It was like a scene out of Tarzan. Drifting off to sleep in a four-poster bed shrouded in cotton voile, in a treehouse built into a canopy of ebony trees in the African bush. We woke next morning only to be whisked off on a helicopter flight over Zambia’s Victoria Falls, then later lazed on a deck suspended over the Zambezi River, sipping rosé as hippos grazed in the reeds surrounding us.
It was just the romance rekindle my husband and I had been craving. We’d been married seven years and something – the dreaded seven-year itch, perhaps – had begun simmering beneath our skin. We’d started perusing lists of the world’s most romantic destinations, peppered with Maldivian overwater bungalows, cobbled laneways in Paris and Rome, and lush tropical hideaways in Mexico and Jamaica, in search of escape. Africa rarely featured and yet we kept coming back to it, knowing it offered everything necessary for epic, Danielle Steel-style romance. Adventure, luxury and danger. Roaring campfires, sultry sunsets and midday naps. Bountiful wildlife, candlelit meals and, let’s be honest, tonnes of booze.
We knew this because we’d chosen East Africa for our honeymoon seven years ago, wanting to set the tone for a life full of adventure. We got that, of course, on this continent renowned for putting on the greatest wildlife shows on Earth. But we also got levels of luxury unparalleled anywhere else we’d been in the world. We lunched on a full mahogany dining set on a tidal island in Mozambique’s Quirimbas Archipelago.
We sipped tea in a Jeep at sunrise while watching hundreds of wildebeest and zig-zagging zebra march across Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater. We bathed in a claw-foot tub in a luxury tent in Zimbabwe’s Hwange national park as a family of elephants loped past, just a thin membrane of canvas separating us. These experiences formed part of the beating heart of our marriage. And so, eventually, we ignored the lists and instead chose to return to our favourite continent for a love boost.
On this safari, which took in Zambia, Botswana and South Africa over 12 days, it was the gentle unspooling of “African time” that became our medicine. During the twice-daily excursions on water and land, with nothing but nature to focus on, the rest of the world and our usual frenzied calendar of social events and work schedules just melted away.
Out in the bush, cut off from the outside world, our digitally-depleted minds relaxed as we stretched our eyes on vast landscapes and peered intently through binoculars at a small pride of lions lapping from a waterhole, and hundreds of twitching, caramel-coloured impala grazing and sniffing the air for danger, in South Africa’s Madikwe national park. By the end of the day, as we sat by the campfire with glasses of crisp chenin blanc in hand, fireflies sparking through the trees above us, we were left with something that had seemed increasingly rare: the ability to actually concentrate on each other.
Of course, there’s nothing quite like an element of danger to get the romance pumping, and Africa also offers that in abundance. Case in point: the moment our safari jeep rattled into the middle of a troupe of elephants in Botswana’s Chobe National Park, and an angry male very nearly trampled us on the way to protect his herd. My husband and I grabbed each other’s trembling hands feeling rattled, yes, but also alert, alive and connected.
Part of that African fizz has stayed with us in the months following this latest trip. I’ve come to think of it as the “African afterglow”. Which is why I’ll no longer hesitate to choose a wild African safari over a bungalow in the Seychelles, or a spot of Greek island hopping, when it comes to sprinkling the love dust.
Nina Karnikowski travelled as a guest of Luxury Escapes.
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Luxury Escapes offers an 11-night small group safari taking in Zambia, Botswana and South Africa, including luxury accommodation with Sanctuary Retreats, all meals and beverages, the Flight of the Angels helicopter ride over Victoria Falls, a Walking with Elephants experience and more, from $8499 per person. See luxuryescapes.com.