African safari and Indian Ocean beach is a classic combination for a luxury honeymoon. In many cases neither bride nor groom has been to Africa before, but even when one of them has, thereís plenty of choice of small, remote safari camps with great wildlife and romantic beachfront hotels to ensure youíre both going somewhere new. The weather in the northern hemisphere is generally better for a summer wedding and the months from June to October mean good weather for a honeymoon to Africa too. To make sure your honeymoon safari is unforgettable for all the right reasons, I’ve jotted down my top 5 tips:
1. Reverse the safari/beach order
Typically an African honeymoon is planned with safari first and then a chance to relax on an Indian Ocean beach afterwards. I suggest you plan it the other way round.
However hard your best man and maid of honour work, no matter how cool your family and friends are, and whatever size of wedding you have, the chances are youíll be tired by the time the service and celebrations are over. Add to this the stresses of big airports, and the lack of sleep on an overnight flight, and youíll be sure to arrive in Africa looking forward to a couple of lazy mornings before you get an early morning wake up call for your first game drive of the holiday. A stay on the beach at the start, or at least a couple of nights somewhere like Victoria Falls, will mean you’re wide awake to enjoy the sight of a pride of lions hunting in the first light of dawn.
2. Follow your friendsí advice
This applies whether your honeymoon is a safari or not: put the recommendations of those who you know above Google searches or tips on Tripadvisor. You donít have to do exactly what theyíve done, but if your friends found a great tour operator to plan their honeymoon, use the same one. At least give them a chance, look through their brochure or give them a call – ask some pertinent questions with regards to what youíd like to do on honeymoon and tell how much you want to spend. If they seem knowledgeable, keen to help, and come up with a few good initial suggestions, you’re one step closer to the perfect holiday.
3. Do things you enjoy
If magazines are to be believed, every brideís dress is a big white meringue, all wedding receptions are held in rooms decked out in pink bows, and your safari honeymoon ought to be based around a stripy minibus with a group of people you donít know, followed by a huge hotel on the beach with other big hotels either side of you.
However, one size does not fit all, and if this isnít your idea of a fun honeymoon, book something that is. If you enjoy mountain biking or hiking, ask a specialist tour operator if you can fit mountain biking or hiking into your safari; likewise if you’re a keen diver or kite-surfer make sure your beach property has a PADI centre or a decent breeze and a kite-surfing centre. Even better if the consultant you use is keen on these things themselves, or at least knows the right people in Africa to ask.
4. Get married in September
The safari areas of Africa have fantastic weather somewhere throughout the year. Having said that, if you want the best weather or wildlife, or have a budget to hit, certain months are arguably better that others. Take the following advice with a pinch of salt as I’m exaggerating slightly to make a point, but itís broadly speaking true. You may well want to get married and go on safari in June, but itís not a great time for a beach holiday in Africa or the Indian Ocean. Donít forget that the seasons are reversed and this is mid-winter in the safari areas of Africa, so air and sea temperatures are cool and there are likely to be more cloudy days on the beach than youíd generally wish for.
In July and August the wildlife viewing improves and the temperatures rise, but you cross over with the school holidays pushing up prices of flights and hotels. Your honeymoon budget goes further if you avoid these months. And so to September; temperatures are higher on the beach and the weather is more stable on the coast, the grass has died back in the bush and wildlife viewing is superb, thereís whales just off the South African coast at Hermanus, and the wildebeest are likely to be crossing the Mara and Talek rivers. Thereís often an Indian summer in the northern hemisphere for a wedding in September and itís the perfect time for your safari honeymoon too.
5. Take your mates
Yes it’s not yet the norm, but perhaps have a few days together on your own at the start of your honeymoon and then invite your friends to share some private houses.
They’re your friends because they’re people you like spending your time with at home, and you might even have been on holiday together in the past. Just because itís your honeymoon doesnít mean they canít come to Africa with you. What could be more fun and exclusive than filling a villa on the beach or a private house on safari and enjoying meals, drives and pool time with just your friends?
Whatever you end up doing, wherever and whenever you go, Africa is great and safaris are very special, I hope you have the time of your lives.
Richard Smith is Operations Director at†Aardvark Safaris.