Imagine listening to Beethoven and Bach as the sun sets over the savanna. Add some scenic dining plus a game drive or two, and you’ve got a winning recipe for a weekend away. Book now for the SANParks Honorary Rangers’ Sunset Serenade in 2019 and secure your spot at this melodious meeting of nature and culture. By Nell Hofmeyr

Every year, for a long weekend, the Kruger National Park transforms into what must be SA’s most unique concert hall. Visitors flock to the Mopani Rest Camp for a four-day celebration of music, tranquillity and nature – all to raise funds for conservation.

Over the course of the weekend, guests are whisked away to three bush venues for three spellbinding concerts. Sundowners are served upon arrival, after which a six-piece ensemble fills the air with a host of classical favourites. Each performance is followed by a three-course meal at Tindlovu restaurant, overlooking the Pioneer Dam.

“It’s an incredible annual journey, almost like a pilgrimage,” says Peta Ann Holdcroft, a cellist and long-time member of the ensemble. “We initially started small, with a shorter programme, but today it has become so much more. This experience is for people who truly love the bush and who love music.”

Tickets are all-inclusive and cover accommodation costs, the concerts, transport to the venues, and three dinners. But they are also limited and in high demand, so be sure to get yours early.

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A musical milestone

In an extra special twist, the Conservation Services National Project have decided to host not one but two long weekends in 2019 in honour of Sunset Serenade’s 20th anniversary: 8-12 May and 15-19 May. A double dose of music magic!

You can look forward to an intimate performance where familiar harmonies collide with nature’s best backing tracks. A true “bushveld symphony”, in Holdcroft’s words, with the occasional trumpeting of an elephant, roar of a lion and grunt of a hippo.

Although you’ll be out in the wilderness, rest assured that field rangers will be there to keep a watchful eye in case any unannounced guests stop by for a visit.

Close encounters of the wild kind

Felix Ernst, a regular attendee with 12 Sunset Serenades under his belt and counting, vividly remembers how a big tusker once strolled past their group mid-concert.

In fact, many different creatures, from fireflies and birds to lions and hippos, have at one time or another made their presence known during a performance.

These encounters are precisely what make Sunset Serenade such an extraordinary experience. “You get this tingling feeling of excitement because you don’t know what you’re going to see,” says Holdcroft. “You can never be sure about what’s going to happen next.”

Although no two concerts are ever quite the same, Holdcroft does hint that the 2019 repertoire will likely feature some popular favourites. “Everyone has those pieces that they love to hear,” she says.

Music aside, guests can expect a peaceful and immaculately organised weekend overall with ample time off to explore in between concerts, according to Ernst.

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Save the ellies

If the thrill of a musical adventure in the heart of the bush weren’t enticing enough, you’ll be doing a good deed too. All proceeds go toward helping the SANParks Honorary Rangers, a network of dedicated volunteers that plays a crucial role in nature conservation, especially in the fight against poaching.

“We are currently experiencing escalating elephant poaching in the north of Kruger,” explains John Turner, Chairperson of the Conservation Services National Project. “The funds we raise through the 20th Anniversary of Sunset Serenade will be utilised to equip and train our field rangers to combat this problem as well as providing them with aerial support.”

Need to know

Dates: 8-12 or 15-19 May 2019
Venue: Mopani Rest Camp, Kruger National Park
Packages include: 4 nights’ accommodation, 3 concerts, 3 dinners

Accommodation options

4-bed bungalows

R9,800 per person in a 4-bed unit
R9,900 per person in a 4-bed unit with 2 bathrooms
R10,100 per person in a 4-bed unit with view of Pioneer Dam

6-bed bungalows

R9,850 per person in a 6-bed unit
R10,100 per person in a 6-bed unit with view of Pioneer Dam

8-bed guest house

R11,000 per person

Booking details

Contact: Tina Schmidt at 082 894 0065 or email her at [email protected] to secure your tickets.

Bookings will be on a first-come, first-served basis and will only be confirmed upon payment and receipt of proof of payment. All participants must older than 16 years.