My husband and I met in physical therapy school 7 years before we finally decided it was time to tie the knot. I would call us adventurous, but not extreme – which is what led us to planning our epic East African honeymoon adventure. Every day we see the effects of aging on the body in our careers, so while we’re young and fit we try our best to partake in active explorations together. Do it while you can!
Our honeymoon was longer than the average trip, but you could easily hit the highlights on a 2-3 week visit. If you’re crunched for time you could certainly do a week, but you’d just have to be choosy! We used credit card points to pay for our flights, but unless you are leaving from a major airport, expect to pay just under $2,000 per person for your airfare round-trip to East Africa. You can get great deals into Nairobi though and regional flights from there can be cheap so shop around.
Our adventure started with a 13-day tour of Uganda’s National Parks. Our main objective in Uganda was to see the incredible mountain gorillas of Bwindi National Park – standing less than 10 feet away from a 400-pound animal whose tendencies are more human than ape is such an eye-opening experience.
These gentle giants will steal your heart, particularly if you get lucky enough to see a family with a crazy little infant swinging through the trees and checking you out from every angle.
Uganda also boasts a large habituated population of chimpanzees in Kibale National Park and stunning views of the Nile River from Jinja all the way to Murchison Falls. You can even whitewater raft or fish the Nile River! There is something special here for any nature/wildlife lover.
We booked a complete tour through Encounter Africa Safaris Ltd, a Ugandan owned and operated company, so they handled all of housing/transportation/food in gorgeous eco-lodges throughout the country.
One lodge we stayed in was a partial tree house structure called Broadbill Forest Camp while another we were steps away from the Nile River with hippos in our front yard during the night at Murchison Falls River Lodge. I promise you’ll never forget the sounds of hippos chatting steps away from your tent all night. I barely slept a wink I was so excited!
The 13-day “midrange hotel” package with all food included cost us about $8,000.00 total, but a lot of that money went to permits to see the gorillas which are $600.00 each. A shorter trip will certainly bring the cost down, but seeing the gorillas will no matter what be pricey. You will also need a Uganda visa for $50.00 per person, but they are easy to get before you go.
After our amazing two weeks in Uganda we took a regional flight to Moshi, Tanzania to start the most strenuous part of our honeymoon – an attempt at summiting the highest point in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. This was my husband’s pick for activities and certainly checks off the active adventure portion of our trip!
We live at sea level so we chose a longer 9-day route up the mountain to acclimatize properly, but most people successfully do it in 7 days which looking back on it we could have easily done.
You have to feel comfortable with camping and no showers for a week, but in return you get to wake up every morning to steaming hot chocolate/coffee and crystal-clear views of one of the most iconic mountains in the world.
Standing at 19,340 feet you will travel from rainforest with colobus monkeys swinging through the trees to gorgeous alpine deserts and end with summiting on top of a glacier.
Our summit attempt was successful and we spent our last morning on the mountain as the first glimmers of sunrise rose over the ice. It was spectacular. There are few places on Earth you can do this, but nowhere else will you be treated with such genuine hospitality and concern as in Tanzania.
Climbing Kilimanjaro is not something to attempt without physically training for it, but what better incentive to add in a little extra training pre-wedding to look amazing on your special day and have a blast on your honeymoon?
Our trek was organized by a Tanzanian owned company called African Scenic Safaris and I would absolutely recommend them. A 9-day trek will cost you about $6,000.00 for a private group, but if you take a shorter route with a larger group it could cost you more around the $4,000.00 range. This includes all food, drink, transportation, and a fantastic group of porters to make your trip extra special. You will need a visa for Tanzania at $100.00 per person.
After a successful and fulfilling summit of Mount Kilimanjaro we went on a 10-day classic Northern Circuit camping safari, also planned by African Scenic Safaris. The wildlife of Tanzania is unbeatable and our favorite parks were Tarangire and the Serengeti.
Tarangire is gorgeous country with enormous baobab trees scattered amongst massive herds of elephants. We were lucky enough to see lions, cheetahs, and a striking leopard in Tarangire all while enjoying delicious food from our personal chef.
The Serengeti is everything you’ve dreamed it would be – endless grasslands with a multitude of wildlife around every turn. Just make sure you plan for the right time of year there as the wildebeest migration will determine the wildlife you see. I can promise the stars you will see at night camping in the Serengeti will be the most beautiful you’ve ever seen.
We lived in rural Alaska where the stars were pretty amazing, but nothing compared to the bush in Africa. A 10-day budget camping safari will cost you around $7,000.00 with everything included. Again there are always shorter options which will cost you significantly less, but try not to miss Tarangire and Serengeti!
We ended our incredible adventure with a “true” honeymoon experience on an island called Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean. Zanzibar is a melting pot of so many cultures which brings about some amazing food.
Stone Town is a maze of small streets with first class restaurants on the West side of the island which you could explore for anywhere from 1-3 days. Hotels here will be a little more pricey – we stayed at The Dhow Palace for 3 nights for $500.00 breakfast included.
The East side of the island boasts white sandy beaches and world class snorkeling and scuba diving off the Mnemba Atoll. My husband and I are dive certified and spent 2 days exploring the waters with unspoiled coral reef teeming with life. Giant clams are crazy critters! The rest of our time we spent lounging at Zanzibar Retreat Hotel – a gorgeous African style boutique hotel with friendly staff and incredible food. A week there will run about $1500.00 food included.
Our trip was a whirlwind of varying experiences and we were so lucky to be able to spend so much time. East Africa is such a special place with incredible wildlife, friendly locals, and stunning scenery. If you have an adventurous side it is most certainly for you and I would absolutely recommend the tour operators we used.
Thank you Wanderable for helping make our dream honeymoon come true – we saved a lot of money before; however, could not have made it nearly as extraordinary without our friends/family assisting us! They loved knowing what they were paying for to rather than just writing a check!