Our Romantic Mini-guide to Southern Africa

Romantic Guide to Southern Africa

Going on holiday with your partner is one of the best ways to kindle your romance and it’s also a good way to test out new relationships. The southern region of Africa is an amazing travel destination with a wide variety of activities from unforgettable safaris to wine tasting and from beach combing to cultural tours. After various travels in the region, we’ve brought together our top unique romantic things to do and romantic hotels in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Eswatini and Victoria Falls, along with tips on how some of the destinations can be combined together! Happy travels in Southern Africa!

Western Cape Wine Country

South Africa

South Africa is diverse country in both culture and geography offering a fantastica range of romantic things to do and terribly romantic places to visit. Plus, it’s the gateway to many other destinations in the region and thus a great option to combine with any of the other countries on this list. Here are some offbeat, cool and fun romantic activities that would be make your trip to South Africa special. 

Wine Tasting in the Cape Winelands

One of the most beautiful areas of the Western Cape is its wine country. Enjoy an amble around its main towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, enjoy high quality meals, stop in at some vineyards or, better yet, get taken to the best vineyards in the area and have an insider tasting on a bespoke tour with Boutique Winery Tours

Gin Tasting in Cape Town

If wine isn’t your thing then perhaps gin is? The Cape Town area is booming with craft gin distilleries. You can sample some excellent gin right in town at the Cape Town Gin Company and The Gin Bar.

Cultural Tour in Cape Town’s Bo Kaap District

Get beyond the touristy Greenmarket Square and the Waterfront by exploring the colorful and cosmopolitan Bo Kaap district. Context Travel offers a great tour in this fascinating area led by a local expert. Learn more about this and their other excellent tours in Cape Town in my article here.

Spy on Penguin Lovers

Just a short drive from Cape Town, you can visit the penguin colony at Boulders Beach. Yes, Penguins! There are penguins found along certain coastal areas of South Africa and Namibia, including this protected spot. As you walk along the boardwalk you can spot these adorable creatures, often seen in affectionate couples 🙂 

Float in a Turquoise Lagoon

There are many beautiful beaches around Cape Town, but if you drive a little farther north you can reach stunning Langebaan. Here within the West Coast National Park is a fabulous lagoon rimmed with fine white sand and filled aquamarine waters akin to Greece! Since the area is shallow and the water warm, it’s ideal for a romantic soak with your sweetheart, something you can’t do in the chillier waters down south!

Travel to Southernmost Point of Africa

If you’re exploring beyond the Western Cape and perhaps along the Garden Route, you should make a detour to Point Agulhas, the Southernmost Point of the continent, a unique milestone and memory to have with your sweetheart!

Get Down and Dirty Caving 

If you’re visiting the Oudtshoorn area (known for its ostriches), include Cango Caves in your itinerary.  The only “show caves” in Africa, these impressive natural formations are found in a limestone ridge parallel to the Swartberg Mountains. You can visit the vast dripstone caverns or join the more thrilling “adventure tour”. This involves crawling through rock passageways and squirming through narrow tunnels — not for the claustrophobic but it does compel one to get up close and personal with one’s love.

Drive along One of the World’s Most Beautiful Coastlines 

If you’re looking for a romantic road trip from Cape Town then the Garden Route might be your best option. Starting around four hours from the city, this is a gorgeous stretch of 300 kms of coastline Mossel Bay to Plettenberg Bay. Take your time stopping for beach walks or longer hikes through the spectacular rain forest. Enjoy a wonderfully peaceful overnight at laid back and beautiful Peace of Eden Retreat near Knysna.

Get Off the Beaten Path in the Eastern Cape

There are some wonderful lesser explored areas of South Africa and one of these is the Eastern Cape, south of Durban. Drive along the rolling countryside where Nelson Mandela was from, beach-comb on virtually deserted beaches, sample craft beer or visit local communities. Read more about some of the things we’ve previously done there in this article.

Do a Romantic Photo Shoot 

There are so many stunning places around the Western Cape, why not commemorate your romantic trip and your love with a photo shoot with the Charlene Schreuder, the talented photographer of the photo at the top of the article. Charlene specializes in weddings and couples photos, plus she knows all the best shooting locations! Discover more of her work on her website here.

Go to Eswatini/Swaziland

(see why you should add this mini country

within South Africa below!)

Execution Rock Eswatini Swaziland

Eswatini/Swaziland

Formerly known as Swaziland, this gorgeous kingdom within South Africa, not far from Kruger Park and on the border with Mozambique, is a fantastic destination for those looking for a more original travel destination. The mountainous country features stunning scenery, interesting cultural activities, wildlife viewing and outdoor pursuits. There is truly enough to do for a week-long holiday in itself or three to four days within a larger itinerary would also give you a taste of this unique country.

Soak up the Beauty of the Valley of Heaven

If you are driving to Eswatini from Johannesburg, you will likely enter the country via the Oshoek border crossing. As you get nearer the countryside develops into beautiful rolling hills. These transition into Eswatini’s Ezulwini Valley or the Valley of Heaven. And it is truly heavenly, this area of central Eswatini is breathtaking and can be savored simply by driving or you can do some great hiking in the Mantenga Nature Reserve where there are trails through the woodland and mountains. These feature wonderful view and the roar of the Usushwana River and Mantenga Waterfalls. Access is through the below site.

Learn about Swazi Culture

With the Mantenga Nature Reserve is the Swazi Cultural Village, a must for any visit to Eswatini. Don’t worry if you’re not a hiker, you can reach the village by car. The village is made up of a series of traditional Swazi houses which you can visit on guided tours. The informative guides give a great overview of Swazi customs, society and history. There is a twice daily dance show which you should plan your visit around. It’s of exceptional quality and certainly adds to the experience (you might even learn some moves yourself!). Try to arrive around an hour or so before the dance performance (at 11:30 am and 3:15 pm) so you have time to visit the site first. You can also walk or drive to the waterfall from here.

Have A Romantic Meal with a Spectacular View

A 5-10 minute drive from the Swazi Cultural Village will take you to the Mantenga Lodge, home to one of the best restaurants in the area. It serves a varied menu of excellent quality local and international cuisine. Most diners will want to sit on the outdoor deck which has the most awe-inspiring view of the famous Execution Rock, the perfect backdrop for a romantic meal with your love. The restaurant is also magically lit in the evening, better yet if you’re staying at the lodge (see more details below).

Visit or Hike around Legendary Waterfalls

If you really want to immerse yourself in Eswatini’s incredible nature, then make some time to travel up to Phophonyane Falls Ecolodge & Nature Reserve. Located near Piggs Peak in the northwest of the country and around a 1.5 hour drive from Mbabane, this is a veritable piece of Eden. The reserve features a beautiful ecolodge (see below), which is the ideal retreat to escape the world. Day guests can also access its hiking trails at a small fee. Ranging in different levels, these crisscross the reserve and feature trickling streams, thick local vegetation and fabulous views of the surrounding hills and the Phophonyane waterfalls. The falls are said to have been created by a woeful maiden who had lost her warrior love, giving them added significance for a romantic trip.

Get Up Close and Personal with Wildlife

There are various excellent safari experiences in Southern Africa, but there are very few that offer you the chance to do your own self guided walking or biking safari. You can do this at the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, found at the bottom of the aforementioned Mantenga Nature Reserve. The park has no predator animals which allows for its unique walking/biking experiences. You can go at your own pace, be alone with your sweetheart as you discover the park’s paths along which you’ll encounter a variety of wild animals including zebra, blue wildebeest, warthog, kudu, impala and other bucks. The mountainous setting within the Ezulwini Valley and the Usuthu Forest provides additional charm.

Where to Stay in Eswatini/Swaziland

At only 200 kilometers north to south and 130 kilometers east to west, Eswatini isn’t terribly large, as such I’d recommend splitting up your trip between the center and the north. The Mantenga Lodge is ideal for exploring the Swazi Cultural village, the Mantenga Nature Reserve, Mlilwane and a number of other sites. In addition to its great restaurant, the lodge has some beautiful rooms, including individual chalets overlook the lush forest. Read my review of it here.

Then make your way up north to Phophonyane Falls Ecolodge. This is one of the most unique and romantic lodges where you can forget about work and the worries of daily life. Discover the hiking trails or simply relax next to the pool to the splendid views of the valley. Learn more about it in my review here.

Victoria Falls Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls

No matter where you go in Southern Africa, a few days or even a week in Victoria Falls is a fantastic complement. Home to the largest waterfall in the world, it has a width of 1,708 m and height of 108 m. There is an abundance of activities to do in the area besides merely visiting the falls and there are also some unique ways to take in this incredible natural wonder. You can visit via Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe or Livingston in Zambia, we chose the former as there were more activities which appealed to us from there and that side is considered to have the best views of the falls. It is also possible to do both sides, although depending on where you are from, you may need to get a visa for both countries. The following activities are from Zimbabwe, yet some can also be done from the Zambia side.

Experience the Falls at Dawn

Getting up early can be worth it, for a good cause and this is definitely the case for visiting Victoria Falls. You can have the falls virtually all to yourselves by taking the Sunrise Photo Tour offered by Tamuka Travel. You’ll be met at your hotel by one of their friendly driver-guides who will take you to the falls for the opening time of 6am. As you stroll on the verdant pathways towards the falls, you’ll learn interesting facts and history about the falls, which provides you with an excellent background before you arrive. Their guides know the right spots to snap the best pictures of the roaring falls, where to catching rainbows, admire interesting perspectives of the falls and have fun along the way — all of this with no one else in the background of your photos or interrupting the serene ambiance of this mystical place. An unforgettable experience!

Take an Enchanting Sunset Cruise

Taking a cruise down the Zambezi River, the source of Victoria Falls, is a fabulous way to extend your experience of visiting the falls. There is a variety of cruise options, however, for a stylish and romantic cruise book aboard the Ra-Ikane. With a small fleet of three beautiful wooden boats that hold no more than around 20 passengers, the Ra-Ikane creates the perfect romantic setting, made even more romantic on their sunset cruise. You will observe close up wildlife such as crocodiles, hippos and birds. In the near distance you’ll also be able to see the famous thunderous mist of the falls. As you cruise along, the golden light shimmering over the river will gradually descend into pink waves with the setting sun on the horizon. This spectacular setting is paired with gourmet snacks and an open bar. This cruise is definitely an enchanting and very romantic way to cap off your day at the falls! 

Dinner aboard a Vintage Steam Train

Travel back in time to the heyday of glamorous travel to Victoria Falls on the magical Bushtracks Express by Bushtracks Africa. An authentic vintage steam train, guests are elegantly welcomed aboard at their Victoria Hotel station. Settled in the lounge car, you can enjoy before dinner drinks and live music as the train makes its way through the jungle towards the Victoria Falls Bridge. After briefly crossing over into Zambia, the train stops right on the bridge where passengers can get off and admire the falls as well as the gorge and the Zambezi River below. As the sun slowly sets over this gorgeous panorama, passengers are invited back aboard and into the chic dining car. Diner is an equally stylish affair with a five-course meal of beautifully presented dishes accompanied by fine wines. It’s definitely a one-of-a-kind romantic experience!

Discover the Real Culture of the Area

If you are interested in learning more about traditional Zimbabwean life, then join one of Tamuka Travel’s Cultural Tour. Guests have the unique privilege of being invited to a local homestead located a short drive from town. Here you’ll be warmly greeted by its owner, a vivid storyteller, who will introduce you to different local customs and traditions, from marriage to farming. Touring the various buildings of the homestead, you’ll learn about their various purposes, a particular highlight being the winter kitchen. Depending on the day and time, you may also get to meet a few other members of the family or visit the nearby school. The tour also includes learning about the different communities in town and could involve a craft market if you wish. You can pair this with the sunrise tour and lunch can also be included.

Get Wet & Wild White Water Rafting

For more adventurous couples, it’s hard to beat the thrills, and teamwork, of rafting on the mighty Zambezi River. For both beginner and experienced rafters, Shockwave Adventures provides an exceptional experience that puts safety first. Their half day white water rafting trip is perfect and goes over different levels rapids (ours went up to 4), carefully maneuvered by the guide of the boat. At certain points you can even get off for a swim alongside the raft. From down at the level of the river, you have an unparalleled view of the aweinspring gorge, truly glorious! The only downside is that you have to walk down and back up the gorge, however, the amazing adventure of the rafting makes you forget all about this.

Have a Perfectly Romantic Candlelit Dinner 

If you’re looking for a romantic dinner in Victoria Falls, then you can’t go wrong with the Ilala Lodge’s alluring Palm Restaurant. The award-winning restaurant is one of the top restaurants in town and is open to outside guests. The terrace is beautifully lit in the evening, creating the perfect romantic atmosphere. The food is also refined and inventive with a modern take on some traditional Zimbabwean specialities. It’ll certainly be one of your top special moments of your stay at the falls!

Where to Stay in Victoria Falls

The Ilala Lodge is also one of the top romantic hotels in Victoria Falls. The four-star hotel has an enchanting decor evoking the early days of travel to the falls. The common areas have a mix of vintage images and antiques while the rooms feature classic modern appeal with some African touches. For an extra special romantic trip, reserve their wonderful new Strathearn Suite. Located on the top floor, the vast suite was originally built for the hotel’s owners and features a large lounge, a kitchen, a spacious bedroom with a romantic four-poster bed, an en-suite bathroom and a private terrace with a Jacuzzi and views of the forest and mist of the falls in the distance, magical! Learn more about it in my review here.

Botswana

Located in the center of Southern Africa, this peaceful and beautiful country is a fabulous option for those looking for amazing wildlife experiences. Varying from dry deserts to lush river deltas, there’s definitely enough to do in Botswana to easily make it your sole holiday destination, however, it can also pair nicely with Victoria Falls or Namibia. The country also has an added romantic touch as the country’s first president after independence from British rule in 1966, Sir Seretse Khama, was married to a British woman, Ruth Williams, whom he met while studying law at Oxford University. Their love story helped promote multiracial democracy in the country and led to the choice of the zebra as the country’s national animal and symbol. Create your own perfect love story with Botswana by incorporating some of the suggestions below!

Sundowner Safari Drive in Chobe National Park

Conveniently located a short drive from Victoria Falls in the northeast of the country, The Chobe National Park is a fantastic place to go on safari in Botswana. A very romantic place to stay is at the Muchenje Safari Lodge (see below) and which also includes all safari activities. One of our favorites was the safari drive at sundown. Seeing the golden hues of the Chobe River plain and the grazing animals in the late afternoon is truly magical. The experience is made extra enchanting by stopping higher up on the slope for a sundowner drink. You never know who, or rather which animals, might pop by to say hello!

Cruise & Lunch to a Backdrop of Elephants

Another top activity to do in northern Botswana is a river cruise on the Chobe River. We did ours through the Muchenje Safari Lodge, but there are also other options if you’re staying in the neighboring town of Kasane. There are over 100,000 elephants in the Chobe park and the best place to see large herds of these is from the river. Being on the river offers an amazing perspective of the elephants who come down to the river to cool down and bathe. There’s nothing quite like watching the baby elephants playing in the water! As you cruise gentle along, you can see other animals including hippos, kudus, crocodiles and of course a lovely array of birds. On the Muchenje cruise lunch is also served aboard their private boat, which makes the experience simply perfect!

Hot Air Balloon Safari over the Okavango Delta 

The stunning Okavango Delta is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and one of Botswana’s most popular destinations. Most people do a day trip into the delta aboard a traditional mokoro boat, which is a nice way to experience the area, however, if you’re looking to do something more original–and romantic–then consider doing a hot air balloon safari over the Delta. Offered by AirVentures, these excursions take off at sunrise, allowing you to witness nature awakening from the amazing vantage point of above.  These safaris are available April through September and with the slight catch that you must be staying at one of the lodges in a specific area of the delta. More information here.

Sleep & Walk in the Wild

If you would like to take a real walk on the wild side in Botswana, then book a Walking Safari with Walk Botswana Safaris. These multi-day trips, led by safari maverick Gareth Flemix, take you deep into the Okavango Delta… on foot. These means you’ll be coming literally face to face with the wildlife. Don’t worry, safety comes first, however, there’s nothing quite like this type of up close animal encounter. The best way to complete your day walking is by camping (cuddling with your sweetheart to the night sounds of nature), however, they can also arrange lodge accommodation. Alternatively, they can arrange combined walking and driving safaris. Learn more about their experiences here.

Sunset Drinks over the Maun Lagoon

For those staying overnight in the Maun area, you won’t want to miss the spectacular sunset over the Thamalakane River. A wonderful place to take this in is from the riverfront Rock Croc bar of the Crocodile Camp. It sits right above the river and faces west so you have a fabulous view of the emblazoned setting sun, perfectly paired with their reasonably priced drinks. 

Get offbeat at the Nxai Pans

Botswana is much more than the famous Okavango Delta and if you’re craving a more offbeat destination, then consider visiting and staying a few nights around the Nxai and Makgadikgadi Pans. These are only an 1.5-2 hour drive from Maun–but are a complete world away! A fabulous place to stay near the Pans is the Leopard Plains Lodge. Conveniently located at the edge of the Makgadikgadi Pans, it’s also one of the best value luxury safari experiences in all of Botswana (more on it below). Forming two national parks, these special salt flats are home to a large range of wildlife and the most stunning semi-desert scenery unlike anywhere else, at least in Botswana, if not the globe.

Where to Stay in Botswana

A wonderful place to stay next to Chobe National Park is the Muchenje Safari Lodge. The lodge benefits from an breathtaking location, perched on an escarpment Chobe and Caprivi rivers flood plain. In addition to its spectacular setting and views, the lodge has lovely individual chalet rooms, a great infinity pool and offers an all-inclusive experience including food, local beverages and all safari activities. Learn more about it in my review at this link.

A stay at the Muchenje and Chobe can be perfectly paired with a few nights at the very different setting of the Leopard Plains Lodge.  The attractive and affordable luxury eco-lodge is hidden in the middle of a private game farm, so in addition to visiting the Pans, you can observe wildlife straight from your rooms or on drives on the property. Read more about it in my review here.

Namibia

Featuring some of the most mind-blowing scenery on the planet, Namibia is ideal for road-tripping and spending quality time with your loved one. The most arid country in sub-Saharan Africa, Namibia is home to the Namib Desert, the oldest desert in the world. Its jaw-dropping landscape varies from soaring sand dunes to rugged ravines. Its sands go all the way to the coast, morphing into the most pristine sandy beaches. This is definitely an under-the-radar destination and perfect for intrepid explorers. 

Climb a Sand Dune at Dawn

A highlight of any trip to Namibia is visiting the incredible Sossusvlei, a salt and clay pan surrounded by high red dunes within the Namib Naukluft Park. The location of a number of movie shoots, the area truly evokes another planet and is home to the highest sand dunes in the world. The best time to catch this one of a kind landscape is at dawn, but in order to do this, you have to start within the confines of the park. If you’re adventuring around Namibia by your own camping car (see an option for this below), you can start at the Sesriem Campsite, that way you can check sunrise time with them and head out around 4:30 am… because you still have a 45-minute drive to get to the usual sunrise spot at Dune 45. You’ll want to sleep later when it’s scorching hot anyway — so best to get an early start anyway! The Dune is actually quite hard to climb, therefore make sure you have good shoes, a bottle of water and of course your camera to take romantic selfies. The view is breathtaking as you climb, so you mightn’t need to go all the way to the top! Afterwards many go on to visit Deadvlei, the Park’s iconic dried up salt pan, definitely worth visiting too!

Stargaze from a Mountainside Retreat

On the route between Sesriem and Luderitz is the one-horse town of Aus. Well, it actually has many horses, and not just any horses, wild ones. You might catch them along the road, but instead you could stay overnight at the Klein-Aus Vista. For a small splurge, book one of their secluded Eagle’s Nest Chalets, built into the mountainside 7 kms from the main lodge (don’t go expecting internet coverage there!). A true retreat, this exquisite location in the middle of the desert wilderness has spectacular sunsets… as well as an incredible nights sky. Cozy up next to the fire and spend some quality time stargazing at the cosmos. Hopefully a shooting star will zoom by for a special wish!

Amble through a Ghost Town

Yes, that’s correct… a ghost town! There’s one of the coolest just outside the seaside town of Luderitz. A former German mining town, Kolmanskop’s diamond money was poured into the buildings of this once elegant town which featured a hospital, ballroom, school, power station, casino and houses. It declined with its diamond stocks after WWII and was eventually abandoned, its buildings reclaimed by the surrounding desert sands. Visitors can wander through its sand engulfed remains, eerily romantic as there are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore and with few people! 

Beachcomb on Beautiful Deserted Beaches 

Speaking of few people, there aren’t many to found on the gorgeous beaches which line the coast near Luderitz. A charming town in its own right with little boutiques, cafés and some shops where you can pick up some food supplies before heading out. Along the coast are various pristine beaches, like vast Agate Beach, perfect for beach walks and as long as the wind cooperates you can picnic here or else south of town there are other even more rustic beaches and you may be able to spot flocks of flamingos at the right time of year.

Admire Africa’s Largest Canyon

Located in the south of the country, Fish River Canyon is Africa’s largest and the world’s second largest canyon. A huge ravine hugging the Fish River, there is a main lookout from where you can take in its splendor or it can also be enjoyed on foot via its hiking trails. At the end of the day you can relax your weary bones in the hot springs found in Ai-Ais, at its southern end.

Where to Stay in Namibia 

For a romantic mini splurge I can recommend booking a night or two at the Klein-Aus Vista (mentioned above in the stargazing). If you’re driving over from South Africa, then you might want to break up your trip by staying at the Norotshama River Resort, idyllically located above the beautiful Orange River around 45 minutes to the border.

If you’re keen on camping and are driving up from the Cape Town area, then you can book great camper trailers and camper vehicles from African Bush Wagons. Equipped with all the basics you’ll need for a fantastic camping holiday, you can also get interaries and travel tips from their knowledgeable team!

Happy Travels in Southern Africa!

2 Comments

  • Thanks Lily for the mention of African Bush Wagon Rentals. Much appreciated. All our services are on our website http://www.bushwagons.co.za, but include:

    – Fully Equipped Trailer Rentals
    – Fully Equipped 4×4 Offroad vehicle rental
    – Camping equipment rental
    – Self drive trip and route planning and bookings (South Africa, Namibia, Botawana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique)
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    • Lily la Tigresse says:

      Thanks for this further info on your services!! I would definitely use your services again the next time I’m back in Africa! Can’t wait to do more camping with your great rentals!

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