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Eloping/Honeymooning in Africa

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In May, my fiance and I will be spending 4 days in Cape Town, where we will elope. Then we plan on spending 5 days in Botswana on safari at the Eagle Island Lodge.

We'd like to add a third leg to the trip but are a bit torn. He wants to go up north on a gorilla trekking expedition in Uganda. I'm afraid that it may be a bit dangerous in the region. Also, 5 days gorilla trekking right after a safari may be too exhausting.

I'd prefer to spend a few days on the beach in Mauritius, Seychelles, or Mozambique.

We've had other friends tell us that it's a lot of traveling and we'll likely lose at least 1/2 day in traveling between nations during each transfer. Any thoughts?

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    Congrats on your wedding. So he's an adventurer and you're a beach person.

    Uganda for gorillas is not anymore dangerous than the rest of your trip. I have gone numerous times and would go again in a heartbeat. It is safer now than some of the times I've gone in the past.

    Five days will give you time to get to Uganda, get to Bwindi, do 1 or 2 treks (and I'd do 2 if you've made the effort and paid the fixed costs to get there) and depart.

    You might be able to save some time in transit if you chose to do the gorilla tracking in Rwanda instead of Uganda. but your friends are right that you'll lose minimum a half day, more like a whole day in transit if you add gorillas.

    You requested thoughts.

    If you will likely return to Africa, then save gorillas for when you are farther north.

    Seeing the gorillas is a tremendous and magical experience, so if you have the chance to do it and likely won't have another chance, then go for it.

    If you have beaches at home, the spend your limited safari time not on the beach.

    Honeymooning in Africa will likely make you yearn to return many more times. That can be good or bad.

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    You can go to the beach anywhere on the planet. I would spend more time on safari - you can't get the experience anywhere else. If your budget allows, I would go to a safari area that has rhino (Botswana has VERY few). I am concerned that we might be the last generation that gets to see them in the wild. The private reserves around Kruger are excellent. For a bit of adventure, try a self drive safari in Kruger National Park, staying in nice accommodations and driving yourself around searching for creatures (or combine private reserve and NP). It's an easy combo with Botswana - a lot of us have done it.

    You could combine fun, beach and wildlife in my favorite town of St Lucia in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park on the east coast, north of Durban. So much to do, so much fun. See www.stluciasouthafrica.com for activities available, including horseback riding on the beach and safari, kayak with hippos, all water activities, excellent snorkeling. So much more. If you want fun, stay in a condo or guest house in St Lucia. If you want exclusivity try Rocktail or Thonga.

    Why is Uganda dangerous? I haven't heard anything lately unless you are LGBT (please avoid if you are!). Rwanda is also an option for gorillas and stable. Rated the fastest growing economy in 2015. Mozambique is significantly more unstable than either. Seychelles and Mauritius are also far and you will lose a lot of time traveling.

    Congratulations. Pretty exciting!

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    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

    Congrats on your upcoming union! You already are experiencing the art of marital negotiation and compromise :) The good thing here is that when it comes to Africa, no matter what you end up deciding, you will be so pleased and it will be so special regardless!

    Truthfully, there are so many options. Trekking for gorillas is unbelievable and if you think you will never get back to Africa, then I'd do that. It is more arduous than sitting on the beach but you can beach anymore really. You don't indicate how set in stone your plans are thus far, but you may want to start with this though if that's at all possible.

    Alternatively, the private reserves around Kruger such as Sabi Sand and Timbavati would be an excellent choice as well. You will get the rhino viewing as Christabir suggest and it will give you a different ecohabitat to experience. It would make for a nice balance to the trip. If you go this route, we are all happy to tell you great lodges to check out and in all budgets. I would probably not be in favor of a self-drive in Kruger. It can be a bit of hit and miss and it works well for those that can frequent it. Perhaps on a return trip but not as a honeymoon. Just my opinion though..

    I agree with Christabir that Kwazulu-Natal would make a great choice. This area of South Africa would give you the best of both worlds and thus the compromise you just might be looking for. I highly recommend Phinda Private Game Reserve. This reserve is wonderful with its 7 different ecosystems, great lodging choices and superb service. Very romantic too! I would recommend either Vlei Lodge or Forest Lodge (located in one of the last sand floor forests in the world). And you are just a road transfer from the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Sodwana Bay where you can enjoy the activities Christabir points out and more! Three nights in Phinda and 2 to 3 nights at Thonga or Rocktail would be a great finale to your special journey together. You can fly into Durban or Richard's Bay and road transfer to Phinda.

    It would be helpful to know what's set in stone and what isn't as well as where you fly in at the start of your trip and where you fly out at the end to assist with an efficient route of flights but the above are just a few ideas to fuel your thoughts.

    Enjoy!

    Celebrating new beginnings in 2016,
    Dianne
    Africa Direct USA

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    Hi There,

    All good comments above!

    Here are a few things to keep in mind. I am not sure where you are from but if you are from the northern hemisphere/USA you will be going home to summer when you get back which makes the need to visit the beach even less. The beaches in Southern Africa will have great weather in May but you could get some cooler days the later your dates get into the year (June/July is “winter”). With that said, no matter what beach you decide to go to, unless you go to Vilanculos (Benguerra Island, Villa Sontorini, Azura Vamizi) in combination with a Kruger area safari, you will almost certainly need to stop for the night in Jo’burg or somewhere else to get from safari to the beach. This will indeed cost you 24 hours.

    How can you get from safari to the beach with no overnight? There is a non-stop flight from the Kruger (MQP) to Vilanculos (VNX) several times per week and this makes it VERY convenient to wake-up in the bush on game drive and be at the beach by the afternoon.

    If you did indeed want to gorilla trek, which I highly recommend, then I think you should consider Rwanda. After the Botswana safari (or Kruger area) you can overnight at the Jo’burg airport (Intercontinental is best in my opinion and experience) and then take the 830am flight to Kigali/KGL. When you land it will be early afternoon so you can proceed directly to the Virunga Mountains (Sabyinyo is best in my opinion and experience). You can conduct your first gorilla safari/hike/trek the next morning. You can do your second hike next day (after night 2 in Rwanda) and actually fly home that night if you needed to. When I have clients fly out the same night as a gorilla trek I simply have their guide insure that they trek to see a close family (less walking in/out) during the process in the morning when all the guides get together at Park HQ to determine what trekkers go into what groups of 8. Note, it rains almost every day up in the Mountains so, whenever you go you will get wet and muddy on the trek. But, May is one of the rainiest months of the year. The luxury property I recommended, Sabyinyo, has rain gear and gaiters so you don’t need to bring your own.

    OK, now it is time to address Eagle Island! I think the property is quite nice and just got a total overhaul. But, did your agent tell you they don’t have Land Rovers/Land Cruisers? All activities are by boat, pontoon, or canoe. It is a quintessential Delta camp but not a camp where you will likely see any big cats or much other mega-fauna. Five nights is, in my opinion, way too long to stay at any camp and there so perhaps consider splitting your time between Eagle Island and its sister properties of Savute Elephant or Khwai River. Also, May is peak flood time in the Delta so the water level will be at its annual high. I have been to Eagle Island in May and it is super wet.

    For a one-camp safari in Botswana I recommend Mombo so maximize chances of seeing big five but note they don’t have water activities. You could combo Mombo with Vumbura Plains or Jao (2 nights max) to get the water experience. I have been to the majority of the four and five star camps in Botswana. On one visit, I chartered a helicopter in MAY and landed at over 30 camps in 10 days, and conducted 20+ game drives. I got a good feel for water levels that time of year. Chief’s would be a good choice in May but it is going through a total refurb in 2016 and won’t reopen until June 1.

    If you did go with the Kruger option, you may want to consider combining Ngala Tented with Benguerra Island. Both properties are owned by &Beyond and they have a very aggressive honeymoon bride discount. We book a ton of honeymoon clients on this special offer. Of course, there are a ton of other great choices and if budget is not an issue you can consider Singita Boulders or Ebony as well. You can still fly from Nelspruit/MQP non-stop to Vilanculos/VNX if you do that and have safari and beac.

    Ok – this should be enough to keep you busy researching.

    Good luck.

    Craig Beal

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    Anna - I just want to reassure you that there are much more affordable lodges than suggested above. You didn't mention a budget, so I don't want you to be dissuaded from any of the locations mentioned by those high priced accommodations. I go inexpensively, but there are lodges available in all price ranges, not just the highest end. Yes, safari is pretty expensive but doesn't have to break the bank.

    No matter what/where you choose, you are going to LOVE it. Changed my life.

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    Hi Anna,

    I looked at your post history and noted you went on what you described as a luxury trip to Russia. If you do want more affordable options in Botswana let us know! Keep in mind, based on my personal experiences on many trips to Botswana in every season, you will see less animals at any other camp than Mombo or Chiefs. So, if doing a stand-alone Botswana safari, I will always suggest these too first (if they are open). Another much lower cost good one-camp safari option is Shinde.

    Craig Beal

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    It is a lot of traveling but you would never regret going to see the gorillas, a truly great experience and I never felt unsafe.
    If you looking for something a bit closer together then Cape Town, Kruger & Mozambique are a great combination.
    Sandy - Love Africa Travel

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    Thank you to everyone who responded! We decided that it's best to set aside a Gorilla trek for another trip. A friend of ours who works in travel PR recommended a tour organizer who was able to get us a great rate at Singita Ebony and Sweni lodges. It ended up being only slightly more per night than the Eagle Island Lodge. Everything I've read said it's worth it to stay at Singita.

    Now we're just deciding on a beach destination. Top contenders are the &Beyond in Mozambique vs Four Seasons or Raffles in Seychelles vs Oberoi or Constance in Mauritius. Oberoi is the best "deal", but it feels that it's a bit like Hawaii and too touristy. &Beyond seems nice but it's double the price of the FS in Seychelles and 4x as much as Oberoi.

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    Hi AnnaBanana1!

    Certainly getting to coastal Mozambique or the islands off Mozambique would be easier logistically. As noted earlier, there are flights several times a week from Kruger (MQP) to Vilanculos (VNX) which make the transfer a lot easier than the Seychelles or Mauritius.

    I am a huge fan of AndBeyond's Benguerra property. It is stunning and offers incredible beauty, accommodations, service, food etc IF you can bear the price tag. Have you taken a look at Azura? Their Benguerra property as well as Quilalea are both beautiful There's also White Pearl's Ponta Mamoli and Coral Lodge 1541. All of these are also quieter and more intimate places to stay.

    There are specials to look into - particularly of interest would be Honeymoon packages when often the bride can get a 50% off discount. I know that Azura Quilalea has a Stay6/Pay5 dscount. Not sure how long you plan on going and if you'd like some assistance checking availability etc, please ask.

    Happy to help!
    Dianne
    Africa Direct USA

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