One of the big topics of debate when planning our wedding was where to go on our honeymoon. I was very keen on the idea of a safari, however we decided that after all the hectic wedding planning a more sedate holiday might be in order and agreed on the south of Italy for 10 days taking in Positano, Matera and Puglia.
We thought that was the end of it, until I got a call from Wedding Ideas Magazine enquiring if I recollected entering a competition to win a honeymoon. I had gone through a speight of entering competitions and thought they were probably calling for feedback, but they weren’t – they were calling to say I had won and it wasn’t any old prize… it was a safari! To be honest my first thoughts were that it might be some sort of hoax call and was waiting for them to ask me to transfer all my worldly possessions to an off shore bank account… Let me clarify this was no reflection on any of the people I spoke to, but I didn’t think people really won holidays… Turns out they do!
The prize was provided by Africa Albida Tourism and included a three night safari and a few nights at Victoria Falls. We had to purchase our own flights but we had a year to redeem the prize, with very few restrictions and could pick dates that suited us. So at the end of April we headed off on our adventure.
After nearly 24 hours of travelling, via Johannesburg and Victoria Falls airport we arrived at our first stop Ngoma Safari Lodge; a beautifully decorated lodge of just 8 rooms in Botswana. Our journey took a little longer than expected due to a delay crossing the border between Botswana and Victoria Falls, so we missed that afternoon’s game drive. However it gave us the perfect opportunity to relax in the sun and take a dip in our private plunge pool – overlooking Chobe national park, with impala and zebra coming to feed at the watering hole. We then went for a few drinks at the lodges’ bar and watched the sunset over the Zambezi river before a lovely three course dinner on the terrace.
Our stay here included all food and drink, plus daily game drives and safaris, so early the next day we set out for a whole day in Chobe with our guide Timmy. The day started with a boat safari on The Zambize river, spotting elephants, hippos, crocodiles and a wide array of birds. We even witnessed a huge elephant (Chobe is home to the world’s largest species of elephant) swim out into the river to feed on some of the more lush water plants.
Once back on dry land we drove along the edge of the Zambeizei spotting the animals that live along the waters edge, such as girraffes, kudus, buffalos, impalas, baboons and more elephants – the park is home to over 130,000 elephants so they aren’t ever too far away! Around lunch time we stopped at a water side picnic spot where the hotel laid on a full spread of delicious locally influenced and western salads for us to feast on, all served on china plates and white table cloths, before setting off for more animal spotting in the afternoon, when we even got a glimpse of a small pride of lions basking under a tree. As the day drew to a close we headed back to the safari lodge for a sundowner on the terrace.
The following day we were up and out by 6am for an early morning drive. Timmy took us deep into the park and after about 45 minutes of driving we pulled up to a quiet watering hole, where we were treated to the highlight of our trip – a lion having his breakfast (If you are squimish you may want to quickly scroll past this bit). I can’t put into words how amazing the expereince was but the chance to see a lion so closely was absolutely amazing and something I will most defiantely never forget – hopefully the pictures convey just a hint of this amazing experience.
We had to head back to the lodge for breakfast, but that afternoon Timmy took us back to the watering hole, where the lion had been joined by the rest of his pride, all basking in the sun after a good feed. There were also quite a few other safari vehicles at the watering hole by this point, so the experience wasn’t quite as intimate as the morning had been, but it was great to see how the whole pride interacted together, particularly the cubs who were frolicking around like any domestic kitten might.
That brought our trip to Chobe National Park to a close and the next day, after a huge breakfast we headed back to Zimbabwe to the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, where we were booked in for another three nights. We arrived just before lunch so got to witness the vulture feeding – the native vultures in the area are highly endangered, so the hotel has a feeding programme which takes place at lunch time every day in an effort to conserve the species.
The only activity included in our stay at Victoria falls was an evening at the Boma; a dinner and dance show inspired by local traditions, where the audience are given their own drums so they can join in with all the music. To be completely honest this isn’t something we would usually have gone along to, but we did have fun.
The next day we took the hotel bus into town and up to the falls themselves. May is the end of the rainy season so the falls were in full flow and it was easy to see why the falls is known locally as ‘the smoke that thunders’. We took our time to walk between the 19 viewpoints, getting absolutely soaked in the process… definitely spend 3 dollars on a rain mac form the vendors outside the falls. We debated before going about getting a guide and whilst we may have learnt a bit more about the geography of the area, we found it wasn’t at all necessary, as the path is really easy to follow. We had also been told by a few people to go really early to avoid the crowds and thought this would be a good idea as we would also avoid the mid-day sun. But as it was our holiday, we completely ignored this advice and opted for a lie in, however we were pleasantly surprised by how quiet it was and all the paths are well shaded or wet, so the sun wasn’t a concern either.
After the falls we headed to The Lookout cafe, which has great views towards Victoria Falls bridge, a road a rail bridge which was opened in 1905 as part of the unfulfilled Cape to Cairo railway project. We hadn’t made a reservation and weren’t too hopeful as it looked pretty busy, but after waiting about 10 minutes we were seated right on the edge overlooking the water and enjoyed a long, lazy lunch in the sun, before heading back to the hotel, via the local craft market. One of the things I loved most about our trip was the beautiful woven baskets and rugs in our hotels and whilst it would have been lovely to bring lots of these back, we sadly had to settle for just two baskets from the market as we were limited on luggage space – next time I will take a spare bag!
We spent the final day of our holiday chilling by the pool and the hotel laid on a beautiful private dinner for us, which was a lovely way to finish our holiday.
In total our trip was eight nights away from home, however two of these were spent flying and whilst it may seem like a very like way to go for just six nights it wasn’t too bad due to there only being an hour time difference between the UK and Botswana and Zimbabwe and was enough time to fit in everything we had planned in to our trip.
We both felt incredibly lucky to have such an experience and would like to say a massive thank-you to Wedding Ideas magazine and Africa Albida Tourism, who I would throughly recommend to anyone considering a similar trip. The hospitality we experienced in both the lead up to our trip and whilst staying with them was absolutely amazing – nothing was ever too much trouble. I would also highly recommend both the hotels we stayed at, particularly the Ngoma Safari Lodge, with it’s awe inspiring views, lovely food and amazing safari guides.
Hopefully this has given you an insight into the sort of trip we had, however if anyone does have any specific questions, please feel free to drop my an email or a comment in the box below.