A Bush Wedding & Honeymoon Combo

Weddings don’t have to follow the traditional herd anymore. Adventurous love-birds rejoice!

Engaged couples these days tend to look beyond the ordinary and destination weddings (bush weddings in particular) are a great choice. They combine culture, adventure and often very pleasant climates – enabling the bride to wear whatever dress her heart desires, and the groom to reject that uptight suit and embrace more comfy and fitting attire to suit the scene too. Guaranteed picture-perfect wedding moments are part of the destination wedding allure.

Fabulous wedding destinations are also usually equally-fabulous honeymoon destinations…and so is born the ‘wedding and honeymoon combo’. A bush wedding in Africa offers this very opportunity and Garonga Safari Camp was privileged to recently host the wedding of Adam and Ruth Gooding.

Ruth & Adam's Bush Wedding at Garonga Safari Camp
Ruth & Adam marry at Garonga Safari Camp

Here we give some top reasons why the honeymoon/wedding combo is a winner and Ruth kindly gives feedback on their experience with us.

Five Reasons to Combine Your Wedding and Honeymoon…

  • No busy itineraries

No need to pack bags, rush off to the airport and leave the party behind (that’s just not fair anyway seeing as it is your party!) Your honeymoon begins from the moment your wedding day ends so you can ease into married life at leisure.

  • Best of both worlds – privacy and company

Having your friends and family right there on your honeymoon with you can be a draw card or quite the opposite depending on what you are seeking but quality and experienced venues will be able to ensure you still get that seclusion and privacy. For example, at Garonga we can arrange private dining, private game drives, exclusive accommodation as well as experiences like The Sleep Out and Bush Bath to make sure you still have that all important private honeymoon feel. And for the socialites amongst you, having your nearest and dearest with you just adds to the ongoing paaaarty!

Ruth & Adam marry at Garonga Safari Camp
Ruth & Adam marry at Garonga Safari Camp
  • Less stress and expense

Planning a wedding and honeymoon can be stressful but when you combine the two you are generally dealing with one venue and often one specific contact at that venue. The less people interfering the better (mothers-in-laws included) and the simpler and more enjoyable the experience will be. Destination wedding venues also sometimes offer cost effective packages with thrown in perks. At Garonga, included in the wedding package is a cake, bouquet, massage for both bride and groom, a private dinner for the married couple and even ceremony/vehicle décor. You can see more on our weddings page.

  • Bucket List Tick

Choosing a destination wedding and honeymoon venue, such as a bush wedding, is also a way of (or maybe excuse for?!) being able to tick off one of those key locations you’ve longed to visit and its highly likely it will be on your guests’ lists too.

  • The ultimate setting and photos

Honeymoon destinations lend themselves to wedding settings with romance and beauty at the forefront of everyone’s minds. And you don’t have to leave your guests for hours just to get those picture postcard wedding photos.

Ruth & Adam marry at Garonga Safari Camp
Ruth & Adam marry at Garonga Safari Camp

Ruth & Adam’s Bush Wedding & Honeymoon…

This couple from Scotland had their hearts set on a bush wedding in South Africa and booked the venue and accommodation (The Hambleden Suite) two and a half years in advance. The countdown then begun to their big day.

“We booked the Hambledon Suite as it was a ‘once in a lifetime’ trip and it was everything we could have hoped for and more. From the spectacular view from our own private deck and pool, to the luxury copper bath where I have very fond memories of relaxing on the morning of our wedding day taking in the view and the peace and tranquillity – not many brides can say they spent the morning relaxing. It was exactly how I hoped it would be.

The Hambleden Suite at Little Garonga
The Hambleden Suite at Little Garonga

We were lucky enough to stay for 8 days for our wedding and honeymoon.

Upon arrival it was much more than we could ever have expected. The day I had dreamed of was here and we were completely blown away. We were made to feel welcome from the second we arrived which in turn made it all the harder to leave when our time was done.

I say it was a once in a lifetime trip, however, that certainly won’t be the case as something keeps calling me back and I fell more in love with Garonga than I could ever have imagined and cannot wait to return. We now have a 2-year-old daughter and just as soon as she is old enough to stay we will be booking our next trip out. Not a day goes by that Garonga isn’t on my mind and that’s testament to just how amazing this place is.”

You can read more about Ruth and Adam’s day on their wedding blog.

Photography thanks to Jeannie C Photography

Giraffes – The Dark Side that May Surprise You

The gentle giants of the bush, giraffes are not always as graceful and docile as they first appear. They have a dark and brooding side too. We look at some fascinating giraffe facts that may surprise you.

Poised, elegant and peaceful. These are all words we would most commonly use to describe the giraffe as it saunters effortlessly across the plains, munching innocently on leaves. It’s such a spectacular and majestic animal and certainly iconic when it comes to African wildlife. However, don’t be fooled by this angelic appearance. A giraffe endures an abrupt entrance into the world, consisting of a long drop of an average of 6ft to the ground and a heavy smack to the head! Who wouldn’t have a grumpy side after this rude awakening? After this, they are well prepared for anything life throws at them next.

giraffe mother and calf

‘Necking’ (of the romantic kind) is an adorably common occurrence in giraffe courting. However, it also refers to the action taken when a pair of male giraffes wrestle it out using their necks to fight. Yes, this show of bravado is all in an attempt to woo the ladies. They swing their necks from side to side to head-butt their opponent hoping to win themselves a mate. The sound of this spectacle can be heard 100metres away and often results in broken jaws and sometimes even broken necks or an unconscious contestant! Not so graceful and elegant any more right?

If you don’t believe us, check out this collection of clips of giraffe battles in the wild. It will change your perception of giraffes for life and you will certainly think twice about challenging one to a dual.

Here are a few other interesting facts about giraffes:

• A loooooong, moody pregnancy: A giraffe’s gestation period is a whopping 15 months. That is well within the top 12 animals with the longest baking time and they certainly need it to ensure the calves are strong enough for that long drop.

• Early achiever: After their dramatic entrance into the world (the drop which surprisingly does not hurt the calf but rather encourages them to take their first breath) it takes them an average of only 1 hour to walk and 10 hours to run. How is that for reaching milestones early!

Recently during a morning game drive with guests, we witnessed a giraffe birth and managed to capture the first precious moments of the calf’s life – post-drop! No pain meds, no hospitals and doctors were present. In the wild, it’s just mom on her own. “It was an unforgettable moment,” said one of the guests immediately after we quietly drove off.

• Giraffe Day-care: Young giraffes hang out in nursery groups until they are around 5 months old, resting and playing together while their mothers forage in the distance. One female will tend to stay and look after the young. So civilised!

Giraffe Day-care

• A Tower of Giraffes: The collective noun for a group of giraffes – and so apt it is too.

No need to drink: If fresh green food is available they do not need water.

• Surprisingly fast: They can gallop at up to 60kph, which OK, isn’t a patch on its predators but is impressive none the less.

• Yes they are tall! They are the tallest mammal in the world (average 16-20ft) with their legs often being taller than most humans at an average of 6ft alone.

So…tough, rough and ready to fight. These are all new phrases for you to describe these ‘dark horses’ of the savanna. But let’s be honest, there still is (and always will be) something soft, fluffy and a little bit goofy about them and there’s nothing like a giraffe calf trying to find its feet to warm the heart…aww!

giraffe calf

The ‘Guest from Hell’ Reviews Garonga

You know that segment on Jimmy Kimmel Live when celebrities willingly read aloud some of the ‘mean tweets’ that are written about them?

It made us think. The internet is both a wonderful and horrible place. It’s the go-to place for people to share their love and also their hate.

Insert TripAdvisor.

TripAdvisor is an open journal for travellers. It’s probably the greatest form of user generated content there is, which is why we love it so much. It’s a place where our guests have their say. Even when that can be scary (mean tweets) or great (appraisal and awards), we encourage every Garonga guest to write a review about their stay with us.

Recently, we came across one TripAdvisor review in particular that took us on a roller coaster ride of emotions. Here it is, along with the wild thoughts in our head as we read it for the very first time.

(Disclaimer: to be read with a sense of humour)

The Review of a Lifetime… 

I must explain before I review this place that I am the customer from hell and can find fault in EVERYWHERE I STAY!

[Garonga: Oh no. This could take a bad turn…]

I did not want to go on safari and stay in a tent and this was not my idea of a relaxing holiday, until I found Garonga and Little Garonga!

[Garonga: Phew (smiles and giggles)!!!]

I am now converted. I could not fault this place, it is AMAZING. I am totally converted and LOVED every minute, no every second, of this holiday.

[Garonga: CONVERSION. Day is made.]

ALL of the staff are wonderful, thank you so much CJ, Richard, Phineus, Josiah, Loderick, Charlotte, Bernie and the lovely chef who made me mash potato because I am a fussy eater!

[Garonga: Mmm…mashed potatoes. Best comfort food ever!]

You are an example of how to do a job properly. This is hospitality at its best. Anyone who can find fault in this place, shame on you! If you don’t appreciate this lodge then don’t go on safari because it is not for you and perhaps you need to return to Benidorm where you can stay in a nice 3-star hotel!

[Garonga: Haha! So honest and full of personality. We must share this one with the Garonga fam.]

Thank you, guys. From not wanting to embrace a safari holiday, thanks to you I am totally hooked. You have given me memories to last me a lifetime (Julie’s corner!). I can’t wait to come back and see my elephant Lisette.

[Garonga: The customer from hell? No way! Little Lisette won’t go anywhere.]

Keep doing what you do, you are incredible! X

[Garonga: Guests like yourself make this job the best one in the world.]

Garonga TripAdvisor Review

Did you know….

  • We read every TripAdvisor review that you write. So far, we’ve read a total of 364 reviews.
  • We strive to reply to every single review. We know writing a review takes time and time is precious so we are grateful for the time spent giving us honest feedback.
  • Your review doesn’t only help us to improve our safari experience but future travellers who are researching where to go for their African safari of a lifetime.
  • You are clever! The tips and pointers you give to future guests are so…well…helpful. So valuable in fact that we share them on our Facebook page from time to time.
  • We were named a TripAdvisor 2017 Travellers’ Choice Award Winner in the top 25 Small Hotels in South Africa. Based on reviews and opinions from millions of travellers, Garonga is in the top 1% of hotels – all thanks to YOU!
  • If you’ve stayed with us before and haven’t wrote a review yet, why don’t you? We’d love to be defined by your opinion. Stop by our TripAdivsor page.

Being a Safari Guide: 8 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets

“As a guide, you’re the first person the guests hear from in the morning and the last person they see in the evening.”

Being a safari guide doesn’t follow the typical 9 to 5 schedule. By the time you arrive at your office in the morning, they’ve already returned the guests back to camp from a 3-hour game drive. While it seems like a wonderful and romantic job, with sunrises and sunsets and lions and elephants all around you, there is much more that goes on behind the scenes. Repairing flat tyres, managing guest expectations and warding off snake and baboon intruders are a few of them.

Being a safari guide: behind the scenes

Are you wondering what it’s really like to be a safari guide? Here are 8 behind the scene secrets about the realities of life in the bush.

1. People skills are most important.

The biggest part of being a guide is working with people. You can have a wealth of wilderness knowledge, but if you bore your guest to tears, it won’t take you very far. As a guide, it is your responsibility to enhance the experience for people when they go on safaris. It starts with learning the names of your guests.

2. It can take over a decade for a safari guide to reach the top qualification.

The learning never stops. The only way to progress in the field is by obtaining the qualifications that are set by the Field Guides Associations of South Africa. Reaching the top qualification can take up to 15 years of studying and practical work experience.

Each year at Garonga, Adriann Louw conducts an intensive Track and Trails guiding course with the guides and trackers over 5 days. It may seem like a short while, but the transformation that takes place is overwhelming. This year head guide, Jaffet, maintained his Tracker Level 4 (senior status) but with even better results. He mentored the remainder of the team who also achieved excellent qualifications.

Being a safari guide: behind the scenes

3. Patience is a non-negotiable.

If there is a characteristic a safari guide must have, it is patience. Patience with animals and patience with people.

4. The all-khaki dress code is sort of a lie.

Truth be told, most animals see in black and white. So, you don’t have to wear khaki from head to toe on your next safari but it may be one of those fun things to do! Having said that, keep the lumo, reflective outfits for your time in camp instead of sporting them on a game drive. Many birds and some creatures are sensitive to colour and may see you as suspicious instead of one with their environment when they spot you out in their wilderness.

5. Guests’ excitement can be contagious.

The beauty of being a safari guide is the ability to see the bush through the guests’ eyes. There’s a specific sparkle about it. The smiles, questions and enthusiastic reactions are constant reminders to never get too complacent. So future guests, remember that your excitement is infectious to those around you, especially to the ones in the driver and tracker seat!

6. Being mechanically savvy comes in handy.

There will be plenty of flat tyres and the lazy lions who enjoy 20 hours of sleep a day certainly won’t offer their help. If your vehicle breaks down in the middle of nowhere, you have to know how to fix it or you risk getting stuck.

7. Early morning and late nights are part of the job.

Safaris run on a specific schedule for a reason and it is the guide’s job to make sure the guests are ready on time. They will wake you up in morning for the first game drive of the day and often stay up to wish you a good night’s sleep after dinner. They are not just guides, but caring hosts that look after every aspect of your stay.

8. They are great mixologists.

When the sun sets, this is when your guide gets to really show of their skills. First, they will stop the vehicle at one of the most scenic spots in the reserve. Just when you think the moment can’t get any better, they’ll offer you an ice-cold beer, glass of wine or a classic G&T as you watch the egg-yolk sunset disappear behind the horizon.

being a safari guide: behind the scenes

Garonga Turns 20! Our Celebration in Photos

Birthdays, anniversaries, honeymoons and weddings – you name the special occasion and we will turn heaven and earth to make it a memorable celebration for our guests. No request is too big or too far-fetched because we’re only offered one lifetime to embrace the good stuff.

So, on the 1st of June when Garonga turned 20 years old, we took it upon ourselves to practice what we preach and throw a big party for the Garonga staff members. That afternoon, we cleared Little Garonga and the boma area and celebrated the best way we knew how; with lots of food, drink and laughter, much like our past guests will fondly remember.

It was the happiest of Thursdays and a joyous way to commemorate our achievements over the years with the entire Garonga family.

Here, we share our 20th anniversary celebration in photos. We hope you raise a glass as you scroll through them!

Cheers to the next 20 years of Garonga magic.

Garonga's 20th anniversary

Garonga's 20th anniversary

Garonga's 20th anniversary

Garonga's 20th anniversary

Garonga's 20th anniversary

Garonga's 20th anniversary

Garonga's 20th anniversary

Garonga's 20th anniversary

Garonga's 20th anniversary

Garonga's 20th anniversary

Garonga turns 20

Baby Animal Moments That Will Make You Go ‘Aww’

Adorable, fluffy, clumsy, playful and affectionate. You bet we’re describing the safari babies of the bush. Recent guest, Kelly, visited during the summer season when nature welcomed the little ones into the world of wildlife. She shares all of the precious moments with us.

Warning: Goosebumps, awws and warm, fuzzy feelings ahead!

“Garonga and its Makalali bush setting stole my heart during the 3 days we called it home.

Our visit was in mid-March, being South Africa’s summertime and because of the good recent rains the wilderness was alive and wearing its green summer leaves in all their glory.

It was magnificent to see it so lush, dense and beautiful. The abundance of food and water around made for very happy animals too and because of that we were treated to so many sightings, especially encounters with baby animals too.

It’s always special to watch the interaction of young wildlife in their family groups and the cute factor was on overload at Garonga during our game drives. We saw baby warthogs following their mom’s raised tail through the grass and toddler monkeys playing in the trees and on the tent decks. The most endearing moment witnessed was of a baby giraffe giving his mom a kiss on the side of the road.

baby animal moments on safari

However, the most unique sighting we were spoilt to was of a young male cheetah calling (or more like tweeting) for his mom to come back from the hunt and reunite with him. She returned his call and they found each other in the bushes as we watched on in awe. Then they proceeded to relax together and enjoy a well-deserved mid-morning nap.”

We also can’t forget about the handful of hyena cubs that gave mum a serious run for her money in the hot summer heat.

baby animals on safari

Garonga is certainly wonderful in any season, but it’s hard to beat the cutest season of all – baby season in the bush!

10 signs you may need to get back to Garonga

“Way over expectations.”
“The only way to do a safari!”
“Like a dream!”

A visit to Garonga in South Africa’s Makalali private conservancy bordering the Kruger National Park impacts our guests in the most magical ways. Luxurious bush life and all its unexpected perks stick with them when they go back home and inevitably make them want to return again and again for more. And we’re so glad it does.

If you’ve visited us before, here are 10 tell-tale signs that you are missing your Garonga experience and it’s time for another visit soon.

1. Slumbering under the South African stars, listening to the wild sounds of the bush below you on the private Sleep Out Deck ruined any other treehouse experience for you.

Sleep out deck

2. You now look for animal tracks on the ground and tails in the trees when you go for a walk in your local park.

bush walk

3. You can’t fall asleep at night without a teddy bear in your arms.

safari camp accommodation

4. You drop everything you’re doing to stop and appreciate the sunset that unfolds before you. It was mandatory when in the South African bush after all. Why not everywhere else?

African sunset at Garonga

5. You can’t walk into a New York restaurant and feel at one with nature like you do dining in a boma that has the coolest outdoor bar you’ve ever seen.

Bush bar and boma

6. Your bathtub at home, between the four walls just doesn’t quite manage to set the scene for a relaxing bubble session anymore.

Bush bath

7. And back rubs from your partner in front of the TV don’t cut it anymore either.

Massage sala

8. When you hear something that sounds like a falling tree branch you look outside to see if there’s an elephant nearby.

elephant in camp

9. You leave a little note for your spouse to read when they come home from work. Maybe not as creative as the ones you found left by Garonga staff on the small zen garden in your room, but it’s the thought that counts.

zen garden in room

10. You’re saving up your annual leave days because you’re ready to go back!

Game drive

Leopard Spotting at Garonga Safari Camp

From agile antelopes to impressive elephants there is always something intriguing to see in the thick Makalali bushveld. But it is predator sightings that tend to be the most rejoiced.

Claire Birtwhistle, who recently visited Garonga, describes her most memorable sighting during her stay:

‘At first glance, there was nothing but bush. However, slowly but surely, the unmistakable rosettes of a leopard became visible and an enormous male leopard emerged from the thickets.

Makalali leopard sighting

I could barely contain my excitement, let alone focus my camera. As quickly as he had appeared, he was gone again. Like a unicorn of the bush, he left us wondering if we’d even seen him to begin with. After all, spotting a leopard in the wild seemed like a far-flung dream for me at the time. I was desperate to see one of course, but after several different wildlife safaris, countless game drives and still no leopard sighting, my hopes weren’t high.

As soon as the leopard disappeared into the bush, our expert guide, CJ, and tracker, Phineas, sprang into action. Their familiarity with the bush was unbelievable as we bundu-bashed our way down to the dry river bed. Positioning us with a clear view of the river bed in front of us, CJ switched off the engine and we waited. Sure enough, just a few minutes later, we detected some movement in the bush and the leopard revealed himself again. This time I was ready with my camera, and despite the low light conditions, managed to capture a couple of photographs of this magnificent creature.

It was incredible to watch as he casually strolled past us, stopping every few meters to mark his territory. In true regal leopard fashion, he barely acknowledged our presence, reminding us of our low ranking on the wildlife hierarchy. It was a privilege to witness this leopard in the wild, and an experience that will likely stay with me for life.’

3 Reasons to Visit Garonga

Nestled in a private concession in South Africa Garonga Safari Camp offers visitors a unique travel experience, or a ‘safari for the soul’ as the staff likes to describe it. From wildlife viewing to luxurious pampering, a stay at the camp is nothing less than an exceptional experience.

Here are three reasons to visit Garonga:

1. No Crowds

Spot a pride of lions or catch a glimpse of a leopard hiding in the bushveld as your game viewer slowly makes its way across the savannah. Makalali conservancy, a 22 000 hectare reserve situated west of the Kruger National Park, is home to an incredibly diverse range of wildlife.
Visitors can enjoy intimate wildlife encounters and a true Big Five safari experience without having to share the moments with hoards of tourists.

Game drive with Garonga Safari Camp in Makalali, South Africa

2. Sleep Out

Set deep in the African wilderness, the Garonga Sleep Out provides a safari experience of a uique kind. Sleep under the night sky on a deck out in the bush with nothing but the sounds of wildlife and the Milkyway keeping you company. Enjoy an intimate 3-course dinner in the bush, accompanied by a bottle of bubbly before letting nocturnal Africa lull you to sleep.

Garonga Sleep out, Makalali, South Africa

3. Bush Bath

Being on safari doesn’t always mean ‘roughing it’. A bush bath is an utterly unique way to enjoy nature whilst taking some time to relax and unwind. Set on a platform, overlooking the Makalali bushveld Garonga bush bath offers guests front row seats to enjoy the wonders of wilderness from the comfort of a lavish bubble bath.

Garonga bush bath, Makalali, South Africa

Exciting Elephant Encounters at Garonga

You don’t always have to trek deep into the heart of the African bushveld to see wildlife whilst on safari. Sometimes just staying at your safari camp provides you with plenty of wildlife excitement. Garonga Safari Camp’s guests were recently lucky enough to witness a very memorable occasion with their own eyes.

A bull elephant decided to come visit one of the safari tents when the guests were relaxing on the viewing deck. The impressive beast was certainly not shy to show off!

Watch how whole the spectacle unraveled: