Many guests come on safari with a lot of definite expectations and desires. Of course, as a ranger and guide, I do my best to manage and meet these anticipations. However, it’s especially rewarding for me when a guest returns home and their fondest memory of their time at Kapama is of something completely unexpected. This happened recently to the Bassi family from Brazil.
It was their third and final night at Kapama. Game-viewing the previous few days had been excellent. The family had even fulfilled one of their main hopes of seeing lions feeding on a kill, when we saw a big male lion feasting on a freshly caught wildebeest. The family joked – though were possibly half serious – and asked me how I could ever top that experience before they left for home. That was a challenge for me, because when working with nature, sightings and experiences are unpredictable and beyond anybody’s control.
With this in mind, I gave my guests an option they could never have expected. Knowing they were keen photographers, I came up with a slightly different suggestion. We could do our normal safari, hope the wildlife cooperated and so recreate or even top the previous day’s excitement, or we could take a slow drive down to the river, towards a beautiful open area along the bank – the perfect spot to have a long and relaxed sundowner drink, while photographing the setting sun. The choice was unanimous, and we made our way down to the river.
With camera in one hand and a drink in the other, my guests were so captivated by the surrounding scenery that we decided to wait a little longer for the sun to set and night stars to come out. The night skies in the bush are remarkable and unlike anything many guests from the city have ever seen. Out in the middle of the bush on a moonless night, the skies are alive with thousands of stars. It’s also often the first time guests see the trail of the Milky Way.
Sitting under such magnificent star-spangled skies, we decided to try some photography. Before long, we had some spectacular shots of the night sky, but we continued to photograph the stars for another hour – until roaring lions broke the silence. The lions weren’t far away either.
It was getting quite late, but everyone chose to track the lions rather than head back for dinner. The lions were the perfect final act for the Bassi family’s stay at Kapama. When we did eventually have dinner, one guest commented how that night would stick in his mind for years to come – far longer than seeing his dream of lions feeding on a kill. It’s true that sometimes the unexpected things in life are the best. This was a good example – plus there are some good photographs, too.
Written by Kevin Samuels, River Lodge
Edited by Keri Harvey
My wife and I thoroughly enjoy your articles and the photos you post. We visited Kapama several years ago with our excellent guide, Norman Lok of Southern Eagle Tours, and together, the experiences we had were so memorable they will be with us for many many years until, hopefully, we might redo them again!
Angie at the River Lodge also took us out for a little stargazing. It was something to see and to see all the different configurations than you see in the northern hemisphere was very cool.
Will be at Kapama in a few days. Hopefully my request for you as my ranger is able to be fulfilled 🙂
I’d love to share the experience with my soon to be wife on our honeymoon. She’s never seen the Milky Way except in my photographs!
Kevin, Michael and you were the catalysts for a grand visit to Kapama in January, 2015. Thank you so much for being a great “Interpreter” of the Kapama and South Africa’s environment. Without your ability to host and guide the trip might not have been one the of highlight trips of our lifetime. It was an exceptional experience. Good fortune in your future endeavors.