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For a destination wedding that’s anything but tame, consider saying your I do’s at Singita Pamushana Lodge, an oasis in the southern wilderness of Zimbabwe. You and yours can book the entire property—eight private chalets, each with personal lap pools on secluded decks—for a celebration getaway that combines downtime taking in the unforgettable scenery and adventure time getting up close to the wildest animals in Africa. Melissa Klurman scouts the venue, and recommends some of the details to get your planning started.
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Since most flights to southern Africa traverse urban Johannesburg (South African Airways offers incredibly comfortable daily nonstop flights from New York City), plan a layover at the new Four Seasons Westcliff Johannesburg. Although it’s located in the midst of the bustling city, you’ll feel like you’re at a secluded resort with the property’s multiple pools, world-class spa, and restaurants that boast views that extend over hundreds of acres of lush greenery (the largest urban forest in the world). You’ll be cocooned in comfort, but be sure to get out and explore the neighborhoods of Braamfontein and Maboneng, home to bars, coffee spots, and boutique shops that are drawing trendsetters to this vibrant locale.
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Leave the city behind as Singita’s charter flight takes you up, up, and away over the lush green African bush to the remote Buffalo Range airport in southern Zimbabwe. (How remote? A single border agent greets you in a tent at the solo runway airport.) However, just because you’re secluded doesn’t mean you’re on your own; Singita staff will meet you and your wedding party at the airport and accompany your group every step of the way until you arrive at the private lodge, where manager Emily Capon and the staff will help you settle in with chilled towels and freshly mixed cocktails. Sip yours while taking in the remarkable views over the glistening lake below. Want to get a closer look? Spend your first evening having “sundowners” (literally drinks while the sun goes down) on Singita’s spacious pontoon boat. Since it is the only lodge in the entire 130,000 acres of the pristine Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, you and your loved ones will have the entire lake to yourselves (except, of course, for the hippos bellowing their hellos and fish kissing up out of the water).
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Singita’s private chalets range from a one-bedroom honeymoon suite to a five-bedroom, five-bathroom family lodge (which comes with a game room, remote-controlled glass paneled walls, and a private kitchen and dining room). The chalets all circle around a central lounge area with multi-tiered decks and open-air dining areas. Soon-to-be newlyweds can get cozy in the honeymoon hideaway (rates start at $1,380 per person per night), or book the entire property for 12 to 28 people (rates start at $16,560 per night, inclusive of all safaris, meals, and drinks, excluding imported Champagne and specialty wedding cakes).
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Before the big day, take off for a safari to view dozens of elephants, lion, stealth leopards, and more. Singita prides itself on following guests’ interests and providing unparalleled access to local wildlife with some of the best guides in the industry. They’re also leaders in conservation and sustainable tourism; one highlight of a safari here is the chance to encounter endangered white rhino, which Singita protects and studies working with the Malilangwe Trust.
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The sky is literally the limit for a ceremony in the Zimbabwe bush, since there is expansive outdoor space in which to exchange vows. One choice spot is on the uppermost terrace of the lodge overlooking the lake, for panoramic views filled with untouched nature. Couples can either bring their own officiant (there’s special housing available to host them overnight), or the lodge can arrange for a local priest to come from Harare. (Follow up your destination ceremony with a legal one at the local courthouse when you get back home.) Celebrate under the spinning stars of the Southern Cross skies with an alfresco, intimate evening dinner, with lanterns hung from trees and exquisite tables set with white cloths and crystal.
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The Signature Sipper
Manager Capon trained as a winemaker in South Africa and is also the resident sommelier at Singita. Her top pick for a wedding toast among Singita’s extensive wine cellars: Silverthorn “Genie” Rosé, a blush-hued sparkling wine from South Africa. For sheer wow factor, though, the lodge’s nonalcoholic hibiscus cocktail, with a flower that unfurls at the bottom of the glass, is also pretty hard to beat.
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A Colonial tradition imported from England to Zimbabwe via South Africa, the “cheese cake” is actually wheels of cheese stacked and decorated with flowers, twine, and other rustic touches to create a lovely cheese course. To cater to your sweet tooth, you can also cap off your wedding dinner with Singita’s molten chocolate ganache.
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Zimbabwe is known for its handmade soapstone sculptures, featuring kissing couples and embracing families, among other designs. To thank guests for joining you across the world, pick a personalized option for attendees.