead of us near Phuta Kot. Moments later, Shan was equally (well, almost!) enthralled by the viewing of a breeding pair of Brown Fish Owls, ordinarily rare to see. Other drives caught sight of bear, jackal, marsh crocodile and another tiger with a scattering of birds in abundance. Only the leopards, never complacent about showing themselves kept a low profile.
An interaction between officers of the Forest Department was an enlivening affair, especially discussions about wildlife corridors, controlling grazing and the revitalisation of satellite forests and sanctuaries for imploding numbers of game. The meeting, conducted under the salubrious acreage of the great Banyan tree at Jogi Mahal had a somewhat spiritual resonance.
In between game drives, rapidly consumed picnics and the conviviality of the Sher Bagh campfire we spoke of Africa and the uncanny similarities between our cultures, as well as the distinct differences which enrich our experiences and make the world of conservation a truly global field, desperately in need of a partnership of preservation across continents. Other Sher Bagh guests joined in the conversation – both the serious stuff and the pervading jocularity of glorious evenings – in memorable fashion, but we shall skip those details for now! Our only complaint was the brevity of the visit and three days went by more swiftly than a monsoon in retreat. Nonetheless, the seedling of hope for the future of wildlife, across continents has once more been watered by the power of faith in Nature and its powers to heal itself, given a small helping hand by communities’ remains stronger in all of us.
To learn more about Londolozi and their pioneering initiatives in conservation and eco-tourism please visit www.londolozi.com.
Written by Yusuf Ansari
Photography by Anjali & Jaisal Singh