Insider tip: where to start your honeymoon when you’re tired from the wedding

It always seems such a shame that so many honeymooners jump right into an adrenaline-pumping safari when they’re still tired from the wedding and, more often than not, an exhausting overnight flight or two. So, wherever we can, we try to tempt our guests on a safari honeymoon to spend a day or two relaxing before they head off on their adventure. Here’s our pick of places to really relax…

Ras Kutani Honeymoon Relaxation

Lie back and relax at Ras Kutani

Ras Kutani– This ultra laid-back beach lodge is just a 20 minute light aircraft hop south of Dar es Salaam, so if your priority is to get your feet in the sand as quickly as possible it should be top of your list. There isn’t masses to do here except eat, sleep, snooze with your book and take a dip in the Indian Ocean. Ideal preparation for a safari in the Ruaha or Selous Game Reserve.

Wildwaters Lodge

Tub for two overlooking the Nile? Could be worse

Wildwaters– most people come to this luxury lodge beside the Nile for the excellent white water rafting that Jinja has to offer, however, the truth is that this tiny private island seems much better suited to doing nothing at all. The bathtubs out on the deck of your room are seriously romantic, and a dip in the pool just inches from the rapids would certainly be a great start to making life-long memories together. Follow this on with more magic with gorilla trekking in Bwindi National Park.

Tongabezi Honeymoon

Sundowners on the Zambezi? Yes please.

Tongabezi– this charming, rustic lodge on the banks of the Zambezi is one of our dream spots to start a safari honeymoon. It just seems made for the sort of magic you don’t find elsewhere- lunar moonbows over Victoria Falls, swimming in the Devil’s Pool, and gentle early evening cruises to watch the sun set. From here, it’s an easy hop on to safari in the South Luangwa National Park.

Giraffe Manor Honeymoon

Making memories of a lifetime at Giraffe Manor

Giraffe Manor– OK- so this one technically does involve a little wildlife- aside from the giraffes that you’ll meet at breakfast there are also a few friendly warthogs scampering around the lawns. However, with a couple of nights here you can truly relax before the early starts and long drives of a safari in the Masai Mara.

Winelands

Wandering in the Winelands

The Winelands– South Africa’s Cape Winelands are a truly blissful spot to spend a few days, whether it’s snuggling up beside the fire on a chilly winter’s day or riding through the vineyards on a hot sunny afternoon. Staying in central Franschhoek is the place to be for buzzing restaurants and the (occasionally raucous) wine tram, but if your wedding was party enough, there are some peaceful boutique hotels tucked away in the vineyards. Afterwards use the direct flights from nearby Cape Town to get up to safari in the Okavango Delta or Kruger National Park.

Luck by name, and a pretty lucky safari: A trip report from Kenya, September 2017

Well, what can I say ! Another amazing trip Alex. Wonderful people and hospitality and the most fabulous wildlife I feel privileged to be able to see in real life.

Our guide, Clement, in Amboseli, lovely, charming man, very knowledgeable and went out of his way to try and get us a good position for the perfect photos.

Serena Lodge didn’t allocate us a view of the plains but it only needed a request to make that happen and it was done, no problems at all.  We think the staff may have been fascinated by our name, ‘Luck’ !  As they just kept saying ‘Luck’ to us, haha!

Governors Camp (NOTE: this is in the Masai Mara) gave us the river view, as we requested but on arrival I decided a tent overlooking the savannah would probably be better.  I asked if this was possible and they were very accommodating and said, ‘of course’ but would have to be on the second night.  They seemed a bit concerned that they only had tent 37 available, right up the end, kind of on it’s own, but I swear this is the best tent in the camp !  Not a sound from the other guests, no one walking past and was able to sit outside watching the giraffe and zebra during the day.  We were on our hands and knees at 3am peering though a gap in the tent door at this hippo munching the grass only 8 feet away!  Fabulous memories.  Lions bellowing all night, hippos and hyena making a racket too……love it 🙂

So, the balloon flight.  it was a amazing and thank god we did it as we wouldn’t have seen the Big 5 if we hadn’t.  It was Little Governors side of the river where the rhinos were.  I managed to snap a quick shot from the balloon of two but they were very far away.  I made it quite known to the guides how desperate Gary and I were to see at least one, they asked to see my photo, they knew exactly where it was and took us there on the way back and there they were.  How lucky were we to see this magnificent, endangered animal in the wild. 

As for the leopard…… Dickson searched tirelessly for the leopard for us, made constant phone calls to the other guides, spoke to the Masai en-route trying to find out exactly where they had been seen then low and behold, one leopard and her cub appeared from nowhere as we flew over the canopy the other side of the river in the balloon!   I was a very happy bunny 🙂  the captains of the balloons asked to see my photos as they were shocked she had a cub.

The food at Governors was really good and the staff were so lovely to us.  Again, seemed fascinated with our name! 

All in all, another amazing trip Alex, thank you.

Was going to attach a photo of The Big 5 for you but will only let me do two.  We were so lucky to see so many other amazing animals too, even a Genet, a Serval, a Wild Cat, a Bateleur eagle, a cheetah hunt, lions matting, ostriches matting and a HUGE hippo yawn !  I took 1700 photos!

Won’t be Africa for the next few years but will certainly be in touch next time it is.

Trip Report: South Luangwa, Zambia, October 2016

Hi Alex,

Sorry for not getting back to you sooner; as you suspected we’ve been busy at work!
(c) Chris Tuckley

(c) Chris Tuckley

The Zambia trip you arranged for us was better than we ever could have expected it to be. I’ve completely run out of superlatives when trying to describe it to everyone who has asked! We were both amazed and extremely grateful for how brilliantly you interpreted what we wanted despite the vagueness of our initial phone call to you! The choices of camps was perfect too, enabling us to get a varied experience of different areas of the park. Thank you so much.
Other than your exemplary planning and choices there were a few particular highlights that made the whole trip even more wonderful which we would like to bring to your attention. Foremost amongst these was Nkonzi Camp in general. In the itinerary this seemed to be the (relatively) “unknown” component, having opened so recently and a relatively small online presence. It was, however, one of the best places we’ve ever been. We were particularly lucky I suppose in that we were the only guests for our time there (goodness knows why!), but I’m sure it would have been just as marvellous if it were full. Gavin Opie, the owner/guide, was astonishingly good, both as a host and guide, imparting Attenborough-esque information about the wildlife and wider ecosystem whilst ensuring a brilliantly relaxing yet unintrusive level of hospitality. Nkonzi truly made us feel like guests rather than customers (if that makes sense). Another aspect of Gavin’s camp which was very important to us was his ethics of guiding and construction of his camp. In contrast to some of the other lodges he rigidly enforced the policy of not driving off-road, instead parking and, if safe, walking off-road to get a better view.
(c) Chris Tuckley

(c) Chris Tuckley

Flatdogs was a brilliant introduction to safari, providing a huge choice of food and all mod cons whilst maintaining a sense of authenticity. The views from the tents are particularly impressive. Just in the first few hours we spent at our tent we saw more wildlife than we had expected to see for the entire trip!
Finishing at Kakuli was the perfect way to round off the trip in luxury. Again, the views from the tent were incredible – over the maintained waterhole on to the confluence of the Luwi and Luangwa rivers. As we had almost become used to, elephants were regular (and close!) visitors, meaning even our time in camp between drives was spent with camera and binoculars in hand!
(c) Chris Tuckley

(c) Chris Tuckley

Other than this we obviously saw some amazing sights. I took over 2,500 photos and am still sorting through many of them! Once I’ve selected the best and uploaded them somewhere I’ll send you a link! I’ve copied a couple of them below for now (although compressed and unprocessed!). Some of our highlights though were: sitting in the middle of a lion hunt at night, tracking and finding a leopard on foot, watching a mating pair of lions, walking closely around a large herd of buffalo at sunset, seeing a leopard about 15 metres away in broad daylight and seeing two fresh leopard kills (both impala) in trees.
(c) Chris Tuckley

(c) Chris Tuckley

Again, thank you so much for arranging such a wonderful holiday. If there are any ways in which we could endorse you somehow online just let us know where is best and we’ll get onto it! We’ll of course be back in touch soon to arrange our next safari and future ones after that.
Best regards,
Chris & Charlotte

Kenya Family Safari: A trip Report

Dawn and Leo took their honeymoon in Kenya, and returned this August with their two sons. This is their report:

Hi Alex,

So sorry that I haven’t been in touch sooner. We really got caught up in our trip, and I stayed away from email and any connection with the outside world. It was lovely.

We had an absolutely wonderful trip! Every single thing went off without a hitch, and I could not be more grateful to you for making it happen. Every transfer was smooth, and every pick up and drop off was as scheduled. After such a long journey, it was so reassuring to have someone waiting for us with our name on a sign.

We loved our choice of destinations and are glad that we spent so much time in the Mara. As you predicted, Amboseli was very dusty, but it did not ruin our time there. We saw tons of elephants as I had hoped, and Kilimanjaro was cooperative for almost an entire day.

 

Sundowners overlooking Mt Kilimanjaro from the Amboseli Serena

The Amboseli Serena was perfectly situated for our activities, and the rooms and food were great. Food is a very big deal for my teenaged boys, and all of our meals everywhere were very plentiful and terrific.

Food at Karen Blixen Camp- you’ll never go hungry on a safari!

The Mara Serena was just as we remembered, and the views from that lodge are unmatched by any place I’ve ever stayed in the world. Despite its size, the lodge remained quiet and serene, except for the dining room which was just fine for a family. The game viewing in the (Ed: Mara) Reserve was tremendous, and the scenery was spectacular! Being there for the migration was so much better than when we were there last (January). We saw so much more wildlife and all those wildebeest….simply amazing! We were lucky to see two river crossings (one with a croc trying unsuccessfully to eat), and we will never forget the feeling of excitement and anticipation….there are truly no words to adequately describe it.

The view Dawn describes from the Mara Serena

The Mara North Conservancy did not disappoint either, and we were very impressed by how close we were able to get to the wildlife compared to the Reserve. After leaving the somewhat shiny and semi-luxurious surroundings at the Serena, I was very concerned that the Karen Blixen Camp would not measure up. I am happy to say I was mistaken. Karen Blixen was extremely comfortable, had fantastic food and is perfectly situated for game viewing on the river. The staff was exceptional, and our guide was incredibly knowledgeable. We were very well attended to, and the staff made sure to check on us frequently. We felt so much more important than we usually do on vacation! We loved the eco-aspect of the Camp and how well the employees are treated. The employees raved about the camp owner and how well they are treated compared to other camps. After spending some time in Africa, one feels like an overindulged Westerner, so it was great see a camp that tries to spread the wealth and treat people properly.

Karen Blixen Camp Staff

One of my biggest concerns about this trip was worrying that it was not long enough. However, ten days in Kenya seemed like a month. We were/are exhausted and would not have wanted to do another thing more. I loved spending the bulk of time in the Mara and am so glad that we didn’t have to trek from place to place every two days. As you know, travel there is so hard and tiring, and we enjoyed just soaking in the surroundings for days on end.

Game viewing from Karen Blixen Camp

All in all, it was a spectacular trip, and I don’t think we will ever be able to top it! I can go on and on for days about it but I will spare you for now! Please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have or if you would like me to post a review somewhere. I cannot thank you enough for all of your help, advice, tips and recommendations. You were spot on and provided honest and extremely thorough guidance. Nothing was left to chance, and I felt so much more knowledgable than I did going into other trips. Thank you for helping us to have this most special trip.

I am very late this morning and must run out the door, but will be happy to tell you more later! I’ll also send a photo when I muddle  through the 1200 I took!

Thank you for EVERYTHING, Alex!

Very best and warm regards,
Dawn

 

A typical day on safari (AKA how to fall in love with Africa)

Quite often, when I meet people at dinner parties, they’re rather cynical about my passion for African safaris, so rather than giving the standard spiel about the night I got stalked by a lion, the way I try to explain to them (convert them to the safari cause) is by telling them about a typical day on safari.

06:00- Wake up. Normally 6am is unacceptably early. I’m generally pulling the duvet covers back over my head and ignoring whoever is attempting to talk to me. On safari I’m lured up by the waft of fresh African coffee and the beaming smile with which it is delivered to my tent.

06:15- On back of open four wheel drive for game drive. Bit chillier than my bed. Air smells of damp dust. Oddly excited.

ame drive in the Masai Mara from Offbeat Mara

Game drive from Offbeat Mara, Kenya

11:00– Back at camp. Can you believe it? We saw a leopard and a family of elephants and had a proper cooked breakfast in the bush.  And an eagle stole my bacon, and we passed a lion cub but it didn’t care, and did you know giraffes don’t make a sound? And, and, and….

13:30- Gosh this lunch is fun. The pasta’s scrumptious, the wine is good, and I really shouldn’t have laughed at that story I just heard but I couldn’t help it and now my sides hurt.

14:45- On bed. Nap is nothing short of utterly languorous.  Half way through I woke up up blissfully warm, utterly relaxed, and listened to the crunch of an ellie eating branches outside my room. Not 100% sure if this is real or a slightly sleepy dream.

16:30- Tea done, cake eaten, off on game drive. Anticipation in the air. Fingers crossed we see a rhino.

Safari sundowners

Sundowner with RPS in Zambia

18:30- Not the remotest sign of a rhino all afternoon. I wanted to see a rhino. Fortunately we saw baby ellies. And while I’m not the sort to repost pictures of adorable animals on Facebook, baby ellies really are implausibly cute. Did you know when they get tired they suck their trunks like a human sucks their thumb? And they rest their trunks on their tusks when they get sleepy? Anyway, right now the sun’s going down, and we’ve stopped to perch on the bonnet of our landrover. Cold beers and cashew nuts, looking out over golden grasses and setting sun. The world is OK.

20:00- Back in camp. Showered under the stars. Sharing dinner with my guide, and some fascinating guests. Roughly this is the best dinner party I’ve ever been to.

23:00 – To bed- night!

23:15- Noises outside. Is that definitely a hippo? Or a lion who might want to eat me…?

Tempted? View our Extraordinary picks.

Safari: The Extraordinary Rules

Rule One: Sleep with the curtains open. Nothing beats an African sunrise, and the best way to experience it is from the comfort of your own bed, opening your eyes to a magnificent vista glowing in the morning light. Many safari lodges are designed specifically to make the most of the rising or setting sun, and even when there aren’t magnificent landscapes to admire, you never quite know what you might see taking an early morning stroll past your room.

Doro Nawas, Namibia

Doro Nawas, Namibia

Rule Two: Leave the pith helmet at home. Even though will provide endless amusement for your fellow safari goers (and ample opportunities for them to practice covert portrait photography), the days of the mighty pith helmet are past. A bush hat or any wide-brimmed hat will do nicely.

Rule Three: Cameras should be seen, but not heard. Nothing ruins the magic of a moment in the bush listening to an elephant’s rumble than the irritating snap and whirr of a camera. In these days of digital photography, the sound effects are rarely necessary and can really detract from the experience. Which leads us to…

Rule Four: Sometimes, cameras shouldn’t be seen either. Provided you’re spending more than a couple of days on safari (we usually recommend three as an absolute minimum) try at least one game drive without a camera in your hand. Even better, try a walking safari. You notice so much more of the sights, sounds and smells of the bush when you’re not seeing the whole thing through a camera screen. After all, if you wanted to see the bush through a screen, you can do it from your own arm chair with considerably less hassle and have David Attenborough for company.

Safari in the Masai Mara

Fighting lions near Karen Blixen Camp, Masai Mara

Rule Five: Don’t send Mother Nature a shopping list. If you come on safari with a shopping list of animals to tick off, you’re likely to be disappointed. We know one very unlucky girl who spent five days in the Masai Mara and didn’t see a single lion- stupendously unlucky, but it can happen. Instead, be open to whatever the bush may bring, and prepare to be delighted-whether it’s a sighting of a civet, battling giraffes, or ball-pushing dung beetles.  It’s invariably these travellers who end up watching lions battle for supremacy, or catching a river crossing of the Great Migration all to themselves.

Last, but not least, Rule Six: all rules are made to be broken…

The Best Mountain Biking Safaris

A hundred years ago, the best way to do a safari was on horseback. That way you got to see a little more, and move a little faster than you might if you were on a walking safari, but without the noise and fumes of travelling in a safari vehicle. Fast forward to 2013, when many of us live in cities, and you’re unlikely to find a horse tied up in the back garden.  Bikes however, are everywhere.

Mountain Bike Safari from Tafika, Zambia

Mountain Bike Safari from Tafika, Zambia

With the cycling craze sweeping Britain, almost every household seems to have a bike or three in the garage or taking up space in the hall. On summer afternoons the country lanes are choked with cycles, and early morning commuter trains are full of Brompton bikes. It almost seems extraordinary that it’s taken till now for mountain bike safaris to take off to such an extent.  Now though, a bike or two is the must-have piece of kit in every safari camp. What better way to burn off the endless delicious meals that seem to come almost hourly on safari?

Mountain bike safaris take you from being an outside observer of the bush to being part of it. Race galloping giraffes, smell the dampness of the dust in the early morning, and hear the birds cry as you move silently past. Africa at its best? Absolutely.

Here’s our pick of the very best biking in Africa:

Bush Biking for Beginners: Tafika, Zambia

Mountain Bike Safari from Tafika, ZambiaTafika, in Zambia‘s South Luangwa National Park was where I fell in love with mountain biking safaris- my first one, and the beginning of a serious addiction.

Cycling through the bush with John Coppinger, 20 years my senior and embarrassingly fitter, was a revelation-we could keep up with the zebras without scaring them, hear every branch crackle underfoot, and really, really appreciate the size of an elephant. I’d recommend as an introduction to anyone- you can just pop out for an hour or so on the bikes before a late afternoon game drive- perfect for dipping your toe in the water.

Multi-day mountain biking: Karisia, Kenya

Mountain Bike Safari in KenyaIf you’re a serious mountain-biker and love nothing better than getting dusty, dirty, and down with the animals, then a multi-day mountain biking safari could be the answer.

Together with our friends at Karisia in Kenya, we’ve put together a mountain biking safari in the Laikipia plateau in Kenya. We’ve limited it to 3 days of cycling, followed by some time in a vehicle for the saddle-sore, but we can make it as long as you like.- even cycling between safari lodges instead of flying. While we don’t like to gamble, we’re fairly confident that your warrior guides, and the camels who carry your kit, will keep pace with you no matter how long you want to keep pedalling for!

Serious adventure, Serious luxury: Singita Sabi Sand, South Africa

On safari at Singita Boulders, Sabi Sands, South AfricaSerious adventure needn’t mean a compromise on serious luxury. If you want the adrenaline thrill of cycling down dusty tracks, watching elephants from the saddle, but don’t want to rough it in the evenings, then Singita Sabi Sands is the perfect solution.

Not only are you smack in some of the best leopard-viewing territory in Africa, at the end of the day you’ll be returning to a seriously lovely room, easily large enough for a London estate agent to describe it as a “spacious, one-bedroom apartment”. These come complete with a decanter of something warm, delicious nibbles and a plunge pool to wash off the dust. Singita has a wine cellar to die for (we made sure to sample it on your behalf when we visited), fantastic guides, and a gorgeous area to explore.

Biking and the beach:

Mountain Biking at Pumulani, Lake Malawi

Though we’re huge fans of mountain biking on safari, if you’re just not quite sure about heading into the wilderness on two wheels rather than four, there are some fantastic options for biking that aren’t quite so wild.

A mountain bike is a fantastic way to explore the villages that line the shores of Lake Malawi.  Every single visitor that we’ve ever sent on holiday to Malawi has commented on just how warm and friendly the local are. For once it seems that a country really does live up to the tourist board slogan (in this case- the “warm heart of Africa”). Stepping away from the confines of a vehicle is the ideal way to meet the local community, and make hoards of tiny new friends amongst the children of the villages.

Where to watch elephants

Ellies have a special place in my heart. You can keep your lazy lions, and boring buffaloes (though I’m sure anyone who’s been chased up a tree by an angry dugga boy would say they’re far from boring), it’s a sighting of an elephant that makes my safari.

Walking Safari with Elephants, Okavango Delta, Botswana

Ellies have by far and away the most character in the animal kingdom, though I make an honourable exception for monkeys – anyone who’s ever had the sugar swiped from their morning coffee, or a triple-zipped tent miraculously burgled, can’t fail to admire their cunning. Back to elephants though. Watch an ellie for ten minutes, and we’d challenge anyone not to start anthropomorphising. I’ve seen them wipe their eyes when they’re tired, and stayed in camps where elephants drank from the outside shower. I mean, why would you bother going all of the way to the lake to drink when the water was suddenly on, and right there? In spite of their huge size, an elephant will tread delicately to avoid the smallest, most irritating stone, and frankly, when the hustle of the wildebeest migration‘s around, you’re unlikely to see too many elephants- why hang about with all of the noise going on?

Best of all, elephant memories are indeed long, and it’s not unusual for an ellie to recognise a familiar face from years ago. While safari guides tell the occasional tall tale (especially when a beautiful girl’s involved) I know at least one straight-talking bush lover who has sat in a vehicle and watched, astonished, as an elephant came racing forward, plunging straight into the vehicle with her trunk. Instead of attacking she felt gently round with her trunk to greet the guide, and returned minutes later, gently nudging her young calf forwards to meet a familar friend.

Have I won you over yet? Ooooh, I do hope so! I once planned a safari for an elephant lover, and if I could do so again, these would be my top picks:

Elephants Crossing the Zambezi, near Chongwe, Zambia

Selous Game Reserve, Tanzania & Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
These two glorious parks are both dominated by their rivers, and a late afternoon boat safari is one of the great joys of a visit here. More particularly, the chance to witness elephants crossing the river. Several years ago, on a Tanzanian safari, I watched a family crossing the Rufiji River in the Selous. First came the naughty teenagers- rushing forwards to fill their trunks with water and spraying each other. Then, the nervous babies holding their trunks high to keep breathing. Finally, the mummies, hustling everyone forwards with their trunks and keeping the whole show on the road.

The Nairobi Elephant Orphanage, Kenya

This comes with a serious warning. If you’ve never fallen in love, this could be your moment. The young elephants here have all been tragically orphaned, many by poaching, and all have heart-rending stories. We can add a day in Nairobi into any Kenyan safari, and at 11 each morning you can visit for an hour, watching the ellies as they come out for their morning play. Our top tip? We’d seriously consider fostering an elephant. Not only are you helping to support these tiny, brave little fellows, but also, sponsors are often given the chance to visit again in the afternoon, without all of the other tourists.

Walking with Elephants on a luxury safari in Botswana

Stanley’s Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana
It’s fair to say that a safari in Botswana doesn’t come cheap, but the chance to walk hand in trunk with an elephant as he goes about his day? Well, as MasterCard might say, priceless. As an added extra to a stay at Stanley’s (if you talk to me, I’ll tell you it’s mandatory), you can spend a morning wandering through the bush -or having lunch- with orphans Jabu, Thembi, and Morula, and their adoptive human parents, Doug and Sandi.

Still not sold? Try reading the autobiography of Daphne Sheldrick, a woman who’s devoted much of her life to elephants.

A recipe for a perfect sundowner

  1. A view. Essential, but can be adapted to what you have available. You need a beautiful spot, with something to watch that’ll stir your soul- a hundred acres of wilderness teeming with wildlife, a fire to stare into, a waterhole that turns scarlet as the sun goes down, or (given that you can’t be in Africa all the time) a bench in a quiet corner of the park.
  2. Company. Not to talk to, mind you. Just someone who’ll sit there peacefully beside you, perhaps point out the odd thing to look at, and who’ll quietly appreciate that all is good with the world.
  3. A drink. Ours is usually a G & T, or, at a push, an ice-cold Tusker, but being British, we’ll allow that the soothing properties of a cup of tea at the end of a long day are really quite miraculous.

Timing is crucial, it’s vital to ensure you take a moment for this at the end of each day. Combine all three, sit back and enjoy!

Our top sundowner spots?

Five of the best safari honeymoons

Every time we go back to Africa, we get swept up in the romance of going on safari. There’s just something so impossibly lovely about being out in the wilderness- magnificent animals, incredible starscapes, and sunsets to die for. Safari is a perfect adventure to start your lives together, and having been on a fair few, we’ve picked a handful of our favourite safari honeymoon spots.