• The story of a safari wedding - part 1

    Text by Gareth Hardres-Williams
    Images by Abri Kruger

The story of a safari wedding
Part 1

Written by Gareth Hardres-Williams, 20 November 2017

With wedding images by Abri Kruger

A Mammoth Safari’s wedding at the Phinda Private Game reserve in South Africa certainly is a spectacular – and enormously fun – way to celebrate that most special of days.

Take one South African safari business owner and world-renowned private guide in Gavin Lautenbach and add the gorgeous Katlyn Kelle – a fashion professional from Chicago, mix in families and friends from across the globe, stir up the big 5, blend in the ultimate in opulent safari luxury and finish it off with sun-drenched beaches and world class wine farms and one has a recipe for the ultimate wedding celebration.

The African bush offers so many unique landscapes and backdrops, adding more gravitas to an already momentous day.

Gavin first met Katlyn on safari – the two were destined to meet that way. With the heady mix of real African adventure and the excitement of the exploration of wilderness as the backdrop, it was no surprise that the flame of attraction between these two was lit early on. Gavin, ever the gentlemen, kept his feelings well hidden during the safari, but the always attuned Katlyn knew something was brewing and made her feelings known just before she jetted off back to life in the States. Gavin was having none of the long distance angst and, as if scripted by Hollywood screenwriters, he soon followed Katlyn to her hometown of Chicago to make sure that this was one catch he wouldn’t let get away.

Not much is required to dress up the bush…

Both Gavin and Katlyn soon knew that they were meant for each other and before long, Katlyn had taken the bravest of steps – leaving behind all things familiar to her – including her beloved pooch Tucky – in Chicago, to pursue a life in Johannesburg, South Africa. This, following a “no frills” trip to the Congo with Gavin, which truly cemented the relationship. Whilst her move to Johannesburg allowed her to be closer to her soon-to-be fiancé, it proved to be a real adjustment. The inevitable engagement is another wonderful story altogether, but needless to say it too involved travel, exotic destinations and spot of safari for good measure. Once the question had been popped and the desired answer given, Katlyn and Gavin took to planning their wedding like they do everything in life – with cool ease and incredible attention to every detail.

From gorgeous light to incredible scenery, the African bush provides the perfect template for that special day

It was soon decided that the &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in KwaZulu Natal, tucked away in the Eastern reaches of South Africa would make for the perfect venue – despite it being somewhat more than a stone’s throw from Chicago. Not only could the venue effortlessly accommodate all of the guests in luxurious comfort, but it was also here that Gavin began his illustrious guiding career. The then CCAfrica (now &Beyond) guide training facility “Inkwazi” is housed on the Phinda property and it was at this renowned “bush school” that Gavin trained and then at Phinda that he subsequently worked as a guide for many years. It was also here that he met his business partner and the best man for the wedding, Alastair Kilpin. Katlyn’s love of safari, all things Africa and of course Gavin, meant that she didn’t need any further convincing that the choice of venue was the right one.

The backdrop of a safari destination offers the most unrivaled and unique photo opportunities, creating incredible memories.

Katlyn’s keen and trained eye for aesthetic and beauty meant that she was intimately involved in the planning of all the elements of her special day, and the team at Phinda were a wonderful resource to her. They sympathetically listened to her suggestions and were always willing to go that extra mile to ensure that her every wish became a reality. Phinda is blessed with a number of different lodge options on the single property and as such could accommodate all 120 guests, scattered across the reserve.   Whilst this presented some logistical challenges, the staff at Phinda took it all in their stride and the geographical separation was never in issue. The fact that each lodge setting was different provided an intimate and unique environment for the guests to enjoy their own little slice of Africa whilst still always feeling a part of the wedding.  There was enough space and independence too for guests to enjoy their own authentic safari experience.

Not only does the bush offer wonderful places to tie the not – there are some great honeymoon hotel options to enjoy once the big day is over, such as the majestic Cape Grace in Cape Town.

Image courtesy of the Cape Grace Hotel

The big day…

The trees in the sand forest were decorated beautifully, not however by a florist’s bouquet or an event planner’s ribbons. Here, in the depths of the African wilderness at the &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, the lichen hangs effortlessly off the branches like a delicate lace on the dress of the resplendent bride, and added yet more of nature’s perfect touch to an already spectacular occasion.  The lone guitarist strummed a hauntingly beautiful tune and the wedding ceremony was about to begin…

The opportunities for romantic escapes at Phinda are endless, as can be seen here at a stunning drinks stop set up for two.

Image courtesy of &Beyond

Get ready for that big day relaxing by the pool at one of the many intimate lodges at Phinda.  The Zuka Lodge option is ideally suited to host the bridal couple and a few special guests.

Image courtesy of &Beyond

Stay tuned for “part 2” and more on how the big day unfolded…

Planning a wedding in Africa?

Weddings are wonderful occasions at the best of times. An opportunity for friends and family to congregate for the ultimate celebration of love and happiness – a time for sharing and for connecting. But what is it then that makes a wedding so special? The list is exhaustive really, but at the end of the day when all the “I do’s” are said and the formalities are done, the day will forever be special by virtue of the union that has been created and the future that is being celebrated by all. What makes it just that much more special, however, is where one chooses to tie the proverbial knot. This decision really can add so much to the significance of the day and Africa and the African bush have diversity in spades full – with something for everyone’s budget and heart’s desire. Contact Mammoth Safaris to make your African Safari wedding dreams come true.

There are few things more romantic than a quiet moment shared under a setting African sun and no better place to experience the most unique and special of weddings.

How to make this wedding safari of a lifetime a reality…
For more information on how to book your Mammoth Safari to search for wilderness, adventure and to create the wedding that dreams are made of contact a member of our sales team by sending an email to info@mammothsafaris.com.  Please also visit www.mammothsafaris.com for more destinations and journeys.

For more on honeymoon safaris options and a sample itinerary of a suggested safari here, please visit here