Wendy Rutherfoord, Director of Gondwana Game Reserve on the Garden Route, said while safaris had always been inherently romantic, visiting couples are now rolling up their sleeves and getting involved, particularly at Gondwana’s Eco Camp, where they can contribute to conservation while experiencing the luxury of a safari holiday.
“We anticipated that the eco camp would appeal more to families,” she said, “but couples, both young and old are loving the camp’s behind-the-scenes conservation experience and find the tented accommodation romantic and authentic.”
One such experience is taking part in the cheetah re-wilding programme, tracking cheetah on foot and by vehicle to monitor their predation and behaviours.
Popular too are Gondwana’s romantic bush picnics, where couples are dropped off in the reserve’s protected walking area to enjoy a homemade lunch and bottle of wine.
According to Carli Flemmer, Wilderness Safaris Marketing Manager, the majority of the group’s younger guests are couples. “We have a number who travel with us on honeymoon or to celebrate a special milestone. They enjoy immersive experiences where they can gain a deeper understanding of local cultures, engage with communities and learn more about different ways of life.”
Wilderness Safaris recently opened Bisate Lodge in Rwanda, where gorilla trekking and its conservation story is showcased to guests in a luxury romantic setting.
Safari and Romance
Jemma Macmillan, Marketing and PR Head of African Bush Camps, sees a number of honeymooners coming through African Bush Camps.
“Generally, the idea of Africa for a honeymoon is quite romantic, but combining it with the adventure of a safari and ‘bucket list’ destinations is a winner,” she told TU. “We see a lot of people who want to mix the views and vistas of Africa with the exhilaration of a Big Five safari and the luxury of a bush camp. Game drives, private sunset cruises and dinners under the stars, cuisine and first-class hospitality set the tone for a honeymoon adventure like no other.”
Karen McEwan, Marketing Manager of the Dulini Collection in the Sabi Sand Reserve, said most guests who had chosen to stay in the area wanted to have a safari adventure with game drives or walks. On their return, Dulini ensures that they are pampered.
Tintswalo Safari Lodge hosts a lot of safari honeymooners, especially Americans, says General Manager Operations, Emily Booth. At this Manyeleti property, couples enjoy game drives and private dinners with romantic touches.
The Victoria Falls Hotel, popularly known as ‘the grand old lady of the Falls’, is an ideal location for a romantic getaway, combining both romance and adventure. Pursuits include safari experiences, helicopter flights, Zambezi river cruises and adrenalin activities such as bungee jumping, sliding or swinging off the Victoria Falls Bridge, and white-water rafting.
Beach and Romance
Evelyn Pepler, Owner of Ocean Odyssey in Knysna, is definitely aware of guests opting for the romance and adventure combination.
There are endless adventure options in the area. She gives examples, such as an eco-marine ocean cruise to explore the rugged and beautiful coastline through the Knysna Heads; whale watching; a motorised tandem paragliding flight; surfing or stand-up paddle boarding, and Scootour forest excursions.
Peter Dros, Marketing and Sales Director at Fancourt, has also noticed the trend. “The kayak adventures and Tsitsikamma treetop canopy tours are very popular, as are coastal scenic flights, sunset cruises, scuba diving, whale watching, an exclusive Swartberg scenic tour, sand boarding and various hiking options,” he said.
Lylie Moolman, General Manager at Giltedge Ocean Islands, said while the company did receive requests for adventure-style honeymoons, it was dependent on the couple’s personalities. “Most couples plan their honeymoon together to make sure both ‘wish lists’ are catered for. One might like the idea of lying on the beach and the other prefers adventure, and there is no reason why you can’t cater for both.
“There are plenty of islands, such as Madagascar, where you can kayak in marine parks and walk through enchanted forests. “Many of our honeymoon couples like to book activities with a romantic twist that they can do together. We get many requests for honeymoon itineraries that include day tours to other islands, kayaking, private beach dining or hiking.”
Hanneli Slabber, South African Tourism’s Regional Manager: Asia, Australasia and Middle East, said while the Indian market generally preferred purely romantic holidays, adventure travel was definitely on the rise.
South Africa, she expanded, was a destination where a romantic experience could still be very adventurous. For example, one can quad-bike through picturesque vineyards, an experience that couples revel in.
For its part, said Slabber, the Australian market has an insatiable appetite for adrenaline, even on romantic getaways.
South African Tourism’s Australia office has been working to leverage the adventure trend by showcasing adventure activities in its marketing initiatives. It is planning a bespoke adventure-focused familiarisation trip to SA in 2018. Australia was ranked second in the world for the most adventurous individuals per capita, and ranked number one overall for rock climbing, skydiving and surfing in a recent Global Adventure Ranking. According to another poll, South Africa was top of the list as a trending destination for Australian adventurers in 2017.
Casterbridge Hollow Boutique Hotel in White River, Mpumalanga, offers romantic getaways with adventure, with activities such as helicopter trips, ethical elephant experiences, golf, hot-air ballooning, encounters with local Shangaan culture and tours of the scenic Panorama Route.