For most honeymoons, couples have to make a decision: Will we relax on the beach, explore a major city or go on an outdoorsy adventure? But newlyweds Preeya and Jawanza Hughes? They opted to do it all. The Hughes married in June 2013 but waited until March 2014 for their honeymoon. It was more than worth the wait though, as the couple was able to spend two weeks abroad, dividing their time between Cape Town, South Africa, the scenic wine region of Stellenbosch, Phinda Game Reserve (where they went on safari) and a beach resort in Mozambique. To call this honeymoon “epic” would be an understatement. Read on for all the amazing details of their trip, including how you can plan a similar getaway.
Destination42: How did you decide on this particular honeymoon destination?
Preeya: I had always wanted to go on my honeymoon to South Africa and when we started working with Karin [Jones, managing director of safari company Anastasia’s Africa, which plans bespoke trips to Africa], she sketched out two different honeymoons for us. One was going to Tanzania and Zanzibar and the other doing South Africa and Mozambique, and the South Africa and Mozambique one was the more luxurious way of doing it. And we thought well, it’s our honeymoon, we want to be really comfortable.
Jawanza: I wanted to have hot water in the morning.
D42: So your first stop was Cape Town, what did you do there?
Preeya: We had a driver meet us at the hotel and he took us up to Table Mountain and then we drove all around Cape Town. And then there was this restaurant that Karin had suggested we go to for dinner called Gold. First you start with a drum session and it’s very interactive. There’s someone on stage teaching us how to play the drums and throughout the dinner there were people dancing and performing.
Jawanza: And the thing is that Preeya and I, we don’t think of ourselves as cheesy tourists. But doing this whole drum session was really fun, it was very interactive and very cool, it wasn’t cheesy at all. And the food was amazing. Also, I have an aunt that lives over in Cape Town and my mom was over there while we were there. We stayed at the Victoria and Alfred Hotel and they just happened to be over there our first night. So we hung out with them. It was a really cool to experience to hang out in Africa with my mom.
Preeya: After a few days in Cape Town we went to Stellenbosch. It’s about 40 minutes away from Cape Town and we were there for two days going to wine tastings and exploring the town.
D42: How did wine tasting at Stellenbosch compare to, say, Napa Valley in the States?
Preeya: We went to Napa about three years ago for Jawanza’s 40th birthday and I don’t know that I would compare them. Because being in Stellenbosch, you kind of don’t feel like you’re in Africa at all, you feel like you’re in this totally different place. The views are gorgeous; it’s totally not what you think of Africa to be.
D42: And after the wine tasting it was time for your safari at Phinda, right? How was that experience?
Preeya: We went on safari for four days and that was amazing. We saw everything but leopards while we were there. So elephants and lions, zebras, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, cheetahs, hyenas, buffalo, alligators. Each day we would start out on a drive at 5:30 in the morning and it would go to about 9:30. And we would be at our villa all during the day and they feed you like crazy. You get a big breakfast and lunch and tea and all sort of things. And at 4:00 you head out for the evening drive and you’re out there until about 8 or 9. Then you come back for dinner.
D42: What was your favorite animal sighting?
Preeya: We saw a lioness with her two little cubs that were like four weeks old. It was the first sighting at Phinda of these two cubs and I found them! Just by chance I saw a lion and out she came with her two little cubs. And it was very much a “Lion King” scene. It was so cool to see a mother and how protective she was. She let us see them but still made sure we kept our distance. The lions by far were my favorite. They were so playful; the little ones would be jumping all over the adults.
Jawanza: The tracker was saying it’s probably the first time they had come out of the den and our ranger was so excited, so we got excited. They came out of the tall grass into the middle of the road and we followed them. That was probably the best sighting but I like hyenas so one morning we went to hyena dens and they’re underground. And again it felt very “Lion King,” like where the hyenas live in that movie. D42: What was the Rock Lodge like?
Jawanza: Phinda has four different lodges and the Rock Lodge is just six villas and children can’t stay there, because when you walk outside of the villa on our balcony there was a wading pool that slopes down and kids might fall over. There was also a bed outside and an outside shower — but there are monkeys out there so we didn’t use that. There’s also a lodge that you can hang out at and eat dinner and lunch. But if we wanted lunch in our room they would bring it to us.
D42: How were the staff at Phinda?
Jawanza: The people at Phinda are amazing. Any request you could think of they were like two steps ahead of you. And our ranger Matt and our tracker John were just so cool. The first day we were out there, the first drive we saw a pride of lions and we didn’t realize how hard it is to see these animals. It’s like trying to find a person on the streets of Chicago but you don’t know where in Chicago they are. Because it’s 60,000 acres and it’s not fenced in so it’s wild. Also, Preeya’s allergic to chicken and she’s a pescetarian.
Preeya: So Karin had told them that and the first night at dinner the cook comes out and says she made filet mignon for everyone and I think “OK, I’ll just eat the veggies.” But then she comes over and whispers in my ear “It’s OK, I’ve taken care of you, I know you can’t eat meat so I made some fish for you.” And every meal she made sure she had fish or a shrimp dish, something I could eat.
D42: Do you have any other especially memorable moments from the safari?
Preeya: On our last night there, our ranger Matt said he was going to take us to this place where there are all these fireflies. We pull up to this place and there are all these lights out there that he’s telling us are fireflies. But when we register what we’re looking at, the people of Phinda had set up this dinner in this cleared out forest area and they had set up a full bar, salad table and BBQ. They call it a braai in South Africa, and the cook from the lodge had made this whole BBQ with candle light for the eight of us that were there. Totally unexpected and it was a good way to end our trip.