Spring Into Africa
As spring draws near, I am reminded of the annual displays of wildflowers that burst into life in South Africa. It is without a doubt my favorite time of year – the landscape is transformed into a kaleidoscope of colors as Mother Earth puts on a floral spectacle to celebrate rebirth and the changing of the seasons.
Born and raised in Cape Town, I took a regular springtime pilgrimage to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, voted one of the best gardens in the world. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of Kirstenbosch’s backdrop, framed along the eastern slopes of regal Table Mountain. Whenever our guests are pondering activities from September to November, I always suggest Kirstenbosch.
For an even more thrilling springtime gateway, escape to Botswana’s Chobe River before venturing into the Okavango Delta. In my opinion, the Okavango is the closest thing to Eden we have left on this planet. The delta is a year-round destination filled with wildlife and the largest elephant population in the world. Native plants and animals have synchronized their biological cycles to adapt to the seasonal rains and floods, and during an afternoon game drive the road can easily become impassable as scores of elephant family herds make their way to the river to drink, bathe and play. The delta is also home to some of the world’s most endangered species of large mammals, such as the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion.
Africa is magical, inspirational, and life changing; when you visit during the spring, the experience is life changing.
My Favorite Romantic Activities
It is easy to fall in love with Africa, and even easier to rekindle an existing romance on a euphoric African getaway. This majestic continent is the perfect destination for lovers, an oasis designed for rejuvenating the soul and reconnecting with nature, yourself and your loved ones. Born and raised in South Africa, my favorite Valentine’s Day activity is still a retreat to the Cape Winelands, sampling a variety of world-class wines while savoring the picturesque surroundings. To complete this ultimate escape, I love taking an evening cruise on the Atlantic Ocean to witness the awe and splendor of a Cape Town sunset. One thing I know for sure: You can leave Africa, but Africa will never leave you. Embark on an unforgettable romantic journey – anywhere in Africa will do – and you will leave a piece of your heart, but take home a lifetime of memories.
Penguins, dolphins, great whites and more: South Africa has it all when it comes to marine-based creatures, and I’ve had many opportunities to witness them. But when it comes to the largest marine mammals, South Africa deserves a special distinction, holding the title for the world’s best land-based whale watching destination. Every year these gentle giants migrate from their chilly arctic feeding grounds to South Africa’s coastal paradise, perfect for mating, calving, and raising their young. Whale watchers enjoy spectacular displays of breaching, blowing, lobtailing and spy hopping – inspiring acrobatic feats that remind us how small we truly are. Peak calving season for the southern right whale is from July to August, but stragglers can be seen through September and October. The humpback whale is often spotted from May to December and Bryde’s whales and orca whales can be seen year-round.
African Sleepouts Under the Stars
Stargazers rejoice! It doesn’t get much more romantic than cuddling in the moonlight, whispering sweet nothings while wishing on shooting stars. African travelers enjoy a bevy of luxurious “star beds”, located on private roof terraces under an infinite blanket of stars. Far from the populated metropolitan cities, the African bush is free from extensive light pollution and boasts the most dazzling night skies without sacrificing material comforts.
Additional Stargazing Opportunities
The beauty of the African sky simply cannot be overstated and there are many opportunities to highlight its majesty. Before snuggling in the star beds, couples can enjoy open-air dining under the clear and endless skies, take a guided night tour, listen to astronomy lectures or operate research-grade telescopes. The options are as limitless as the galaxies sparkling above!
These animals don’t need a holiday to celebrate their love. We’ve all heard the saying “You’re my penguin,” but did you know that there are many species in the animal kingdom that mate for life? Not only are they monogamous, but these animals frequently engage in romantic rituals that could put Romeo to shame.
- Penguins are known for a variety of mating dances and rituals. Male Gentoo penguins spend days surveying the beach to find the smoothest pebble possible before presenting his “rock” to his (hopeful) lover.
- Sea horses wrap their tails together to keep them from drifting apart. Each morning, they dance together for several minutes, asserting their bond and coordinating their reproductive cycles.
- Sea otters sleep, eat and rest together. Like sea horses, they keep close by holding hands while they’re sleeping.
- Black vultures are fierce lovers and have been known to attack other vultures who try to attract their mates.
- Elephants in love are a special breed. These gentle giants are empathetic lovers, holding trunks and caressing one another in times of joy and duress.
- Albatross take several years to select a mate, and from that point on they return to the same spot year after year to mate with the same partner.
My Favorite Night Game Drive
One of my favorite night game drives experiences took place in Zambia’s Kafue National Park on the Busanga Plains. After enjoying a lovely sundowner cocktail we were making our way back to camp for dinner. The night sky was brilliant with the stars twinkling above in the saturated black sky. It is such a pleasure to escape the light pollution of my everyday life and see the night sky.
The vehicles headlights were showing us the way as we cut our way through the still grasses that had grown up during the wet season even along the center of the dirt road. And then we came to a wonderful sighting. A large pride of lion feeding on a kill. The lion seemed restless and agitated by our presence and the fact they we had interrupted their feast. They were very vocal so we backed off to a safe distance and that’s when our guide did something a bit unexpected. Off went the engine, off went the headlights, off went the spotlight, ON went the NIGHT.
We sat in pitch darkness and listened, listened to the lion’s mealtime conversations and terrible table manners. The crunching of bones, the roaring argument over who got the last leg, not to mention the chorus of insects who provided that background music. It was probably only 30 seconds but it felt much longer – and I will never forget it.