You may recall from our previous blog about planning our honeymoon, that Serj and I decided to travel to South Africa. One of the best decisions we made was planning our trip three months after the wedding. For us, it was like the last little bit before we had to say bye to our wedding planning and adventure. So with both of us scared of flying, we took what felt like the longest flight to London. I had been to London previously, but Serj had not, so we decided to stay there for three days. From there, we flew to Johannesburg and connected to Cape Town, South Africa.
When I say that I have never seen a more beautiful place, I promise you, it's very true. Cape Town was so much more different than Serj and I could have ever imagined. The people were overly polite and genuinely welcoming. We stayed at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront with a view of Table Mountain and just about a minute and a half walk from the dock and mall. We ate at almost every single restaurant because the food was absolutely delicious. With the dollar being so strong, we couldn't help but always have a bite to eat and do quite a bit of shopping.
The highlight of Cape Town was definitely Table Mountain. It's a mountain with a flat top, making it look like a table, and when it's cloudy, it looks like a table cloth is on the mountain. It's been said that on a very clear day, from the top of the mountain, which by the way is one of the seven wonders of nature, you can see down to the tip of South Africa. Our day was a bit cloudy, but still an amazing sight to see. We also took a boat out to see Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.
After almost five days in Cape Town, we left to our safari on the other side of the country, at Kruger National Park. The resort is located in the park, where animals are free to roam. We were shown to our room, which had no TV or Wi-Fi, and as our hostess was leaving, she said that she didn't recommend us using the private pool on our porch because in the previous days' elephants and leopards had been drinking from it! Yes, Leopards!
The day at Arathusa begins at about 4:45 a.m. when you get a "wake up" call from your ranger and tracker. They greet you at your door at 5:00 a.m. and walk you to the vehicle. We were not allowed to leave our room by ourselves at this time, because again, animals could roam free. The vehicle would stop at the main lodge for a quick coffee break and off to our morning safari. We'd return around 9:00 a.m., have breakfast, and lounge until about 4:00 p.m. when we'd go on the night safari. Again the ranger and tracker would take us back to our individual bungalows by vehicle to avoid animal encounters.
During our safari, within the first couple of hours, we spotted 3 of the big five. Lions, leopards, and elephants. The ranger, aka the driver of the vehicle, would get so close to the animals, that often we feared they would attack. We especially feared for the tracker who sat at the front of the vehicle and essentially looked for animal prints to track where they were going. The second day, we saw a Rhino and then eventually the buffalo. We saw several other animals but seeing the big 5 was our goal.
I can’t explain how different it feels to be in the park. You really appreciate the animals and realize that you are entering their home. As aggressive as we learn the animals to be, they didn’t bother us at all, as they are very used to seeing the cars and the people. However, they are very attentive to their surroundings and their eyes and ears are always open.
The two most interesting moments we had during our time on safari both included elephants. The first was when Serj and I were walking back to our bungalow, in the middle of the day, the only time we were allowed to, and Serj came from behind me, grabbed my shoulders and said “don’t be alarmed, we’re almost to our door, it’s still a little far from us, just walk slowly and we’ll be fine.” Sure enough, I thought that I was going to die! I looked to my right and about 20 feet away was this larger than life male elephant staring at us and us staring at him. We slowly walked to our bungalow and just watched this elephant roam around, just looking for food and water.
The second was on safari when we pulled over to see a hippo. At the time same time, a line of elephants was coming to pass us as our ranger told us that because this is a family of elephants, they may get close and try to smell us but will continue walking if we don't make a noise or movement. The elephants came and passed but the mother elephant, came and stood directly in front of the side of the open-air vehicle, and lifted its trunk to about an arm's length away from Serj. I think we all had to hold our breath so as to not scream. But sure as day, she kept walking.
The last night of our safari was definitely very bittersweet. Although we were very tired and ready to come home, we didn't want to leave the place we had come to love. As we went to sleep one last time in South Africa, as if it was a goodbye, we heard a lion roar as if it were right outside of our door. The experience is surreal and we will absolutely recommend it to anyone who is willing to add a bit of adventure to their honeymoon.
As much as we hope to walk the streets of Europe and lay on an island one day, this experience will never be beat.
Travel and accommodations were booked through Icon Expeditions. Our South African honeymoon included 5 nights in Cape Town, a flight from Cape Town to Hoedspruit, three night stay at Arathusa Lodge, all-inclusive with safari, and a flight from Hoedspruit to Johannesburg and it cost us approximately a total of $5,000. This did not include travel with British Airways to and from South Africa (and a layover in London) for $5,000 as well. In addition, we had a three night stay in London.
We can't wait to see where the next adventure takes #theguedikians.