I am a hopeless romantic at heart. It’s a symptom I inherited at birth when my mother decided to deliver me to this world on Valentines Day. Ever since then my birthday has become sidelined for love. Why not a Valentine’s card? I moan, when the deluge of waffly sentiments from granny gets posted through my door. This year I’ve decided to scribe those soppy amorous dreams into a wish list of the top ten most romantic destinations in Africa – in no particular order, a selection of fancies and favourites from the team and myself at Safari.
1. Vamizi Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique.
CondeNast Traveller voted it into the ‘World’s Top 100 Awards’, and James Bond star Daniel Craig claimed ‘a piece of [his] heart will stay on Vamizi’. For barefoot luxury and paradise found the little known Vamizi, an Indian Ocean atoll of beach and bush, ticks all of my wish-list boxes.
2. Marrakech, Morocco.
From the pages of Hideous Kinky comes Marrakech, home to french fashion designers Yves Saint-Laurent and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Known as the ‘ochre city’, Marrakech oozes mystery, intrigue and sultry Arabic charm. Make sure to sleep inside the old walled city (medina) in a riad, some of which are former period palaces evocative of Medieval desert life.
3. Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania.
‘The most romantic lodge I have been to is Greystoke on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Mahale National Park. Fantastic beach setting against a stunning blue lake, white sand, forest behind you and the best chimp trekking (by far) in Africa. Dinner on the beach under candlelight is a must’ – Simon Espley, Director at Africa Geographic & CEO at bigFIG digital media.
‘The air is scented with jasmine, the forest rich, the water of the lake gin clear and lightly chilled. And if I dare to put an imprint on this paradise I had better get it right’ – Roland Purcell, Irish adventurer. Photo & quote © Greytsoke Mahale, Nomad Tanzania.
4. The Namib Desert, Namibia.
Follow in the footsteps of Brad and Angelina and live out your desert dreams in one of these rustic stilt-legged chalets at Wolwedans Dunes Camp. Sleep atop a deep red dune with your canvas blinds open to the silent seclusion of the epically vast Namib Desert. Known for its sublime exclusivity – ‘the Namib will leave you feeling giddy and blissfully alone’ – Paul Steyn, Editor at Safari.
5. Franschhoek, Cape Town, South Africa.
J’adore Franschhoek – a charming little town set in the winelands and reminiscent of provincial France. Cobbled terraces, elegant roadside cafes, fine dining and an abundance of farms make this a place to love and be loved under the African vines. Dieu Donné, an elegant winery high on the southern slopes, feels a bit like a lovers alpine retreat with its secluded terrace restaurant peaking over the valley and guest house shrouded in pink bougainvillea. I have fond memories of the place, having had my birthday lunch there the year before last.
6. Masai Mara, Kenya.
Hot air ballooning at dusk over the magnificent Masai Mara is an ‘event on the bucket list of anyone moved by Africa’ says Peter Borchert, founder of Africa Geographic and Editor-at-large of Safari. Honeymooners from far and wide come to experience this quintessential ‘out of Africa’ adventure, especially during the high drama of the annual wildebeest migration – ‘truly one of the greatest natural spectacles in the world’.
7. North Island, Seychelles
Voted number one by Harpers & Queen (UK) Best Hotels on Earth, North Island is a Seychelles hideaway for the rich and famous. While it might not be within pocket’s reach, it doesn’t hurt to dream, drizzle and drool over this tropical island fantasy.
8. Victoria Falls, Livingstone, Zambia
Named after the late Queen of England, Victoria Falls or ‘the smoke that thunders’ is famed for being one of the most naturally regal and romantic destinations on Earth. The New York Times even went as far to say that luxury lodge Tongabezi’s Honeymoon House, on the banks of the Zambezi River, is ‘worth getting married for’.
9. Lake Malawi.
For the ultimate Robinson-Crusoe getaway, get lost amidst the mango trees, age-old baobabs, and fall under the spell of the captivating, mythical Lake Malawi.
‘This limitless turquoise lake is fringed by pebble-white sandy beaches and sleepy fishing villages. The water is wonderfully clear, perfect for swimming, snorkeling and diving, or just relaxing – with a wide range of accommodation to suit everyone from budget backpackers to 5* luxury lodges on exclusive islands’ – Harriet Nimmo, lover of all things African and Business Director of bigFIG digital media.
Photo © Kaya Mawa, Likoma Island, Lake Malawi. Kaya Mawa resort is well publicised as a picture-postcard eco-travel destination. It was also voted as ‘one of the Planet’s 10 most romantic destinations’ by Unique Destination Wedding.
10. Pemba, Zanzibar
Lush and verdant Pemba is a spice island idyll where you can sail into the east African sun set aboard a traditional wooden dhow – the classic Indian Ocean past time. Rather smugly, I couldn’t resist including Fundu Lagoon, a remote resort surrounded by mangroves with sandy paths and Makuti thatched forest-cabins. Next week Friday I’ll be boarding a plane bound for Pemba, and this will be my holiday hide-out!
I’d love to hear your most romantic destination in Africa – whether it’s a fancy or a favourite – let us know by leaving a comment below.
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