Sarah and Aymen arrived at Lion Sands Ivory Lodge on 22 March for a two-night stay. They were celebrating very special occasions – their honeymoon and a milestone birthday. Despite the weather not coming to the party, and most of their game drives being a bit rainy, they had good luck and managed to see some spectacular sights on safari.
But on the afternoon of their checkout, I got a message saying that they’d decided to book an extra night. Without needing to ask, I already knew why – after a very wet start to the morning, the day had turned out to be a beautiful one. I was sure they wanted to stay and enjoy the spectacular weather.
When we met up for the afternoon safari, they confirmed it was just too perfect a day to leave and there wasn’t anything else they would rather do. Now having been on four safaris, when their field guide Neil asked what else they would like to see, they cheerfully replied, “We are happy to see anything, but there is one thing in particular we would love to see tonight – an amazing sunset.”
I couldn’t help but smile; it was so simple. They had already seen the things we spend considerable time in search of: lions, leopards, and elephants. But because of the weather, they hadn’t yet experienced what is a quintessential part of safari – the African sunset.
Happy with that goal, we set off. But then Ayman quickly added, “Oh, and if it is at all possible, we would also like to see the wild dogs.” I smiled again. He’d just upped the ante with that one! Delivering a sighting of the African wild dogs is much more difficult than of the African sunset.
We set off westward, with one of our most scenic sundowner spots, Nick’s Place, in mind. Ten minutes into the drive, an update came in: the wild dogs were found. They were far off to the east – in the opposite direction, but worth a shot. When we finally arrived in the area though, the other vehicles had lost sight of them.
Then, down the road, from out of the bush, the first dog sauntered into view, followed by the others. They lay down for a few moments, and we realised we were facing the sun, with the dogs backlit. Neil apologized that it wasn’t ideal light for viewing or photographs, but Sarah replied, “We have the sun shining down on us and the wild dogs together, it is perfect.”
Elated by the lovely sighting, we carried on to our sundowner spot a little earlier than usual so Sarah and Aymen could enjoy the entire sunset. We stopped at a pretty lookout point along the river, with large reeds and boulders glowing in the last light of the day. It turned out to be the magnificent sunset they’d hoped for.
I asked them how they had decided on Lion Sands. To my surprise (and delight), Ayman replied that he keeps a bucket list of every place in the world he’d like to visit. He tags them on a large map in their home, with green pins to mark the places he has been and red pins indicating the places still to visit. Lion Sands had long been on his travel bucket list. When the time came to plan their honeymoon, they only had to consult the map and their decision was made.
I was really moved by this couple’s enthusiasm and gratefulness for every part of their safari. The true safari experience can be lost for people only chasing big-five sightings or the perfect photograph. But Sarah and Aymen experienced their safari in the moment, taking it all in and being able to leave with the wonderful feeling that being out here can bring.
Words and photos by: Charlotte Arthun