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A memorable and exceptional safari with Mandolinists Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg

By February 19, 2020Uncategorized

Mike Marshall & Caterina Lichtenberg Mandolin safari

5-11 February,2020 – Ivory Tree Game Lodge, Pilanesberg Game Reserve


Written by: Wiam Otto – Founder of MSWIA Music Safaris


Even if I used all the most beautiful and profound adjectives to try and describe the Mike Marshall and Caterina Lichtenberg Mandolin safari, I would still fall short.

Words cannot describe the experience we had on this trip!

To start your first safari drive welcomed by a beautiful rainbow with fresh smells and breath-taking sights of the fauna and flora of the Savannah plains after a brief downpour, and to then see a Leopard within the first 30 mins of being out in the bush is unheard of! Many South Africans who frequently visit game reserves might never see a Leopard in the bush, and I myself, who go on safari many times a year have not seen a Leopard for the last five years! It was also the first Leopard sighting on one of our music safaris. It was a special way to start the trip, and it really got everyone excited for what was to come.

On day two we saw Lions…and I mean did we see Lions, or did we see Lions?

Our safari ranger spotted two Lions about 300 meters from where we were, at the foot of a mountain, and it appeared that they were interested in a herd of Wildebeest below. This was the group’s first Lion sighting, and initially we were all just content to view the from afar through our binoculars. The ranger said that there might be some action, and that we should wait to see if they will come down to attempt a kill.

We sat there for a good 40 mins watching them, sometimes with clear visuals, sometimes with no visuals, as they slowly and meticulously made their way down to the plains below. Then it also appeared that there were more than two, and that there were in fact seven, strategically positioned at different places to best ambush the wildebeest below. After about an hour of stalking the Wildebeest, one of the Lions attempted to go for the kill, but got disorientated in the craziness of the scattering wildebeest. For a couple of seconds we only saw a blur of black, dust and frantic Lions trying to seize the moment.

That was exhilarating and electrifying to behold, and we once again thought that this was most probably as good as it gets and it would be hard to imagine something topping that experience…

Then it became apparent that all seven Lions were moving down towards us! Adrenalin was pumping! Our rangers quickly and skillfully moved our vehicles to position us right in the line the Lions were taking, and within two minutes of witnessing the attempted kill, seven Lions walked right by our safari vehicles. Some of them stopped for a drink in a puddle right next to the road, and even sniffed the side of one the vehicles! We then proceeded to spend the next 15 minutes following these Lions down the road and stopped where they eventually walked into a clearing where they relaxed and played with one another.

What an amazing sighting! To experience these predators in their natural habitat, to feel their intensity as they look you in the eye was nothing short of spectacular.

There were many more uncommon and out of the ordinary sightings on this trip. Too many to mention them all, but I’d like to mention a couple more to give a good overview of how lucky we actually were on this trip.


In addition to the predator sightings, we also saw hippos outside of the water on a cloudy day. Not only were they outside grazing, but we also saw a little baby hippo mock charge a wildebeest, as if practicing how to defend its territory. The wildebeest ultimately turned around as if to say:” What…you really want to do this son…?” It was quite funny to see the baby hippo stand there for a while whilst he was making up his mind…to charge or not to charge…He eventually gave up and proceeded to terrorize his older brother instead. Very uncommon and special…once again.

Then there was Rain, the female Cheetah and her three cubs, the seven white rhino’s ( one rarely sees such a big group together at a time), Amarula, one of the original Kruger bulls, and the pack of banded mongooses at the rest stop.


We were truly spoilt!


This was what we got up to in the early mornings and late afternoons. During the day we had the absolute privilege of participating in Mike and Caterina’s Mandolin workshop sessions. The expertise, experience, and knowledge these two virtuoso Mandolinists shared with such joy, generosity and kindness just took the already inspirational event to a whole other level.

Caterina broke down Classical picking techniques and gave us all a sense of how to use these techniques in our own playing. Mike covered many styles, from Bluegrass, to Swing, Jazz and Brazilian choro. We were all stretched beyond our comfort zones, but left inspired with a clear sense of what to work on in our own playing and how to take our playing to the next level.


To top all of these inspiring nature encounters and workshop sessions off, Mike and Caterina gave us an exclusive, al fresco, unplugged Mandolin concert out in the middle of the African bush as the sun was setting red.


With drinks in hand, we sat in a small semi-circle on camping chairs around Mike and Caterina listening to the most beautiful Mandolin music you could ever imagine. Like nectar dripping from heaven(Not even joking!) From the Classical pieces, the story telling and history of the Mandolin, to Mike and Caterina’s own sublime compositions it was just phenomenal and out of this world. And the acoustics out there…! We had some seriously accomplished Classical musicians in the group who played for the Sydney symphony orchestra for many, many years, who together with Mike and Cat sung the praises of the unexpected brilliance of how the sound carried out in the bush during the concert.


Dear Mike and Cat. You and your lovely and charming family crept into our hearts, and we would like to thank you guys for sharing your musical gifts (and great personalities) so joyously and spontaneously.


The memories of this trip will stay with us for the rest of our lives, and we appreciate everyone who joined on this trip and we are so thankful for all the new friendships made across the globe.


Here is to the power of nature and music to uplift and inspire the soul!


Thank you all,


Love, Wiam & Reené.