Charlie and Ben – Real Honeymoon
We wanted to honeymoon over the winter, so having waited for three months after the wedding for our dream trip, my husband and I were chomping at the bit to get on that plane. As the ‘worst snow since records began’ fell over the UK, our plane took off – it was perfect timing. Arriving in India was a bit of a blur as it took around 24 hours to get to our first destination, but boy was it worth it.
Bagh Van, our tiger camp right in the centre of the country was phenomenal and the height of indulgence, although the pièce de résistance was the safari. Despite only having a thirty per cent chance of seeing tigers, twenty minutes into our first game drive our extremely knowledgeable guide found four grown cubs play-fighting. It was a sight that took our breath away; they were so beautiful, elegant and ferocious at the same time. At night, giddy with fresh air and adrenaline from the day’s drive, we were spoilt rotten with a wonderful honeymoon meal surrounded by candles and rose petals with our own butler attending to our every need – and disappearing when we wanted him to! That night we slept under the stars in a canopy bed and awoke to the sounds of the jungle, ready to do it all again.
From Jungle Book to concrete jungle, our next destination was Mumbai; a crazy jumble of noise, smells, animals, tourists, shantytowns and skyscrapers. We loved it, but after a couple of days were ready to move on to somewhere more tranquil. Plane, train and tuk-tuk later we arrived at the perfect place; yoga and meditation beach retreat SwaSwara in south Goa. By day we strolled around the grounds, went to meditation, yoga or art classes, had Ayurvedic treatments and simply chilled out under a banyan tree. If we weren’t in a class or having a treatment, we would relax by the pool, go to the beach or take a tuk-tuk into the magical little town of Gokana to haggle in the market. We felt so well looked after every step of our journey at Swaswara that we came out feeling ready to take on the world.
Back to backpacking
Next we went back to our traveller roots and joined backpackers in a cheap and cheerful hut on the Goan beach of Patnem. After a party-filled few days bopping away at a silent disco and at a New Year’s party in a blue lagoon, we felt in need of some relaxation and detoxing so headed to the Keralan backwaters and Philip Kutty’s Farm, a home-stay that made us want to settle in and become part of the family. We learnt to cook with mum-of-two, farm manager and host (an amazing woman!), spent the day exploring local temples, relaxed on the banks of the backwaters and toured the farm. We then hopped aboard our private houseboat that cruised down the waters at walking pace. It was the most tranquil day as we sat back with the sun on our faces, beers in hand and watched backwater life stroll by. In the evening, we dined on sumptuous fresh fish cooked by our beautiful staff and put the world to rights.
The last leg of our trip involved seven modes of transport in as many hours, but when we arrived we felt like we had won the lottery. As you fly in a mini sea-plane over turquoise blue sees dotted with pure white sand islands, you realise why the Maldives is such a popular honeymoon spot. It really is picture-perfect paradise, and our final destination, Constance Halaveli, was right in the centre of that postcard.
On the water front
By day we were at our happiest in our vast water-villa. We would dip in our plunge pool or grab our snorkels and explore the nearby reefs filled with an abundance of brightly coloured fish. One of our most amazing experiences was on a snorkelling trip to outlying reefs where we were lucky enough to swim with turtles. We also spent our days strolling around the island, cocktails in hand, or having the most wonderful treatments in the over-water spa. The food was amazing and so varied that every mealtime it was a challenge trying to decide what to have. One night, they set up a divine private BBQ dinner on the beach with our own chef who made us the most delicious five-course meal.
Top 5 must-dos
Track tigers in the jungle
Sleep under the stars
Float down the backwaters
Swim with turtles
Fly back business class
From £5,195 per person based on a 15-day itinerary combining three nights at Bagh Van, five nights in Kerala and five nights at Constance Halaveli in the Maldives, Scott Dunn Travel (scottdunn.com). Philip Kutty’s Farm in Kerala (philipkuttysfarm.com), price on request. Oman Air offers daily flights to the Maldives from £644 (off-peak) and £873 (peak), (omanair.com)