The Honeymooners, Africa I

Africa. Initially, when I was planning where to go for our honeymoon, the top contenders were Maldives and Africa- beach or safari. In the end, I was more attracted to Africa, because it had a bit of everything: nature, beauty, and adventure.

I had never experienced a safari but had many times been to other beach destinations. Africa (in my own fantasy) felt untainted, raw, and magical. I kept hearing from friends that choosing Africa would be “a once in a lifetime experience.” The only things we knew of Africa were from The Lion King and Discovery Channel. Sad but true. My husband’s primary question (not surprising) was, “Is it safe??!”

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Friends have asked me details on how we planned our trip to Africa, so I thought with this first Honeymoon post, I would share. Granted, it took us 8 months after our wedding to go on our trip, but the planning was not what took so long. Planning your trip will take a solid couple of months to do- these were two months of energy I did not have while planning our wedding.

Don’t forget to check back for continued honeymoon posts II and III from Africa. I’m finally getting around to editing our photos! 🙂

Planning our trip

I used an amazing travel agency which I highly recommend, Africa Odyssey. Reasons why you may want to use a travel agent to book in Africa:

  • If you are looking for a curated or tailored experience that is personal and unique.
  • Imagine the coordination involved in planning when you need small planes and connections to get to your final safari destination. The airports are not sophisticated or high tech the way we’re used to here in the States. Besides, service members speak little to no English. Having someone else book it all for you is peace of mind!
  • We were going to more than one destination: safari then beach (see Africa III).
  • The experienced agency will recommend an array of lodges based on your budget and preferences. They will put together a unique itinerary with your goals in mind and answer any questions or concerns you may have. I trusted having experts from the area do this for us!
  • Africa Odyssey was impressively organized and prepared for our trip. It felt a bit like insurance.
  • We got a free bottle of wine as a gift on our last night in Ras Kutani 🙂 Who turns down free?!

Picking your region

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To be honest, I fell in love with a specific lodge from the start and had my heart set on planning our honeymoon around that lodge if we could. When I looked on Africa Odessey’s website, it provided thorough reviews by area and lodges within those areas. Also, over and over I kept hearing from past honeymooners that Singita was a well respected luxury safari operator.  My husband and I knew it would be a stretch to choose a Singita lodge, but we felt, what the heck, this would be worth it for our honeymoon! The delay in going on our honeymoon helped too. We were able to take our time to thoughtfully plan and save. Tip: ask when is peak season as it’s different by area. Peak season doesn’t correlate to weather but animal sightings instead. I suggest going at peak season to get the most out of your safari!

You may have heard or seen that South Africa is popular right now for safaris but the landscape is different. Just as each state in the U.S. has different landscapes, sights, and history, Africa has much to offer too. You may have a preference for wine country or city exploration after your safari so South Africa may be your best choice. My husband and I wanted to feel a bit more secluded, into the wild, and we were only interested in a safari since we were coming from Amsterdam. You could plan your trip to migrate down to South Africa but an extra flight after flying 19 hours to already was not appealing to me. We met a couple at our lodge, Faru Faru, from South Africa who owned their own boutique travel agency.  They had been many times to safaris in South Africa and compared the two destinations for us since we were curious. The big difference between the region of South Africa and Tanzania was that South Africa had bush land whereas Serengeti had open grass land. To them,

“There is something special about being out in the open like this.”

We were happy to hear that we made the right choice for our first African safari experience by choosing Faru Faru in Serengeti.

Where to stay

As I mentioned before, I fell in love with Faru Faru immediately when I saw it on the website.  Faru Faru is located in northern Tanzania on a private game reserve in the Serengeti called The Grumeti. It’s website boasts,

“Built on a gently sloping hill, this riverine lodge, positioned on the renowned migratory route, is a place where you can quite literally expect the unexpected.”

This would have to be the most luxurious and awe-inspiring place we’ve ever stayed (and probably ever will?)! From the service (we had our own butler named Watson, best name ever) to the decor, Faru Faru enchanted me daily. I loved looking at all the details and spent quite a bit of time doing this after they led us to our room.  I was so in love with the decor that I decided Faru Faru would be the inspiration behind our condo’s guest room! Clean, natural, neutral, comfortable.

Created with Cycloramic by Egos Ventures

There are two beautiful pools, several places for relaxation, and a beautiful library room. You will enjoy 360 degrees of scenic views outdoors while having breakfast, lunch or dinner. Faru Faru consists of only 9 lodges to keep your experience intimate. Each room sits along the Grumeti River. You sometimes feel as if you’re the only couple there as you rarely see others. As a social introvert, this place was perfect.

At darkness, a 24-hour guards with a rifle must (it’s a rule) accompany you to and from your bedroom.

When they told us this rule, that probably was the only time during the trip my husband’s heart beat a little faster. Oh wait, there was this night when he was showering outdoor and heard howling. He ran so fast into the room locking the door behind him that I thought he actually saw something climb up onto our deck. HAHA 🙂

Game Drives

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Now, let the games begin.

Since Faru Faru sits within a private game reserve, we had an open jeep with free-range access while roaming the land. That meant our jeeps could go off-roading and our views were not obstructed. Our guide mentioned that safaris operating on public lands are not allowed to off-road into private reserves. They must stay on the main access route or in the designated parks, which are very crowded with other vehicles. Thus, searching for animals may not be as easy. Most public safaris use closed jeeps as well, not something I would recommend.

There are two game drives a day, 6:30 AM and 4:30 PM.

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My favorite moments were after the game drives.  Our guide, Edward, would find a different and gorgeous location each time for us to have our coffee and biscuits in the morning or wine (whiskey if I’m feeling frisky) in the evening during sunset. It was sweet. He would stop and then set up with his cool table (tablecloth and glassware included!) that attaches to the front of the jeep. By the way, this was also the safest time for us to use the restroom in a bush if we needed to. I think that was the only “roughing it” we did on this trip.

There was this one night we ended up on a gorgeous ridge and when we looked up, the sun was setting. When we looked down, the elephants were trumpeting with their tusks up in the air.

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We felt 5 days of game drives was the perfect amount of time for us. Even though we loved every bit of it, we had saw all the animals we set out to see and was ready to move on!

To be continued… more photos of our game drives in upcoming post The Honeymooners, Africa II. 

Check out our Instagram, #TeamMilanMoon

 Photos taken with Nikon D40 and iPhone 5s

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