• Ling Chiu

Celebrating love in Kruger National Park

Did someone say, Kruger National Park? I am so excited because at 29 it would be my first visit. Lived in South Africa my whole life, yet I have never been to Kruger National Park. Before you start judging, I have been to other national parks around the country so I am not that detached from my South African heritage. The beauty of South Africa lies within the bush, an experience that everyone comes for when to visit. 

So what lead me to visit Kruger this time and made it such a memorable experience? The opportunity came last year when I received my invite to attend my dear friends’ wedding, being friends with both bride and groom, I immediately RSVP’d and thought what an amazing setting it was going to be.

The wedding was held at the ReturnAfrica Pafuri Camp, at the most northeastern tip of South Africa within Kruger National Park. A 6-hour drive from Johannesburg and planning your route carefully is a must; as the Pafuri park gate closes daily at 18h00. In addition, do take in account for the travel time it takes to the camp at a maximum speed of 50km/h, as the public are not allowed to drive alone in the park after dark for safety reasons. Thus, I made plans to stay at a bed and breakfast in Louis Trichardt before traveling into Kruger National Park the next morning.

The drive between Louis Trichardt and the camp was amazing to witness. The early orange-pinkish morning haze coupled with the region’s baobab trees, majestic as it was my first time admiring baobab trees in person (which has now inspired me to want to visit Madagascar!). Once you pass the Pafuri park gate, the vegetation is thick and one doesn't see much wildlife, except for some road crossers of blue crickets, tortoises, chameleons, only to name a few.

Arriving at the wedding venue we were greeted by a beautiful luxury bush camp located along the Luvuvhu river. If you are lucky, you can witness elephants playing along the river. The reception area is interconnected to 20 secluded individual luxury tents via wooden walkways elevated from the grassy ground to touch the earth lightly to not disturb the natural surroundings. It is a rare occassion to experience wildlife this close upfront. Our room was far from the reception area, but it was a peaceful walk and upon arrival at our tent we were welcomed to a luxurious tent furnished with a king-sized bed (larger in my opinion) and a fabulous view of the river. A little piece of safe haven from the crowd and connecting your soul intimately with the bush. No cell phone or wi-fi reception. Bliss!

Photo Source: www.returnafrica.com

Prior to the wedding, The bride and i collaborated the design and execute her dream wedding stationery. She is one bride whom I have worked with who knows exactly what she wants with amazing creative skills. A small wedding of 42 guests, made it possible to craft personal gifts that beautifully complemented the safari destination wedding theme; more importantly each guest loved the personal touch and felt the couple's gratitude for joining their special day.

Photo Source: Alexander Smith, www.alexandersmith.co.za

The wedding ceremony was half an hour away from the camp deep into the remote bush. Weddings are a formal occasion but the invitation stated “smart casual”, so I took that seriously! Wearing a navy evening gown paired with navy and gold flip-flops, this outfit was perfect to roam comfortably throughout the day. Apart from my silly dress style, is this not the most beautiful backdrop of Kruger National Park for a wedding ceremony? 

Photo Source: Alexander Smith, www.alexandersmith.co.za

A note to mention that predators are a rare occurrence in this part of the park, button be extra cautious, there were always rangers on a constant lookout. Shortly after the ceremony, we were off on a safari game drive. There was not much to see, but definitely lots of buffaloes, zebras and bokkies (Buck in Afrikaans)! If you are an avid bird watcher, you would love this area. 

The sun sets and we head back to the lodge to freshen up for dinner. The open-air dinner reception was beautifully setup and it was breathtaking. The table setting dressed with proteas and succulents, ambient candle lighting and towered by a large tree with its branches sheltering the space. A romantic setting that truly celebrates the couple’s union to their happily ever after. 

Photo Source: Alexander Smith, www.alexandersmith.co.za

After a late night, waking up to the view of the river was peaceful and lounging on the deck to admire the view was the cherry on top. We got ready and made our way to indulge a buffet breakfast; I highly recommend with its variety of choices considering the camp’s remoteness. After eating ourselves silly, we packed our bags into the car and bid au revoir to the newly weds and other guests to continue southwards exploring the majestic nature of Kruger National Park.


Wedding photographer: Alexander Smith, www.alexandersmith.co.za

Little review of ReturnAfrica Pafuri Camp

The setting is absolutely amazing for any wedding function or just a weekend getaway away from the city. To be honest with my readers, I'd have to share that I did have a negative experience of lackluster service. We arrived at the camp and our check-in was delayed by 1 and ½ hours due to miscommunication of the camp manager who did not continuously follow-up on progress. There is definite room for improvement in their service department for such events, however, I do believe it would different and worthwhile experience for

a romantic weekend getaway. Website: https://www.returnafrica.com

#travel #krugernationalpark #wedding #weddingstationery #bush #safari #safariwedding #southafrica #camping #luxurycamping #serene