Claire Ridley discovers Zanzibar and the Serengeti National Park for a beach and safari honeymoon of a lifetime.
Located 40 kilometres off the coast of Tanzania, the Spice Island, as it's known, has a thriving spice trade from the locally-grown produce including cinnamon, nutmeg and clove. The five-star Meliá Zanzibar, an all-inclusive luxury beach resort built on a 40-acre estate, sits forty-five minutes from the airport by private transfer on the north east coast.
The resort offers 137 rooms and suites including Ocean View Bungalows that are the hotel's best offering for honeymooners. They feature a private balcony with sea views and a tropical semi-outdoor shower under the typical Makuti roof. There's also five restaurants and bars and The Spa, a tranquil beachfront spot.
Wining and dining
A walk down the jetty ends at The Jetty Lounge, a honeymooner's paradise. It's open for lunch (the fresh lobster is a must-try), dinner (serving international tapas) and cocktails at sunset. Back on the beach, Aqua restaurant offers an al fresco dinner option where reservations are required. A candlelit supper with uninterrupted sea views isn't to be missed and neither is the coconut crab soup.
For something more relaxed, The Spice Market boasts open cooking stations serving a mix of international dishes with the Swahili Buffet being a highlight. These themed nights are very entertaining with live African music and dancing on the adjoining sheltered terrace. Those wanting to feel the sand between their toes can jump in a golf buggy to the Gabi Beach Club, a short distance from the main hotel, to feast on the grilled seafood. There's also the Pool Bar & Restaurant for sandwiches and snacks, while The Library Bar is perfect for a relaxing drink (the light Kilimanjaro beer is highly recommended.)
- Relaxing on the idyllic 300-metre stretch of powder white sand and swimming in the crystal clear water is top priority, with Gabi Beach home to Balinese beds, a beach volley ball court, kayaks and kite surfing lessons, available at an extra charge.
- There's tennis and table tennis available, PADI diving, snorkeling (the resort is ringed by a natural coral reef), and an air-conditioned fitness centre.
- Enjoy a refreshing dip in the infinity pool with sun beds in the water – ideal for that poolside selfie!
- Those in need of some post-vow pampering should head to The Spa and enjoy a personalised treatment using a choice of the island blended massage oils made using natural spices. Pure Bliss (a combination of a body polish, wrap, massage and facial) and The Spa Signature Massage are not to be missed.
- Visit the capital city of Stone Town with Fisherman Tours and wander through the spice market – be prepared for some hustle and bustle! (www.fishermantours.com
- Book a boat trip with The Safari Blue on board a traditional Dhow. Snorkel with a guide and swim ashore a powdery sandbank before feasting on a Swahili seafood barbecue. If you're lucky, you'll spot dolphins at play (www.safariblue.net
Prices at Meliá Zanzibar start from £350 per night for a double Melia Garden Room in low season, www.melia.com
In the heart of the Serengeti National Park on the southern slopes of Nyamuma (which is the wildebeest and zebra migration route) sits the recently opened, eco-friendly Meliá Serengeti Lodge. Accessed from the Seronera Airstrip, (prepare for a very small aircraft from Zanzibar via Arusha), it's a five-star resort complete with 50 rooms and suites designed with a nod to the traditional Maasai culture. The two Serengeti Suites are best suited to honeymooners, decorated in soft, earthy tones with a terrace ideally placed for animal spotting. This can be screened off at night to allow in the sounds of the Serengeti. There's also an infinity pool, an outdoor fitness centre, spa, three restaurants and two bars at the property with everything designed to support the local environment.
Wining and dining
The Savannah Restaurant has been built with open-air views of the park. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served from the buffet with a large selection of dishes made using fresh ingredients including meat, fish, salad and fresh fruit with the watermelon smoothie a must-try!
Dine under the stars at Boma, a circular-shaped restaurant centered around an open firepit with a menu serving authentic African cuisine and the Maasai providing live music and dancing. A light menu of tapas is available at The Terrace and traditional Tanzanian coffee (served with a stick of cinnamon) and homemade ginger tea (that's delicious) are available at The Bar along with a selection of African liquor.
- Sip on a cocktail at the infinity pool while taking in views of the stunning Serengeti.
- Learn how to bead a piece of jewellery.
- Take a walk around the property escorted by the Maasai, who also guard your room 24-hours a day. For those wanting to venture further afield, a guided walking safari can be arranged with the hotel.
- The stylish spa houses couples treatment rooms with a variety of massages, facials and body treatments on offer using blended oils including lemongrass, ginger and vanilla.
Exploring the Serengeti
- The park is famous for its abundance of wildlife and the only way to see it is during a game drive on board one of the hotel's fully equipped Jeeps with windows and a roof that opens. Our very experienced guide was Joel, and it was cameras at the ready as he guided us across the desert-like terrain to introduce us to this magical animal kingdom. Prepare to see lions, antelopes, zebras, giraffes and hyenas among others. There's up to 28 species of hoofed animals in the Serengeti with more than 530 different bird species.
- A picnic stop at the Hippo Pool provides a scenic lunch area to safely admire these larger than life creatures. The food is prepared by the chef at the lodge who will make up any picnic basket requests. There's plenty of refreshments on board as well as complimentary hand sanitizer, chilled face towels and sunscreen.
- An early morning start for an hour-long balloon safari at sunrise is a highlight not to be missed. Arranged through Serengeti Balloon Safaris (www.balloonsafaris.com
), the flight is launched at dawn and floats over the plains, spotting plentiful wildlife in areas out of bounds to vehicles (off road driving is not permitted in most of the Serengeti). After a champagne toast on landing, you're seated and served a freshly prepared African breakfast in the bush before being presented with your flight certificate. It's worth noting here to make use of the 'loo with a view' as there may not be one available for a while.
Prices for Meliá Serengeti Lodge start from £415 per night for the Game Drive all-inclusive package, www.melia.comWhat to know before you go
- All UK visitors to Tanzania must have a visa for entry that cost £40, visit www.tzhc.uk
- Seek your doctor's advice for recommended vaccines and anti-malarial medication.