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Safari. That's the trip-of-a-lifetime wilderness experience that drew Sara and Michael to Kruger National Park in South Africa in September 2011. But the New Yorkers -- she's in digital ad sales and he works in finance -- wanted to round out their journey with world-class dining and a dreamy beach stay, so they began their trek in cosmopolitan Cape Town and ended it in a pinch-yourself resort on Mozambique's Bazaruto Island.
Here, the newlyweds got up close and personal with a friendly pachyderm.
Photography: Bryan Gardner2 of 6
Trip Length: 13 days: three nights in Cape Town, three in Kruger National Park, and six in Mozambique
Airline: South African Airways to Cape Town
Flight Time: 20 hours (with connections)
Travel Agency: Protravel International Inc.
The couple got to check off all the Big Five icons (leopards, lions, rhinos, African elephants, and Cape buffalo) on their safari checklist, pictured here.
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The Nicest Stay
"Definitely the Ivory Lodge at Lion Sands in Kruger," says Sara. "We had a stand-alone house with a private infinity pool and floor-to-ceiling windows. And the animals were super-present -- we have one photo of an impala standing just a foot behind me."
But impala's weren't the only animal's they experienced: "Being in a truck four feet from a lion who's just eaten is insane," says Sara of Kruger National Park.
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The Wildest Stay
"Lion Sands has a 'treehouse' you can rent for a night," says Sara. "There's a bed covered by mosquito netting on a platform high in the air, in what feels like the middle of nowhere. At night it's silent -- except for the wildlife. We could hear elephants going by, and played guessing games about the other animals we were hearing. It was completely nuts, but it was the coolest thing we've ever done."
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Best Sips and Eats
"We ate at The Tasting Room in Franschoek, South Africa, one night," says Sara. "You get there, and it's a surprise menu. They kept bringing out all these foods: artichoke veloute, duck boudin, and things that you can't even imagine, like kingklip [an eel-like fish]. It lasted three-and-a-half hours. We were in heaven -- it was one of the best experiences of the trip." (lqf.co.za)
Sara and Michael also visited Steenberg Vineyards, pictured here, while on their private tour of South Africa's wine country.
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Photography: Bryan Gardner6 of 6
Lion Sands gave the couple a journal embroidered with a small heart to keep track of all their adventures and experiences. One of their most pleasant surprises that was worth writing about? "We got a couple's massage at Indigo Bay, our resort in Bazaruto,” says Sara. "The spa is on a hill at the edge of the island, and essentially has a view of the world. Even Michael, who's not a big pampering guy, thought it was totally amazing."