The continent of Africa has attracted curious travelers for many years. In the old days, people visited her purely for big game hunting and to mine diamonds and gold, but nowadays visitors flock to Africa to experience its unique wilderness, wildlife, and impressive landscapes, to capture animals (especially the Big Five) on photographic safaris and to escape the humdrum of city life.
In this blog, we’ve decided to tell the story behind five safari lodges that we like to book for our guests that are especially steeped in history, and we hope that you find this journey of discovery interesting. Please feel free to comment and therefore contribute to what we think is an interesting theme.
1. Cottars, Kenya
Cottar’s Safari Service was one of the very first registered safari outfitters in Africa. Established in 1919 by Charles Cottar and his sons Bud, Mike and Ted, Cottar’s provided big game hunting and film safaris to anyone wishing to travel to Africa, Indochina and India.
Charles first visited Africa in 1909 from the USA, after reading the thrilling big game hunting account of Theodore Roosevelt. In 1915, he decided to move his entire family to Kenya for good and quickly became known as an authority on hunting and an excellent safari guide.
Charles survived several attacks by wild animals including leopard, buffalo, and elephant, but in 1939 his luck sadly ran out when he died at the hands of a charging rhino. Mike and Bud carried on the family business in their father’s absence. Some of the prominent figures of the time that they took on safari were the Duke and Duchess of York, Martin and Osa Johnson and Woolworth Donahue. Mike was also friendly with many of the well-known characters from Out of Africa, including Beryl Markham, who took him flying in his plane as his very first passenger.
The Cottars were notorious in British circles for being pioneers and anti-establishment and were known to spend long periods of time with tribes in deepest Africa. They were also the first to import American cars for use as safari vehicles, capture previously unseen wildlife footage and discover new areas such as Lake Paradise.
They even kept many interesting wild pets such as chimpanzees, leopards, lions and wild dogs! Mike’s son Glen together with his wife Pat continued the family-run business, and they continued to pioneer hunting expeditions and explorations into previously uncharted parts of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Sudan, Botswana and Zaire.
They were also the first to establish the photographic safari in the early sixties in the Tsavo National Park, and later opened Cottar’s Mara Camp in the Masai Mara in the seventies, and Cottar’s Bushtops and Kimana in the eighties.
After the death of Glen and then Pat, their son Calvin and his wife Louise started the Masai Mara Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp in the mid-nineties which continues to this day as a beacon to the Cottar family safari legacy.
2. Londolozi, Sabi Sand
The land today known as the Londolozi Game Reserve was originally bought in 1926 by two bosom buddies Frank Unger and Charles Boyd Varty during a tennis match in Johannesburg. Known then as Sparta Farm, it was primarily used as a hunting farm until 1971 when Dave and John Varty (Charles’s two sons) decided to gear the property towards tourism. It was thus renamed ‘Londolozi’ after the Zulu word meaning ‘protector of all living things’.
Together they single-handedly created the blueprint for conservation in Southern Africa, as well as a world class safari destination. The 1970’s and 80’s saw them building the guiding principles of Londolozi and show the economic possibilities that wildlife could bring to a country divided by race. From the 90’s Londolozi has built on their vision of wildlife playing a large role in conservation.
Perhaps Nelson Mandela encapsulates the Londolozi ethos best when he said: “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.”
3. Shamwari, Eastern Cape
Adrian Gardiner (originally from Zimbabwe), a prosperous Port Elizabeth businessman, always dreamed of owning a piece of African bush, and so in 1990 he acquired a small farm of 1200 ha for his family. Financial difficulties by neighboring farms and drought in the area soon led to Adrian adding to his African dream and being able to buy up more land at bargain prices to extend his farm to 7000 ha.
Adrian also spent time researching historical accounts of the Eastern Cape and discovered that this part of South Africa was once deemed as one of the richest wildlife regions in all of Africa. Over the years, the indigenous plants and animals had been destroyed through hunting, drought and farming.
The Big Five once roamed freely in these parts and evidence dating back to the 18th century suggests that vast herds of Cape Buffalo, Black Wildebeest, zebra, rhino and lion were all once abundant here. It was documented that in 1853 the last black rhino was killed in the Eastern Cape, followed in 1856 by the last free-roaming lion and in 1919 the last surviving Cape Buffalo. 1919 also saw the Cape Administration employing a legendary hunter to exterminate a small herd of elephant which were considered a threat to farmers in the area. By the time the Addo Elephant Park was established in 1931, sadly only 11 elephants remained out of the once abundant herds.
What started as a family weekend getaway, grew into Adrian’s passion of wanting to return this land and its inhabitants back to its original state teeming with wildlife, indigenous plants and birds.
Adrian made friends with renowned conservationists Johan Aspinall and Dr Ian Player and developed a scientific and systematic rehabilitation program of wildlife together with a game restocking plan. On the 15th of October 1992, Adrian officially opened the Shamwari Game Reserve with only seven staff and a dream to make conservation profitable.
Shamwari continued to prosper and grow and in 2000 the reserve was finally stocked enough with wildlife to introduce large predators. October 2000 finally saw the game reserve achieving its dream of releasing its first lions back into the Eastern Cape.
Today Shamwari Game Reserve stretches over 25000 ha, has over 5000 head of game, consists of six lodges, employs over 325 local staff and offers visitors the opportunity to experience the pristine fauna and flora of the Eastern Cape.
4. Norman Carr, Zambia
Norman Carr Safaris is widely recognised as one of the foremost tour operators in Zambia. Norman started the very first safari camp in Luangwa in 1950 and pioneered the idea that an African safari could consist of taking people to see wild animals and photograph them rather than hunt them.
He was also the first to involve the local Chief Nsefu and his people in setting up his first safari camp. He was way ahead of his time in the idea of involving and encouraging the local people to take responsibility for managing the wildlife of their land and making it profitable, today the cornerstone of modern day conservation.
Norman spent the first 35 years of the company setting up a number of safari camps throughout the Luangwa Valley, some of which still exist today such as the Lion Camp, Chibembe and Chinzombo to name but a few. 1985 saw Norman start construction on what was to be his final safari camp, Kapani Lodge overlooking the Kapani Lagoon.His community involvement and principles of conservation still exist today, and Norman Carr Safaris have been spearheading the way for responsible tourism in Zambia for over 60 years.
5. Jock’s Safari Lodge, Kruger
The idea behind Jock’s Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park was started by the offspring of the Sir James Percy FitzPatrick and the Niven families. They used Sir FitzPatrick’s trust to build the lodge close to the area which he used to frequent with his dog Jock. The concession extends from the old Voortrekker road (the transport route from the old Delagoa Bay, now known as Maputo) up to the gold fields of Pilgrims Rust and resembles the side profile of Jock the dog.
The conservation-conscious Niven family decided to construct a fence around the camp in 1982 to preserve the trees from visiting elephant herds and also planted several indigenous trees which today create a welcome canopy of shade around the lodge.
Born in 1862 in King William’s Town, Percy was the eldest son of James Coleman FitzPatrick, a Cape Colony Supreme Court judge, and Jenny FitzGerald, both from Irish descent. Educated at Downside Abbey (near Bath in England) and then later at St Aidan’s College in Grahamstown, Percy left college his father’s death to look after his mother.
He worked in the Eastern Transvaal goldfields in 1884 as a prospector’s hand, storeman, journalist and transport-rider where he later became the Gold Fields News editor in Barberton.
He used to recount stories to his four children about his adventures in the Bushveld in the pioneering days, and his intimate friend Rudyard Kipling later persuaded him to collect these stories in the book Jock of the Bushveld, now a well-known South African classic.The book was published in 1907 to great success (and even reprinted four times that year!) and has remained a firm favourite in South Africa where it was later made into a movie. It has been reprinted in many languages including Xhosa, Dutch, Afrikaans, French and Zulu.
Africa has a rich and fascinating history and we owe it to these fearless pioneers who have paved the way for visitors from all over the world to experience this continent’s magic, mystique and extraordinary wildlife, and to conserve it for future generations to enjoy. To experience it, contact one of our safari experts about your historic trip to Africa.