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John Varty

Nine Lives



Hunter, poet, musician, cameraman and game ranger, John Varty is South Africa's best-known-most controversial - wildlife conservationist. He has been living and working in the wild since early childhood, when his passion for nature was ignited. Nine Lives is the fascinating tale of this magnetic figure's progression from hunter to filmmaker to conservationist. It is also the remarkable story of a lifelong affair with nature. 


Finally while I lay across the fisherman's boat, delicately balanced like a sack of corn, my head in the water on one side and my feet on the other, the fisherman maneuvered the boat ever so slowly between the waiting crocs. From my position, I was eyeball to eyeball with the crocs and I didn't like what I saw. Primitive, patient, the crocs waited for one false move. Nobody said a word. All that could be heard was the swishing of the oar. Although the distance covered was only 200 metres, it took us a good 15 minutes to get to the mainland, certainly the longest 15 minutes of my life. Instinctively the fisherman knew that he had his and my life in his hands and he responded magnificently, inching us across the dark water with great skill. 

JV, Masai


Evacuate after helicopter crash


Varty narrates the adventures, trials, mishaps and triumphs of his extraordinary life, from hunting lions at the age of twelve and teaching the orphaned lion cub Shingalana how to hunt for food, to spending last moments with the badly mauled Mother Leopard - who he has been following and filming for years - before she crawled into a termite mound to die. He reveals the secrets behind his close relationship with certain big cats and invokes the terror of his own narrow escapes from death,  including a dangerous encounter with crocodile and a near-fatal helicopter crash. 


Suddenly Mangy Face charged me. Confident that I had one more round in my revolver, I waited until she was close, aimed between the eyes, and fired. The revolver went 'click' and I realized I was out of ammo. Things seemed to unfold in slow motion. Shingalana met the charge full on. I fell over and, as I recovered myself, Shingalana and Mangy Face were rolling over and over in the sand fighting viciously. 


Captivating, often humorous and deeply moving, Nine Lives is a passionate account of a life lived to the full, by a man driven by an intense love of the wild. 

JV and Gill
leopard cub
with tiger and lion cubs


I sat on the ground six metres from her and cried. I had been with her for 14 years of her life and now it was ending. Then, as I sat there feeling sorry for myself, it occurred to me that the least I could do was give her some comfort during the last hours of her life.

I went back to camp and got some impala meat and water. I sat down on the ground near her and offered her the meat and the water. I was shocked as she got her feet and hobbled towards me - her wounds were truly terrible. Then, with dignity and grace, she sat two metre from me and ate the meat and drank the water. 

The tears rolled down my cheeks as the emotion overwhelmed me.

Time stood still at Londolozi. 



John Varty killed his first lion at the age of twelve as a rite of passage to manhood. When he gave up hunting, he turned his attention to conservation at the family game farm Londolozi, which is renowned globally for its work with leopards. He has made several documentaries and feature films, and today is best known - even notorious in some circles -  for Tiger Canyons, a reserve in the Free State, where he is conserving tigers in the wild


Only 15 sponsors editions are being printed. This is a leather-bound collectors item with gold foiling and gilt edged pages in a leather slip case. 

Five Sponsors Editions have already been given to  Rodney & Lorna Drew, Jos & Yvette van Bommel, Ellen & Yossi Joseph, Daryl & Sharna Balfour and GP & Linda van den Heever for their outstanding contributions to Tiger Conservation.                                                                                 


Thirty five of the Collectors Editions are being printed in linen and leather in a case. These will cost R5 000 each and all funds will go towards Tiger Conservation. 


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