A safari honeymoon offers more than just game drives. You could drift above the plains of the Masai Mara in a hot air balloon at sunrise. Trek through the rocky landscape of Namibia’s Damaraland before camping out beneath the stars. Or, pair your time in the bush with days spent unwinding on the shores of Lake Malawi. And, such is the versatility of a safari, you can thread special touches and one-off experiences throughout your honeymoon, and pitch it to suit your style and pace. Our safari specialists outline four trip ideas to inspire your honeymoon.
Our recommended safari honeymoon itinerary ideas
Our itinerary ideas can be as tailored as you’d like around your particular interests. These selected suggestions will give you some inspiration, but treat them just as a starting point because for your own trip will be created uniquely for you.
Best for safari and beach honeymoons
South Luangwa National Park, Zambia and Kaya Mawa, Lake Malawi
Chindeni Bushcamp, South Luangwa National Park
Kaya Mawa, Likoma Island
A safari followed by a beach stay is a tried-and-tested pairing. For honeymoons, it means you can balance active adventure shared with other guests with privacy and relaxation on sandy shores.
Begin with a safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. It’s still relatively off-radar compared with many other safari destinations, so the wildlife is all yours.
Not only is it one of the best places to see leopard in the whole of Africa, you can also spot lion, elephant, buffalo, hippo and, occasionally, wild dog on game drives.
Birdlife is plentiful along the banks of the Luangwa River, rare Thornicroft’s giraffe nibble trees in pockets of forest, while zebra, wildebeest and antelope graze en masse on the open savannah.
For me, the highlight of a safari here is heading out on foot with a guide who’ll open your eyes to the smaller aspects of the bush you’d otherwise miss from a vehicle. It was on one of my morning walks that I witnessed my first kill: an antlion battling a large beetle in the dirt.
Stay at Chindeni Bushcamp in one of only four canvas tents. Your private deck overlooks a seasonal oxbow lagoon, where animals come to drink (though it dries up in September and October).
You can go from a morning game drive in the bush to an afternoon at leisure on the shores of Lake Malawi via two short flights. I suggest spending a few blissful days at Kaya Mawa on Likoma Island, which sits a mile or so off the lake’s eastern shore.
This 12-chalet retreat is the epitome of barefoot luxury, set on rocks lapped by the lake’s clear, bathwater-temperature waters.
Each stone chalet differs in style and has a private setting, whether it’s on a rocky knoll or its own tiny island. Some have private plunge pools, others direct access to the lake.
You have the freedom to do as much or as little as you want here. You could go kayaking or paddle boarding on the lake, or relax in the main lodge, which has plenty of nooks and crannies strewn with cushions and sofas where you can sip cocktails.
In the evening, lantern-lit dinners are set up on the private beach. You might also be able to listen to the local choir sing on the clifftop as the sun drops. Alternatively, circumnavigate the island on a sailboat at sunset.
The best time to safari in Zambia is between July and September, when game viewing is at its best in South Luangwa. This is also a good time to travel to Malawi, when temperatures are warm enough to spend languid days around the lake.
Best for safari honeymoons with one-off experiences
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
Hot air balloon safari, Masai Mara
Why base your Kenya honeymoon here, though? I’d say it’s the variety of experiences you can have in the Masai Mara that sets it apart.
One such experience is taking a dawn hot air balloon safari over the Mara. You arrive as the balloons are being inflated, then float up into the sky just as the sun begins to illuminate the savannah to reveal elephant, hippo, giraffe or buffalo on their morning forage. After landing, you share a champagne breakfast in the bush with fellow guests.
Another is visiting a Maasai village to see traditions that have passed down generations of the same tribe. Your guide — who might be from the village — will introduce you to some of the tribespeople, who’ll show you their homes and tell you about their way of life.
It's also in the Masai Mara, between August and October, that you can witness the Great Migration. The herds move north into the reserve from Tanzania’s Serengeti in search of fresh grass to graze. You’ll see thousands of wildebeest and zebra filling the plains as you explore on game drives.
En route, the herds must cross the Mara River — no mean feat when there are crocodiles lying in wait and hungry predators ready to pounce on the other side. Alarm calls fill the air as the animals thrash through the water, scrambling up the opposite bank.
Seeing this spectacle is far from guaranteed because of the unpredictability of the herds’ movements, but your guides monitor the animals’ whereabouts and can help give you the best chance.
I recommend staying in one of the private conservancies bordering the Masai Mara. Only guests of the conservancy’s camps and lodges can safari there, making it a quieter experience than the main reserve.
Ol Seki Hemingways Camp is on the Naboisho Conservancy. Its ten circular tents are set on a hill, so you have far-reaching views over the plains from your private deck. Private dinners can be arranged in the bush or on your deck, lit by lanterns.
To witness the Great Migration, the best time to safari in Kenya is between August and October. This also coincides with the country’s dry season, so game viewing in general is at its best.
Best for adventurous safari honeymoons
//Huab Under Canvas, Namibia
//Huab Under Canvas, Damaraland
For a honeymoon with a touch of adventure, you could camp out beneath the stars in remote Damaraland, whose arid, red-rock terrain often feels like the surface of Mars.
I can highly recommend staying at //Huab Under Canvas, which is set beside a dry riverbed often visited by desert-adapted elephant (a species only found in Namibia and Mali).
While your tent is fairly simple, you have exclusive use of the whole camp. Guides and staff will get to know you personally and tailor each day to your interests.
The camp sits in the private Huab Conservancy, which is an important conservation area for rhino. You can track them on foot with guides, who’ll show you the telltale signs of a rhino’s presence. They can also interpret the way rhino behave and tell you more about local efforts to protect them. I’ll never forget my first sighting — a large bull so close that binoculars weren’t needed.
There’s plenty of opportunity to see other wildlife, too. Stay for three nights or more and you could join a two-day walking safari. You’ll trek for between 8 and 12 km (5 and 7 miles) each day, as you look out for wildlife such as Hartmann’s mountain zebra, oryx, springbok, and spotted and brown hyena. You stay overnight in a temporary camp in the wilderness, dining around the campfire under a star-pricked sky. You also have the chance to visit a remote Himba tribe, in what felt to me like a very unforced interaction. You might see where they live, chat with a family with the help of an interpreter, or watch women demonstrate the traditional method of applying ochre to their hair and skin.
You could combine a stay at //Huab Under Canvas with its sister property, Sossus Under Canvas. Located just half an hour’s drive south of the Sossusvlei gate, it offers a similar experience but in a completely different landscape, swapping the rocky terrain of Damaraland with desert sands.
The best time to go to Namibia during the winter, between July and September, to avoid the scorching heat that summer brings.
Best for luxury safari honeymoons
Sabi Sand Wildtuin, South Africa and Cape Town
Leopard, Sabi Sand Wildtuin
The reserve shares Kruger’s incredible wildlife, including the Big Five, cheetah and wild dog. But, with far fewer vehicles around, staying here gives you a more exclusive, intimate safari experience. You also have a wider choice of activities, including bush walks and night drives.
The camps and lodges in the reserve all meet a high standard, but for honeymooners I’d particularly recommend Sabi Sabi Little Bush Camp. It has just six thatched villas, each decorated in a contemporary African style. The large bathrooms include a sunken bath and both indoor and outdoor showers, and there’s a heated plunge pool on your private deck.
The food is also worth shouting about. One night, you might have barbecued springbok or oryx steaks out in the boma (enclosure), the next you could be dining in a secluded part of the bush or sitting down to a three-course á la carte feast on your lantern-lit deck.
You could combine your safari with a plush city break in Cape Town, staying at the waterfront Cape Grace. I find the hotel has an understated luxury without being pretentious. To make your stay extra special, choose the penthouse suite. On your private rooftop terrace, you can soak in the Jacuzzi or have a romantic dinner with views over the harbour.
Throughout your stay, the hotel’s complimentary chauffeur service can take you anywhere within a 10-km (6-mile) radius, whether you want to relax on one of the nearby beaches, peruse the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden or hike Table Mountain.
The best months to travel to South Africa for a safari are April, May and October. You avoid the cooler, rainier months and game viewing is at its best.