Africa has played a pivotal role in two of the world’s most enduring and endearing modern romances. When screen goddess Elizabeth Taylor and her great love Richard Burton decided that they couldn’t live without each other following their first divorce, they married for a second time at Kasane in Chobe National Park in Botswana, Liz posing with her flawless 70 carat pear-shaped diamond engagement ring and an adorable cheetah.
Thirty-five years later, in 2010, Prince William chose the rustic Rutundu Log Cabins (which are accessible only by helicopter or on foot) on the remote slopes of Mount Kenya to present long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton with Princess Diana’s iconic sapphire and diamond engagement ring.
More recently, Go2Africa travellers Polly and Donny McKay celebrated their nuptials with a Masai-inspired celebration at Sarova Mara in Kenya, complete with warriors singing traditional songs and a ‘good omen’ rhino crossing their path on their way back to their honeymoon tent!
The wild spaces and endless skies of Africa remind you about what's important in life - a good reason why weddings and proposals are so popular here. In Africa, you are relieved of your daily worries and free to reconnect with what inspires you, so it's only natural for travellers to get back in touch with the fundamental human experience of love, respect and affection. It may well be all the fresh air that gives you the sudden insight that the person beside you is actually the perfect partner for you! Whatever it is, Africa overflows with romantic moments to share with the one you love.
Older couples and second-time-arounders top the list for travellers booking intimate weddings (often just the two of them) and combining the ceremony with a bucket-list vacation. After a lavish family wedding at home, other couples choose to mark their nuptials with a vacation ceremony or adventurous African honeymoon. More and more lodges are geared to facilitate these small celebrations and will happily arrange honeymoon suites, complete with bubbly on ice and a wedding cake to share in the glow of new love beneath an African sunset. Here are a few of our favourite places for small weddings in Africa:
#1 Bartholomeus Klip - Cape Winelands
If you prefer to being closer to a city like Cape Town without giving up the rural ambiance, a working farm like Bartholomeus Klip in the gorgeous country town of Riebeeck Kasteel is ideal. Located amid rolling fields of wheat, indigenous fynbos (a heather floral kingdom that is unique to the Western Cape in South Africa) and endangered renosterveld (a hardy indigenous vegetation - ‘renoster’ means rhino in the Afrikaans language), Bartholomeus Klip offers the rugged beauty of a rural setting within an hour's easy drive from Cape Town. Consider a posy of beautiful, feathery proteas – South Africa's national flower - for your bridal bouquet, picked fresh from your wedding location.
#2 Elsa’s Kopje - Kenya
Lion lovers will want to head to Elsa’s Kopje in Kenya's Meru National Park for their celebration. The lodge is named after Elsa, the orphaned lioness who was hand-reared by conservationist and novelist Joy Adamson. The lioness became a global icon for the rights of wild creatures in Joy's best-selling book - and hit movie - Born Free. Elsa’s Kopje is built on the site of the Adamsons’ original camp and infused with the tranquil spirit of a bygone era. Begin your wedded days with breakfast served in the midst of golden savannah after watching the sunrise on a thrilling dawn game drive, and welcome each magical evening soaking in your spacious tub with its endless views over the Meru plains.
#3 Asanja Africa Camp - Serengeti
The Wildebeest Migration has rightly been called one of Nature’s most dramatic spectacles: hundreds of thousands of wildebeest journey across thousands of miles to reach fresh pastures. Along the way, calves are born, predators faced, and treacherous rivers crossed. It’s a natural phenomenon that is much like the path of true love - it never runs smoothly, and there is a healthy dose of sour with the sweet! Asanja Africa Camp is perfectly poised on the Serengeti to make the most of the Migration. Each tented suite is named after a specific element of Maasai tradition - our favourite suite is Enkiama, the marriage ceremony tent. Weddings are extremely significant in Maasai culture and the tent is adorned with deep red hues to signify unity and stunning Imasaa, the beaded decorations made especially for weddings.
#4 Ngorongoro Crater Lodge - Tanzania
Ngorongoro Crater is a natural wonder that will take your breath away. The world’s largest intact caldera from a long extinct volcano, Ngorongoro is home to about 26 000 wild creatures who live within the safety of the caldera walls. With a gentler climate than the surrounding plains, the crater floor is lush with pastures and mineral-rich springs. It is one of the few wild places in Africa where you are likely to see the Big 5 in a single game drive. At Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, wedding ceremonies take place on one of three decks, each with spectacular views over the crater below.
Nearby Lake Manyara is home to tree-climbing lions and the Lerai Forest is renowned for leopard sightings. What better place to forge a lifelong bond than in a setting that has been unchanged over millennia? Imagine saying 'I do' while standing on the rim of the crater, a Maasai guard of honour watching over you, and the natural beauty of the wilderness unfolding around you.
#5 Vamizi Casamina Villa - Mozambique
They say that couples who play together, stay together and Vamizi Island might be one of the ultimate playgrounds for divers, snorkellers and kayakers. A whale-shaped isle in Mozambique’s Quirimbas Archipelago, Vamizi is drenched in sunshine and provides a sanctuary for samango monkeys, coconut crabs and over 110 bird species. Its tropical waters are home to one of the world’s Top 10 dive sites: Neptune’s Arm, where you swim through cathedrals of Gregorian coral with whales, dolphins, turtles and over 400 species of fish. After an elegant, barefoot ceremony on the beach, step over the threshold of your private villa with its plunge pool, outdoor tub and romantic beds wrapped in fluttering white mosquito nets. If you’ve ever dreamt of being cast away on a paradise island with the one you love (and a generous measure of world-class service), Vamizi is an ideal setting for you...
#6 Saruni Samburu - Kenya
The Samburu tribe has the tradition of young men giving large amounts of beads to young women as an indication of ‘going steady’ before a wedding ceremony. Like the Maasai, marriage is important to the Samburu who live in north-central Kenya. At Saruni Samburu, your ceremony will take place in an authentic Samburu village – known as a manyatta in Swahili – with the revered elders, the women and the askaris in taking part.
Like any journey, the help and advice of an Africa Safari Expert makes all the difference so chat about your expectations with your travel advisor and check the paperwork you'll require for your nuptials well ahead of departure. Making or renewing your vows is a moment you'll always treasure. Celebrating your love in an African setting means making moments you'll never forget.