On the Trail…
Majestic Mount Kilimanjaro, the spectacular Serengeti and neighbouring lion-filled Ngorongoro crater are just some of Tanzania’s natural treasures that attract honeymooners in their thousands every year.
For this trip of a lifetime, though, I opted to escape from the tourist hoards and head to the lesser-known South on an intimate and luxe safari and beach three-centre stay with The Selous Safari Company, starting at its Jongomero Camp in the beautiful, vast and remote Ruahu National Park.
Touching down on Jongomero’s private airstrip (following one long and two short plane journeys from London), we were welcomed most warmly by smiling staff and guides and delightful managers Molly and Noelle, who joined us in the dappled shade on the river bank for a delicious al fresco lunch and informal chat about the accommodation, facilities, location and activities. Oh, and not forgetting, what to do should you encounter any of the many giraffe, impalas, monkeys, elephants, hippos and even lions and occasionally leopards that wander freely around camp!
Tented Luxury with Elephant Views
Blending harmoniously into the unspoilt African Bush surroundings, there are just eight spacious luxury thatched tented camp houses, set on raised wooden platforms. Each tent is thoroughly charming, tastefully and traditionally decorated with a living area, large bathroom and comfortable eight-foot wide dhow wood emperor bed. If you or (more likely!) your new husband are a little scared of creepy crawlies, fear not, as you are completely and safely enclosed by the tent’s bug, lizard, spider and mosquito-proof canvas and netting, artfully arranged to afford all the privacy you might want, allow for cooling breezes to enter, yet still enable you to view any wildlife wandering outside.
Postcard Pretty Pool
A short, pleasant stroll towards the camp’s main thatch, which houses the dining room, bar and lounge, takes you past a postcard-pretty pool area, where you can cool down after a bush walk or game drive with a cocktail and even, as we did, witness elephants in the river below come right up to the raised pool and greet us with their waving trunks!
Perfect Hosts Catering for Every Need
Collected by a guide to walk safely by torchlight to drinks and dinner (essential after dark with large animals roaming freely between the tents), the hospitality at Jongomero is simply among the best I’ve experienced. Molly and Noelle and their staff are effortlessly charming, full of fascinating stories and good humour and the perfect hosts. You really do feel like part of the Jongo family in a very short time.
They are always mindful that some newlyweds might just wish to revel in their own company after all the stresses of the big day and its sometimes months of hectic preparation, while other couples might enjoy a mix of both – candlelit private gourmet dinners for two under the stars one night, and joining a table with other guests and hosts for a lively, fun dinner and safari tale or two another.
Bushwalks, Baboons and Bilboas
At Jongomero, you can be as active as you like, and if that means little more than relaxing by the pool with cocktails watching the wildlife walk by, that’s absolutely fine. Or, as I did, you can forgo a lie in and join a dawn bush walk or game drive to really experience the true African Bush and its wildlife first-hand, and learn from Molly and the camp’s other incredibly knowledgeable guide.
From termites to tembo (Swahili for elephant), their knowledge was inexhaustible and entertaining. Thanks to their many years’ experience, they knew just where to drive or lead us to witness one wildlife spectacle after another: elephants leading their babies to the river to bathe and drink, huge numbers of hippos wallowing, grunting and grumbling at each other, positively scary amounts of crocodiles, over 200 buffalo, and numerous impala, kudus, giraffe, zebra, baboons and other bush mammals and exotic birds.
Truly Escape by Fly Camping
For those honeymooners wanting to truly escape, Jongomero offers the opportunity to actually camp out in the bush for a night, well away from camp, with as many or as few luxuries and comforts as they wish and only the necessary guides at a discreet yet safe distance to ensure the wildlife doesn’t unduly alarm or disturb!
And on to Spectacular Selous
Sad to leave ‘Jongo’ but excited to see Selous, after a last wonderful, zebra-filled bush walk we boarded our light aircraft and headed East to Jongomera’s sister camp, the Selous Safari Camp. Set on the shores of picturesque Lake Nzerakera, close to the mighty Rufuji River, this camp enjoys a prime position in one of the most photogenic areas of the vast Selous Game Reserve and offers wonderfully romantic sunset boat safaris, enabling you to get up close and personal with hippos and crocodiles, and have perfect, uninterrupted views of the herds of elephant, zebra and wildebeest coming to the lake each day to drink.
A little larger than Jongomero, but still with a delightfully informal, intimate feel, Selous has 13 en-suite luxe, traditional thatched tents, each set on raised platforms with large verandahs, and artfully arranged along the lakeside to give both privacy and wonderful wildlife-filled views.
As at Jongomero, the tents are made up of canvas and secure mosquito nets, which keep all creepy crawlies out, allow cooling breezes to enter and still enable you to clearly see all the animals wander by. Beautifully appointed with traditional materials and furnishings, they feature the bonus of an open air hot-water shower.
Wonderful Views and Delicious Dining
The main camp boasts a spectacular main thatched building, set high on stilts with fantastic views of the lake and wildlife on its shores. Couples staying in either section of the camp can choose to take a romantic candlelit dinner in private under the stars, or totally escape for a night or two to dine and enjoy each other’s company as they camp alone with just a couple of guides to keep them safe from wandering large wildlife in the bush.
As with Jongomero, there are no fences to keep animals away from the camp, and they wander and graze in abundance right outside the individual tents and hospitality areas. Dining under the stars as majestic giraffes glide by just metres away is incredible. The meals are lovingly prepared, creative and delicious and the chefs most helpful and happy to cater for specific dietary requirements.
Wild Dogs, Big Cats and a Leopard Too
Selous is spectacular. To my absolute awe, we were taken to within just 10 metres of a pride of young lions who had just made a kill. The sight and sound of these majestic, wonderful animals in their natural environment was humbling indeed and something I will never forget.
Finally, as a memorable parting present, as we headed to the airstrip en route to our final destination, a beautiful leopard bounded by, glaring back at us with fierce golden eyes.
From Safari to the Sea
And so from safari to sea; we flew to the Indian Ocean coast for the third and final of the Selous Safari Camp destinations, Ras Kutani. Set on a long stretch of unspoilt beach and bordering a small fresh water lagoon, Ras Kutani is the place to end – or indeed start – what has to be a perfect honeymoon with The Selous Safari Company, full of wonderful memories, truly ‘once in a lifetime’ experiences and tales to share.
Barefoot Luxury, Perfect for Honeymooners
I stayed in one of nine charming white-washed cottages, constructed of natural, local materials, open at the front with views to the beach and ocean or lagoon. Each has its own large shady verandah and all the peace and privacy you may wish for, yet within just a short stroll of the pretty main hospitality area.
In addition to the cottages, and perched higher on the hillside amid tropical forest with stunning ocean views, are four luxury suites perfect for honeymooners. Each has their own private area, plunge pool and signature Sultan’s bed. For those honeymooning with their small family, there is a private hillside suite with two bedrooms separated by a large seating area.
Cocktails on the Beach under the Stars
After a day’s relaxation or beach activities, you can enjoy wonderful cocktails, relaxing in the lounge/bar area looking out to the beach and ocean below, and then, once the sun sets in, head down onto the sand where you’ll find an area has been arranged with soft, comfy seating and cushions and lit full of candles, just so you can enjoy your cocktails listening to the soothing sounds of the sea.
As with all of the Selous properties, the dining is excellent. Freshly caught local fish and shellfish, cooked to perfection, are a speciality for lunch or dinner.
To Book your own Honeymoon Safari…
Read Lisa’s top tips for a safari honeymoon here
Lisa Jayen Curtiss was hosted by The Selous Safari Company, selous.com and stayed at Jongomero Camp, Selous Safari Camp and Ras Kutani.
Kenya Airways offer daily flights and double daily flights at the weekend from Heathrow to Nairobi with daily onward connections to Dar Es Salaam. Prices start from £597 including tax. Book online at kenya-airways.com, 020 8283 1818.
Operating since 1987, Coastal Aviation is the preferred internal airline connecting Tanzania, and has extensive experience in air charter and scheduled flying safaris.
With a team of safari specialists on hand, W&O Travel Rainbow Tours arrange bespoke itineraries at competitive prices. Rainbow Tours is ATOL bonded. Rainbow Tours, rainbowtours.co.uk, 020 7226 1004 is offering a ten-night Tantalising Tanzania safari from £3280 per person (a saving of £350). Valid for selected departures in June 2011, the price includes flights from Heathrow (via Nairobi) with Kenya Airways, airport taxes, all scheduled light aircraft flights, and three nights each in stylish safari tents at Selous Safari Lodge and Jongomero Camp, with all meals and game activities, and four nights in a cottage at Ras Kutani with all meals.
*Book in 2010 for travel anytime in 2011 and receive a complimentary upgrade to a Upepo Suite with private plunge pool at Ras Kutani.