GOOD NEWS STORY DURING TOUGH TIMES
“It’s just the nature of the industry,” says Jennifer Paterson, managing director of Trans Africa Safaris. “We always want to do well by our visitors.”
TAS guests Dean Horvath and Tanya Kemp traveled to South Africa in February to finalize plans for their wedding, scheduled to take place March 28 at Montpelier Wine Estate near Cape Town. Kemp is a South African living in Canada, so some wedding guests started arriving from abroad in mid-March. The global situation began to deteriorate rapidly and as more countries started closing borders and recommending citizens return home—but with still over a week left before their big day—the couple called off the wedding.
On March 19, when Horvath shared this news with the general manager of Lalibela Game Reserve where they were staying, the reserve—along with TAS—proposed they celebrate on-site, and, with the couple’s approval, planned and executed the event in 24 hours. They hired a justice of the peace and a hair and makeup stylist from a nearby town and set up the garden area for the ceremony, laying out a red carpet for the aisle with the game reserve as the backdrop and safari guide Darren Clough standing in as the photographer. Since the wedding rings, gown, and tuxedo were in Cape Town, Kemp’s brother scrambled to collect them before hopping on a last-minute flight to reach the reserve.
“The enthusiasm of the staff was truly spectacular,” says Horvath. After the ceremony, staff transferred guests to the lodge in safari vehicles and served up a celebratory meal and wedding cake. No one—including the staff—seemed to want the special day to end. The staff cleared the dining area and created a dance floor, insisting there was no closing time.
“Everyone knew the realities of the world were going to set in the next day,” Horvath says, so they embraced the magical experience they’d created together, with the last guests finally heading to bed at 5 a.m. The couple returned safely to Canada on the first available flight March 23, and the last wedding guest left South Africa on March 24—two days before the country went into lockdown.
“There would have been no chance to get my family from Canada and Tanya’s family from South Africa together in one place again,” says Horvath. “We’ll be forever grateful to Lalibela and TAS for putting together such an amazing experience.”