The best bush-and-beach honeymoon in southern Tanzania
Home to spectacular scenery, incredible wildlife and breathtaking beaches, southern Tanzania is a superb honeymoon destination for adventurous types looking to get off the beaten path. There are numerous parks, routes and places to stay – and every cazenove+loyd holiday is, of course, entirely tailor-made – but below you will find an example of an extraordinary honeymoon we can create if you would like to experience some of the best of East Africa’s bush and beach, away from the crowds. Combining adventure with romance and phenomenal wildlife viewing with pure relaxation, this itinerary includes the Swahili Coast, Selous Game Reserve, Ruaha National Park and Fanjove Island.
Ras Kutani, The Swahili Coast
Your honeymoon will begin with three nights at Ras Kutani, a romantic retreat on the Swahili Coast, which is a 10-minute charter flight south of Dar es Salaam. The nine beachside cottages and spacious hillside suites lie on the shores of the Indian Ocean and the pace is slow. This enchanting lodge is a wonderful place to unwind at the beginning of your holiday and recover from the wedding and journey.
The days here pass lazing on the sandy beaches, enjoying spa treatments and testing out an array of marine experiences – from snorkelling over a shipwreck to kayaking on the lagoon and watching baby turtles hatch (June to August). We can arrange barbecue lunches, sundowners in secluded spots or private dinners to make your stay extra special.
Siwandu, Selous Game Reserve
Soon it’s time to leave this paradise and head into the bush. Your first safari destination will be the Selous, a prime wildlife destination in southern Tanzania. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to exceptionally diverse wildlife, including more than half of Tanzania’s elephant population and the largest number of lions on the continent.
To get there, it’s a 10-minute flight from Ras Kutani to Dar, followed by a 45-minute hop to the Selous airstrip. Our favourite place to stay here is Siwandu, which lies in a palm grove beside Lake Nzerakera. This location ensures awe-inspiring game-viewing at all times, since it is an important water source for animals.
At Siwandu, you will sleep in a gorgeous tented suite, a comfortable bolthole for siestas and downtime. If available, we will book you into our preferred room in the South Camp, which is particularly private, has great vistas and a constant flow of game walking past. A huge advantage for honeymooners is that game drives at Siwandu begin later than at most lodges, usually taking place after breakfast.
There are many experiences on offer – from game drives and walks to fishing and boat cruises on the lake and the Rufiji River’s tributaries. These allow you to view animals and birds from a novel perspective. We also highly recommend going on a dawn walk, where you will track wildlife and learn about their habitat, after which you can plop into the refreshing swimming pool and spend an idyllic few hours there recharging your batteries.
If you’re interested in birding, stay in the camp for an afternoon to observe the many avian species that congregate around the trees surrounding the elevated dining room. In the past, we have set up a candlelit private dinner for two on the pontoon boat, which is a fantastic experience.
Jongomero, Ruaha National Park
After three nights at Siwandu, you will fly north-west to Ruaha National Park for the final three nights of your safari. From the airstrip, it’s a short drive to your next bush home: Jongomero. This isolated camp lies on the banks of a dry riverbed often frequented by animals as they search for water.
Game drives here are exciting and the rugged scenery is simply beautiful and its remote location means that you will not see other vehicles. You’ll be awestruck as you pass through a rolling, baobab-studded landscape inhabited by elephants, buffalo, giraffe, zebra, antelope, lions and leopards. The camp is very flexible and you decide each evening whether you would like to go on a game drive or guided walk the next day, or simply hole in and sleep off the post-wedding exhaustion in your cosy tented room.
At Jongomero, we strongly suggest a night fly-camping in your own private wilderness hideaway – possible between mid-June and November – during which you will enjoy a magical evening around the campfire and feast on a delicious bush dinner, before sleeping under the dome of a star-gazer tent. This is an experience you will never forget.
Fanjove Island, Songo Songo Archipelago
To reach this Robinson Crusoe island, it’s a two-hour flight from Ruaha to Dar es Salaam, then a 55-minute flight to Songo Songo, followed by a five-minute tuk-tuk ride and finally a 45-minute dhow (sailboat) to Fanjove. The journey is all part of the adventure and it is well worth it for the privilege of spending four nights on a private island encircled by powdery shores and warm, gin-clear waters.
With just six bandas, this exclusive lodge can sleep a maximum of 12 guests. The rustic-chic rooms are designed to resemble a traditional East African dhow, constructed with wood, bamboo and coconut leaves and overlooking your own corner of Indian Ocean heaven.
Fanjove may be a tiny isle but there is plenty to keep you occupied when you have had enough of reading or snoozing in a deckchair. You will be given a Treasure Island-style map on arrival and it’s fun to use it to explore on foot. It takes about an hour to walk around the whole island when the tide is low, and there are a few interesting stops en route, including an atmospheric, 125-year-old lighthouse, various secret coves and bird hides. You will spot myriad resident and migratory birds here – cattle and dimorphic egrets, Madagascar bee-eaters, African palm swifts and black-headed weavers to name a few. There are also abundant butterflies and crabs, including the gigantic coconut crab.
A highlight of any stay here is a dolphin- or whale-watching outing, where, if you’re lucky, you will spot humpback whales and bottlenose and witness spinner dolphins dancing around the boat. It’s even possible to don a mask and snorkel and swim with them. The snorkelling and diving here are excellent. The 11km coral reef east of the island harbours vibrant fish, such as sweetlips, butterflyfish and angelfish, hawksbill and green turtles, octopuses and other marine creatures.
On one evening, we can arrange for you to have sundowners at the top of the lighthouse, with phenomenal views over the Indian Ocean, and on another, a sunset dhow cruise, followed by a sumptuous private dinner of fresh fish on a secluded beach beneath a star-blanketed sky.
As you sail away from Fanjove after four nights, and begin your journey home, you will inevitably be sad to leave but the memories of your extraordinary honeymoon will remain with you forever.
Elephant lovers should travel to southern Tanzania in August or September when the palm fruits are in season.