The first leg of our honeymoon was a safari in South Africa. It was a dream. In fact, I may mentally still be there!
A safari has been on our bucket list for a very long time – and after our best friends took a honeymoon safari, Adam and I knew we had to do the same! We knew that we wanted to do it in conjunction with some time in Cape Town and Mauritius, so after a lot of research, we knew that a South African safari made the most sense for us. We did an insane amount of research and decided that due to our time of year, we wanted to visit one in the Sabi Sands Reserve, adjacent to Kruger National Park.
Let me back up a bit and say that I really had no idea how many different and unique safari experiences there were in the world, let alone in Africa, let alone in South Africa, let alone in Sabi Sands Reserve. I guess it was naïve looking back now, but I seriously underestimated the amount of options.
As I mentioned, we decided on a South Africa safari due to the other destinations we wanted to visit. The transit time and cost would have made it difficult to do another country in Africa. We had heard that South Africa would be more “bush-like” and less wide open spaces a la The Lion King. But, since we were going in our Summer (their Winter), the bush would be very dry and we’d have a much easier time seeing animals. This was a huge plus for us! We also did a lot of research into which areas had the highest animal sightings and found Kruger National Park. However, Kruger is not a private reserve, which means that it is open to the public and you can’t go off-road if there’s a sighting. So, we knew that Sabi Sands, the private reserve adjacent to Kruger, was perfect for us.
Once we narrowed that down, we turned to TripAdvisor to help us pick our lodge. I have to say, Sabi Sands is filled with some seriously amazing lodges and almost all of them had exclusively 5-star ratings. So, I did what Nikki does and made a spreadsheet with prices, pros and cons of each of the Top 15.
Voila! We landed on the Dulini River Lodge. I’ll go into this special place in more detail, but I am sure you can see why it rose to the top!
Pro tip: If you’re going for your honeymoon, make sure to book with their honeymoon offer, which saves 1 of you 50% off. Trust me, it’s worth it!
I am going to save the packing tips for a separate post (because there is SO much that I can share on that front) and skip right to the main event!
We arrived via a tiny plane to the tiniest airport I have ever visited. The GM of the lodge was there to greet us and bring us to the lodge. It was such a surreal rush to be on that safari truck and driving through the reserve. We saw warthogs, giraffe and rhino within our first 20 minutes!
I cannot even begin to describe how gorgeous this lodge was – smack in the middle of the bush but one of the most luxurious hotels I have ever been to! It had just recently been renovated and was just perfection in every aspect. It was right on the river bed which made for amazing animal action and sightings during our meals too. I mean, look at this view!!
Pro tip: This lodge had only 6 rooms, which made it feel so special and intimate. Everyone on the staff knew us and it felt like we were a part of their family! It’s definitely something to consider when you’re comparing different lodge options.
We checked in, sat down for lunch and were even able to get out on the afternoon game drive! It was filled with such gorgeous beauty.
Pro tip: We loved that our safari trucks had 3 rows, but only 2 seats per row. Each seat was so comfy and everyone had a window seat. We saw some trucks with 3 rows and 3 seats per row and the person in the middle seat was not a happy camper. Food for thought!
One of my favorite parts of safari are the breaks during game drives. We had one during our morning safari – where we stopped for coffee and cookies – and one during our afternoon safari – where we stopped for sundowners and snacks. Best. bar. ever!
And that’s not even the end of the night! We headed back to the lodge for a gorgeous 3-course dinner. The food quality, presentation and flavor was right up there with some of the best I have ever eaten – and what made it even more special was all of the local ingredients. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that ALL food and alcohol is included.
After eating and drinking ourselves content, we were escorted back to our room (they take safety very serious!), took a bath and zonked out.
The next morning, we woke up at 5:30am and made our way to the lodge for our morning game drive which started at 6am. It was definitely an early morning, but magnificent to see the sunrise and many of the animals just waking up.
Here’s that morning safari stop that I mentioned – and yes, that is a spiked Amarula mocha I am drinking alongside my cookie. When else is it socially acceptable to drink and eat cookies before 9am? #safarilife
We returned from the morning game drive around 9:30am and had a full breakfast at the lodge and then had quite a bit of free time before our next game drive. We relaxed in our plunge pool (with a visit from some monkey guests!), relaxed and had lunch.
It was then time for the afternoon game drive! By now, you know the drill so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.
But, this dinner night was one for the books…it was boma night! What is a boma dinner you ask? It is basically an African BBQ dinner under the stars. The table is set up in an enclosed outdoor space lit by candlelight and a campfire. There was traditional singing, dancing and food! Aside from the animals (obvi), it was one of the things that I was most looking forward to on our safari experience. And it was incredible!!
And so, our safari experience went like this for 4 glorious days. Wake up, game drive, breakfast, relax, lunch, game drive, dinner, bath, sleep. We saw SO many animals!
We even had animals join us at our meals!
If you’re curious, it never got boring, monotonous or repetitive. We loved every single moment and every single experience. They even surprised us with a romantic dinner in our room on our last night!
Dulini River Lodge was truly everything we could have ever wanted out of a safari experience – and so much that we had no idea was possible. The lodge, people, food, wildlife were all simply stunning. We would go back in a heartbeat!
Have you ever been on a South African safari? I would love to hear more about your experience and where you stayed!