For the ultimate in romantic retreats, sampling the very finest safari camps is difficult to best
Alone, together – immersed in the seductive sensuality of nature at its most wild. With its quintessentially splendid game viewing set amidst a backdrop of thoughtful luxury, a safari honeymoon is the consummate launchpad for any new love alliance. What better way to establish standards to last a lifetime?
It certainly works for this bride. Fragrant baths drawn by butlers, nightly gifts on my pillow, balmy sundowners accompanied by chilled Champagne and fairytale birdsong… On our luxurious honeymoon in Southern Africa, married life presents its happy face in seamless transition. As if born to it, I felt instantly at home—alighting on yet another private airstrip, met with another friendly Micato welcome, more cool towels and cold drinks en route to a new pride of lionesses or resident rhinos. All part of the daily exotica, breathtaking beauty and soul-stirring delights that make safari life a rhythm to live by.
Between the breakfasts in bed and private pool-side lunches, sumptuous safari tents and hospitable hosts, there is ample time for the real safari magic – each day we relish more richly rewarding game drives, their fresh early-mornings and balmy late-afternoons timed to coincide with the most active strolling, bathing and hunting hours for Africa’s astonishing wildlife. Every day reveals more yawning cheetah, gamboling zebra, trumpeting elephants and on and on and gloriously on… Yes, nothing says married life like 50 cape buffalo being hunted by a marauding pack of open-jawed lions!
Kick it off with a frisson at the edgy-edge of Victoria Falls, one of the Natural Wonders of the World. Taking the plunge never seemed quite so relevant.
At the edge of the mighty Zambezi, the romantic thatched cottages at Camp Tongabezi make a charming and romantic base. From here, just upstream from the Falls, we cross the churling river in a small boat, alighting on the sandy banks of Livingstone Island. Travelling in the footsteps of the intrepid – Scottish missionary David Livingstone made the same journey in 1855 to admire the ‘Smoke that Thunders’ – billowing mist rises before us like an atomic cloud.
A stone’s throw from the 354-foot abyss, a choir of young men sway to sonorous acapella songs in the local Tonga language. A small marquis tent is beautifully laid for lunch and Champagne lies in icy wait. All this, and much more, comes to us as a grand and glorious surprise—one of so many to come on a two-week luxurious Southern Africa honeymoon.
It’s this Livingstone thunderbolt moment that underlies the joys and surprises of honeymoon safari. Giving over to the unknown, taking a leap of faith… isn’t that what getting married is? We’d asked for “the bare minimum” and – magically curated behind the scenes by the brilliant folks at Micato Safaris – received the full monty. Every detail was executed without fuss, including a last-minute impulse to dip into warm waters at the slippery wet edge of one of the Wonders of the World. So, beside a 32-storey drop, we bathe in Angel’s Pool on the bubbling curtain-top of Victoria Falls – a reality-show worthy test of any marriage and the first chapter of so much fun to come.
After a dashing flight southward to Botswana in a 13-seater Cessna, we touch down lightly in Moremi Game Reserve on the edge of the watery, animal-rich Okavango Delta. From a sultry leopard slinking alongside the vehicle like hungry house cat; a baby and three adult rhino; and bevies of pumbas—the goofy, lovable warthogs who skittle about with tails on high alert and snouts on perma-grin, our stay at Little Mombo delivered standout game viewing. Here, our brilliant guide OB soon tracked eight female lions, focussed with intent on 50 magnificently be-horned cape buffalo. Around the vehicle, the sky swirled eerie yellow and tempests of sand thundered in from the Kalahari Desert. With fine rain and grit churning dramatically in all directions, we watched opposing sides mount intermittent wide-toothed forays that resembled a Superbowl endgame – I’ll cheer for a blood-thirsty lioness any day; my groom was rooting for the bad-boy buffalo — our VIP seats were bang on the 50 yard line. Later, we availed ourselves of the full bar in our lavish villa for a private deck safari: a panorama of elephant, antelope and baboon parade past the languid comfort of the breezy tented day bed and plunge pool at Little Mombo Camp in a plein air matinee.
Anyone in search of privacy will appreciate Selinda Camp’s tiny clutch of salubrious, elegant tents, and the private vehicles driven by sensitive, knowledgeable guides. Equipped for a who’s who of Hollywood, industry and politics (maximum of 10 at a time; every time we touched down, it seemed we’d just missed Harry and Meghan or Michael and Catherine), the exclusive catering arrangements are fit for royalty: starched linens, polished silver, and certainly no plastic (even Champagne bottles are crushed on site to produce sand for village building). The apogee of conservation chic, founders Beverly and Dereck Joubert first started offering photographic safaris as a means of subsidizing their passion for conservation rather than a commercial enterprise, and the sophistication quotient ramped up quickly. Among the latest of nearly a dozen Great Plains camps, Selinda is a temple to fine taste. All furniture and artifacts – from Zanzibari doors to the ship’s bow firepit – were collected on the couple’s travels. Point of order: when we say “tent”, channel your inner Hemingway to imagine yourself in a glorious stand-alone copper bathtub and deep in a billowing four-poster bed. Then, brandish your best Bezos to include the wifi, air con and Bluetooth, and the fancy long lens camera on loan.
From loping leopards, lounging cheetahs, masses of elephants and towers of giraffes, it’s impossible to tire of spotting, snapping and generally ogling the neighbourhood creatures. Set within Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Tengile River Lodge is renowned for ethereal night drives and prolific leopard sightings; a languid spotted beauty duly appears for us each day, and a chorus of ring-necked doves and hippo grunts serenade gamboling gaggles of lionesses and cubs each afternoon. Back at camp, sleek and chic is the byword. Each villa comes with its own massive pool, sultry living areas, decadent bar and sound system perfect for entertaining a deux. The knockout chef and her staff custom-create some of the most delicious and fresh creations in the bush and the South African wines are superb.
As finely-manicured as its guests, the sandy-red roads of Kruger are groomed by ploughs and its grassy tracks trimmed with mowers. Impressive Singita features much glass and steel, and stylish villas are connected by wooden walkways. Navigating round the three-storey wine tower (choose anything that appeals or invite the sommelier to work a little magic) and two long, thin swimming pools, we reach our villa to discover, through panoramic windows or from the tented day bed on our broad balcony, princely views open onto neighbouring Mozambique. It comes with full bar, sexy indoor-outdoor shower, panorama tub, even a watercolour kit and a smattering of celebs. Goes without saying, the game viewing is a total knockout. We were in fact shadowing a magnificent pack of rare wild dogs alongside Vampire Diaries star Nina Dobrev; though I’m notoriously bad at that sort of thing and, as a crazy dog lover, the painted dogs proved more fascinating for me than any close-range celeb-spotting ever could.
To start planning your private, custom honeymoon safari, request our brochure or contact the safari planning experts at Micato Safaris.