Looking for luxury in Africa


Sunset at Selinda Camp.

by Misty Patton, Thornton, CO

You could imagine my delight when my fiancé and I decided a honeymoon in Africa was in order. After all, what better way to begin our new life together than by celebrating with an exotic destination?

Looking for luxury

However, we didn’t want a walk down the Frommer’s budget-minded path for our honeymoon; we wanted something truly special. Searching the Internet provided the names of a number of companies specializing in safaris. But after contacting these companies we began to feel defeated, as each one sent identical brochures and itineraries.

Elephant at Chief’s Camp in the Okavango Delta.

While I was reading International Travel News’ Travelers’ Intercom section, I noticed a fellow traveler had given Rothschild Safaris (Denver, CO; phone 800/405-9463, www.rothschildsafaris.com) a fabulous review. I visited their website and requested information online.

Leora Rothschild contacted me personally via phone the following morning. She painted a fantastic picture of romantic African destinations and listed numerous camps and lodges she thought would be a perfect fit for our honeymoon.

Within three days of speaking with Leora, I received brochures and the specialized itinerary she had created for our trip. The camps she recommended were private, small and luxurious, and because Leora is a Johannesburg native, she only sends her clients to camps and lodges she has personally visited. I felt confident in our decision to book with her.

Cape Town

View from our drive along the Cape Peninsula.

We departed on our honeymoon in October ’05, one week after our wedding. Our first stop was the Cape Grace hotel in Cape Town, South Africa. This stylish boutique hotel offered us a warm welcome, gently easing us into the Cape Town lifestyle. Having just arrived from a very long flight, we appreciated the Cape Grace’s efforts.

We were greeted in our superbly decorated room with a bouquet of fresh flowers and unsurpassed views of the harbor. The hotel staff’s attention to detail was splendid. Every day we received a new honeymoon gift, from champagne and chocolates to scented candles and a photo album, and we were lavished with nonintrusive attention.

Cape Town is rich with cultural history, not to mention the natural beauty of the surrounding area. We toured the Cape Peninsula, Table Mountain and the city itself.

Along the way we stopped at a cheetah research facility, where we were fortunate enough to pet an adult cheetah.

Victoria Falls

From Cape Town, we boarded our flight to Victoria Falls. My husband and I were both a little anxious about the transfer and flights but quickly realized how competent Rothschild Safaris was — everything went smoothly and we had nothing to worry about.

Victoria Falls

Leora suggested that at Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, we should stay at Tongabezi Lodge, and I must say it was a superb recommendation.

The private honeymoon suite provided a sumptuous setting. Positioned in the middle of the spacious suite was a large bed encased in sheer white netting, and high, thatched ceilings topped the room, one wall of which was open to the Zambezi River, overlooking the hippopotamuses and other wildlife below.

The romantic ambiance was further enhanced by a fireplace flickering with welcoming flames plus flutes of ice-cold champagne awaiting us on the ledge of our stone-sided Jacuzzi situated underneath the stars.

The scrumptious meals were served in various locations, the most romantic of which was a private floating dining table set in the middle of the calm Zambezi River! Our butler rowed each course out to us while we dined by candlelight and starlight.

The dinner was phenomenal, with roasted butternut and corn salad, chicken with green olives and preserved lemon, and glazed sweet potatoes. For dessert, we had lemon and basil mousse with strawberry salad — a true treat for our senses.

Botswana

The setting for our private dinner on the Zambezi River.

From Victoria Falls we journeyed to our first camp in the bush, Selinda Camp, located in the Linyanti Reserve in Botswana. We weren’t sure what to expect of the tented camp, but we never thought we would have such fabulous service and conveniences.

The game viewing at Selinda Camp was astounding. Our guide was very knowledgeable and we felt completely comfortable while driving about in the open-top Land Rover.

We spent the bulk of one afternoon watching a pride of lions, consisting of two males, five females and 15 cubs. On another afternoon, we were fortunate enough to watch three lions herd a mass of buffalo down a valley. With large open floodplains and acacia and mopane woodlands, the Linyanti Reserve offered a feast of viewing delights.

Okavango Delta

The last few days of our honeymoon safari were spent at Chief’s Camp, located in the Okavango Delta. Upon arrival, we were led on raised walkways to our tent, which was also raised. With sensational views overlooking the majestic plains, our tent afforded us some fabulous viewing moments. After unpacking, we explored the camp and familiarized ourselves with the area.

Lion at Duma Tau.

That evening, as the sun began to set, we sat at our own private game-viewing deck and enjoyed a sundowner of gin and tonic, which turned out to be truly memorable. Right after we had toasted to an exceptional honeymoon, a huge elephant stepped out of the bush. We watched in fascination as he gracefully raised his trunk to a tree and felt around for the perfect branch to munch on. When he finished eating, he nonchalantly strolled away.

Of course, this wasn’t our only experience with a wild elephant. We were fortunate enough to view an abundance of them while on game drives and even had an up-close-and-personal experience when a large male took a profound interest in our Range Rover. While we had a little fright, our guide didn’t seem to be shaken by the experience. His confidence and wealth of knowledge made our bush experience invaluable.

Beyond belief

For us, this honeymoon was a life-changing experience, one which is difficult to put into words. The sheer majesty of the diverse lands we were so fortunate to visit, the overwhelmingly luxurious accommodations and the great care and respect we were given by our guides and Leora Rothschild surpassed any preconceived notions we had.

We spent a total of 12 days in Africa, and we are already planning our second honeymoon for Kenya and Tanzania. Including internal flights, our honeymoon safari cost approximately $7,000 per person, but the experience was priceless.