Special occasion holidays – honeymoons, family vacations, anniversaries, birthdays, proposals and important milestones – deserve an unforgettable setting. They also need to be as foolproof as possible: you may be travelling with several generations of your family, which means different individuals with different interests. The challenge is to tailor-make your itinerary to balance everyone's appetite for relaxation and action. You need exceptional service throughout your stay, a rich variety of activities, and a daily routine that is as flexible as possible.
In Africa, we add to all these advantages our magnificent landscapes, a wide range of accommodation options and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. With destinations ranging from private island lodges and exclusive safari villas to boutique city retreats and wilderness getaways, Africa is the perfect special occasion vacation destination. Many of our favourite safari lodges, hotels and resorts specialise in making milestone holidays truly memorable. They may offer palatial honeymoon suites or comfortable family rooms, home-from-home villas with private guides and chefs, or the convenience of a great children's club.
If you’re planning to celebrate a special occasion the next time you pack your holiday suitcase, take a whirl with us around Africa's best destinations for special occasions.
Crusoe-chic: private islands
Instead of yearning to be rescued, Daniel Defoe’s famous character would have been quite satisfied to spend the rest of his days relaxing on one of Africa’s Indian Ocean island destinations. Private picnics, coral reefs and stretches of soft white sand are the hallmarks of an Africa beach holiday, and you won’t be foraging for supper either. Candlelight flickering at the ocean’s edge means you’ll be 5-star dining that night - with your bare feet in the warm sand.
You biggest challenge? Deciding where to spend your special occasion vacation...
For privacy, exclusivity and shameless luxury, North Island Lodge in the Seychelles is hard to beat. Literally fit for a queen (royal couple William and Kate spent their 2011 honeymoon here), it is one of the world’s most romantic getaways. North Island is an exclusive experience worth every penny, but for travellers without a royal budget, there are gorgeous getaways all along Africa’s balmy eastern seaboard.
Mnemba Island Lodge off Zanzibar’s prime north-east coast is set in a marine conservation park. Stroll straight off the beach into perfect snorkelling waters or superb scuba diving - you might even see nesting turtles! Medjumbe Private Island in Mozambique’s Quirimbas Archipelago and Azura Retreat in the Bazaruto islands are both are ideal for barefoot romance but Azura offers a wonderful family villa too.
Bright lights: city escapes
For most travellers to Africa, the continent’s cities are generally regarded as a destination to fly in or out of – but they're doing themselves a disservice! You can expect internationally awarded restuarants, fine wines, spa treatments and exclusive touring while staying in some of Africa’s best urban accommodation. City stops are ideal for acclimatising and unleashing your holiday spirit after an international flight, or as a relaxing, pampering stopover after your safari adventures.
Johannesburg is Southern Africa’s inernational air travel hub. If you’re heading south of the equator, chances are you’ll fly via this City of Gold for an overnight stop before your safari starts. When travelling to celebrate a special occasion, you deserve the indulgence of staying in one of the world’s best boutique hotels: The Saxon is Johannesburg’s most exclusive accommodation with award-winning restuarants and a definitive art collection. The endlessly popular Cape Town has three superb venues for your honeymoon or anniversary: romantics will love the sunset-facing Twelve Apostles Hotel and the svelte, urban sophistication of Kensington Place but if you want privacy and exceptional service, then Ellerman House is where the world’s superstars sample the Mother City's hospitality.
Even Nairobi - the capital of Kenya - gets in on the act. This massive metropolis is twice the size of Cape Town and the leafy neighbourhood of Karen is home to several upscale restaurants and excellent hotels like the inimitable Giraffe Manor and Hemingway's Nairobi, where the city's glitterati gather.
Candles & canvas: on safari
Milestone holidays honour the years behind you and deserve to be remembered for years to come. If there is any continent that specialises in truly memorable 'bucket list' experiences, it's Africa. Witness spectacles like a hundred thousand wildebeest migrating across the Serengeti's endless plains, or the epic battle between hyena and lion in the Savuti; sail dhow at sunset past the spice island of Zanzibar, or meet a silverback gorilla in the lush forests of Bwindi. Africa is the last frontier for authetic adventure with a range of safari destinations to make real the dreams travellers from around the world. Our top criteria for an annivesary or honeymoon holiday are big experiences and intimate lodges where your preferences determine the daily pace and exploring the wilderness happens in the care of a private guide.
The famous Wildebeest Migration occurs in the Serengeti's private Grumeti reserves between May and August. Visitors to camps like Singita Explore, Faru Faru and Sasakwa Lodge feast their eyes on the spectacle of over a million wildebeest and zebra migrating across the plains, sheparding their foals and fawns past waiting predators and across crocodile-infested rivers. In South Africa, the Sabi Sands Private Reserve adjoins the iconic Kruger National Park to offer some of the best Big 5 game viewing in Africa. Singita Ebony, Lion Sands and Leadwood Lodge are superb Sabi camps - ideal for your special celebration vacation.
Memorable experiences that make for inforgettable holidays come in all shapes and forms. Sometimes the landscape is so unusual that it captures your heart, sometimes the people or wild creatures you encounter change your life. One of the most endearing and unforgettable experiences you can have in Botswana's Okavango Delta is exploring the pristine waterways and floodplains of Abu Camp or walking with the gentlre giants that live at Baines’ Camp. See the predators made famous in wildlife documentaries at Mombo, exploring Chief's Island by 4X4 and dug-out canoe.
Exclusive Motse Lodge offers a rare insight into the achingly beautiful Kalahari at Tswalu Private Reserve while Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Little Kulala and Wolwedans Private Camp are set close to the mighty and magical sand dunes of the Namib Desert.
On the wild side: off the beaten path
If you want to try something really different to celebrate your special occasion, some of Africa’s most exciting destinations have only recently become available to international travellers. These are far off the beaten track but worth every effort to explore. They are home to intimate eco-lodges that deliver warm hospitality, creature comforts and exceptional experiences in equally generous proportions.
Fall in love all over again at Greystoke Mahale set in an untamed corner of East Africa, where the shores of Lake Tanganyika meet the jungle-clad Mahale Mountains. Another virgin paradise, for decades inhabited exclusively by chimpanzee, elephant and giraffe, Lake Victoria is home to the largest island national park in Africa and the superb Rubondo Island Camp. The ancient forests are filled with chattering monkeys, shy sitatunga antelope slip through the papyrus swamps, and the guests at Rubondo are the only human presence in this rare eden.
Zambia is Southern Africa's answer to the call of the untamed and offers an authentically wild setting for your milestone celebration or honeymoon adventure. In the country’s flagship South Luangwa National Park, Zungulila and Chamilandu are intimate safari camps offering legendary walking safaris. In off-radar Kafue National Park, Shumba Bush Lodge takes you back in time to Africa’s wildlife as it was before urbanisation – thriving herds of plains game, plenty of predators and very few people.
So... when you want to celebrate a precious moment in your lifetime, you'll find a destination in Africa that's just right. From the romance of a Crusoe-chic private island and the comfortable elegance of a city escape, to setting your spirit free in the great untamed outdoors, Africa offers unique settings, memorable hospitality and bucket list experiences to give you an unforgettable celebration vacation.