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Honeymoon - South Africa

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Hi! I am planning a 13 day honeymoon in August and had a few questions I was hoping someone could help me with. So far I have been contemplating doing 3 days in capetown, 4 days in londolozi in kruger, 2 days in victoria falls, 1 night johannesburg and 3 nights in benguerra or mauritius. I had the following questions

1) Botswana - As I have done more research it sounds like Botswana is a must do destination for a different safari experience: national park - more wild animals, more elephants, etc. Also it looks like a different safari style with tents etc. I'm specifically looking at &beyond okavango safari. So I am debating of cutting kruger to 3 days and cutting out victoria falls to fit in botswana. Is this a good idea? Is victoria falls a must see? Is it going to be a logistically nightmare to add Bostwanna to the trip. How should I structure my trip to make this the most efficient?

and 2) My travel agent keeps telling me benguerra is much better than Mauritius but I cant figure out why except for the secluded nature of the island. Is benguerra that much nicer? I'm not a scuba diver so don't care about that. Would like to do snorkeling and some water sports. Maybe go to some private islands.

Thanks in advance for the help!

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    Cape Town is winter can be cold and rainy, Joburg is better but can be very cold early mornings and evenings, cold enough for a coat. Mauritius is not at it's best during the winter months, it could be too cold for swimming. The water levels in Vic Falls are lowest in the winter months but depends, sometimes there is still alot of water some years and you get a better view without all the spray.

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    How awesome that you have chosen to honeymoon in Africa and one of the Indian Ocean islands! It seems these days everybody knows somebody who has recently been on a honeymoon safari and most honeymoon itineraries include three of the components you mention: Cape Town, safari and a beach destination

    Botswana I would recommend skipping as I think the private reserves in the Greater Kruger will deliver better overall game-viewing in a short amount of time on safari, ie a 3-4 night stay. That being said, you should consider options in the private reserves in and around Kruger where you either get a honeymoon special, for significant savings like &Beyond properties offer, or another special like free nights at a sister property in Cape Town like More Hotels parent company of Lion Sands and Cape Cadogan/More Quarters offer. This will simply stretch your budget and get you better value for money. There are some wonderful tented options in South Africa although not nearly as many as in Botswana. (&Beyond’s Ngala Tented camp is a great option in a private concession in the Kruger National Park.) The abundance of tented camps in Botswana vs in South Africa has a lot to do with how the tourism industry is structured in Botswana based on a low volume, low impact, high cost tourism model. The safari companies can only obtain 15 yr leases from the Botswana government and must build camps and lodges with a very small footprint and this only after passing a stringent Environmental Impact Assessment. This coupled with a short timeline, the max 15 yr lease time frame, to make back their return on investment makes for simpler more rustic camps in Botswana that are tented vs. brick and mortar construction for the most part, some of which you will find in Chobe National Park for example. Although the keeping up with the Joneses has been a race between many safari camp portfolios for the last 20+ yrs, which might make one question if said structures bigger than most NYC apartments, on raised walkways, with copper tubs and private plunge pools can really be called “tents” at all! They do have canvas in the construction and thus qualify!

    Botswana is in peak season in August and you will pay top dollar traveling there June-Oct. Botswana has also gotten huge rains whilst South Africa still has many areas of the country in a drought. The expected floods coming in from the Angolan highlands that drain into the Okavango, the world’s largest inland delta, are also expected to be huge. It’s hard to say the impact it will have on game-viewing but at present some runways to the camps in Botswana are underwater completely. I would put my money on a better safari experience in South Africa this August unless you go to one of the camps on Chiefs Island like Mombo or Chiefs in the Moremi Reserve, which are also top dollar! Botswana’s rates are in USD and South African camps are in ZAR (South African Rand) with the exception of perhaps MalaMala, which now also lists ZAR rates. Just another factor to consider.

    Victoria Falls can be included, and there is a flight from Livingstone, Zambia (the Zambian side of the Falls) to the Kruger Mpumalanga Airport (aka Nelspruit), which makes it combine well with a Kruger area safari. So it’s a matter of the order and routing of the itinerary to maximize logistics and in this way you can completely skip an overnight in Johannesburg, which in my opinion is a dud especially for a honeymoon. Have you been to Iguazu? If so, Victoria Falls may be anticlimactic is what I have heard from travelers who have been to both. If you have not been to another great waterfall, like Angel Falls in Venezuela or Niagara, then you will love it no doubt. It is impressive regardless and unique due to the abundant wildlife in the area and national parks that flank the Zambezi River on both the Zimbabwe and Zambian side just upstream from the Falls themselves. In August, you should also be able to do (water levels dependent) a trip to Livingstone Island (lunch is the best option of the various trips offered as it will give you the longest time on the island) and possibly even a swim in Devil’s Pool, which I was not brave enough to go in but for many people it’s a highlight to the Falls! From Livingstone Island, arguably you have the absolute best view of the Falls as you are literally right at the edge of the Falls!

    Now for the beach, the properties on Benguerra definitely offer more privacy and exclusivity than Mauritius, which is far more commercial and where all the resorts are huge! I often describe the resorts on the islands off the coast of Mozambique as safari lodges on the beach, as they tend to be individual chalets that are typically beachfront. There are no high rise hotels and another factor to consider is again the logistical ease of combining Benguerra with a Kruger safari. There is a direct flight from the aforementioned Kruger Mpumalanga Airport (Nelspruit) to Vilanculos, the access point to the Bazaruto Archipelago and Benguerra island, making it easy to connect same day possibly even enjoying a game drive at your lodge or camp in the morning in Greater Kruger and finding yourself on the beach just a few hours later. Going to Mauritius will require a flight from Kruger early enough to connect with the 130pm direct flight out of Johannesburg or a forced overnight in Johannesburg. The resorts on Benguerra both offer honeymoon specials, there are two, Azura Benguerra and &Beyond Benguerra, which again will give you great value for money. Both include many activities are full board and include most drinks also. The service and attention to detail will be so much more personalized and honestly perfect for a honeymoon trip than being in a big resort in Mauritius. Your agent is giving you good advice in telling you Benguerra is better than Mauritius.

    One more thing to consider is that the South African Rand has been gaining strength against the USD quite rapidly in the last few months and even in the last few days, so to get the best value for money, I’d suggest locking in your honeymoon safari sooner than later. You should also ask your agent to quote you in ZAR for the South African portion to be sure the costs are accurate and you are paying based on the current Rate of Exchange when you make deposit and final payments.

    You are definitely on the right track to an amazing and incredibly romantic honeymoon, where you will be totally spoiled. The only bad part will be that you won’t want to come home from Africa! Best of luck to you on fine tuning your honeymoon plans!

    Jeanie Fundora

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