Below is my top ten list of romantic destinations in South Africa. I am British and people over here are getting a wee bit over-excited about romance in 2011, with not one but two royal weddings on the agenda. After all, Wills chose Africa when proposing to Kate and thousands more are following suit! So with lots of hopeful girlfriends reading about royal engagements and crossing their fingers expectantly, South Africa offers huge potential for a perfect proposal (and for weddings and honeymoons). Good luck, and may you live happily ever after.
1. Cape Point
The tip of the peninsula south of Cape Town, this may not quite be the southernmost tip of Africa, but it is far more romantic (and easier to get to) than Cape Agulhas, the actual southern point. It’s windswept, wild and beautiful, with plenty of places for clifftop walks and the fine dining Two Oceans Restaurant for celebration bubbly with ocean views.
2. Table Mountain
Take the cable car up Table Mountain in Cape Town for a Sunset Special. The café isn’t gourmet standard but they will lay on a bottle of wine and a snack picnic, or you could pack your own. The sunset up here is stupendous (check the weather forecast), with views along the spine of the Twelve Apostles and across two oceans, while heavy-headed proteas nod in the herb-scented fynbos.
3. Buitenverwachting Restaurant, Constantia
One of the most beautiful vineyards in the Cape, Buitenverwachting caters to all the senses. Go out in daylight to wander round the historic manor and vineyards and ask them to arrange a picnic on the lawn. Or dine in gourmet splendour in the superbly romantic courtyard restaurant, one of the finest in the Cape.
4. The Big Hole, Kimberley
Over 2722kg (6001 lbs) of diamonds were dug from the vast open pit mine at Kimberley between 1871 and 1914. The world’s most famous diamond mine is now a fascinating museum. The hole is 214 metres deep and 1.6 km (1 mile) around the rim. It may not be the obvious choice of a place to pop the question, but when it comes to engagements and rings, diamond really are a girl’s best friend! And there are plenty of shopping opportunities in town.
5. Phantom Forest Eco Reserve, Knysna
Sip champagne in a bubble bath under the stars on the deck of your treehouse in the tangled branches of the Knysna forest. Whisk your beloved off to a jungle hideaway overlooking the magnificent Knysna lagoon on South Africa’s famous Garden Route. With a spa, superb food, indulgent luxury and eco-credentials, she’ll feel truly pampered, but you will be setting a precedent!
6. Prana Lodge, Chintsa, Wild Coast
There is little more romantic than a long walk on a remote beach, waves crashing against the golden sand. In the distance, as you turn, hand in hand, and look back, you can see your chic little boutique hotel. Part of the Portfolio Collection, the Prana Lodge has only seven suites, lovingly decorated with Persian rugs and South African art. It opens out onto an idyllic 21 km (12 mile) long beach on the Eastern Cape’s Wild Coast. And it offers fine dining and a spa.
7. Rocktail Beach, North Coast, Kwazulu-Natal
If you like your water warmer, head up to Maputaland and the far north of the Kwazulu-Natal coast, where Rocktail Beach is tucked into the coastal forest about 20 minutes walk from the beach. The birdlife is amazing while turtles, whales and dolphins are all common visitors. The Marine Reserve here is a World Heritage site with superb diving and snorkeling, so you could even go for an underwater proposal on the pristine coral reefs.
8. Cleopatra Mountain Farmhouse, Drakensberg
It began life as the family fishing shack and still has all its cosy family-run informality and memorabilia, but these days, this lovely little hotel in the Kamberg Valley, Drakensberg, about two hours’s drive from Durban also has luscious gourmet food and sumptuous luxury. It’s a perfect place for a spot of fishing, long mountain walks (you’ll need to walk off the seven-course dinner) and curling up for a cuddle. Part of the Portfolio Collection.
9. God’s Window, Blyde Canyon
Hardly anyone outside South Africa has ever heard of it, but the Blyde Canyon in Mpumalanga, is the third largest canyon in the world (after the Grand Canyon and Namibia’s Fish River Canyon). You can go hiking and there are numerous viewpoints, but the finest of them all, easily accessible from the main road, is God’s Window, at the southern end of the canyon. Here, the escarpment plunges down a breathtaking 900m and on a clear day you can right across the Kruger Park into Mozambique. It was used as the edge of the world in the movie, The Gods Must Be Crazy. Not for those who don’t like heights!
10. Singita, Kruger Park
Singita has five lodges, in Sabi Sand and the Kruger Park, all of them stunningly beautiful and uber-luxurious. Choose any of the five as a stunningly romantic Out of Africa (or Wills and Kate) setting for your big date. Or indeed, choose any of the other amazing game lodges in this magnificent country. The important bits are being out in the bush, with the stillness and tranquility, the astonishing views and the nervous sense of anticipation that comes not only from knowing that you are about to ask the woman of your dreams to marry you, but that there may be a lion around the next tree watching you sipping your champagne.