Lions, Leopards and Lovers
Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
187Trip End Ongoing
Jolted awake by the 5 am alarm, I grabbed a quick cup of coffee and stumbled into the vehicle waiting to take us on our first game drive. Not five minutes later, the coffee was forgotten as all eyes were clearly focussed on four magnificent cheetah lying in the bush. Cheetah are not counted as one of the big five, but considering there are less than three hundred in the entire park, we felt this was surely an omen for the day.
Before I bore you all with the wonders of South Africa’s wildlife, it might be in order to explain briefly why I happened to be on safari with twenty young people
Never have I observed such attention to detail in wedding planning, but then neither have I been part of a wedding including a three day safari en route to the bush camp wedding venue. Together with wedding guests from South Africa, Australia, Colombia, the UK and France, I participated in every early morning and late afternoon game drive......and was never once disappointed.
That early cup of coffee on the first morning was intended to tie us over until 9 am when we were scheduled to return to the tented safari camp for a hearty breakfast. Would you believe 2 pm? Just as we were about to call it quits, another giraffe would saunter across the road in front of our vehicle, or a floating beanbag (otherwise known as a hippo) would raise its snout from the water, or a pile of yellowish rocks sprouted a tail, and we soon realized that we were gazing at one, then four, and finally six lions basking in the sun
Forgetting about the intended afternoon nap, we were all eager and ready for our next outing, although many of us seriously doubted that we could surpass the excitement of the morning sightings. We had already reached the stage of considering a herd of thirty or more impala, or a dozen zebra quite “ordinary”, when we happened upon a female leopard with her two cubs. For a full half hour they sauntered along the road in front of us, as if on a Sunday afternoon stroll. Neither the changing of the engine’s gears, nor the multitude of clicking cameras was enough to deter the stunning cats, although mother did turn back every few minutes to check on our whereabouts.
Along with the big five of lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo, we sighted at least three dozen different animals, together with brilliantly coloured, spectacular birds. Some of our group discovered that even the campsite was not immune to hairy visitors, as the neighbouring baboons realized how tasty a travel bag can be! Nightly braais (South African barbeque), a hen party for Nici during which I had to pinch ten male bottoms in sixty seconds! and a festive atmosphere all made the time pass far too quickly, and on Friday we made our way to Giraffe Camp - the wedding venue
Nici’s “real” Mom had planned a surprise evening game drive prior to the rehearsal dinner. Imagine my delight at being included as one of the family members in this spectacular event. As we sipped champagne and nibbled on smoked salmon during sundowners, Mat, Nici and I commented that Mike was definitely on cloud control - the sunset was awesome. A large open fire formed the setting for the gourmet candle-lit dinner that followed, complete with a torte purchased by Nici’s aunt from the Vienna Opera House. Is this really a bush wedding??
After being seated in the front row with the real parents, I sobbed through the entire wedding ceremony - but I wasn’t alone, as not a dry eye could be found. It was astoundingly beautiful from beginning to end. The wedding dinner of course featured wild game together with all manner of delicious fare, including the traditional mealie pap, and at 2 am the gorgeous bride was whisked away by her groom. A fairy tale wedding if ever there was one!