Southern Africa: A “Spafari” Adventure – Pt. 1

I was recently e-chatting with my high school pal Katy and her husband Dave about their exciting, luxurious honeymoon in South Africa and Botswana…when my keen sense of travel lust kicked in. (And that was even before I saw Dave’s photos.)

Imagining that you’d feel much the same way I did, allow me to present the tale of their amazing dream spa + safari adventure:

Katy and Dave have been married several years by now and have two young kids, so for the time being, in lieu of going everywhere on Earth they’d like to, they welcome any chance to talk or think about travels from their recent past.

When they were planning their honeymoon back in 2004, jetting off to Africa seemed more like a good idea than the epic journey of a lifetime; by then, the couple had already traveled to the Galápagos, Mongolia and more. When Dave (with the help of of Palo Alto-based Cardoza Travel Services) came across Abercrombie & Kent’s enticing Southern Africa “spafari” tour, it didn’t take long for him to sell the concept to his future bride.

Now, before I go much farther, know that Abercrombie & Kent doesn’t offer this particular tour anymore; sadly for the company but happily for our non-crowded honeymooners, it wasn’t a big tourist draw. These days, though, A & K is offering trips that still include many spafar-ish elements, like Southern Africa Revealed and Southern Africa in Style.

But I digress. 

Their honeymoon began in London. Upgrading with miles (and armed with a well-packed flotilla of lingerie), they flew business class from San Francisco and spent a night at the historic and über-swanky Goring HotelTravel + Leisure just named the Goring #1 for Hotel Service in Europe; when the honeymooners arrived, the hotel’s manager greeted them personally with his congratulations. In their room, in what would become a tour-long theme, they found their bed strewn with rose petals.

After a short day of dazed sightseeing, they took an overnight flight to Johannesburg. In October, “Jo’burg” was full of jacaranda trees in bloom, which seemed to turn the whole city purple. Checking into the stylish Rosebank neighborhood’s Grace Hotel (which closed in 2011), they found they were the only people who signed up for the spafari, making their already-romantic trip an unexpectedly private tour.

To the original trip itinerary, which was heavy on luxury and spa time, the couple added a short  jaunt to Botswana to increase their animal-spotting opportunities. After only one day wandering through the native crafts of Jo’burg, they took a commercial flight and then a bush-piloted Cessna to the elegant, 260,000-acre Stanley’s Camp for three days in the Okavango Delta’s Moremi Game Reserve.

Most of their time in the Okavango was spent on game drives, where they would hop into a guide-driven Range Rover Jeep and cruise around looking for animals. In addition to big cats (including a small pride of lions and a leopard), lots of various antelope, birds and wildebeests, they were lucky enough to see a rarely-glimpsed scaly anteater known as a pangolin; their guide, who’d been working in the Delta for 6 years, had never seen one himself.

The highlight for them, though, was the Delta’s elephants. One afternoon, they were awoken from an afternoon nap by a herd of elephants surrounding their tent cabin, tearing up trees and chomping on brush as they wandered past. In addition to their surprise visit, the couple opted to add an elephant walk to their safari tour, and spent half a day with trained and surprisingly affectionate elephants rescued from a circus; one of these playful pachyderms liked to steal hats off of visitor’s heads and put them on his own.

Continued in
Southern Africa: A “Spafari” Adventure – Pt. 2


See also
TWT Travel Binder: South Africa
TWT Travel Binder: Botswana


  1. Wow! That is a far cry from my rustic safari in Botswana. We were cycling through Africa and camped (unprotected) in our little two man tent the middle of Chobi surrounded by elephant dung. It was nuts!
    I like your way much better.
    I love the photo of the Johannseburg Jacarandas, Beautiful!

  2. D&D, your version sounds amazing! I’ll bet you slept with at least one eye open…

    When Adam and I finally get to Botswana and South Africa ourselves, I think the level of luxury of my friend’s honeymoon would be almost too much…but I’d be willing to give it a try. 🙂


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