One of our favourite couples, Byron and Calyn, decided to get hitched. That they chose Karongwe Private Game Reserve made it even more special.
It’s a little under 500kms from Johannesburg depending on the route you take but we decided to do the more scenic route that included passing through Dullstroom – always picturesque no matter the time of year – and Lydenburg.
From there on out the single lane road means it takes a bit longer than it should given the trucks using the route but once you make it through the JG Strydom tunnel the view as you descend through the valley is worth taking in. From there on out it’s a short drive to Karongwe.
Upon arrival we had cold towels handed to us, handy given the high temperatures, and the keys to our cabins quickly followed. We lucked out and ended up with a unit facing out over the riverbed, only a trickle at that stage due to the lack of rain, but still promising enough of an opportunity for game watching from our balcony.
The cabins at Karongwe are raised off the ground on stilts with canvas walls and a thatched roof which gives you more of a feel of sleeping in the bush. It also meant that the thunderstorm in the early hours of our first morning there sounded like the end of the world.
Every single game drive we had was brilliant. The first one included being caught up in the resident elephant herd, a couple of mock charges got the blood flowing although the whisky later settled the nerves, and the sighting of a lioness.
The nerves were again shot when the clutch went on the game drive vehicle as we tried to move on which meant a nervous wait for the lioness to lose interest and saunter off. A quick change of vehicles and we were back on our way with the usual impala, giraffe and zebra sightings.
It was that weekend that Mother Nature decided rain was necessary and she duly obliged with a monster cloud burst. We were due to have sundowners on the drive but the dark clouds (see the picture with the tracker) put us off and we turned back, but not before being caught in the cloud burst.
Not just any cloud burst though. It included hail stones that rapped us on the knuckles as we ducked for cover under ponchos. Needless to say we were soaked through by the time we arrived back at the camp but the hilarity of the situation was not lost on us.
The morning of the ceremony meant breakfast with the groom and the rest of the guests, the bride was of course kept well away ahead of the pending nuptials, and then it was downtime before the drive to the fig trees where the ceremony took place.
The ceremony itself was perfect, pretty much exactly how we thought it would play out. A couple of tears were shed, a few chuckles and a couple of dabs to the forehead with a cool cloth to counteract the effects of 40 degree heat and humidity.
Another game drive – we got strange looks from other vehicles in the reserve given that we were rocking collar and tie but it didn’t faze us – and we headed back, after another rare sighting of three black-backed jackal, to partake in the festivities that come with a wedding involving people who drink copious amounts of tequila.
The best game drive was saved for Sunday. Just a pity that only six of us, myself and best mate Brad included, made the 5am wake up call. It was tough but worth it as we got a brief glimpse of a leopard chasing an impala before a brilliant experience with cheetah.
Just as the drive was getting boring our guide Mathew, the man with the greatest laugh I’ve ever heard in my life, stopped the vehicle and went on a mission with our tracker. He emerged after about 10 minutes and told us to follow him.
Somewhat hesitantly we followed and came out in clearing where a breeding pair of cheetah were lying in the sun, metres from us. Those 10 minutes we spent observing them, they ignored us completely, capped a brilliant weekend.
We drove home content, relaxed and extremely fortunate to have been part of the festivities.
For more information on Karongwe and what they offer click here. You won’t be disappointed