The ultimate babymoon is impossible to define. For some parents to be, it’s a fly and flop getaway yet for others, a more active vacation fits the bill for that final romantic hoorah. For Africa specialist, Louisa, it was South Africa that proved the perfect destination for a pre-baby escape.
When I discovered I was pregnant, one of my first priorities was to plan our last child-free vacation. As my husband is incapable of sitting on a sun-lounger for more than a couple of days, and we wanted to go somewhere malaria free and with good hospitals (just in case!), we decided upon South Africa for our babymoon.
We traveled in September, when spring is in full force in the Cape, so we were lucky enough to have blue skies and temperatures in the early 20s throughout our trip – perfect for exploring and enjoying long lunches in the sun. We started our trip in the Winelands, staying at Leeu House, in the center of the pretty town of Franschhoek, and only a stone’s throw away from the town’s boutique shops and excellent restaurants. Whilst I, of course, went easy on the wine tasting, my husband, Henry, had a driver so he could get stuck in. He has since become a real convert to South African wine, in particular their Cap Classique (sparkling wine), and we found ourselves buying rather a lot of bottles to take home and drink once the baby arrived. Thankfully we discovered quite a few of the vineyards we visited ship wine to the UK, so I wouldn’t have to miss out for long!
It was fabulous to spend a night at Babylonstoren – a very stylish farm and wine estate where life is best spent outdoors in the property’s stunning fruit, flower and vegetable gardens or further afield on the hiking trails around the estate. I was also treated to the most wonderful and relaxing mother-to-be massage in the spa – perfect for easing achy limbs after the flight.
We then spent a few nights in Cape Town with lots of spoiling dinners and lunches at some of the city’s incredible restaurants. We drank mocktails in Camps Bay watching the sun go down, realising that in a few short weeks the small pleasures we took for granted would be a massive treat! We went for a lovely gentle hike on Table Mountain, which I would argue is the best way to soak up the best of this stunning city. I also got to realise a bucket list dream of driving along the dramatic Chapman’s Peak route, famed for its incredible views and iconic coastal scenery.
We then enjoyed a very relaxing couple of days on board the Rovos Rail, traveling in Edwardian style from Cape Town to Pretoria, rolling through seemingly endless swathes of spring flowers as we crossed farmland, mountain passes and the tundra of Karoo. We both loved the excursion to Matjiesfontein; a small colonial town which time forgot. The town, first built in about 1890 as a watering hole on the way to Kimberly during the diamond rush, was fascinating to explore. There, we learned about diamond mining and had the chance to visit the famous Big Hole. I have to say though I noticed a sigh of relief from my husband as we got back on the train after successfully avoiding being dragged into all the shops selling sparkling stone souvenirs.
Our last stop was the Madikwe region of South Africa, a malaria free safari area north of Johannesburg. We had a wonderful few nights at the Jamala Madikwe, a stunning lodge which has a very active watering hole right in front of the main reception area. We arrived to see a large breeding herd of elephant drinking and bathing right in front of us and it was wonderful just to spend the afternoon curled up in a chair with a cup of tea watching as the game came and went. The staff at Jamala were so helpful and nothing was too much trouble for them – they very kindly organized a few little surprises and an amazing romantic candlelit dinner one evening. A couple of years ago, Henry had driven from Kenya to Cape Town along as many dirt roads as possible but had somehow never managed to see any of Africa’s big cats. So he was thrilled to see several different prides of lion, including some massive roaring males and an old male leopard draped elegantly in the branches of a tree.
We had the most magical babymoon in South Africa and felt we got a great balance of different activities and time relaxing by the pool which, at 7 months pregnant, was pretty essential. We can’t wait to take the little one back to see this country for themselves and we have no doubt that the next generation will be bitten by the Africa bug too!