Everything you need to know to plan a romantic and unforgettable honeymoon
12 Sept 2022
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The question has been popped, you’ve set the wedding date and now its time to plan the honeymoon of a lifetime. A safari honeymoon offers adventure, romance and a trip you’ll never forget - it is no wonder it is many people’s number one choice for a honeymoon. But with a huge range of safari experiences on offer, where do you start?
Here are three top tips to get you started.
Our number one top tip would be to speak to an expert so you can get advice on which country is right for you and create a honeymoon that will suit you as a couple. We’ve booked hundreds of Africa honeymoons so our country experts can talk you through what to expect and the pros and cons of different locations, plus the different types of safari available. Call us today on 01768 603 715 to speak to an African expert.
Our second tip would be to book ahead – the most popular lodges get booked up in advance with many people planning a safari holiday 12-24 months in advance so you will need to book ahead to ensure you get to stay in your chosen lodge.
Finally, think about what your favourite holidays have been and use this to influence your honeymoon. Was it staying in pure luxury, doing an adrenaline-filled activity, enjoying fine dining, or getting off the beaten track? Likewise have there been some less successful holidays and why didn’t you enjoy these? Whilst going somewhere new that is fresh and exciting for you both is a wonderful idea for a honeymoon, you can use past holiday highs (and lows) to ensure that you create a honeymoon that is right for you.
Ready to start planning?
Here are some questions to ask yourselves to help you plan.
Are there any animals you specifically want to see?
If there are specific animals that you want to see this will influence where and when you go on safari.
For example, if you wanted to see the great wildebeest migration which is often described as the greatest wildlife show on earth, you would be looking to go to the Serengeti or Masai Mara on safari during July – September, alternatively, you might want to tick off the Big Five which can be done in South Africa, Botswana, Kenya or Tanzania.
If you wanted to go gorilla trekking you will be looking at Uganda or Rwanda, or to see lemurs in Madagascar, or if you want to spend time with meerkats you will need to head to the Makgadikgadi in Botswana.
Whilst seeing specific animals such as elusive leopard is never guaranteed as you are spotting animals in the wild, going to the right spots at the right time of year will definitely increase your chances - for example Sabi Sands in South Africa is known for its high leopard population, as is South Luangwa in Zambia which is known as the ‘valley of leopards’ and where leopard sightings are almost guaranteed or if you are hoping to see rare wild dog, Selous game reserve in Tanzania is one of the last strong holds or northern Botswana offer a good chance of spotting these social, pack animals.
One of our African experts will be able to advise you on where you are likely to have a good chance of spotting specific animals.
When do you want to go?
Do you want to go away straight after your wedding? If so, that is going to fix the dates that you travel and so you will want to choose a destination which is good for safari in that particular month.
Take a look at our month-by-month calendar for more guidance on this.
Alternatively, if there is a specific location or experience you want to go to, you might want this to guide your timings rather than your wedding. It is worth noting that some lodges offer honeymoon specials but that these are often only valid within 6 months of being married.
When you travel will also affect how expensive your safari is – if you are travelling in peak season it will of course be more expensive than if you travel in mid or low season. Whilst it varies from country to country, the summer months of June – September are peak season in Kenya, Tanzania and Botswana, three of our most popular safari honeymoon options. Prices drop a little in October so there can be value in delaying your honeymoon by a couple of months if you are looking to reduce your costs.
What type of safari do you want to do?
When people think of a safari, they often conjure up the image of a classic photography safari in a 4x4, but there are lots of different types of safari which allow you to get out and stretch your legs, and these can form a large or small part of your trip, depending on your preferences.
A walking safari for example can be just a few hours or spread over several days staying in mobile camps. You might want to consider a horse-riding safari, a boat safari (which Botswana is particularly known for with mokoros drifting down the waterways of the Okavango Delta), a hot air balloon safari or a night safari which allows you to see the nocturnal activities of wildlife. Often to do these more alternative safaris, you will need to be in a private reserve or conservancy rather than within the main national park – an expert will be able to advise you where you can do these.
We would highly recommend trying more than one type of safari, even if only for an afternoon. A walking safari for example will bring you closer to nature under the expert guidance of a trained ranger. It will allow you to appreciate small details that are overlooked whilst driving and will engage all of your senses - hear your heart pounding as you listen to every rustle and keep a sharp eye on the horizon. A mokoro (a narrow, dug-out canoe) safari where you are pushed along the waterways with a long pole allows you to watch animals drinking from the banks and to spot smaller animals such as frogs. Without the roar of an engine, you can connect and appreciate the bird song and rustle of the reeds. A riding safari gives you a unique chance to get close to giraffes and zebras as they only see the horse, not you as the rider on top so you can sit and watch these magnificent animals almost within touching distance.
How long do you want to be on safari for?
We usually recommend that clients spend 2-4 nights at each safari lodge – this gives you plenty of time to explore the reserve, a chance to see plenty of wildlife and time to perhaps try a night or walking safari. Some lodges also offer special deals such as stay 4 nights, pay 3 so we will always try to ensure that you benefit from any offers available.
If this is your first safari and you want to test the waters, you might feel that 4 nights on safari, followed by a week on the beach is plenty for you, or if you are a safari enthusiast, we would recommend visiting 2-3 different safari locations staying 2-4 nights in each. Landscapes, climates and wildlife vary hugely within each country so it is very rewarding to see more than one area, and you can experience different activities in each. For example, in Botswana, you might choose to combine the game rich waterways of the Okavango Delta with the semi-arid Makgadikgadi which is home to meerkats, or Kenya, you might want to combine the Masai Mara known for its large number of Big Cats and the great migration with Lewa which is home to both black and white rhino, and where you can try horse riding, camel and walking safaris.
We always encourage our clients to take fewer but longer holidays to help reduce their carbon footprint as international flights are by far the biggest contributor to your carbon impact.
Once in the country, do you want to travel by plane or car?
In Tanzania it is most common to have a driver who is also your guide for your entire trip, driving you from lodge to lodge. The advantage of this is that you get a private safari experience rather than sharing a vehicle with others and that your guide gets to know your preferences so there is no hurry to move on from an animal viewing which you are enjoying. The disadvantage is that you spend less time in lodges and that your travel days can be quite long journeys, although much of it will be through magnificent landscapes and wildlife-rich parks.
By contrast, in Kenya or Botswana, you would typically fly to a nearby landing strip from lodge to lodge in a small light aircraft. This can maximise your time and you gain fantastic panoramic views from the air, but a disadvantage is that unless you have paid for a private vehicle or are incredibly lucky, you will likely be sharing your game drives with other passengers.
Alternatively, somewhere like Namibia is brilliant if you are looking for a self-drive adventure where you can travel at your own pace surrounded by stunning scenery. This offers a different type of safari experience where you can see desert-adapted rhino and elephant among many other animals.
Do you want to add in some beach or city time?
Another question to ask yourself is whether you want a pure safari holiday, or if you want to combine it with some relaxation time on the beach, or perhaps with some time in a city.
You might be surprised to learn that a safari can be pretty tiring! You are up at dawn to spot wildlife when it is most active and before it gets too hot, so the majority of our honeymoon couples choose to add in some beach time after their safari so they can flop and enjoy each other’s company. Tanzania partners perfectly with the white sands of Zanzibar and Kenya can easily be combined with the pristine Kenya coast or is a short hop to Zanzibar.
Alternatively, the Kruger in South Africa combines well with Cape Town and the winelands, or can be combined with a luxury island retreat in Mozambique. A safari in Malawi combines well with Lake Malawi which whilst a lake rather than the sea has sandy shores, incredible snorkelling with colourful Cichlids and all the watersports you could wish for.
Botswana works well with Victoria Falls but is often considered more of a pure safari destination than South Africa, Kenya or Tanzania.
Have you any bucket-list must-dos?
Is there one experience that you have your heart set on doing? Many of our clients love the idea of a sunrise hot air balloon over the Masai Mara – watching the game from above and enjoying the panoramic views of the horizon. Giraffe Manor where giraffes poke their heads in through the window and you can feed them over your breakfast is also on many people’s wish list and is an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience, although it has the price tag to match! Another popular option is to sleep out under the stars on a treetop platform falling asleep to the sounds of the bush below.
What about cultural experiences?
Do you want to spend time with Maasai warriors in Kenya and Tanzania learning about their culture and perhaps witnessing a traditional jumping ceremony where each man jumps as high as he can? Or perhaps you want to learn about how the Zu/’hoasi bushmen in Botswana survive the harsh semi-arid climate of the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park? In Namibia you can visit Twyfelfontein to see San Bushman rock art dating back up to 6,000 years ago.
The opportunity to learn about the history and local culture of the country you are visiting will deepen your understanding and appreciation of it.
Do you want to go off the beaten track?
If you are looking to escape the crowds and go to a less developed safari destination, you might want to consider Zambia or Zimbabwe which are located on either side of the thunderous and epic Victoria Falls. Both destinations are teeming with wildlife, and offer a remote, wild and authentic safari experience, and are world-renowned for their walking safaris.
Alternatively, you might want to combine a well-known area of a country such as the Masai Mara in Kenya with a lesser-known area in the same country such as Samburu, Lewa or Laikipia, or in Tanzania, you might want to venture south to Selous game reserve, the largest protected area in the country but much less visited than the Serengeti.
What type of places do you like to stay in?
Do you want to stay in a tented camp with a four-poster bed? In a tented camp, you feel fully immersed in nature, drifting off to sleep to the sounds of the bush and waking up to discover paw prints through the camp. Alternatively, would you like to stay in a lodge which is a more permanent construction made of wood or stone, sometimes with swimming pools or spas and often with a fence around them to stop larger animals from entering the camp.
You might also want to think about the size of the camp you want to stay in and the range of activities they offer. Whilst most safari camps tend to be relatively small, if you are planning a beach add-on, you will need to think about if you want a smaller, boutique hotel or a larger complex with multiple swimming pools and a gym etc.
Another consideration is the environmental and social impact of where you stay. Many of the lodges we work with have a very minimal environmental impact using solar energy and locally sourced food, as well as ensuring they support local conservation efforts. Many of our lodges do fantastic work alongside the local communities whether that be employing local guides, providing education opportunities or an opportunity for local women to sell crafts. We would always recommend staying in properties that are investing in their local area to ensure that your trip has a positive impact.
Finally, you might want to talk to your travel specialist about scheduling in some private time. Game drives are typically joint with other people and meals are a social affair with the camp sat together, so, as this is your honeymoon, you might want to talk to your specialist about the opportunity to have a private candle-lit supper or to undertake an activity just the two of you.
What is your budget?
Budget is of course a key consideration to discuss. How long you go for, what level of luxury you choose, whether you travel in mid or high season and how many internal flights you take will all have an impact on how much your safari costs, as well as the destination you choose.
Botswana for example is known as being a low visitor number, higher price experience so your money will stretch less far here, than in Kenya or South Africa for example.
If you can travel just outside of peak season, you will benefit from fantastic game-viewing and weather conditions, at a slightly lower price and with fewer crowds. If you have a set budget you are hoping to work to, our country expert will be able to advise on how to get the most value out of your budget and top lodges we would recommend staying in.
If you want to add in a few treats; why not put these on your wedding list so that guests can contribute towards them such as candlelit dinner, a hot air balloon ride or champagne in your room?
Looking for more inspiration? Take a look at our top safari honeymoon trips or ask one of our travel specialists to send you a copy of our honeymoon brochure.
Whether you are looking to track rhinos, spot the Big Five, see wild dogs or spend time with Maasai warriors, our team of specialists are here to help.