Your honeymoon comes once in a lifetime—so make it a once-in-lifetime trip with a breathtaking, eye-opening safari. Don’t know where to begin? The Honeymoon Handbook from Lonely Planet gives you every tip and tidbit you need to know about choosing the ultimate honeymoon safari. Read an excerpt on the best safari destinations from the guidebook below.
There has long been an association of romance with the wilds of the African bush, stirred by movies such as Out of Africa and cemented by the vast array of indulgent safari camps custom-made for dreamy nights under the stars. For honeymooners, there is a bewildering number of options depending on what you want to see and how you want to spend your days. Here, we round up five of the best trips on the continent.
1. Best for Big Fivenarvikk/Getty Images/Vetta
Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
When most people close their eyes and dream of the African savannah, picture-perfect images of the Serengeti will be floating in their heads—its famous plains punctuated with flat-topped acacia trees, rock kopjes and, of course, members of the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo). Add stunning accommodation options and the Serengeti is a great pick for a honeymoon.
The park, along with the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, is also renowned for the annual Great Migration, when more than a million wildebeest and a few hundred thousand zebra travel thousands of kilometres in search of fresh grass—considered one of the greatest nature events on the planet.
Stay here: Serengeti Bushtops Camp
Best time to go: January–February to see wildebeest calving in southern Serengeti; June–September for overall wildlife viewing, with the Great Migration moving up the western corridor in June–July.
Antimalarial medication needed? Yes
2. Best for BudgetGary Latham/Lonely Planet
Kruger National Park, South Africa
In terms of wildlife alone, Kruger stands as one of Africa’s greatest safari destinations—its diversity, density and sheer number of animals is almost unparalleled. While far less exclusive than other parks, it has a vast network of roads that are there for the two of you to explore on your own, as well as guided wildlife activities. What the pleasant South African National Parks (SANParks) accommodation lacks in privacy, it makes up for in affordability and availability—it’s also a phenomenal option for familymoons. For a honeymoon treat, splurge on a luxury lodge for a night or two at the end of your safari in one of the park’s concessions, or in the adjoining Sabi Sand Game Reserve.
Stay here: Olifants Rest Camp
Best time to go: Year-round; best wildlife viewing May–September.
Antimalarial medication needed? Yes.
3. Best for AdventurePhilip Lee Harvey/Lonely Planet
Hit the open road, hand in hand, on a self-drive safari in what is arguably the most spectacular landscape in Africa. At times you’ll feel like you have this remarkable country to yourselves, it’s simply that empty. And being behind the wheel as you drive through the shadows of towering dunes, down into twisted rocky canyons and among Africa’s enigmatic wildlife is somehow both incredibly empowering and humbling at the same time. Climbing a ladder each night onto your 4WD’s rooftop tent in the wilds and looking up to the most spectacular night skies is a truly spellbinding way to experience African safari.
Stay here: Safari Drive
Best time to go: April–May or September–October.
Antimalarial medication needed? If you plan to stick near to the coast or south of Windhoek, antimalarials are not usually recommended.
4. Best for LuxuryPhilip Lee Harvey/Lonely Planet
Okavango Delta, Botswana
At full flood the vast Okavango Delta spreads itself spectacularly across more than 22,000 square kilometers, yet there are only several dozen lodges nestled in its midst to allow visitors to take in the wondrous nature and wildlife it contains. It’s Africa’s most exclusive Big Five safari domain and because the rewards are so high, so are the prices. Unsurprisingly, the safari lodges are therefore astoundingly sumptuous, though they miraculously manage to still feel like they belong in the African bush. The guiding here, which can take place in open-topped 4WDs, boats and traditional mekoro (dugout canoes), is top notch.
Stay here: Mombo Camp
Best time to go: June–August is the high water season.
Antimalarial medication needed? Malaria is rare, but antimalarials are usually recommended.
5. Best for Gorillas and ChimpanzeesJT Platt/Shutterstock
Going in search of endangered mountain gorillas isn’t what most people would associate with a safari, but tracking them on the mist-covered slopes of Volcanoes National Park is an enthralling wildlife experience like no other. And when you finally set eyes on these incredible creatures, you are in for what may be the most exciting animal encounter of your life—a magical way to kick of married life together. Note that you need a permit to visit the gorillas, which should be booked several months in advance through the RDB Tourism and Conservation Reservation Office.
Add to the experience with a visit to Nyungwe National Park, where it’s possible to hike through the thick forests to share time with one of our other nearest relatives, the chimpanzee. In 2017, it will also be possible (for the first time in decades) to see the Big Five in Rwanda, with the rhino being reintroduced into Akagera National Park.
Stay here: Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge
Best time to go: December–February and June–September are the driest months and best for gorilla tracking, but chimpanzees are easiest to locate in the wet season.
Antimalarial medication needed? Yes.
Reproduced with permission from The Honeymoon Handbook, © 2017 Lonely Planet. For more honeymoon tips, buy Lonely Planet’s essential honeymoon planning tool here.