1. Time + Tide Miavana, Madagascar
Although I travelled alone to the remote, ultra-luxurious eco-sanctuary of Time + Tide’s Miavana in Madagascar, I’m planning to return soon with my husband in tow. Why the rush you may ask? Well, first off Miavana is one of the most exclusive castaway escapes I’ve had the privilege of experiencing. Set within protected marine conservancy on Nosy Ankao, Madagascar is a parallel universe for the modern-day explorer or those with a penchant for places that are off-the-beaten track. But don’t take my word for it. When David Attenborough first visited Madagascar in the 60s, he described it as ‘a place where forms of life that have long since disappeared from the rest of the world survive’. Today some 33 species of lemur remain, while the vast majority of its plants, reptiles and amphibians are entirely endemic. Consider too that unknown species continue to be discovered here, and that the skeletons of bizarre, now-extinct creatures – huge, flightless elephant birds; diminutive pygmy hippopotamus – lie fossilized in its fertile soil. But perhaps my greatest discovery about Miavana was that it is profoundly suited to both relaxing holiday habits, as well as the adventurous pace at which my husband likes to ‘relax’ whilst on vacation. As such, super adventurous activities like kitesurfing, adventure caving, waterskiing, wakeboarding and free diving are readily offered alongside activities such as snorkelling, paddle boarding, fishing, lemur trekking, turtle watching and geological trails. Not to mention a host of helicopter flips that will deliver you directly to some of the island’s most spectacular but inaccessible geological wonders. Romance is unavoidable here too – thanks to the ultra-luxurious, showstopper contemporary stone villas all set against azure waters and pearly white beaches. The ultra-private villas with walls of foldaway glass lead out to your own private pool and stretch of beach. While the interiors are chic in every possible way with bright colors and curvy sofas in varying shades of aqua – Miavana’s signature color. Everything is irresistibly lounge-able, luxurious and loveable!
2. NAY PALAD, Segera Retreat, Kenya
While the NAY PALAD Bird Nest, a one-of-a-kind luxurious bush bedroom at Segera Retreat on Kenya’s Laikipia Plateau, is touted as a once-in-a-lifetime experience – I know it’s a place I will never tire of experiencing. For this two-story, 20-foot by 20-foot nest is extraordinary in that it transports the concept of sleeping in the bush, to heady and ultra-romantic new heights. The suite has indoor and outdoor beds prepared with luxurious
linens and hot water bottles, a bathroom with solar-heated water and 360-degree views from the terrace in a fantastical creation in the middle of nowhere. After an exhilarating game drive or bush walk, you are brought to the nest just before sunset, where you will find it aglow with lanterns and stocked with chilled champagne and everything you need for the delicious picnic-style dinner. Whether you choose to sleep outdoors on the roof terrace beneath star-studded African skies or indoors between Egyptian cotton sheets, you are guaranteed utter privacy and thrilling isolation. If you’re a light sleeper, you’ll be woken at dawn with the cacophony of animal calls to greet the new day. This is the bush soundtrack at its best and a reminder to retrieve the surprise bush breakfast delivered to your doorstep in the early hours. The memory of sleeping out on the deck of this fantastical nest surrounded by the starry African skies and the sounds of the bush is one I will never forget. And long to return to. This is hands-down a must-do, once-in-a-lifetime experience for an adventurous couple.
3. North Island, Seychelles
Playing out one’s Robinson Crusoe fantasy on the five-star, exclusive eco-island of North Island in the Seychelles can mean different things to different people. Happily, North Island caters to both extremes with consummate ease. Just a few minutes by helicopter from the main island of Mahe and a 1,000 miles from the nearest continental landmass, I was
lucky to travel to North Island late last year with my husband and found it, as ever, the epitome of wild (and luxurious) abandonment. Comprising of eleven perfectly appointed and utterly private villas that come with bathrooms big enough to host a baptism, and a kitchen stocked with an impeccable selection of champagne, organic plantain chips and homemade ice-cream. Not to mention a private pool, gazebo, lounge and lawn leading to the beach. However, a visit to North Island is also a sober reminder of man’s blundering ability to decimate his environment for the story of North Island is an intriguing tale of rescue, with tourism the unlikely hero. Just twenty years ago, North Island was uninhabited and overrun with alien vegetation and rats, until a dynamic biodiversity and rehabilitation program turned it an eco-tourist destination par excellence. Today it’s a destination so pristine and private that not only Prince William and Kate Middleton, but also George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin, considered it their ultimate honeymoon destination. For me personally it is hands down the most romantic place I have ever been to – from food to vibe, to the cocktails on West beach, to the spa facilities to the pristine environment, to the amazing team of people who work there – one way or another, falling deeply in love is a given.
4. Wilderness’ Bisate Lodge, Rwanda
More than twenty years ago, I spotted a random photograph of a gorgeous guy sitting next to a giant male gorilla on someone’s computer screen in my office. Intrigued by who he was and how he had managed to find gorillas (at a time when gorilla trekking was not a tourist activity) let alone in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo – I was instantly smitten and made it my mission to track him down. I’m happy to report that I was successful, so much so that today he’s my husband! Since I first clapped eyes on that life-changing photograph, I’ve long wanted to recreate that adventure as an anniversary celebration and I have my sights on Rwanda where the options are excellent. I’d choose the elegant Bisate Lodge, located in the natural amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, with dramatic views of the peaks of the Bisoke and Karisimbi volcanic mountains that peek up through the Afro-alpine forests. The lodge itself is aesthetically unlike anything I’ve ever seen in that each suite bears an uncanny resemblance to a large-scale weaver’s nest although I’m told they were inspired by the King’s Palace in Butare. That’s another thing I like about Bisate, it’s decidedly Rwandan in style from the contemporary yet African interiors through to the staff dress and of course the architecture. Comprising just six pod-like suites with thatched roof spheres, ribbed walls and floor-to-ceiling windows – Bisate is the only place I know that offers the opportunity to see the gorillas and check out of modern life whilst surrounded by luxury and privacy. What makes it all the more special is that it’s an experience that is deeply connected to Rwanda’s history, people, culture and nature.
5. Duba Plains Camp, Okavango
I’ve long admired the passion, values and work ethic of my friends and National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence, Dereck and Beverly Joubert who as filmmakers have dedicated their lives to conservation. Their love story is pretty unique too in that they first met at high school and fell in love through their shared love and desire to protect Africa’s last wild places and wildlife. Thirty years later, they have made 25 films and written 11 books, six scientific papers, and many articles for National Geographic magazine, all focusing on large predator key stone species. Their body of work has resulted in eight Emmys, a Peabody, the World Ecology Award, and in 2009 they were inducted into the American Academy of Achievement. Based in Botswana, their home Duba Plains in the Okavango is set within a 77,000-acre private reserve. Personally designed by Dereck and Beverly as a wildlife connoisseur’s camp, Duba Plains is without doubt one of my most romantic places in Africa not least because its set within a matrix of flood plains, marshes, woodland and palm-dotted islands with unbelievable volumes of wildlife. A big
part of the allure for me is that every time I visit Duba Plains, I’m reminded of the immense power of this dynamic couple whose love for each other has fueled a passion for the wild that is manifested in every aspect of the camp. Comprising six bespoke tented suites, the suites are perfection in that they are remote and intimate – thus ensuring that even just a few days here is a restorative experience for jaded city folk like my husband and I.
If it’s hard to choose just one of these incredible trips, ask us about how we can merge two or three of these trips into a seamless itinerary that can take you from the beach to the bush, or vice versa. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org