From secluded island retreats to riverine love nests, here is our selection of Valentine escapes…
Azura at Quilalea
Azura at Quilalea is the ultimate in barefoot luxury – a real Robinson Crusoe-style escape. Nine beautifully designed, spacious villas are dotted around the shores of the idyllic private island, each opening onto a private terrace and beach. Dinner is usually a candlelit affair on the main beach; there’s a bar and pool area complete with incredible views over the inviting azure waters. It is superbly located on the small cliffs at the south-west end of the island and you can dine in the privacy of your villa should you prefer to hole up.
Leisurely walks around the island, which is surrounded by a marine sanctuary, take you past towering baobabs to the white sands of the turtle-nesting beach and there’s sea kayaking, snorkelling and some of the best dive sites in Southern Africa for the more active types. The Staff is charming, discreet and professional but it’s the little touches that make Azura at Quilalea so special – the bottle of bubbles on ice in your room, the romantic picnic on Turtle Beach, a tour with a birding fundi, funky chandeliers made of recycled plastic and
a telescope through which to study the star-studded sky, just to mention a few.
If you fancy a romantic weekend or special spoil, I can think of nowhere better. – Fiona McIntosh
Azura at Quilalea 076 7050599 www.azura-quilalea-mozambiquetravel.com
Leadwood Cottage Tala Game Reserve
A friend remarked that the perfect ingredients for romance are a sunset and a glass of wine. Indeed, but I would add Leadwood Cottages at Tala Game Reserve. The six gorgeous love nests are set far apart in a private section of the 3 000 hectare Tala wildlife sanctuary midway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Of them, Cottage 1 has to be the best. Its secluded bushveld setting at the edge of a reed-fringed lake, stylish decor, sumptuous comfort and fabulous views make for a sublime ‘Out of Africa’ experience.
In the romance stakes, little can beat enjoying sundowners with the love of your life on your own private deck, overlooking a glinting stretch of water where aquatic birds and sometimes hippos disport. Tear yourselves from paradise to go for dinner in the restaurant a five-minute drive away and return for a nightcap under a dazzling canopy of stars while, all around, night creatures serenade you. Romantic wild Africa at its best.
Summerfields Rose Retreat & Spa Hazyview
Set in lush bushveld forest along the Sabie River, Summerfields Rose Retreat & Spa is a romantic spoil in the heart of Africa. My most difficult decision was whether to lie in the luxurious tents under the canopy of jackalberry and tambotie trees with the river running past, or lounge on the deck listening to the calls of Turacos.
Where else can you indulge in a spa treatment for two in open-air bomas before wandering to the pool and possibly seeing a hippo? Summerfields is a fusion of Africa and the fragrance of the scented roses it is known for growing. Rose petals are scattered on the bed, huge bunches decorate the rooms and the rose-oil massage is a real treat. What could be more romantic than a warm summer Lowveld evening, a spa bath with rose petals, sipping champagne with your loved one, and grunting hippos providing background music?
By Sue Adams
Summerfields Rose Retreat & Spa 013 737 6500,
Flamingo Bay Lodge
Mozambique is not short of romantic escapes, but Flamingo Bay Lodge is one of my all-time favourites. The spacious, wooden chalets are built Maldives-style on stilts in the shallow, turquoise lagoon. At high tide you can descend the steps then snorkel or kayak around watching the birds, including occasionally the flamingos from which the lodge takes its name, and exploring the mangroves.
Everything about the lodge is top-notch and the area offers super scuba diving opportunities, as well as a host of other activities such as snorkelling with whale sharks and popping into the spa to add pampering to your day. In the evening, order a bottle of bubbly and sit out on your private deck watching the sky turn pink. The stuff of romance. – Fiona McIntosh
Flamingo Bay Water Lodge 011 023 9901
My most romantic escape was to the heart-shaped Mumbo Island in the Lake Malawi National Park. The handful of chalets are so discreetly positioned on the rocky outcrop that we felt as though the island was ours alone. Each chalet is tastefully furnished and comfortable with a touch of rustic – hot bucket showers and ‘eco-loos’. The views across the lake are mindblowing and when we weren’t chilling in a hammock listening to Fish Eagles, we snorkelled and explored the surrounding boulders by kayak.
Nothing could beat the sundowner on the rock ledge in front of our chalet, so we hot-footed it back to the same rock after a romantic dinner for two. There’s something special about lying out on a balmy warm evening looking at the stars and listening
to night sounds and lapping water. – Shaen Aedy
Mumbo Island 021 783 1955, www.kayakafrica.co.za
Paternoster Dunes Boutique Guest House
I love the quaint fishing villages, salty seadogs and the rugged coastline of the West Coast. Best of all is Paternoster, with its beautiful white-washed cottages, pristine beach and top-notch restaurants and guest houses. Right on the beach, Paternoster Dunes Boutique Guest House stands out, with a location second to none. The owners are ex-interior decorators with a flair for creating intimate spaces. We were in the Cinnamon Room with its stunning view of the beach. There are a few nooks and crannies to escape to for privacy, and a plunge pool to enjoy.
The breakfasts offer interesting mains like bacon on French toast with blueberry sauce or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon – much nicer than the usual fry-ups. It would be hard to find a place where you’ll be more pampered and spoilt, making it the perfect hideaway to take a loved one to. – Shaen Adey
Paternoster Dunes Boutique Guest House
022 752 2217, www.paternosterdunes.co.za
Romance is all about quality time, and for that there is nothing better than losing yourself in the vast splendour of nature. Lake Naverone, just 30km from Underberg, offers 400 hectares of spectacular scenery and a range of outdoor activities such as trout fishing (river and lake), hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, birding and photography. Secluded, little stone cottages are perched on the banks of the 23-hectare lake or hidden away in trees, with big fireplaces ready for inclement weather and red wine. Four-poster beds complete the honeymoon feel, while local restaurants are close enough for a romantic meal out if cooking for your loved one sounds like time that could be better spent. – Stephen Smith
Lake Naverone 033 701 1236, www.lakenaverone.co.za