* This piece originally appreared here on Wedding Inspirations.
Since your honeymoon is a once in a lifetime event, you’re guaranteed to want it to be an especially memorable experience. With the burning question ‘where do you go?’ The Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling might just have some sagely advice: “One cannot resist the lure of Africa.”
Of course, for those of us who live on the continent we’re spoilt for the choice just on our doorstep, and for honeymooners, romance might just come in the form of some time spent in the beauty of the wilderness. Having experienced many sumptuous safari spots around the country, South African travel writer Jared Ruttenberg shares with us five of his most recommended honeymoon spots.
1. Saseka Tented Camp
In the heart of one of South Africa’s most abundant wildlife hotspots, awaits a new luxury safari camp that is causing jaws to drop. If unbridled luxury, innovative styling and wild nature are your checkboxes, then Saseka Tented Camp should be a definite honeymoon consideration. The camp opened in March 2019 and offers a rather unique safari option for discerning travellers.
Saseka Tented Camp is located in the 14000-hectare wilderness of the Thornybush Private Nature Reserve, now part of the Greater Kruger National Park Conservation Area. Thornybush is in every way a wildlife mecca and you’re guaranteed a fair share of Insta-worthy sightings.
The guides at the lodge have exceptional knowledge of the bush. By spending both morning and evening exploring the reserve you have the opportunity to forget about everything else, simply allowing the wild to surprise you with whatever lies around the corner. One of our game drives took us to a pride of lions with several cubs who seemed to keep both us, and themselves entertained, as they dashed playfully around the bush. The area is also abundant with elephant – encounters with these erudite creatures are always memorable.
After several hours of safari you can retreat to the privacy of your luxury tent. Located around a sand riverbed, each of the tents boast private views from the comfort of their secluded decks. The tented suites each offer an impressive 200m2 of space to unwind and romance the time away in-between safaris and meals, and each has its own private pool and outdoor shower.
Attention to detail and unique design mark every aspect of the camp. The tent ceiling for example, has detailed plant etchings on the canvas that stretches above you. The living spaces have been innovatively designed to flow seamlessly from the natural bush surroundings. Distinctive furniture and fittings create harmony between innovation and boundary-pushing luxury.
The lodge’s common space was designed with a landscaped approach to encompass various levels and a variety of curated spaces. The high ceiling allows for extraordinary volume. With only ten tents in the camp, you’ll never feel crowded. Find out more about this wild masterpiece at www.sasekatentedcamp.com.
2. Grootbos Nature Reserve
South Africa is proud to be home to four lodges in the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World collection. Each is selected because of its exceptional commitment to authenticity, enrichment, and outstanding dedication to preserving the planet’s diversity. Only two hours from Cape Town, and a short drive from Hermanus, the majestic Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is one of these.
Grootbos is a jewel in the crown of the Western Cape’s reserves – an accolade recently affirmed when Grootbos was the overall winner of the prestigious WTM African Responsible Tourism Award. Home to 2500 hectares of pristine fynbos, the reserve forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, with the Cape Floral Kingdom being the most biodiverse floral hotspot in the world! A charming setting indeed for celebrating the beginning of any marriage.
One of the best ways to celebrate this floral mastery is on a fynbos safari. From the height of the game vehicle you’re able to survey the fields of fynbos and are introduced by your guide to some truly remarkable plants. There are many species only occurring on the reserve itself, including some only recently discovered.
Grootbos offers startlingly spacious free-standing luxury suites, which are set in ancient Milkwood forests and offer remarkable views over the ocean vistas of Walker bay below. These glass-fronted units are guaranteed to leave you staring for hours. It’s worth having breakfast in bed one of the mornings…you will be so glad you did..
The level of personal service is astounding – guests have a dedicated guide who helps plan your personal itinerary and there is a lot on offer. From shark cage diving, whale watching, fat biking across the dunes, hiking, and much more is available should you want to spend some active time. One of my most memorable activities was a sunset horse ride through the fynbos. Cresting a fynbos-iced ridge we were spellbound by the generous views over the bay and enjoyed the sundowners that were waiting for us once we’d dismounted our horses.
When it comes to cuisine no expense is spared, with first-class dining experiences complemented by a notable wine collection. Of course, there’s also a honeymoon dining experience in a fairy lit forest or the candle-lit wine cellar dinner. Enough said?
Impressively, Grootbos and its foundation have positivelybenefittedmore than 10 000 lives in the last year alone through skills training, farming initiatives, sports development, and much. You’ll have the satisfaction that by staying at Grootbos you’re also making a marked contribution to the greater community. Visit www.grootbos.com for more.
3. Nambiti Hills Private Game Reserve
For Kwazulu Natal and Gauteng couples, the good news is a luxury bush honeymoon doesn’t have to be a long drive away. The beauty of Nambiti Hills is that the five-star private game reserve is only three hours from Durban and four from Johannesburg. After the stress of the wedding celebration it’s time to take in the soothing hum of the wildlife, ambient lighting, a welcoming bush-side fire and a relaxing glass of wine.
Soon you’re able to celebrate the new season and unwind by dining al fresco in the wild. Settling into safari rhythm is an effortless affair, especially with two informative daily game drives and three meals lovingly prepared for you. Of course, you then have your beautiful suite.
All nine suites offer uncompromising luxury and the honeymoon suite builds on that, with a large open-plan lounge area, exclusive veranda overlooking the reserve, both indoor & outdoor showers and of course an extra-large stone bath. Natural textures and tones adorn the suites to blur the boundaries between the wilderness outside and the comfort of the interior space.
A vital part of every honeymoon should be the chance to unwind through some spa therapy. Nambiti Hills’ Zolile Spa has a range of treatments – I’d recommend you treat each other to the “Couples Journey”, which includes the following luxurious treatments: a Pinotage facial, relaxing scalp massage, hand & foot ritual and Pinotage back massage.
Of course if you’re interested in South African history, it’s worth bearing in mind that many of South Africa’s wars played out within a stone’s throw of the reserve. The sites of the Battles of Isandlwana, Rorke’s Drift, the Siege of Ladysmith and the Battle of Blood River are all close by. You can drive there yourself, and the lodge will assist in linking guests with registered guides should you so desire.
The staff at Nambiti Hills are well accustomed to celebrations. They have seen many heart-warming proposals, romantic escapes, and breath-taking weddings, and they will take great pleasure in assisting you for your stay. It’s worth noting that for couples wanting to combine the charm of nature with the beauty of their special day, Nambiti Hills also hires out the lodge exclusively for smaller and more intimate weddings. They can accommodate up to 16 people comfortably. Explore more of the reserve at www.nambitihills.com.
4. Kagga Kamma
If you’re in search of some wild and isolated tranquillity, how about spending the night sleeping under the stars in a plush bed with kilometres of mountainous wilderness to yourself? If that sounds like something you are looking for, then consider Kagga Kamma for your honeymoon celebration. It’s a rather plush re-imagining of early South African life, particularly for the San, the country’s first settlers.
It’s a wildly beautiful three-hour drive from Cape Town as you navigate from one pass to another, snaking endlessly between the faults and fractures of the Cape Fold Mountains ranges. In the transition zone between the end the Karoo and the beginning of the Cederberg, you’ll find Kagga Kamma.
The reserve has two unique Open Air Suites, namely the Star Suite and the Sky Suite. The adventure starts at reception where you’re given a quad bike, and after a short driving lesson, you’re off following the guide through the reserve. Expect jaw dropping moments as you arrive at your remote sleeping spot. One of the suites has an outdoor star bath and natural rock pool, and the other a wood-fired hot tub. Both have outdoor showers, fire places, hot water and of course unparalleled views. It’s a bucket-list experience and probably my most memorable night ever spent in Africa. Waking up in the night, blanketed by a covering of stars, but safely under my blankets, I couldn’t imagine a more enchanting or fairy-tale setting.
Your ranger drops off supper either cooked, or uncooked for you to braai yourself on the fire which he prepares. There’s also a bottle of bubbly, cheese platter, and desert. Once your guide leaves it’s just the two of you and wilderness for tens of kilometres. Lying in the comfort of your bed, allow the sky to romance you as the sunset hues provide a visual backdrop to your outdoor paradise. And seeing as though there are no predators, you can fall asleep without any worry about the wildlife whose home you share for the night.
There are also several cave units that have been expertly built into the base of one of the rock cliffs – so well hidden that it’s even difficult to spot them from a short distance away. After you’ve spent your romantic night under the stars, a night or two in the caves offer an equally striking stay. When you’re not enjoying the honeymoon suite and its gorgeous bath, there is an outdoor rock pool, spa facility and a festive restaurant.
Safari at Kagga Kamma is a chance to explore the reserve and take in the handsome beauty of the mountainous terrain. The reserve is a custodian to the several rock art sites on the property, and your guide will talk you through some of the unique aspects of these ancient sketches. Game drives often focus on the big mammals, and although Kagga Kamma has several antelope species, you’ll also have the chance to appreciate smaller critters, resilient Karoo plants, and if you’re lucky a few of the ‘Small Five’.
The honeymoon package at Kagga Kamma includes all main meals, a picnic lunch, two romantic excursions, an African Wood, Back and Neck Massage for two, turndown with a bottle of sparkling wine and cheese platter in your room on arrival. For a small fee you can upgrade one of the nights to an Open Air Suite. More details are online at www.kaggakamma.co.za.
5. Inkwenkwezi & Prana Lodge
Shifting to the Eastern Cape, it’s almost unimaginable that a 30-minute drive from East London and you find yourself in a hidden gem of a village called Chintsa. This coastal town is on the accessible-end of South Africa’s Wild Coast and features the area’s iconic beaches and green landscapes. It’s here where you’ll find Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve, where over 4000 hectares of wilderness is ready to welcome you both for a few days of romance.
Two tented camps each offer six tents each. Between game drives you can enjoy the privacy of your forest tent and then take meals at the nearby Sunset Lapa. The tents at Bush Camp provide views over the valley with man-made rock bathrooms designed to reflect the natural rock of the area. The Valley Camp tents offer a more luxurious and spacious tented option, with en-suite bathrooms that feature Victorian clawfoot-baths.
Safaris at Inkwenkwezi are unique in that the reserve encompasses not only the savannah biome usually associated with game reserves, but also thicket, march and fynbos. Another surprise is that the reserve has both tawny and white lions. The latter are a rare colour mutation, and as a result of poaching very few remain in the wild. Their illusive beautiful only adds to the magnificence of the experience.
With warm hospitality and a timeless tented safari experience of yesteryear you will also find yourself at home. And if one of South’s Africa’s favourite celebrities is a regular with her friends, you too might just also find yourself coming back again. Honeymooners can expect to be treated with sparkling wine on arrival, and depending on the length of stay, receive extra nights for free. Did I mention that the honeymoon tent has a jacuzzi on its veranda? Find out more at www.visitbuffalocity.co.za.
If you’re wanting to complement your bush break with a little beach time, then consider the five-star Prana Lodge, only a 15-minute drive away from Inkwenkwezi. Prana has a reputation of being one of the most romantic hideaways in the country, and with good cause. Eight elegant and generous suites are hidden in the tropical dune forest and are connected to the central spaces by enchanting foot paths.
Each of the suites is uniquely themed and features pieces from a private collection of South African artists, Persian carpets, luxury linens, and oversized bathrooms. Coupled with lush gardens and private pools, you’re guaranteed relaxation and seclusion par excellence.
Dining is a first-class experience so prepared to be wowed over slow breakfasts, pool-side lunches and candlelight dinners. Elevated above the ocean, the lodge has a private viewing deck and for a more intimate experience, meals can be served here.
Especially for honeymooners at Prana, the especially designed package includes: three nights’ accommodation on a meals-inclusive basis, romantic turndown, an aromatherapy bath, a private candlelit dinner on your suite terrace served with a complimentary bottle of sparkling wine, a beach picnic, a 60-minute couples aromatherapy massage in the wellness centre and 30-minute couples foot massage in the garden or on the Prana deck. Afterall, luxury should always include a little indulgence on the side. See more at www.pranalodge.co.za.