FROM REMOTE SAVANNAH TO TROPICAL JUNGLE, GET CLOSE TO NATURE ON A SAFARI ADVENTURE
TSWALU KALAHARI, SOUTH AFRICA
Want a luxury safari but don’t fancy battling the tourist hordes at Kruger National Park? Then head to the edge of the Kalahari Desert, where you’ll find the stunning Tswalu, described by Forbes magazine as ‘the best safari lodge you’ve never heard of’. Even in a country famed for its super-luxe lodges, Tswalu is the swishest and sexiest. Stay in one of the eight striking suites at the main lodge, the Motse, all of which have an open fireplace, sumptuous bathroom with indoor and outdoor shower, and a private sun deck; or rent out Tarkuni, the Oppenheimers’ exclusive private retreat. It goes without saying that there are game drives and bush walks, but here’s the Tswalu difference: you get your own guide (we had the fabulous Joe) so you can choose exactly what you want to do and when. Over three days we saw a seldom-seen pangolin (an adorable scaly mammal resembling a living pinecone) and critically endangered black rhinos as well as lions, giraffes and super-cute meerkats.
WOW FACTOR Tswalu’s stunning outdoor ‘room’ The Malori (pictured), which allows you to sleep under the Kalahari night sky in a king-size bed covered in Aldona linen.
GO Aardvark Safaris (aardvarksafaris.co.uk) offers three nights from £3,340 per person, full board. Includes flights, two daily game drives and walking safaris.
SANCTUARY BAINES’ CAMP, BOTSWANA
If you’re wondering what a Botswana safari has to offer compared with, say( South Africa, Tanzania or Kenya, the answer is simply: the Okavango Delta. Its the worlds biggest inland delta, so you can view wildlife typically found in a wetland as well as on a dry savannah. The most stunning place to stay while you track the Big Five is Sanctuary Baines’ Camp, which borders the vast Moremi game reserve and has just five luxurious suites on stilts. Each colonial-style room comes with a four-poster bed, a copper-piped shower room, a deck (pictured) with mesmerising views out over the delta, and your own friendly hostess. All meals are communal in the dining suite and the weekly braai — a traditional barbecue of meats including crocodile tail and impala fillet — is a highlight, especially as its accompanied by the singing of the staff choir. Don’t miss the elephant walk with naturalist Doug Groves. WOW FACTOR Not only can you sleep out on your deck (the bed has wheels!) but you can bathe there under the stars. Staff fill two old-fashioned tin baths with a tower of bubbles, and leave you to relax by candlelight with a bottle of champagne. 60 Sanctuary Retreats (sanctuaryretreats.com) offers three nights from £1,484 per person while South African Airways (flysaa.com) return flights to Maun start at £1,201. Return transfers to Baines’ from Maun cost from £208.
YACHT LA PINTA, GALAPAGOS, ECUADOR
The Galapagos Islands are filled with unique and distinctive wildlife. Their remote position (nearly 1,000km from the South American mainland, straddling the equator) has led these volcanic islands to develop their own set of endemic creatures, from the marine iguana to the Galapagos sea lion. With so much wildlife to see, the best way to get up close is by boat. Sleeping up to 48 guests, La Pinta (pictured) is one of the best available. Although we’re not talking a Monaco-style super-yacht here, the spacious cabins are decked out in bright blues and yellows, the crew are helpful and the expert guides have encyclopaedic knowledge of the area. There are twice-daily excursions, including hiking, birdwatching, trips to see giant tortoises and snorkelling. And not just any snorkelling — you’ll be gliding alongside penguins, pelicans and sea lions. Back on board, there are two restaurants with plenty to choose from, including fresh fruit, seafood and Ecuadorian favourites like ceviche — fresh raw fish marinated in citrus juices.
WOW FACTOR The weird and wonderful species such as the frigatebird, which blows its neck up like a red balloon.
GO Rainbow Tours (rainbowtours.co.
CALL OF THE WILD
FORA HONEYMOON ADVENTURE IN MALAYSIA AND BORNEO. CHOOSE YTL HOTELS
TODAY, HONEYMOONERS SEEKING something a little different are spoilt for choice. No more backpacks and basic beds, off-the-beaten-track has gone luxe.
Borneo, home to a variety of exotic wildlife, has become a top choice for adventurous — yet still luxury-loving -honeymooners thanks to the opening of Gaya Island Resort, situated on an island, a 15-minute speedboat ride from Kota Kinabalu. Sabah. Nature is at the heart of the resort with excursions to discover the incredible, wildlife-rich surroundings. Alternatively, explore the house reef and its marine life at your leisure. Nature aside. Gaya Island Resort is a draw in itself, with its Spa Village and stunning villas set into the hillside. It is then just a 90-minute flight from Kota Kinabalu to Sepilok nature reserve where the orangutans abound — there really is nowhere else like it.
Complementing Gaya Island Resort is the equally tempting Tanjong Jara Resort. Explore virgin forests, cascading waterfalls and the seasonal marine life of the region with the resort’s host of excursions. Don’t miss the traditional Malay spa treatments at the award-winning Spa Village or the cycling tour to the local village, to further enhance your authentic Malay experience.
Nine massive (seriously, they are bigger than our entire London flat) tented suites dot the hillside above the Ewaso Nyiro River, decorated in breezy whites and moody Moorish hues, and — in an extra-luxurious flourish -with their own private pool (pictured). But you Ye not here just to loaf around your suite (although we have to admit that it is very loaf-able), so peel yourself away from your verandah for game drives, walking safaris, trips to local villages and even camel riding. Compared to the country’s famous Masai Mara, the beauty of Sasaab’s remoteness is that there isn’t a Jeep jostling around every lion, leopard or herd of elephants that you come across. Back at camp, sip sundowners overlooking the scenery before tucking into moreish Moroccan food from the Mess.
WOW FACTOR After an early morning game drive head to the Spa Saab, which is built into the cliff overlooking the river and offers ultra-indulgent treatments using Liz Earle products.
GO Abercrombie & Kent (abercrombiekent.co.uk) offers five nights from £3,828 per person, full board. Includes flights and transfers.
Located in the heart of India, Baghvan is a remote, romantic, rustic safari lodge made up of just 12 individual suites in the jungle. This is Jungle Book country — the place that inspired the story of Mowgli, Baloo and Shere Khan. Surrounded by sugar cane crops and small villages, Baghvan is a pocket of luxury near Pench National Park. The rooms (pictured) have a colonial feel with antique furniture and plenty of private outdoor space as well as a rooftop with a pavilion-style daybed, which you can ask your butler to prepare for a night under the stars. Meals consist of mouth-watering Indian dishes — think butter chicken, home-grown spinach with potatoes and marinated local river fish. Try a cookery lesson followed by dinner by the pool. Safari outings take place in the morning (with breakfast in the park) and afternoon, but morning drives past monkeys, antelope and peacocks (maybe even tigers and leopards) are well worth the pain of rising before the sun.
WOW FACTOR Seeing a tiger in the wild (March is the best month for sightings) is an indescribably thrilling experience.
Includes flights, transfers, a car and driver.