Guest Blog Series: South Africa, Botswana & Zimbabwe

by | April 13, 2023

A special thank you to Emelissa & Joel for sharing their memories, experiences and photos with us from their African honeymoon in May 2022. Read on to learn more…

“Joel and I live for the next adventure, traveling to and exploring many corners of the world skiing, hiking, dining and soaking up new cities and cultures. Like many other couples, COVID-19 forced us to postpone a larger sequel wedding celebration to 2022. We had dreamed of an Africa honeymoon, but fear of ongoing COVID restrictions and the stress of navigating pandemic travel was too daunting. Insert Travel Theory. We reached out to Casey three weeks after our February wedding, and by mid-March she had crafted a more perfect honeymoon itinerary than we could have dreamed up ourselves. In May we were enjoying sundown drinks in the bush, surrounded by lions and hippos. It was the trip of a lifetime and now we can’t wait to go back to Africa!.”

Cape Town & Stellenbosch

We landed in Cape Town and had three days to explore the city. Cape Town is known for its city scape, coastal scenery and beaches, so we were lucky to have such a great spot to work off the jetlag. We made the short drive out to the Cape of Good Hope to check out the dramatic cliffside scenery, stopped at Boulders Beach to greet the adorable penguins, and finished with a sunset along the spectacular Chapman Peak drive.

We enjoy visiting wine regions around the world, so Casey arranged for us to have a private wine-tasting tour in the Stellenbosch wine region. The sweeping mountain backdrops paired with Cape Dutch architecture was both dramatic and quaint. Equally impressive was the rich history of the region and the old-world wines produced in it. The Delaire Graff Estate was a beautiful resting spot for us and we are dying to return!

Botswana… our first taste of safari!

Our first stop was &Beyond’s Xaranna Delta Camp in Botswana’s Okavango Delta. As an inland delta, the Okavango River flows inland instead of out to a body of water. When flood waters rise, the resident wildlife are treated to a unique and ever-changing habitat for herd animals and birds alike. After arriving in Maun, we hopped on the first of many short charter flights we would take over the next 14 days. As we made our way to Xaranna’s private air strip, we peered below the aircraft in awe of the elephants grazing on the iconic Marula trees. We were so distracted that we didn’t realize our pilot had been circling around the airstrip waiting for a herd of zebras to disperse off the runway so that we could land. They eventually meandered aside and our personal guide Anzani explained that the zebras were the official welcoming committee for the camp, given that there was a popular watering hole just meters from the airstrip. This was a wonderful start to our adventure.

Over the next few days, we were immersed in safari. Our days started with our private guide delivering coffee, tea and pastries to us at our tent before getting ready for the day. We enjoyed a hearty breakfast in the guest area watching sunrise from the private island and overlooking the water rise against the delta’s tree-line. We enjoyed morning and evening game drives in which we drove for hours not seeing another jeep or group, just admiring the different animals and watching their way of life so close that we could observe their personalities and interactions with one another. Our guides even treated us to the first Mokoro ride of the season, gently gliding through the shallow and maze-like lagoons that are unique to the Delta. Our days were structured but relaxing, always ending with lovely sundown drinks in a new picturesque spot. Every detail was perfect, from the hot water bottles and blankets to keep us warm on the drives, to our ensuite “tents” which included a beautifully decorated living area, luxurious spa-like bathroom, and private pool, to the warm hospitality each guide, tracker, butler, housekeeper and chef gave us during our stay.

Highlight: Within an hour of arriving at camp, we took a sunset game drive and stumbled upon two lionesses and their playing cubs. As we happily snapped photos, our jeep turned just a few meters from two male lions. We watched them awake from their naps and witnessed them roar loudly, signaling their location to other pride members. It was an incredible way to kick off our safari adventure.

Zimbabwe… our vacation from our vacation

After four days in the Okavango Delta, we hopped on a charter flight to Kasane, then another to Victoria Falls. As we approached Zimbabwe, our pilot pointed to a massive plume of white smoke on the horizon. Only it wasn’t smoke, it was the spray from the waterfall. Upon landing, we were greeted by our personal guide Keto who escorted us by boat to the Victoria Falls Island Lodge, located on a private island on the Zambezi River. During our stay we enjoyed a fiery sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. We also visited Victoria. Our visit was during wet season which treated us to not only varied scenery and vegetation, but also the full power and force of the falls. We walked along the 16-point path alongside the falls to see all the different faces of the roaring water. The experience gave us an idea of what walking 2 miles through an actual car wash feel like.

Highlight: There are only six tree houses on the island which afforded us lots of quiet time to soak up the beautiful surroundings. We really enjoyed the slower pace and short break from our structured safari. We enjoyed delicious meals, pampering massages, and all the amenities of our beautiful starbed treehouse suite, including its private deck and plunge pool, as well as its rooftop deck fully outfitted with a luxury canopy bed to fall asleep under the stars.

South Africa… the ultimate luxury safari

We ended our honeymoon with a stay at the ultra-luxurious Tengile River Lodge. It would be an understatement to say that the wildlife viewing at Sabi Sands is incredible. Where Botswana immersed us in the sweeping views of the bush and driving for hours spotting herd animals, Sabi Sands gave us the ‘Big Five’ in one day. The sheer density of big game on the private game reserve made for extraordinarily close encounters with leopards and lions common. We even had a close viewing of a black rhino. Our personal guide Chris seemed to find us any animal of our choosing on demand, complete with information about the animals. Our morning and evening game-drives were like walking into a National Geographic magazine.

As with our prior &Beyond stay, we enjoyed the rhythm of a well-run safari and luxurious accommodations in the middle of nature. At Tengile, our private lodge was absolutely stunning with a gorgeous living and bar area, pool, and sunken outdoor living space where we enjoyed gazing at the milky way in the evenings. The staff were incredibly gracious, every guide, butler, chef and housekeeper knowing us by name and treating us with special honeymoon surprises. On our last night, they surprised us with decorating our lodge with over 100 candles for a romantic candle-lit dinner. Every detail at Tengile was top-notch, making this the most memorable stay we’ve ever had.

Highlight: We visited the local community outside the Sabi Sands Game Reserve to see &Beyond’s philanthropic work caring for the land and people. We toured a middle school, kindergarten and pre-school all funded by &Beyond, as well as several boreholes they developed and continue to maintain for the community to access safe drinking water. It was very special to see the positive impact &Beyond has in the communities it operates.

Thank you so very much, Emelissa & Joel, for trusting us with your African honeymoon and for sharing your experience. We appreciate you two!


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