Nothing stirs the heart like a safari in Africa. Majestic wildlife, endless horizons and shimmering red sunsets — can you imagine a more romantic setting? But planning an African adventure can be daunting without a team of aides. Luckily I honeymooned in Tanzania and have advised many couples since! It’s all down to deciding which of these 5 things to focus on, and asking for help…
1 Best for classic wildlife
Location:Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
This spectacular Ngorongoro Crater is one of the world’s most astonishing wonders. Formed by a massive volcano eruption about 3 million years ago, it boasts the highest density of big game in Africa, and is the best place to see the ‘Big Five’ — lion, rhinoceros, elephant, buffalo and leopard.
Where to stay: The Plantation Lodge.This charming hideaway set in sub-tropical gardens comes with a pool and candlelit dinners.
When to go: All year round
Top tip:For something unique, nearby Lake Manyara Park is great for night safaris, with porcupines, civets, bushbabies, even leopards.
2 Best for awe-inspiring moments
Location:The Serengeti, Tanzania
An incredible phenomena, the Great Migration sees 2 million wildebeest and zebras crossing the majestic Serengeti plains to Kenya’s Masai Mara in search of lush grazing grounds. The heart-in-your-mouth moment comes when the mass herds have to cross the Mara River – where enormous crocodiles lie in wait…
Where to stay: Sayari Camp. Perfectly placed for the migration, this luxury camp provides a personal driver to find you daily action. This was the most romantic stay of our trip: luxurious tents with kingsize beds and deep baths for 2, a pool, and delicious food from the bush kitchen.
When to go: May-October
Top tip: Sayari is great for a walking safari. Our tracker helped us find rhino activity and leopard claw marks right outside the camp.
3 Best for being alone together
If you want to truly escape, Namibia is the place. Vast open landscapes cover rolling red sand dunes and wildly dramatic shorelines – you’ll feel like the last lovers alive while watching magnificent sunsets over the Sossusvlei Dunes, or gazing up at the canopy of stars above the Namib Desert. There’s heaps of wildlife in Etosha National Park – elephants, zebra, lions, leopards, giraffe, even the critically endangered black rhino – but it’s the panoramas you’ll remember forever.
Where to stay: Little Ongava. This stunning lodge near Etosha with just 3 suites offers intimate dining by your own plunge pool. Equally private is Little Kulala, surrounded by the rippled red sands of the Sossusvlei Dunes (go hot-air ballooning for a glorious bird’s eye view). But top of the list is KuanguKuangu, a hugely romantic hideaway just for 2. Watching the dawn break over the savannah is a sight you’ll never forget.
When to go:All year
Top tip: Fly between destinations, as distances are huge. Chartered hopper flights often come as part of the hotel package.
4 Best for incredible selfies
Location: Namibia, Tanzania, South Africa
There’s more to safari than the Big Five. Make your honeymoon truly out of the ordinary by taking selfies with endangered species!
Where to stay: For the ultimate experience, head to Greystoke Mahale, an eco-friendly beach camp in Tanzania, and track families of wild chimpanzees in the forest (May-March). In South Africa’s Great Karoo, you can walk with wild rhino by basing yourselves at the pioneering camp Samara (all year). Mowani Mountain Camp in Namibia has simple-luxe thatched rooms and incredible night skies, but you’re here to track the elusive desert elephant, a magnificent creature now sadly endangered (all year). Olakira Camp in Tanzania’s Serengeti works in true nomadic style, changing location according to the time of year. Stay in spring and you’ll be living among thousands of calving wildebeest and zebras, and will likely see baby animals being born (December and March). Birdwatchers will love Rufiji River Camp in the Tanzanian Selous, one of the last places you can do boating safaris. There are over 440 bird species in the park, including the mighty fish eagle, the gorgeous white-backed heron and the secretive Pel’s fishing owl (all year).
When to go: various, see above
Top tip:Ask your camp provides binoculars so you can examine the animals up-close.
5 Best for bush & beach
Many people would love to laze on a golden beach and tick off a wildlife checklist during their honeymoon. Good news: you can do both.
Where to stay: I spent 4 idyllic days relaxing at Matemwe Lodge on Zanzibar, then flew to the mainland to visit 3 safari camps on the Northern Circuit — my favourite being Oliver’s.
But if your ideal honeymoon involves just staying put for 10 days, Lazy Lagoon is your golden ticket. A 15-minute motor launch from mainland Bagamoyo takes you across the lagoon to your own treasure island, a 9km stretch of postcard-perfect beach, with 12 intimate and comfortable bandas that hug the peninsula. Fill you days by beachcombing, swimming, kayaking or snorkelling (there’s an array of great marine life, including lionfish) or laze in your hammock and watch the dhows return to the lagoon at sunset.
When to go:all year.
Top tip:if you choose a bush and beach holiday, do the beach first. Most safari camps have 5am wake-up calls for early morning game drives — not ideal when you’re knackered from the wedding.
And my top tip? Save time and stress: book a specialist
When your brain is full of wedding-day worries, planning a complex holiday like a safari can feel like a headache too far. I used i-escape’s Tailormade Safari specialists to take away the pressure. My husband and I chose a couple of hotels we liked the look of, then worked out our budget and timeframe. The specialists created a bespoke itinerary for us, suggesting other wonderful hotels and wildlife experiences, then made all the arrangements once we’d whittled down their choices. We literally had to just book our international flights. See our African Safari Partners:
Namibia: the Namib Desert, Sossusvlei sand dunes, Skeleton Coast and Etosha National Park
South Africa: Kruger, Addo National Park, Great Karoo and Madikwe Game Reserve
Money-saving tips:Why get hung up on a 2-week honeymoon? We went for 10 days instead, and spent the extra cash on better accommodation. And don’t forget to ask your wedding guests for i-escape vouchers to help plan your dream trip!