With weddings postponed and honeymoons cancelled, your big day and perhaps more importantly, that once-in-a-lifetime getaway you had planned with your new partner is looking entirely different…

Whether you’re planning a virtual celebration or looking ahead to later this year, the reality is no one knows when South Africa’s borders will be opened up and when international travel will return, where we will be able to go, and what restrictions we will face when we get there.

However, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. We’ve recently seen a few freedoms return with game reserves reopen to private self-drive safaris and over the next months we can be sure that local travel opportunities are going to make a comeback before international travel resumes. That’s why I’m thinking local when it comes to my next getaway.

Before lockdown I was lucky enough to escape with my partner for a weekend getaway to the bush at Garonga and it was such a special, romantic trip that it got me thinking, just what should you look for when planning the perfect local honeymoon or romantic South African stay?

Here are a few of my favourite things:

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1.     Rain dew on knob-thorns and whiskers on kittens

While the area around Garonga rarely sees rain, being part of the Greater Makalali Private Nature Reserve west of the Kruger National Park, South Africa, there is nothing quite as wonderful and romantic as heading out on a cold, dewy morning with the rising sun.

Cuddled up next to my partner under a blanket, I sighed in happiness as the bright red ball rose over the bushveld, illuminating those iconic knob-thorns and providing that warm glow that only a true bush sunrise can provide.

And when a motley band of lion cubs graced my morning game drive, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for the rest of the day. When lockdown is over, I can’t think of a better way to revive the soul than spending a holiday in South Africa surrounded by nature and wildlife.

Sleep out honeymoon
(Image by Janine Avery)

2.     Cream coloured tents and crisp comfy linens

In my mind, nothing says romance quite like a tented safari camp in the African bush. During my time at Garonga, the tent acted like a cocoon. Somewhere I could escape just with my partner and emerge feeling refreshed, revived and ready to face the world again.

I washed the worries of my city life away in the outdoor shower and listened to the sounds of the birds and monkeys chattering away in the trees on the hammock. What bliss! And one night, when we craved adventure, I got to experience one of the most romantic nights of my life. High up in the treetop canopy, with a zillion starts overhead and no one else around, we enjoyed a sleep out night on a lavishly decorated four poster bed overlooking a waterhole in the middle of the reserve. When the world returns to some semblance of normal, I couldn’t think of a better place to self-isolate on honeymoon than on a star bed in the wilderness!

Walking safari
(Image by Janine Avery)

3.     Bright copper kettles and warm homemade dishes

One thing that I need on holiday, a honeymoon of course being no exception, is someone to cater for me. I don’t feel like cooking, and I definitely don’t feel like cleaning, nor do I honestly feel like even deciding where I am going to eat that night.

That’s what makes a safari honeymoon at a place like Garonga, just my cup of tea. I delighted in freshly brewed coffee and homemade rusks in the early mornings while evening meals showcased local produce traditionally braaied in the Boma or served overlooking the dry river bed on the deck.

What’s also fantastic about a place like this is that all this, even with unlimited booze thrown in for good measure, is that it’s all included in the price. There’s nothing worse than spending your honeymoon counting pennies. Here I could just pour myself another Amarula from the self-help bar and count my blessings while listening out for any night time bush visitors!

(Image by Janine Avery)

4.     Not worrying about flying with the moon up above

With the world looking at advanced measures to secure safety of travellers on flights, the aviation looks to be a scary one with PPE equipment, quarantine measures and increased prices the order of the day.

That’s why when I’m allowed to travel, I’ll be looking to a local holiday in South Africa where I can drive myself to my destination and not worry about flying. I easily drove myself to Garonga from Pretoria which is around a five-and-a-half-hour drive with much of it being very scenic.

And upon arrival in the late afternoon there was no better way to relax the muscles than settling down in the star bath outdoors where a man-made galaxy cave blended into the night sky. Can you think of a better way to spend your honeymoon because I sure can’t!

(Image by Janine Avery)
(Image by Janine Avery)