A safari and beach make the perfect combo for honeymooners, says Katie McGonagle
What do you get for the couple who has everything? It’s a dilemma many of us face when it comes to buying wedding gifts – toasters just don’t cut it anymore – but it’s becoming increasingly true of the honeymoon too.
They’ve strolled the banks of the Seine, gazed into each other’s eyes on a gondola, and kicked back on the beaches of Bali, so where is left to send the couple who have already ticked off the world’s most romantic spots?
Luckily, a safari and beach break remains one of the most desirable honeymoons around, the perfect combination of romance and adventure at a price point special enough for that once-in-a-lifetime break. What could be more memorable than hot-air balloon flights at sunrise, secluded accommodation and candlelit dinners deep in the African bush?
Here, we take a look at some of the most popular combinations that team the big five with a beach break on Africa’s own shores or those of its Indian Ocean neighbours, with tips on how to secure special honeymoon touches and where to start if they want to hold the wedding there too.
KICK OFF WITH KENYA
Kenya is one of the most accessible safari destinations, with easy transport links and options to suit more modest budgets, making it a good entry point for first-time safari-goers. Andrea Loddo, head of product at Hayes & Jarvis, says: “Kenya is a popular choice for honeymooners as it offers the best of both worlds, with the chance to see the big five on safari as well as luxury resorts along the Indian Ocean coastline.”
The most popular combination twins the Masai Mara game reserve with the Mombasa coastline, as it only requires a short internal flight.
Virgin Holidays suggests pairing the luxurious Mara Intrepids, where spacious tents come with four-poster beds and gorgeous period-style furniture, with the lush tropical gardens of Leopard Beach Resort & Spa on Diani Beach, where guests can relax in the spa, play a round at the championship golf course next door, or enjoy watersports on the beach.
Hayes & Jarvis highlights the five-star Governors’ Il Moran Camp for its vast tents, king-size beds and freestanding baths. Pair it with the four-star Baobab Beach Resort & Spa on Diani Beach where honeymooners will receive a fruit basket and flowers on arrival, discounts at the spa and restaurants, and a free room upgrade (see Sample Product).
Kenya’s transport links also make it easy to venture farther afield, so for those seeking a more exclusive experience, why not take advantage of the Kenya Airways flight to Nampula via Nairobi and try Mozambique? Cox & Kings suggests three nights at the Mara’s small Naibor Wilderness camp, followed by six nights at the newly-featured Coral Lodge, a beach retreat in northern Mozambique.
It’s in a privately-owned nature reserve near the former capital and now Unesco World Heritage Site Ilha de Moçambique. Prices start at £4,795 for the 12-day package, including a stopover in Nairobi.
Kenya and Zanzibar is also one of the most popular pairings for Rainbow Tours. A typical twin-centre could include a three-night safari at Kicheche Bush Camp, a six-tent property in the Olare-Orok and Motorogi Conservancy, followed by a stopover in Zanzibar’s capital and a week at Breezes Beach Club on the eastern coast.
SOUTH AFRICAN STAYS
South Africa is a firm favourite for similar reasons to Kenya: it’s familiar territory so pricing is competitive, there’s plenty to do besides wildlife, plus it’s well served from UK airports – and you don’t even have to worry about jetlag.
As an added bonus, it’s also one of the most straightforward destinations for a wedding on the continent (see Tying the Knot). Joanne Tipping, assistant product manager for weddings at Thomas Cook Signature, says: “The beauty of South Africa is that you can marry in the first week at one location and then add a second destination such as the Garden Route, Winelands or a safari as your honeymoon. For example, combine a wedding at one of Cape Town’s hotels or Table Mountain with a honeymoon at the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, just three-and-a-half hours from the city.”
One of the fastest-growing twin-centre honeymoons in recent years has been South Africa and Mauritius. Virgin Holidays picks out the recently refurbished Protea Hotel President in Cape Town as a companion to the Maritim in Mauritius, ideal for romantic meals at the Chateau Mon Desir restaurant in the ruins of Balaclava and overlooking the Citron River. Prices start at £2,415 for 14 nights including flights and mixed-board accommodation in April.
For a safari alternative, Rainbow Tours suggests the Garonga Safari Lodge in South Africa’s Makalali Conservancy followed by a blissful beach break at Constance Belle Mare Plage in Mauritius (see Sample Product).
Safari classic the Serengeti is proving popular for Kuoni, with the Serengeti Bushtops a honeymoon hit for its free massages and private hot tubs. This forms part of Kuoni’s Unsurpassed Tanzania itinerary, which takes in the Ngorongoro Crater before going to Zanzibar for barefoot luxury on its white-sand beaches.
If your clients want to feel like intrepid explorers, offer a quieter option like Selous Game Reserve in the south of Tanzania. It’s the largest in Africa, home to a vast range of species, with the added bonus of excursions such as boat safaris.
Rainbow Tours is offering 10 nights for the price of nine on selected departures in 2013, at £3,870 for three nights each on safari at Jongomero Camp and the Selous Safari Camp, plus four nights at beach resort Ras Kutani, full-board with flights, transfers and game drives.
Zanzibar is growing as a wedding and honeymoon destination in its own right. Africa Odyssey has just added beach wedding packages to its range, which includes Africa’s most famous and luxurious beach lodge, Mnemba Island Lodge, whichis on its own private island. Thomas Cook Signature also features weddings at the Royal Zanzibar Beach Resort, Bluebay Resort & Spa, and Diamonds La Gemma d’ell Est.
THE HEART OF AFRICA
If your customers want to get off the beaten track, immerse them in the ‘real’ Africa with a trip to Zambia. The luxurious Royal Livingstone is due to complete a $7 million refurbishment in December and offers several romance-themed packages, including everything from cocktails with a view of Victoria Falls (pictured above) to couples massages by the water and a cruise along the Zambesi River.
Few places can claim to be truly untouched, but the South Luangwa National Park in Zambia is as close as many get. Its superb leopard population is best seen on foot. After that, transfer to Pumulani on Lake Malawi, which boasts incredible views of the lake from each of its 10 luxurious en suite villas. Couples can walk the nature trails to a secluded beach, then kayak back.
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