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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Travel Diary: Londolozi Yoga Safari in South Africa

Jill Demling, Entertainment Editor at Vogue writes about her Yoga Safari to Londolozi Reserve in South Africa with Roar Africa.

Read it below or the find the original online here:, Beauty, Health, and Fitness Monday June 29, 2009

from Vogue:

Travel Diary: Londolozi Yoga Safari in South Africa

In my wildest dreams (and despite a genuine yearning) I never thought I would get to see South Africa, and I never thought I would get to see South Africa for the following reasons:

1. I am pretty unpredictable on airplanes, and the thought of a sixteen-hour journey across the ocean didn’t exactly seem like the best way to bookend any fantastic getaway.

2. I work a full-time job, and escaping my office for a two-week vacation usually proves to be impossible. OK, not usually. Always.

3. I can be a finicky traveler. I like to lie by the pool with a good book and a cocktail as much as the next weary worker, but I also have an active streak and shudder at the thought of spending even one hour in a hotel gym.

4. I assumed it would be wildly (and prohibitively) expensive.

So, I thought, I may never make it to South Africa. That was fine. I was perfectly content lolling along the beach in Amagansett, visiting family up in Boston, and taking an annual jaunt to somewhere cool (and closer) like Europe or Costa Rica. I was fine with it. Really. That is, until a friend introduced me to Deb Calmeyer, and I started thinking that maybe it was finally time to make one of my big-time travel fantasies come true.

Deb and her father, Geoff, both natives of South Africa, launched their travel company, Roar Africa, in 2005 with a very simple mission: a perfectly personalized South African vacation. How personalized? If you love bird-watching, they will hire a guide to point out the indigenous species. Certified oenophile? A wine expert will take you to all the local wineries—even the ones way off the beaten path. Is a vacation not a vacation unless you end up lugging shopping bags through customs? The Calmeyer’s will pair you up with a personal shopper who will stroll Cape Town and haggle on your behalf. So it stood to reason they could figure out what to do with an exercise enthusiast who longed to see the African bush and was short on time and money—and they did: the Londolozi Yoga Safari.

After landing in Johannesburg after a remarkably pleasant flight (if you make this trip, I suggest South African Airlines), I was greeted by Geoff who was clearly the age of my grandfather, but had the spunk and swagger of a teenager. After a few cups of strong African coffee at the airport hotel, our group (there were four of us) hopped on a very small (repeat, very small) airplane for a one-hour flight that landed us in the middle of nowhere. After deplaning, I climbed wearily in the safari truck for a five-minute drive to my destination: Tree Camp at Londolozi. All weariness immediately deserted me.

Situated in the heart of the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Londolozi is named for a Zulu word meaning “protector of all living things,” which is also the mantra of this family-owned and-operated business. Unloading my bags off the truck, I quickly found a protector of my own in our dashing game ranger, Boyd Varty, who was part Hugh Jackman, part Harrison Ford, and exactly what you not-so-secretly hope the man who will gallantly lead you through the wilderness will look like. The city started seeming very far away.

Our four-day stay at Londolozi would be tailored around a new program called, simply, Yoga Safari. Led by Sally Flanagan, who is recognized in South Africa as a pioneer of Bikram Yoga, each day would consist of two yoga sessions and two up-close-and-personal game drives. When we weren’t doing our sun salutations or marveling at spotting the big five (lions, tigers, zebras) roaming around the bush, we were relaxing in our rooms: luxurious suites built high in the branches and giving an entirely new meaning to the idea of a tree house. My own room had a private pool and a deck from which I stood and watched baboons swing from the trees and elephants and giraffes roam the ground below. It was completely surreal, and the only thing that brought me back to Earth (figuratively) was the security guard who would accompany us around the camp. Turns out those friendly baboons had mastered the art of unlocking doors, and to remedy the problem all the doors had more locks than Fort Knox.

The first morning, we woke up at five for a yoga class on a deck nestled high in the trees—a vantage point that allowed for a stunning view of the sun rising over the land. I practice a lot of yoga in the city, and I must say that meditation takes on a whole new meaning when you can’t hear car alarms and the raging wheels of trucks. After class, we would have breakfast and then head out for a game drive. The second yoga session of the day would also take place in the tree house, but it was slightly more daunting: It was on a deck over a crocodile-filled water hole—one false move and you were lunch. The second game drive was in the evening as the sun was setting and the predators were readying to find dinner. Along the way we’d stop for snacks consisting of dried game meat. I went to South Africa a vegetarian and came back with bags of dried impala in my suitcase. Who would’ve thought?

Our nights at the camp were spent around a campfire drinking wine from South African vineyards, eating dinner prepared by a local chef, and telling stories over dessert plates of delicious local cheeses. On our last night we were serenaded by the Londolozi choir, who sang traditional hymns to us—and as I leaned back to take it all in, I couldn’t believe it was almost time to go home.

For a trip organized around your interests and budget, visit or e-mail Deb Calmeyer at

Photo gallery courtesy of Jill Demling. Click to enlarge:

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