If you’re thinking of planning a African honeymoon, our Guest writer Claire Mans has a few tips to share with you. She enjoyed a 2 week, 2 part honeymoon in South Africa and Madagascar in August this year. From previous experience with a trip that included the Maldives, India and Sri Lanka, I can say first hand it’s not always easy and glamorous getting to these exotic locations!
Safari in Africa has always been a dream of mine so, as it was our honeymoon, we were going to make sure it happened. We decided on Marataba Safari Lodge in South Africa – a beautiful lodge with 15 individual tented suites, exquisitely decorated with authentic interiors. The staff are incredibly friendly and service impeccable. You can find the lodge in Marakele National Park approx. 4 hours’ drive from Johannesburg Madagascar Constance Tsarabanjina.
On arrival we were greeted and given a run-through on safari drive timings; very useful for first time safari goers. The safari drives take place first thing at sunrise, when your guide is ready with blankets and hot water bottles and at 3.30pm in the afternoon, finishing with sundowners in various locations which change throughout your stay. Desperate to get out and see the animals we were on the first possible safari drive with our guide Mike, in our open top jeep.
Our first drive was incredible, with viewings of Rhino, Elephants, Hippos, Warthogs, Impala, Zebra, Kudo to name a few. The highlight for me was the Rhino with its calf at a watering hole. We didn’t manage to catch a glimpse of the elusive leopard, however we did see Lions, another highlight, which was made even more memorable when your husband turns and asks the guide ‘Mike, is that a male or female lion’ bearing in mind we were looking at one lion with a full mane of hair…. Needless to say Mike was very good and answered ‘that’s a male lion’. We came across a herd of Elephants (approx. 30) which was one of the most incredible experiences, the Matriarch came so close her trunk wold have hit me had she swung it.
The food at Marataba is extraordinary and plentiful; each meal has a new exciting dish on the menu, whether it’s Kudu or Ostrich there is plenty to choose from. The Lodge is set within the park with animals roaming amongst the suites throughout the day and night. Therefore when walking back to your tent at night there is someone on hand to take you. A few nights I was woken by roaring lions, so close it felt as if they were in our tent!
- Do ask your guide to take you on a walking safari – this gets the adrenaline pumping – I couldn’t get close enough to the guide with the rifle….
- Do take comfy trousers, layers and a scarf – even with blankets and hot water bottles it still gets a little chilly in the morning and later on after sundowners. Alternatively make friends with your fellow safari goers for body heat!
- Do go on all the safari drives – both morning and evening offer the best time for photos particularly the changing light throughout the day
- Do buy some biltong to take home, so much better in South Africa
- Don’t go wandering around by yourself at night, aside from it being just scary in the dark you don’t want to stumble across a hunting lion
- Don’t get distracted taking selfies whilst on safari and out of the vehicle with a hippo bobbing up and down in the water behind you, slowly making its way over
- Don’t overeat on the nibbles at sundowners – there will be an amazing feast waiting for you back at the lodge, the South Africa BBQ evening isn’t one to miss
- Don’t forget a good camera, camera lens, binoculars and spare camera batteries
- Don’t ask your safari guide silly questions – check with someone else before…
For the second part of our honeymoon, we headed to the Land of the Lemurs and iconic baobab trees. Travelling around Madagascar is not by any means plain sailing; be prepared for delays, particularly when flying. For example we ended up staying in 4 different hotels due to delays when we were only meant to stay in two. Air Madagascar is the only airline operating internal flights and they are notorious for delays and cancellations – my advice is to be fully prepared for delays, which can last from 1 hour to days and days…. However, once on board, the planes themselves and the service are very good. Transport aside, Madagascar is an incredible place.
We stayed on an island off the north from Nosy Be Island. Our final destination was Constance Tsarabanjina which is an island you think only exists in touched up holiday advertisements, but this one is real. Some may remember the TV series from 1994 ‘Girl Friday’ where Joanna Lumley spent nine days on a desert island. This is the same island, now a true ‘barefoot’ luxury island complete with 25 bungalows on the beach and a restaurant and bar. We hear the term ‘bare foot luxury’ thrown around a lot, however this is the real deal – shoes are not needed at all.
Each bungalow is equipped with a luxurious king sized bed with a mosquito net delicately draped over the top. The bathroom design is one we wanted to take home with us; part of the shower head is made of drift wood from the island giving it a rustic feel. Keeping things simple and true to its desert island location, the bungalows don’t have phones, TVs or Wifi (Wifi is available at the restaurant/bar only) – a real digital detox. As a lover of all things coconut, I was excited to see coconut oil as part of the bathroom amenities which are re-filled daily.
The food is plentiful, delicious, fresh yet simple. From the beach you can see the local Madagascans working away on their tiny fishing boats, catching fresh fish which will be BBQ’d and served at lunch or dinner in the restaurant.
Tips for a Madagascan Island adventure:
- Do go deep sea fishing and catch lunch and dinner for the restaurant – we were lucky and caught two tuna and one GT fish – my tuna however was snapped in half by a shark as I was reeling it back in…
- Do take a couple of paddleboards out to the nearby islets for an afternoon of exploring
- Do go kayaking around the island – it does get a little rough on certain sides of the island depending on the wind
- Do go diving – lots of beautiful dive sights and our Italian instructor Virgilio Mannucci was amazing, even with the language barrier
- Do go back! If you visit Tsarabanjina three times you get your own plaque on the bar with your name
- Don’t assume you will get on an Air Madagascan flight until you are physically sitting on the
plane. Arrive as early as possible to check in
- Don’t miss the lemurs and visit Nosy Komba
- Don’t stick to your beach and bungalow – explore the island, but remember to take shoes as the rocks are uncomfortable underfoot
- Don’t miss the turtle hatchlings (dependent on the time of year), Tsarabanjina along with turtle experts are helping the hatchlings left behind when they hatch, giving them the best possible start in life
Author: Claire Mans
Claire is an avid traveller and luxury nomad. She has just embarked on a 4 month sabbatical with her husband to discover the gems of South America. When she’s not planning her next trip, she’s usually on the hunt for her next fashion fix or sweating it out in a HIIT Class. Follow her adventures on instagram @Clairemahowe
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