The undiscovered beaches of Brazil,the secret kingdom of Bhutan, the isolated safari lodges ofTanzania—for three couples, a long-haul trip proved to be theperfect honeymoon
Whales are frolicking off Praia doRosa, surfers are taming Florianópolis’s breaks, and Grace and I are enjoying our own aquatic adventure, sipping champagne in oursuite’s whirlpool, gazing at the fishing boats plying the emerald coast.There’s something to be said for a honeymoon in Santa Catarina, aBrazilian state with long, windswept beaches, rare marine life, and asurfeit of Gisele Bündchen types (the supermodel is from aneighboring state and visits frequently).
If Ponta dos Ganchos is sexy and secluded,the island of Florianópolis is Hawaii without volcanoes. When wearrive, a surfing championship is in progress on Joaquinabeach—naturally, there’s Gisele watching Kelly Slater from theshore. In the evenings, the beautiful people cram into the clubs,turning the place into a Latino St.-Tropez. In truth, Grace and I preferOstradamus, an oyster restaurant in Ribeirão da Ilha, acobblestoned village that has not changed much in 300 years.
Our first stop is Pontados Ganchos, a 20-bungalow hotel on a peninsula outside the fishingvillage of Governador Celso Ramos. We feel spoiled: our enormous roomhas panoramic ocean views, furnishings that match the colors of thepalms hanging over our sundeck, and all the requisite luxuries: aflat-screen TV, a bed that seems twice the size of our Brooklynapartment. “I could get used to this,” my wife says from the walk-inshower. This might be a problem, I think.
We spend our days swinging in hammocks, stirring only for grilled shrimp flambéedwith cachaça at the open-air restaurant. The highlight?Acandlelit dinner for two on a small island. We are lucky to get areservation (only one party is allowed on the island at a time), and asthe waiter delivers our champagne, Grace goes dreamy. I promise to buyus an island one day.
In 2000, a part of Santa Catarina was declared a whale sanctuary, anddecades after being hunted to near extinction, the majestic southernright whales now breed here. It is South America’s best whale watching,especially at Praia do Rosa, a beach town where the eco-resort PousadaVida Sol e Mar runs excursions along the coast. The boat gets so closeto the creatures we can almost touch their barnacles. We’re heading backto shore when Grace spots a calf in the swells. “Look, honey, a baby!”she says, beaming. Babies and a private island: I have work todo.—DOUGLAS ROGERS
Not that wedon’t have plenty of alone time. A mere 13,000 tourists visit Bhutaneach year, and it feels as if we’re the only guests at the understatedlyluxurious Uma Paro. (Government requirements make it impossible to spendless than $200 a day here, which means that the patchouli- lovingbackpackers remain across the range in Nepal.) One reason that Steve andI chose Bhutan is that it is so extravagant, remote, and difficult toget to, we thought a trip here could only be justified as a post-weddingindulgence.
There’s not a single tourist trap in the country (thereisn’t even a traffic light), which means that we spend our daysclimbing, walking sticks in hand, up to Buddhist temples and fortresses,or biking down pristine switchback mountain trails. Outsiders cannotvisit holy places unaccompanied, so we often travel with our Bhutaneseguide, Dorji, a serene 23-year-old who talks to us about her pastreincarnations and is endlessly amused by our modest displays of”Western” affection (that would be hand-holding).
We actually love the absence of distracting on-sitehotel activities. There’s really not that much to do, other than thefavorite Bhutanese pastime, archery, which we attempt (Steve, decent;me, not so much). All of which leaves more time for lounging together inthe Uma spa’s traditional Bhutanese hot-stone bath. Steve and I melt inthis secluded outdoor tub, warmed by fire-heated river stones, smilingas we sip steaming cups of ginger tea. If marriage is anything likethis, then we are in for a lifetime of bliss. —JESSICA SHAW
We are 150 steepstone steps away from the 17th-century, cliff-hugging TaktsangMonastery. My knees are shaking from fear and cold, and my head isspinning with altitude sickness. Using my hands as blinders to avoidseeing the 2,000-foot plummet waiting beyond a single six-inch misstep,I realize something: walking down the aisle was only slightly scarierthan this.
Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom of snowy Himalayan peaks andstupa-studded valleys, is butterfly-inducing all around. Even myhusband, Steve, who was a rock at our wedding, got misty when seeing thecountry for the first time, from a plane 35,000 feet in the air. Heinsisted it had nothing to do with the fact that we were on our thirdflight or that the pilot had just “assured” the passengers, “It may looklike we’re going to crash into the mountains, but don’t worry. Wewon’t.”
Ponta dos Ganchos
104 Rua EupídioAlves do Nascimento, Gov. Celso Ramos; 800/ 735-2478 or 55-48/3262-5000; www.pontadosganchos.com.br; doubles from $445,including all meals.
7640 Rod. Baldicero Filomeno,Ribeirão da Ilha; 55-48/3337-5711; dinner for two$40.
Pousada Vida Sol e Mar, Estrada Geral da Praia do Rosa, Imbituba; 55-48/3355-6111; www.vidasolemar.com.br;whale-watching trips from $40 per person.
My husband, Tim, and I have been lured on asafari by the Out of Africa dream: the proximity to Mother Nature, theoutright adventure. Not only does the name Tanzania sound effortlesslyexotic, but also, for me, East Africa retains the mystique of a wilder,less trodden path, something that a place like South Africa haslost.
Thehop to the next lodge is on a hair-raising ﬂight in a minusculepropeller plane, but our bird’s-eye peek of Mount Kilimanjaro makes itworthwhile. Klein’s Camp, on the northern edge of the Serengeti, isprivate property, so other than the lodge’s 20 guests there are notourists within 24,000 acres—just the odd Masai herdsman tendinghis cattle. From the veranda in our circular stone cottage we spotelephant herds grazing below and eagles circling above, inspiring Tim touse the easel and watercolors provided in our room.
Fantasies aside, nothing prepares us for our arrival atTanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater—a 12-mile-wide caldera teeming withwildlife—or for Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, which, like all of ourstops, is a CC Africa property. The cluster of mud huts on stilts,inspired by the traditional Masai style, clings to the lip of the vastbasin; below, we can see herds of basking zebras and snorting buffalo.Inside, the rooms are incongruously opulent, with chandeliers,ﬁreplaces, and four-poster beds draped in velvet. There arepanoramic views, even from our bathroom, where a bubble bath strewn withfragrant rose petals is awaiting us.
Early the next morning, wedescend right into that view, passing local Masai children walkingbarefoot to school. As the sun rises, the crater floor comes alive withelephants, wildebeests, hyenas, ostriches, and lions. Tim and I feelespecially fortunate when we spot an endangered black rhino.
Our nextstop paints a whole new picture: tranquil Lake Manyara Tree Lodge,surrounded by the mountain escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. CCAfrica owns the only accommodations in this national park: 10 cabinscradled in the boughs of ancient mahogany trees. We wake to baboons onour balcony and set off with our ranger, Claude, searching for raretree-climbing lions and the 387 species of birds, includingcandy-colored flamingos. We see hippos, impalas, and many birds, but nolions. As we’re about to leave, we spot two of them, 30 feet up in thebranches, as though they’ve appeared just for us.—VANESSA BARNEBY
Paro, Bhutan; 975- 8/271-597; www.uma.como.bz; doubles from$250.
CC Africa Lodges
888/882-3742; www.ccafrica.com. Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, doubles from $640; Klein’sCamp, $980; Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, $980; prices include meals anddaily safari drives.