When it comes to a couple's special holiday, such as an anniversary or honeymoon, it can sometimes be difficult to find a single destination that appeals to both. One half may want an adventure, the other to simply flop on a beautiful beach. Combining a spectacular African safari and Indian Ocean beach stay is just about the perfect choice.
A safari is a very special experience, providing lasting memories. My partner and I have enjoyed two magnificent safari holidays, staying in different lodges on each occasion.
A usual lodge stay tends to be three or four nights, though those of us a little more obsessed by animals may choose to stay longer.
We did spend some relaxation time in Dubai on one trip and the other a glorious week in Mauritius.
There are several great choices for your African safari. Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and Botswana have all provided magical experiences for my clients. We opted for South Africa and the first time, headed to the Sabi Sands area of Kruger. There is an abundance of choice when it comes to selecting lodges so expert advice can save you a lot of time.
On the transfer to our first lodge, I thought there was a problem when the driver slowed and stopped the vehicle, but to our amazement, there was an elephant peering out of the bushes at us.
A few minutes later, we stopped again to view three giraffes at the side of the road. Our safari experience had begun even before arriving at the lodge.
Before embarking on this trip, I had been advised by several people that there is something incredibly special about staying at a Safari Lodge. Nobody could quite explain it outside of a unique combination of peace, relaxation and excitement. I was feeling it all.
We split our time between Cheetah Plains Private Game Reserve and the Idube Game Reserve; and unbelievably, within 24 hours, we had seen the "Big Five".
Each of the lodges we have stayed at has been small and intimate with everything provided on a personal level. A typical stay would incorporate two game drives a day, at sunrise and late afternoon to include sunset.
It is exciting waking early when the ranger knocks on your door. Most lodges provide a light breakfast before setting off and a brunch upon return, then a light afternoon tea before setting off on the later game drive and dinner when you get back.
You will have plenty of relaxation time and the lodge will take care of everything down to what sundowner drink you would like.
The main objective of your stay is of course to see the animals - the amazing rangers and trackers seriously know their stuff.
We saw so much, including things that you would see on a wildlife documentary, like leopards chasing a porcupine and devouring a springbok up a tree - it felt a real privilege to experience.
On our final morning in Kruger, the ranger asked what we had not seen. Lion cubs was our answer and lo and behold he found some!
On our following trip, we spent a week between two lodges reachable by road from Johannesburg, good options if you want to head somewhere malaria-free.
The first, Clifftop Exclusive Safari Hideaway in the Welgevonden Game Reserve, is three hours north of the airport before we headed another three hours northeast to the Madikwe Game Reserve, staying at the Sanctuary Makanyane Safari Lodge.
Self-drive is an option though we opted for a driver for our transfers.
It’s fascinating how the different areas have contrasting landscapes and animals. It wasn’t until we reached the final lodge that we saw the magnificent endangered black rhino.
People have asked why I choose to do further safaris. It’s simple - each time you get in that safari jeep you never know what lies ahead.
In Madikwe, the lodge offers the chance to spend a night in the open. Hidden deep in the bush on private ground, is a secure, raised hide with a second storey sleeping deck.
It was an unforgettable experience to spend a night under the African sky, surrounded only by lanterns and the bush, staring up at the stars to a private soundtrack provided by the nocturnal animals.
After all the excitement of being on safari, how about an opportunity for some indulgence and winding down?
Mauritius is a tropical playground set in the Indian Ocean, ringed by coral reefs, white sand beaches and clear calm water.
World-class resorts are scattered along the island's coastline, offering enormous swimming pools, endless water sports and shaded sun loungers a few steps from the sea.
These sunny shores are a favourite for families and couples alike, with several hotels that cater specifically for adults, suiting honeymooners particularly.
Nothing is too much trouble for the “no problem” attitude of the Mauritian staff, and resorts will be happy to arrange sunset cocktails, candlelit beach dinners and relaxing massages.
With all this sun, sea and sand, it’s easy to understand why many visitors don’t venture further than the nearest beach, but I would also recommend considering a little time to explore the national parks, and some shopping in Port Louis or Grand Baie markets to pick up a few colourful reminders of your Mauritian island holiday.
Beachcomber was the very first hotel company to become established on this beautiful island and as a result, managed to secure some stunning beachfront locations. They have eight wonderful resorts, each with a unique feel and atmosphere and I have stayed at several.
The Royal Palm is the smallest property with just 69 suites. It is a 'Leading Hotel of the World', boasting a helipad of its own, as well as 'the most prestigious address in Mauritius'.
This would be high on my list for couples looking for the ultimate in luxury.
I spent an enjoyable week at Le Mauricia Beachcomber Resort & Spa. This is a great option for young honeymooners or families - located in the heart of Grand Baie.
It is a busy hotel with a splendid water sports centre, a separate diving centre and tennis courts, along with shopping centres and plentiful nightlife, including a casino, all within walking distance.
Le Canonnier Beachcomber Golf Resort & Spa was where I appreciated a fine lunch, an additional option when staying at nearby Le Mauricia.
The resort stands proudly on 17 acres of tropical garden above the coastline on a historic peninsula, enhancing the authentic atmosphere with commanding views over the northern islands.
This is a fabulous all-inclusive option for families with several different room and apartment types.
The unique spa with six massage rooms perched in the branches of a banyan tree is extraordinary.
Victoria Beachcomber Resort & Spa is popular with families and couples with splendid facilities for both, including incredibly spacious rooms, two-bedroom apartments and one of the island’s most gorgeous beaches.
I have booked more clients here than any other yet still not managed a personal stay. Everyone loves it so I have no hesitation in recommending it.
An inter-changeable all-inclusive option with both Le Cannonier and Le Mauricia is offered too.
'Victoria for 2' is a separate section of the resort for adults only, perfect for weddings, honeymoons and romance, featuring swim-up rooms, a new à la carte restaurant and the use of the main hotel's facilities.
Trou Aux Biches is my personal favourite with a lovely laidback vibe. I was fortunate to stay here on an educational trip as well as on my own holiday. The contemporary designed suites are beautiful, along with a selection of two and three-bed villas.
There is an impressive range of land and watersports available plus excellent kids clubs and teen facilities. A salivating choice of restaurants includes Thai, Italian, Indian and the most amazing buffet.
Further south we find the Paradis & Dinarobin Beachcomber Golf Resort & Spa, two adjacent hotels with the iconic Le Morne mountain as a spectacular backdrop.
It's very much about switching off, wellbeing and tranquillity at Dinarobin, a peaceful all-suite property set in lush tropical gardens and where I have also enjoyed a holiday, staying in a Club Junior Suite.
An adult-only area features their Zen Suites and its own Zen beach, which says everything about this calming residence, one I always recommend to honeymooners.
Restaurants at its sister resort are also available to guests.
Paradis is ideal for active families with its expansive choice of watersports and its own 18-hole golf course. An excellent choice of room types is available, including two-bedroom family suites, and with the complimentary use of the facilities at the Dinarobin next door, a comprehensive choice of eight restaurants will cover everybody's food preferences.
Trou Aux Biches, Dinarobin and Paradis offer a variety of board options and there are often excellent value deals available for special occasions.
The last but by no means least of the Beachcomber portfolio is the Shandrani, set on a private peninsula with three different beaches and lapped by the Blue Bay Marine Park.
A fantastic value Serenity Plus all-inclusive is offered here, which includes à la carte dining, imported wines, champagne, water-skiing, tennis courts and a 9-hole pitch and putt golf course.
The hotel also has a sailing school and a diving academy affiliated with the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI).
There are plenty of other fantastic resorts and hotels and whether it be a post-safari chill-out or a stunning Indian Ocean holiday, I will help find the right one for you.
Everybody should experience the magic of Mauritius.