I’m back with part two of our honeymoon! (You can read part one here.) Before I get into all the photos, I thought I’d share how exactly we wound up in Africa for our honeymoon. While we loved our three days in Cape Town, Will and I were definitely most excited about going on safari. We picked Africa as our honeymoon destination because we knew it was one of the longest stretches of time either of us would ever be able to take off of work and so we wanted to travel just about as far as we could. We narrowed our choices down to Africa and Australia and we had so many friends who raved about their African safari experiences that we knew that was the winner. We discussed all the various places in Africa we’d dreamt of visiting and worked with our travel agent to figure out how we could cover the most ground, ultimately deciding to split our time across South Africa, Tanzania, and Kenya.
I will say that this itinerary was pretty aggressive in retrospect and made for a couple very long travel days in the middle of our trip. That said, it was 1000% worth it for us as we wanted to see as much as humanly possible and don’t know how soon we’ll be able to get back to Africa. But I know most of our friends picked one or maybe two countries to visit on their honeymoons so I thought I’d share our rationale for flying into Cape Town and ending up in Nairobi less than two weeks later! It wound up being a great decision for us and it was super cool to be able to compare the safari experiences we had in each country. Today we’re kicking things off with our South African safari at Londolozi!
How we got there: 2.5 hour flight from Cape Town to Skukuza
Where we stayed: Londolozi Tree Camp
It’s hard to describe how extraordinary the Londolozi experience is. Will had read the founder’s book prior to our arrival, but I knew nothing about Londolozi save for our friends’ rave review after their honeymoon there three years ago. So many people had told us that the safari experience would be mind-blowing and that the service would be above and beyond anything we’d ever experienced, but even those sentiments don’t express just how much we adored our two days at Londolozi.
If first impressions are everything, Londolozi blew us out of the water from the moment we were picked up at the airport. It was an hour long drive to the camp and we saw giraffes within the first 15 minutes (and saw all of the Big Five — lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants, and buffalos — in our two days). The decor at Tree Camp is exquisite and our room took my breath away — we walked in only to see an elephant staring back at us through the glass wall of the living area. An elephant!
But what makes Londolozi so world-class are the people. The camp manager sat down with us when we arrived to discuss our plans for our stay and planned a private picnic to commemorate our honeymoon. Our driver Melvin and tracker Milton were unbelievably skilled at finding animals on the private game reserve and were so fun to be around that popping out of bed at 4:30 a.m. suddenly seemed like the easiest thing in the world. And it’s not just the staff — we became friends with several other guests during our stay, from the Atlanta couple with five kids who joined us on game drives to the couple who’d just been married at the Bedford Post Inn less than 30 minutes from our house. It’s something I had never before experienced on an international trip — there’s something about the Londolozi experience that brings people together and makes you want to hear and tell stories and spend time with complete strangers. We realized quickly that we’d have the rest of our lives to eat dinner just the two of us and that we wanted to revel in the sense of community that makes Londolozi so unique. We were only there for 48 hours and yet I could tear up thinking about the incredible people we met during our short stay there — this is not a place we visited and could simply cross off our bucket list, but rather one we want to save up for years in order to be able to visit again someday. It is definitely a splurge but honestly if you can go for just one night, it’s worth it!
Londolozi is known for its leopards, which are notoriously difficult to spot in the wild. After seeing giraffes and rhinoceros on our first afternoon game drive, our tracker followed a leopard cub back to its mother, who had just killed an impala for him to share with his brother. We watched them eat and defend their dinner from a greedy hyena until well after the sun had set and, while the scene was slightly gruesome at times, it was truly unlike anything I had seen before and made me realize just how incredible our time in Africa was going to be. We finished the evening with a candlelit dinner at the camp where no one could stop talking about all the animals they’d seen that day!
You can see that the Londolozi vehicles are completely open Land Rovers that could change course at a moment’s notice and had no problem zipping over branches or brush in pursuit of an animal. These were totally different from the vehicles we were in in both Tanzania and Kenya later in the trip and we both loved the open air and the ruggedness of the terrain. You’ll have a better comparison when I post about the Serengeti and Solio Lodge tomorrow!
I’ve gotten a ton of questions about what camera and lenses we used during our trip and one more thing we really appreciated about Londolozi (and our next stop!) was that we could rent a zoom lens on our second day that was much better suited to close-up photography (you’ll see that several of the shots above are really grainy, especially as it got darker). We only had a luggage allowance of 33 pounds each and camera equipment is so heavy (plus I don’t have a use for a zoom lens in my everyday life), so it was amazing to spend around $60/day to capture once-in-a-lifetime moments without lugging a massive (and expensive) zoom lens from one location to the next. I use this camera and own this portrait lens (which I use for outfit pictures) and this wide angle lens (which I use for interior photos) but at Londolozi we were able to rent this incredible zoom lens that fit right onto my camera body. (And if you don’t own a camera body, they have those for rent as well!)
We woke up bright and early on our only full day at Londolozi for another game drive with Melvin and Milton starting at 5:00 a.m. It was very chilly that early in the morning so I wore nearly all the layers I’d packed! A herd of elephants crossed the road directly in front of our vehicle and I was just in heaven watching them and taking pictures. We also saw two giraffes “wrestling” as the sun came up and stopped for a cup of coffee before spending the majority of the game drive tracking a pride of female lions (the first ones we’d seen on the trip!). They were so much bigger than I’d expected and truly majestic in person. On our way back Will got to sit up front in the tracker’s seat — I was terrified at the time but now looking back I’m totally jealous!
We arrived back at Tree Camp to a decadent breakfast display and the news that the camp manager had coordinated a private picnic for our afternoon lunch. We were driven to an enclosed lookout high above a river where we could pour ourselves a glass of wine, snack on all kinds of yummy treats, look for animals, and even take a cat nap under the shade. It was just the most touching gesture and such a romantic way to spend our final afternoon in such a special place.
We headed back to camp in time for an evening game drive at 4:00 p.m. It was definitely t-shirt weather in the afternoon, but it cooled down quickly as the sun set. We had somehow spotted a leopard on our picnic (much to our tracker’s disbelief!) and actually found the same one on our evening game drive. We were able to get really close and Will took what I think are some of our best photos of the entire trip (since he was seated closer to the leopard!).
After sunset, we headed back to camp for cocktails and a group dinner under the stars. Our two days at Londolozi flew by much too quickly but we keep telling ourselves if we work hard enough, we’ll get to go back someday! I hope you’re enjoying my honeymoon posts so far — check back tomorrow for part three in the Serengeti!