Sitting with a glass of champagne in the British Airways lounge at Heathrow Airport, I got passed an iPad by my partner and asked to watch the video on it. We were about to fly to Durban, for what I thought was a week there but I was wrong. A video clip of the incredible Phinda Mountain Lodge started playing, and I was told that we weren’t going straight to Durban, but instead, we were off to Phinda!
I spent the next 12 hours building with excitement for what was in store when we arrived in South Africa! As soon as we landed in Durban, we picked up a hire car and started the 3-hour drive to Phinda Mountain Lodge.
We were up against the time a bit to get there before dark, but we just about made it! As we entered the reserve, it was dark enough to see some animal eyes light up from the car lights, which was exciting and a little scary at the same time!
We soon pulled up to the entrance of Phinda Mountain Lodge and had a warm welcome from the staff. The Manager gave us a tour of the lodge and I couldn’t believe how stunning it was! Our suite was absolutely incredible – huge, so luxurious and I loved the outdoor shower and plunge pool.
It was soon time for dinner, which was a delicious 3-course affair. Afterwards, we enjoyed an alfresco glass of wine from the terrace, watching the most incredible stars I had ever seen.
A Special Surprise
The following morning we were up early for our first game drive, which was fantastic. We saw Cheetah, Rhino, Elephants and Lions to name a few and we had a fantastic ranger who was very informative and passionate about what she did.
Back at the lodge over breakfast, my partner told me that he had booked us another activity - a bushwalk. My initial thought was ‘is this safe’, but our Ranger reassured me, and it also sounded like quite an adventure.
So, after breakfast, we set off on a short drive to the base of a hill in the reserve. We were given a safety briefing by our ranger, and we set off on foot following her up the hill. When we reached the top, I was greeted by an amazing surprise!
There were lanterns in the trees overlooking the most beautiful view of the Phinda Game Reserve, and there was also a table with champagne and a board with my name on. The next thing I knew, my partner was down on one knee opening a box with the most gorgeous diamond ring in it, and he asked me to marry him! I said yes, of course, and after an emotional few minutes, we then celebrated with a glass of champagne overlooking the reserve. It was such a special moment.
Phinda Staff made everything so special
We then headed back to the Lodge, and when we arrived there were signs saying ‘She Said Yes’ and ‘Congratulations Gemma and Ben’ which was a lovely touch! We then noticed the staff had lined up and they then broke into Zulu song and dance. This brought the tears back again! I ended up joining in with the dancing, which I did a rather terrible job of, but it was a lot of fun.
The rest of our day was spent celebrating with more champagne in our suite, followed by an afternoon Game Drive. Halfway through the drive, we stopped for sundowners in a field with Rhino, and I still remember how special that moment was. Watching the sunset with Rhinos and my fiancé by my side really was a moment of dreams.
We continued on the game drive into the darkness, and we were surprised by a Leopard that had just killed a Wildebeest for dinner. It was the first time I had ever seen a Leopard, so it was an amazing moment.
Rather than going back to the Lodge for dinner, we were dropped off at a beautiful candlelit Boma in the reserve, which had been set up for dinner. There, we had a lovely three-course dinner under the stars, in candlelight. This was the perfect and most romantic way to end the best day of my life!
The next day we departed for Durban with huge smiles on our faces. I couldn’t think of a better way to get engaged, and the staff at Phinda Mountain Lodge did everything to make it so special for us. Thank you, Phinda for the most extraordinary stay that I will never forget.
Now that I am living in Durban; I hope we can make a trip back to Phinda Mountain Reserve sometime soon to re-live this special trip.