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Text and Photos by Amanda Jones
  Jan. 24, 1999

For the harried couple, a travel writer's picks of a

few very choice, ultra-romantic spots for an international honeymoon

I am a travel writer; therefore, according to a multitude of people I have never met, I am the perfect person from whom to solicit honeymoon advice. Here's a typical scenario: The phone rings and, innocently, I answer it. Usually it's a man's voice (but not always, this does happen in reverse). He sounds harassed. He begins by telling me that so-and-so convinced him I was the one to solve his enormous problem. He's getting married in three months and he's been a bit slack on the honeymoon plans. His bride, well, she's a great gal, loves the outdoors, is terrific with kids and animalsbut he's not quite sure if she's the really rugged sort. His idea of a truly good time, however, is an Arctic dog-sledding trip, but she's nixed any extreme-sport honeymoon. She has agreed to a little adventure, a little sport, an exotic location, OK, but she wants romance, she wants comfort, she wants ice in her cocktails.

Fair enough, I say. Good for her, I think that sounds excellent. Have a good time.

Wait, he says, panic rising, but where should we go?

I trot out my caveat about one person's paradise being another's purgatory. I tell him about the time I suggested a shark-diving trip in Samoa and the groom came back with less of a leg than he left with. I mention the subcontinental honeymoon that climaxed with stomach pumps. I really don't want the responsibility of ruining another nuptial excursion. There is a pause, but I can tell he won't be put off. He's a desperate man.

These calls started to come so often, I finally decided that rather than be ungracious, I ought to at least share my favorite romantic, exotic, chic, safe destinations. After all, my job has afforded me the great good fortune of seeing some rather pleasant places over the past decade.

So, if you're looking for a honeymoon that makes for slightly more interesting dinner-party tales, but one that doesn't require you to forego luxury in the process, ponder these:

Wharekauhau, New Zealand

In the fabulously bucolic Wairarapa region of New Zealand, this luxurious, Edwardian-style mansion is gorgeous and terribly refined, while still providing that "in-the-boonies" feeling. It's more like the landed gentry does adventure travel, although it's not in the least bit stuffy, as English country lodges can be. Still a working sheep station, Wharekauhau (pronounced Forry-ko-ho) is located on a rugged strip of coastline on 5,000 acres of emerald pasturelands. And it's just down a country road from some of the best wineries in New Zealand. You really never have to leave your overstuffed fireside sofa, but for activity freaks, you can hop on a horse and go sheep herding, or you can fish, golf and hike the nearby mountains.

Season: All year, although November-April is best.

Pricing: Doubles from $280 per person, per night.

Booking: USA 800/525-4800, or New Zealand

64-6/307-7581; fax 64-6/307-7799.


El Nido, Philippine

This entire archipelago off the coast of Palawan is unexpectedly impressive. Islands erupt from the sea with towering limestone cliffs and thick jungle. Below lie hidden coves lapped by aqua waters teeming with tropical fish. There are two resorts on neighboring islands, both owned by the same Filipino beer magnate. Miniloc is slightly hipper, more oriented toward active folk. Book one of the cottages hanging over the water. Young guides will take you snorkeling, kayaking, scuba diving, sailing, waterskiing or spelunking. If you want pure isolation, order a picnic lunch and ask to be marooned on a remote beach for the whole day. Lagen has a nicer beachfront, but is slightly more formal and elegant (with fine dining).

It's perfectly permissible to jump between resorts. I suggest a couple of nights at each.

Season: November†June.


Miniloc: $165 per person, per night.

Lagen: $230 per person, per night.

Prices include cottage, meals, boat transfers and


Booking: Philippines, (632) 894-5644; fax (632) 810-3620

On the web:

Esbelli Evi Urgup, Cappadocia, Turkey

The Esbelli House is a seven-room restored cave dwelling, with bedrooms dating back to the sixth century. I'd like to see something in Europe beat that. One of the rooms is the old kitchen, complete with oven, and another the former stables. The owner, Suha Ersoz, spent years restoring the house and his taste is simple and cultivated. Home of the Troglodytes, Cappadocia is also one of Turkey's most spectacular geographic and historic destinations. Sandstone valleys sprout towering chimneys, and ancient churches are carved into the rock and painted with startling friezes. But, for the most romantic experience of all, go ballooning over Cappadocia's supernatural landscape at dawn. You land in a field of wildflowers for a champagne breakfast (cost, $210 per person). Arrangements can be made through the hotel.

Season: May and then late September/October are the best times to beat the heat and the tour buses.

Pricing: For all rooms, $80 (based on double occupancy, including breakfast).

Ask for one of the honeymoon suites, but book well in advance, they are often sold out.


USA: World of Oz (800) 248-0234, (757) 496-8108; fax (757) 496-8097.


For direct hotel bookings (to get prices quoted above), email the hotel directly at suha@

Macateers Camp Okavango Delta, Botswana

If, like me, your idea of supreme romance is to be lost in the wilds of Africa with nothing between you and marauding lions but a piece of canvas, then this is it. It has to be one of my preferred places in the world. But then again, I like horses. Macateers is a luxury tented safari camp deep in the heart of Botswana's thriving and spectacular Okavango Delta. It has all the trappings of a Hemingway-style African safari, with gin and tonics at sundown, candlelit dinners and real beds with real sheets in tents you can stand up in. There's even a shower at the back of your tent, operated by a clever bucket-and-pulley system. And there are hundreds of species of game hooting and hollering into the night. By day you ride out to view the game on high-bred horses (English and Western saddles available). It all feels terribly right and it's fatally romantic.

High season: July 1†September 30.

Pricing: $325 per person, per night.

Low season: February 25†June 30 and November 1† January 10.

Pricing: $275 per person, per night.

Prices include food, beverages, laundry, activities and accommodation. A three-night minimum stay is required.


USA: African Travel Center, (800) 361-8024, (303) 473-0950.


Botswana: (267) 663-154; fax (267) 660-912.

On the web:

Shiv Niwas Palace Udaipur, Rajasthan, India

Perhaps the most romantic destination in all of India, the Shiv Niwas is the most exclusive and authentic of all of India's famous palace hotels. It's fabulous. With 17 suites in a wing adjoining the City Palace of the still-resident Maharana of Udaipur (the state king) it's the closest you'll ever come to the over-the-top opulence of India's once-powerful royalty. The Shiv Niwas arcs around the loveliest mosaic pool I have ever seen, complete with musicians producing lulling sounds on ceramic bowls filled with water. The suites are ridiculously enormous, with original Belgian glass chandeliers, Indian

tapestries, antiques, carvings and oil paintings. The Royal Suite, for example, has a huge private lobby, a study, a changing room, marble bathroom, a gigantic bedroom with sitting room, baggage room and a private terrace. The Imperial Suite is decorated in plush Rajasthani decor mixed with genuine European antiques, and the Crystal Room has walls covered from floor to towering ceiling with glass in-lay, which reflect velvet-seated Belgian cut-glass furniture. But please don't forget to pack a stomach antibiotic. Not that you will need it at the hotel, but one never knows outside.

Season: Mid-November†late March.

Pricing: Super Deluxe Suite, $250.

Historic Suite, $350.

Royal Suite, $450.

Imperial Suite, $600.


USA: Geographic Expeditions, (800) 777-8183, (415) 922-0448; fax (415) 346-5535.


On the web:

India: (91 294) 528016; fax (91 294) 528006.

On the web:

Ariau Amazon, Brazil

If the Tarzan-and-Jane thing is your fantasy, well, this is your place. Just outside Manaus, the hotel is built into the treetops of the Amazon jungle, with stairs leading to the canopy hundreds of feet above the banks of the Rio Negro. The amusing thing about this hotel is that the rooms are open and large, but entirely encased in wire mesh. This, of course, is to keep you in and the wildlife out, and seems like an appropriate reversal of roles. The monkeys are the only breathing soul who will disturb you. They sit outside, staring in, stuffing berries into their mouths, making wry observations about how similar human behavior is to their own. During the days you can take jungle treks, seek out the pink dolphins which glide though the murky river water or visit the local Indian tribes by small dugout. Request a suite in tower number five. They are secluded and well-guarded by woolly monkeys.

Season: December-August.

Pricing: For a three-night, four-day stay, the suites in Tower Five are $800 per person.

Prices dependent on season and availability. Includes boat transfer, all meals and river excursions. Other rooms are both more and less expensive.


USA: (888) 462-7428, (516) 482-1592; fax (516) 498-2395.


Brazil: (5592) 234-7308; fax (5592) 233-5616.


On the web:

Casa de Sierra Nevada San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

San Miguel is Mexico's jewel town. An old Spanish colonial town, it's clean, neat, safe and has great food. The Casa de Sierra Nevada is not only the best restaurant in town, but, in my opinion, is one of the best and most romantic hotels in all of the Americas. Created from a series of five restored mansions, you feel like the fortunate guest of a benevolent colonial host. The main casa was built in 1580 and each room is decorated as you would expect guest quarters to be back then - with Spanish antiques, parquetry, tapestries, oil paintings and colorful ceramics. There is a wonderful tiled pool built in the shade of arched ruins. The location is superb, just a few blocks from the main square, but removed enough so that any Saturday night revelry, or the booming bells of an overzealous monastery novitiate, don't interrupt the peace.

Season: June-September.

Pricing: Deluxe doubles from $168 (although I strongly suggest a suite, from $204).

Booking: (888) 341-5995, 52-415-27-040.


On the web:

Mnemba Island Lodge, Tanzania

Imagine a private African island in the Arab-influenced portion of the Indian Ocean. Part of the historically exotic Zanzibar Archipelago, Mnemba is about as romantic as it gets. "Barefoot luxury" is how the brochure describes it, and sure enough, arrivees kick off their Bally's and Dolce & Gabbana's and slide manicured toes through the sugary sands of perfection. The design of the resort echoes the bygone splendor of days when the Sultan of Oman traded spice and gems along this coastline. The 10 cottages all have intricately carved Zanzabari furniture, embroidered mosquito nets cascading over the bed, latticed wood doors and tinkling glass bead dividers between rooms. African print pillows are tossed everywhere and gossamer white curtains billow in the sea breeze. Mnemba has spectacular diving, waterskiing, windsurfing and fishing (both deep-sea and fly). The best part is that you won't be racking up a huge bill every time you order a Cokethe tariff, although admittedly lofty, includes all food, alcohol (except champagne), sports and a personal butler. If you can afford it, and you've always wanted to see East Africa - go. It's the ideal place to swap game-kill tales after a safari, or as a destination unto itself. Season: July-April. Pricing: Per person, per night, double, $500 (August rates are $550). Prices include food, drink, activities and transfers from Zanzibar. Booking: Africa Travel Center, (800) 361-8024, (303) 473-0950. On the web:

Coral Princess Cruises, Kimberley, Australia

How about this for an alternative to your regular cruise? You are on a spacious (35-meter) catamaran that accommodates 48 guests, has four-decks and your own en suite (with bathroom, etc.) stateroom. There is a spa on the upper deck and an al fresco dining room on another. You are passing some of the world's oldest scenery - waterfalls, ocher-colored gorges split with slow rivers, high plateaus and rocky escarpments. Dolphins, whales, dugongs and turtles float by, and the air is filled with all sorts of exotic birds. You are reaching parts of Australia that are practically impossible to get to by land, and there's an excursion on shore every day - generally along the lines of hiking to a remote cave where you see 10,000-year-old Aboriginal cave paintings, or a climb to a freshwater swimming hole (gigantic man-chowing crocodiles prevent swimming in the ocean). The Kimberley region of Northern Australia is naked, primordial splendor -„sensory overload for the nature lover. Season: April-September. Pricing: Cabin, $2,718. Stateroom, $2,915. Deluxe, $3,110. Prices based on 10-night cruise, per person, double occupancy. Booking: USA (800) 441-6880, (831) 335-4954; fax (831) 335-5239. Email: On the web:

Shamwari Game Reserve Eastern Cape, South Africa

A privately owned game reserve in the Eastern Transvaal, Shamwari has two absolutely fabulous lodges on their huge property, both of which are a flashback to Africa's White Nights era. Long Lee Manor is an elegant Edwardian mansion with manicured laws and crystal chandeliers. The other is the Shamwari Lodge - a series of five, five-star African-style thatched-roof bungalows decorated with fine African art. Those who prefer dining with white tablecloths and then retiring to the library for a glass of port should perhaps stay at Long Lee, while those wanting a highly luxurious interpretation of native Africa should choose the Lodge. I would recommend you stay at both. Shamwari has all the big game you will want - white and black rhino, elephant, buffalo, lion, giraffe, leopard and hippo. And you have them all to yourself, along with a scant 36 other guests. Season: Shamwari is open year-round with fairly mild temperatures. Summer is from November to March and winter from June to October. Pricing: Long Lee Manor: Deluxe rooms (until April, 1999), approximately $292. May-Sept. 1999: Special rate offered at approximately $150. Shamwari Lodge: Until Sept. 1, 1999, deluxe room, approximately $350 per person, per night. Prices include all meals and game drives, per person, per night, based on double occupancy. For more information: (800) 524-7979. On the web: To book: Africa Travel Center (800) 361-8024, (303) 473-0950. On the web: South Africa: (2742) 851 1196; fax (2742) 851-1224. On the web:

Amanda Jones' last piece for the Magazine was on the Woodaabe tribe in Africa.

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