Amy Fetzer and Will Rowberry spent their honeymoon blissed out on a beach in Mauritius before jetting off for some game spotting at three luxurious camps in the Botswana bush.
As the sky turned gold and a giraffe silhouetted the horizon, we clinked glasses, confident we had chosen the perfect honeymoon. Although we were looking for white sands and turquoise seas, we also wanted adventure and for us the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius and an African safari ticked all the right boxes. Our resort, Paradise Cove, had romance in abundance with Balinese-style décor and understated elegance. Our suite overlooked the resort’s private beach and peninsula and it wasn’t long before drinking champagne on the balcony overlooking the moonlit cove became a nightly routine.
For the first few days we were so busy lounging in one of the hotel’s ‘love nests’ that we only managed to swim and kayak in cleverly landscaped seclusion, revelling in the illusion that we had our very own beach. However, once we’d caught our breath, we took advantage of the free water-skiing, windsurfing and snorkelling.
Keen to explore the rest of the island, we booked a guided hike in the Black River Gorges, so-called because of the river of escaped slaves that once flowed into the mountains. Our enthusiastic guide, Rudi, lead us through the forest pointing out indigenous wildlife and vegetation as well as fabulous mountain, waterfall and sea views.
Next up was the Hindu temple at Grand Bassin – a sacred lake – and on another day we explored Eureka, an old Creole country house built in 1830, eating at Le Ravin, a restaurant run by one of the island’s most famous chefs. Knowing it was our honeymoon, they set up a table for us right next to the ravine, just above several impressive waterfalls.
We could have stayed in Mauritius for ever but, after a week, Africa beckoned. We had just enough time for a whistle-stop trip of Johannesburg before flying on to Botswana. The safari started as soon as the tiny six-seater plane was airborne when we spotted herds of elephant grazing below and, as it touched down, a troupe of baboons ran alongside the airstrip. By the time we had arrived at Sandibe Lodge, our first camp in the Okavango Delta, we’d also seen giraffes and monkeys.
We quickly adapted to lodge life – up before dawn for a light breakfast and a three-hour game drive. Then it was back to camp for brunch – a mammoth meal of exquisite salads, speciality breads and cooked breakfasts, after which we’d retire to our room for a glorious outdoor shower in the sunshine, a dip in the pool and a nap. At 3.30pm, there was high tea followed by the evening game drive before returning to the lodge for dinner under the stars with the other guests.
Watching the sun go down over the bush with our drinks was always a high point, although one evening we happily forfeited our cocktails to watch a nail-biting chase as three lionesses prowled the bush looking for stray buffalo.
Another night, after a romantic meal at a private table for two, we returned to our cabin to find it lit by hundreds of flickering tea lights and decorated with fresh flowers that Mareko, our butler, had strewn throughout to welcome us home. It was a magical end to a magical evening.
After three days at Sandibe, we flew to Nxabega. Further up the delta, it was a thrilling flight over a river-swirled landscape of bathing hippos. The drill was the same at Nxabega, but this time we were staying in a tent with an interior to rival any five-star hotel.
We drifted to sleep to a chorus of hippos grunting at the water’s edge. The next morning we were in their territory as we zoomed around the delta in a motorboat, overtaking crocodiles and watching the sunset turn the water liquid gold. Another day we spent a relaxing few hours punting through the reed waterways in a canoe looking for pretty, painted reed frogs as the morning sun glinted prettily off the water. We returned to camp at the end of the day to be greeted by Dinar, our butler, on our veranda with a hamper of food, a beautifully laid table and a tin bath full of bubbles for an outdoor bath in the African sun. Bliss!
After two nights at Nxabega, we flew to Jack’s Camp in the Kalahari Desert.This quirky time-capsule-of-a-camp is kitted out in the style of 1940s East Africa, but despite the vintage feel with four-poster beds and antique furniture, there’s every modern-day luxury, including running water and flush toilets. At Jack’s we spent our days enjoying the stunning scenery, racing across the salt pans on quad bikes and revelling in the silence and solitude of the desert, as well as taking bush walks with the San people, marvelling at their unusual clicking language and ability to survive in the harsh conditions of the desert.
When it was time to fly home, we could hardly bear to leave, yet we knew we had gathered a kaleidoscope of amazing memories that would keep us smiling for years to come.
Rainbow Tours (020 7226 1004, www.rainbowtours.co.uk) offers seven nights half-board in a deluxe room at Paradise Cove, one night at The Grace in Rosebank in South Africa and five nights fully-inclusive in two CCAfrica lodges in the Okavango Delta from £3195 per person, including flights and transfers. A two-night fully-inclusive stay at Jack’s Camp costs from £990.
10 hours to Mauritius; 12 hours to Botswana.
Temperatures in Botswana range between 20°C and 30°C while Mauritius has year-round sunshine with temperatures varying between 22°C in winter and 34°C in summer.