What to expect from a honeymoon safari

Have you always dreamed of going on a safari in Africa? So had we and so when we were considering where to go on our dream honeymoon, this was top of our list. Our honeymoon was not just on safari, but also a safari in the sense that we hopped about all over South Africa and Mauritius, which we loved.
There are so many incredible places to safari in Africa (hello Tanzania!) and given my love of wildlife and nature has come from my mum, who watches every Attenborough documentary and has always wanted to go on a safari, I wished I could take her with me. I don't think my new husband would have been up for it, though! I hope one day I will be able to take her on safari to fullfil her life long dream.

But, this trip was about celebrating our marriage and we wanted to combine a trip with culture, history, food (plenty!), cocktails (lots of!), and sharks (for the Carnivore who is obsessed) and so the natural choice for us was South Africa.

A fascinating place with a long and complex history, we were drawn to it like a moth to a flame. The more we read and researched, the more we wanted to jump on a plane right there and then. 
One of the first issues to consider when planning our visit was the time of year. South Africa’s seasons are the exact opposite to ours in the Northern Hemisphere, so we knew October to March would be the warmest but to coincide with our wedding at the end of August, we chose September. This being the start of their spring we imagined we’d have some good (but not boiling) weather but it also meant that, as it wasn't peak season, there was a benefit in availability and cost.
The second issue was choosing a lodge, as there are so many amazing ones to choose from in South Africa. We wanted something that offered luxury, privacy, romance and the BIG 5 as that is what we were there to see. Pumba Lodge just outside of Port Elizabeth offered all of this and more during the three days and nights we spent here.
Our private driver picked us up from the airport and drove us the hour to where our lodge was based. Half way into the journey we left the smooth highway and set off down a lane that was rather more bumpy but started to show us the dense wilderness that we would be calling home for a few days. 
Eventually we reached a large set of gates that looked like something out of the Jurassic Park films, which set the tone for what might lay beyond. I imagined lions and leopards jumping out at us from every direction but then my overactive imagination calmed down and on we went. 
Inside we were dropped at a mini lodge that had a comfortable waiting area with tea and coffee available. After a short wait we were then met by a gamekeeper who loaded our luggage and us into a jeep and told us that whenever we were away from our lodge or the communal area, we would need to be accompanied by a ranger as wild animals sometimes get into the resort. Gulp!
We drove through the park gates and caught our first glimpse of some of the amazing residents they have at Pumba. Wild Boar nestled beside the road in the scrubland and herds of gazelles grazed in the distance.
After what felt like quite a long drive, owing to the size of the park, we arrived at the Pumba lodge and it looked every inch the African dream. After a long journey to get there, we were excited to find open fires, luxurious sofas for relaxing in between game drives, and a beautiful restaurant with a verandah stretching right the way around the lodge, with perfect views out on the watering hole and the African bush.

We were checked in and shown by a ranger to where we would be staying for three blissful days before the next leg of our journey. We passed the gorgeous infinity pool on the way, where in the days to come we would often see elephants drinking from it!
There was an 8 foot bamboo fence around the parameter of the safari park which we were informed was to keep the big cats out but I thought did not seem entirely sufficient for keeping lions away! 
After a five minute walk we had reached our treehouse lodge, of which there were only a handful on the site. We were delighted to see that it was entirely private with large trees and gardens on all sides. As we set off down the path to our front door we could see that it was mostly glass, with it having full floor to ceiling windows on three sides, giving the most amazing views of the bush and wildlife all around us. 
Inside it was a 5* star dream with a swoon worthy enormous four poster bed in the centre of the room, with gauzy net curtains draped around it. Just to the side there was a woodburning stove for romantic evenings curled up watching the fire.

The bathroom was open plan and had the most amazing roll top bath, large two person shower and had double doors opening out onto an outdoor shower, where you could listen to the deafening roar of lions whilst showering in nature. 

The verandah ran around the front of our lodge offering superb views and our own private pool for when the sun shone in the middle of the day. It was really refreshing to come back from a game drive and take a quick dip whilst still watching elephants in the distance. 
As we'd arrived in the middle of the afternoon, we just had time for a quick freshen up before it was time to go out on our first game drive. The excitement ramped up a level, as did the nerves, as we changed into more appropriate clothing and called for a ranger to pick us up. Once we were back in the main lodge we met our ranger Stem, who was going to be looking after us for the duration of our trip. 
We hopped up into the enormous open top jeep and got our cameras and binoculars at the ready. After a scarily short drive outside of the lodge, we had our first encounter...a pride of lions! It was absolutely amazing to see how close they were to our lodge. Pumba is the only lodge to have white lions and cubs at that too, and it was amazing to see the adolescents playing whilst the females stalked their next meal. 
It was crazy how close we got to them and I must admit I got a bit nervous when we parked in the middle of the lionesses and their prey. But I could have sat and watched them for hours - every twitch of their mouths, blink of their eyes as they squinted against the sun and the way they lolled playfully onto their sides to rest.
A short drive up into the hills later and we found a handsome male with a full white mane yawning sleepily. I found out that lions sleep 22 hours a day so seeing them active is quite rare.

I could have spent all day staring at him but there was so much to see that we set off again on our adventure. Stem knew just how to track the animals by looking for footprints and dung and sure enough he found us an enormous herd of 14 elephants.

Elephants are so unbelievably majestic up close and seeing large male African elephants was even more impressive. They were in musk at the time and so trying to attract females, but also very aggressive, as they try to drive out other males. They challenged our jeep at times in some kind of crazy stand off, which set the heart racing!
We continued on our safari, scaling muddy hills and scanning the horizon for a sighting of animals, often hiding in unexpected places...
Is there anything cuter than baby elephants? Seeing them fresh born and with their mothers was just too adorable...
 This huge male lion was in touching distance from our jeep and we sat for a good while just watching him snooze. Until he opened his peepers and gave us a big roar to let us know who was boss....
 Before promptly going back to sleep....the males are notoriously lazy.
I have always been fascinated with big cats and so it was amazing to see lions and leopards in their natural habitat but being a herbivore myself, I did feel safer around these gentle giants.
There were so many giraffes hidden amongst the bush and tall trees. They blend in so well that you would hardly be able to see them at times.
 The sun shone out, long and low....
 Signifying it was time for sundowners....
We hoped that the lionesses weren't prowling around as we stepped down from the safety of the jeep and sipped on our delicious cocktails
During one safari we actually broke down and had to leave our jeep to walk through the African bush to reach a rescue van. That was a nerve wracking walk, I'll tell you.






We went out on safari twice a day, once at 6am as the animals were rising and hunting, and once at the end of the day, towards 5pm, as it approached dusk. In the mornings we would drive to a vantage point overlooking the plains for morning coffee (optional Irish style - wink wink) and pastries. In the evening we would have sundowners with wine or beer to sip on.
It was incredible knowing the animals were out there watching us, but here we were walking around and nibbling on yummy food as if we were on the Yorkshire moors!

 These zebra were beautiful but we saw one being hunted by a lion and despite every inch of me wanting to rescue it, we had to just watch. That's just nature I guess. Luckily it got away but not without a very nasty wound on its backside.






Every morning after we returned from safari we would have a big beautifully cooked breakfast and a nap, followed by a morning dip in our private pool. Sometimes we headed to the spa and had a bit of pampering too.
We'd then hang out on our deck looking out to see which animals were wandering around. One day we spotted a lone bull elephant metres from our balcony, there were also many monkeys on the verandah pinching our swim stuff, so we soon learnt not to leave them outside.
We were told that the week before a lioness had got into the enclosure and challenged a ranger, so that is why the escort to and from the room was so necessary.

After the early evening safari, we would freshen up in our enormous bathroom and go for a slap up three course meal at the restaurant followed by drinks around the Boma, or fire, to you and I.

To be honest we were so bushed from the early mornings, fresh air and after wedding come down, that we never lasted too long before we were back in our room watching the night sky come to life with the most amazing display of stars I think we have ever seen. Once our eyes were growing heavy, we climbed into our big squishy four poster bed and watched the embers go out on the open fire in our room. Magical.

As it was a day or so after our wedding, we were still very tired, so if we did it again it would be nice to go there refreshed to really take it all in. Also, we did get some quite variable weather at times whilst we were there, with it being early spring, so it would be nice to go in the peak season to really make the most of sunny days and outdoor dining.
All in all, our safari was everything we ever imagined it would be and more. It was full of adventure, romance, good food and memories we will hold for a lifetime. The perfect start to our honeymoon.

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