Get Tips for a Honeymoon in Mozambique and South Africa

Learn more about this real couple's 15-day honeymoon adventure.

Following their rustic destination wedding in Highlands, North Carolina (see the celebration here), New Yorkers Elizabeth O'Keefe and Jonathan Cotton began preparing for an unforgettable honeymoon nearly halfway around the world. They spent 15 days in South Africa and Mozambique for a romantic getaway filled with the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation.

Destination: Mozambique

sunset view of pool at andBeyond Benguerra Island
Photo courtesy of andBeyond Benguerra Island

Though the majority of their trip was spent in South Africa, Elizabeth and Jonathan knew they wanted to spend time off the coast of Mozambique at a luxurious property recommended by their travel agent. Just the setting to fulfill the relaxation part of their honeymoon, the newlyweds stayed for three nights at andBeyond Benguerra Island Lodge, where they arrived via helicopter. “This was our favorite place of the entire trip!” affirms Elizabeth. “The rooms were stunning.” Accommodations feature a private plunge pool and hammock, and stays include daily meals, drinks, and water activities.

private beach at andBeyond Benguerra Island
Photo 
courtesy of andBeyond Benguerra Island

In addition to lounging by the pool, the couple did take part in a few additional excursions, including horseback riding. They also took a private sunset cruise on a dhow – a sailing vessel popular on the Indian Ocean – and had a romantic picnic on an exclusive sandbar, which was Jonathan’s favorite part of the trip. “It truly feels like you’re on your own on this deserted white-sand beach, surrounded by the beautiful shades of blue of the ocean,” he describes, “and yet you’re still pampered and served a five-star lunch – true bliss!” In addition, Elizabeth and Jonathan had access to a full-service butler who helped them with any need during their stay. “We loved our butler Paolo; he was so sweet and attentive,” remembers Elizabeth. When asked if they would do anything differently, the newlyweds noted they would have stayed in Mozambique longer, urging honeymooners to get a taste of the magical locale.

HIGHLIGHTS

Having a “castaway” picnic. “We took a boat out to a private sandbar and they set up a picnic for us!”

Seeing elephants up close. “If you spend some time laying out, you’ll often see an elephant who comes to the pool for a little drink.”

Dining alfresco at the hotel. “Every night, all of the guests come and chat, have drinks and little appetizers, and then have dinner right by the water’s edge.”

Destination: Kruger National Park

andBeyond Ngala Tented Camp in kruger national park south africa
Photo courtesy of andBeyond Ngala Tented Camp

The rest of the newlyweds’ trip took place in South Africa, where they experienced the African bush and life in both the city and countryside. Wanting to take advantage of the opportunity to see wildlife, they stayed for four nights at andBeyond Ngala Tented Camp located at a private game reserve incorporated into Kruger National Park. Recommended by a friend who visited on her own honeymoon, the property in the middle of the wilderness featured luxurious, air-conditioned canvas tents that provided comfortable, once-in-a-lifetime accommodations. “You could hear the animals outside during the night,” reveals Elizabeth, “but it always felt super safe.” 

honeymooners at kruger national park south africa safari
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth O'Keefe & Jonathan Cotton

Since they chose the property for its safari adventures, the honeymooners took advantage of the experience and didn’t miss a safari at the private game reserve – which is home to the Big Five: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo – during their stay. “The first time out, we saw leopards, elephants, lions, and zebra,” shares Elizabeth. “The safari was the most unique and exciting part of the trip,” she says, noting that they never felt nervous or unsafe while on the vehicle. “The guides were incredibly knowledgeable – one even spotted a camouflaged chameleon after dark,” she adds.  

HIGHLIGHTS

Going on safari. “We went every morning and evening!”

Blending nature and luxury. “The property had great food, wonderful service, and amazing animals!”

Seeing lions for the first time. “We tracked them on the safari and watched them for a full hour – so unbelievable to see them up close.”

Destination: Cape Town & Western Cape

Leeu House in South Africa honeymoon destination in western cape wine country
Photo courtesy of Leeu Collection

Wanting a taste of city life while in South Africa, the New York-based couple visited Cape Town, calling Trevoyan Guest House home for three nights. The Victorian-style bed-and-breakfast is located on the slopes of Table Mountain and is also in close proximity to the many restaurants, bars, and sights the capital city has to offer. Elizabeth and Jonathan delighted in high tea at Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, spa treatments at One&Only Cape Town, and shopping at the historical Greenmarket Square. They also took a private full-day tour of the Cape peninsula and Simon’s Town, where they saw penguins and seals before heading back to the city and grabbing coffee at Hang Ten Café with their guide.

Heading south to Gansbaii, the newlyweds spent two nights at Grootbos Forest Lodge, which offers romantic free-standing suites and picturesque views in an ancient forest setting. “We absolutely loved it!” confirms Elizabeth of the “stunning, out-of-this-world scenery” and accommodations. Since the property is located “in the middle of nowhere,” shares Elizabeth, they couple admits they stayed at the hotel the entire time – reading, swimming, riding horses, and enjoying the daily breakfasts sourced from local ingredients, three-course lunches, and six-course dinners. “The food and wine were incredible at every meal,” she adds. 

elizabeth o'keefe and jonathan cotton sunset at grootbos private nature reserve
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth O'Keefe & Jonathan Cotton

Continuing their epicurean journey, the pair traveled to Franschhoek, known for its beautiful vineyards, for a two-night stay at Leeu House. “It’s such a chic property in an adorable town with great art and jewelry shopping,” suggests Elizabeth. The couple highly recommends that honeymooners dine and wander the expansive gardens at the nearby Babel Restaurant at Babylonstoren, one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms that has been renovated into a restaurant, hotel, and spa, as well as Marigold for “amazing” Indian food. “The level of luxury and quality of the food and hospitality was incredible,” declares Elizabeth of all their destinations. “I don’t think we expected this level of accommodation in such remote places.”

HIGHLIGHTS

Indulging in food and wine. “It’s included with your stay at Grootbos Forest Lodge, so you can feast to the extreme.”

Touring the Cape Peninsula. “We saw the cutest penguins on a secret beach and went stand-up paddling with seals.”

Going wine tasting. “We went on a wine tour to see how wine is made and sampled flights at Simonsig in Stellenbosch.”

Travel Tips from Elizabeth & Jonathan:

“We used [travel agent] Brooke Garnett of MAYAMAYA, who we strongly recommend – she is incredibly knowledgeable and wonderful to work with.”

“For safari, you need to bring some layers because the temperature drops at night and it can be chilly when you’re driving around in the open-air jeeps in the morning and evening.”

“The restaurant scene in Cape Town is incredible and amazingly inexpensive for the quality – mix up some fancy meals on the V&A Waterfront with some of the smaller restaurants on Bree Street and Kloof Street.”

“A lot of couples looking for a beautiful beach stop will travel to the Seychelles or Maldives after South Africa, but that adds a lot of travel time – check out the beaches of Mozambique instead for a much closer option that is still jaw-droppingly gorgeous.”

“Don’t skip the Winelands outside of Cape Town – even if you’re not super into wine, the mountain scenery, incredible food, art shops, charming architecture, and beautiful hikes or drives are all amazing and well worth it.”

For more travel and honeymoon advice, take a look at this real couple's month-long honeymoon to Japan, Bali, Singapore, the Maldives, and the United Arab Emirates, get more ideas here, and see the romantic honeymoon of Zena Foster and R&B Singer Durrell "Tank" Babbs.

Authored by: Kelcy Christy