Honeymoon; the term symbolizes the promise of love and romance. It is the traditional holiday taken by newlyweds to celebrate their marriage in intimacy and seclusion.
The thought of relaxing on a white sandy beach, being pampered to unimaginable heights and watching killer sunsets with the love of your life, is all a couple needs to kick start their journey into marital bliss.
In Rwanda, the most popular season (end of the year) to get married is upon us. Right now, most evenings are about attending wedding meetings. Suits and wedding attire sellers are smiling all the way to the bank.
But after the wedding, what next? Does everyone get to go on that much anticipated ‘honeymoon’ before settling into marriage?
Couples share their honeymoon experiences
Josephine Nzasenga and Andrew Nyesigire are a charming couple. The undying love they have for each other is evident in the way they behave when they are together. And to think that they have been together for over 10 years!
“I met Andrew when I was in S3, he was a friend to a cousin of mine and we had gone to watch a football match between a neighbouring school and ours. This was the beginning of our journey to bliss,” she says.
According to Nzasenga, their relationship was strong from the start, and last year in June, Nyesigire popped the question. It was an unforgettable experience, she says.
“Our wedding was in December that same year, the most beautiful day of my life. We had our honeymoon in Jinja at the Nile Resort Hotel in Uganda.
“Our honeymoon lasted a week and a half and it was the finest experience ever. I never felt so much in love. I will never forget the boat cruise on the River Nile with Andrew. My goodness, it was amazing. I will cherish the memories of our honeymoon for a life time,” Nzasenga reminisces.
Nyesigire says that during their honeymoon, the idea of spending the rest of his life with his bride was a dream come true.
“Our wedding and honeymoon are both unforgettable experiences. It was wonderful having my new bride all to myself. We got a chance to bond even more.We were so excited that we made a decision to save money and go back every December. A honeymoon brings you even closer, I’d say,” Nyesigire says.
The couple recommends that those who are not married yet should not ignore the honeymoon because it is the best part of everything.
“Everyone is at their finest when they are happy. Couples should use the honeymoon as an opportunity to completely explore each other,”Nyesigire advises.
For Doris Kagisha and Derrick Kabera, what they thought was a freshman college crush turned out to be a thriving relationship and two years after they graduated, Kabera decided to ‘put a ring on it.’
Their wedding was spectacular, they say. Amidst all the excitement wedding days usually come with, Kagisha admits that the thought of the days ahead with her husband, alone,made her nervous. Nevertheless, she couldn’t wait.
“It did not disappoint. We spent a few days in Gisenyi and later went to Zanzibar, an awesome experience I must say.The memories I carry with me always bring a smile on my face. I fell in love with my husband all over again,” Kagisha says.
Her husband Kabera is of the same view. He admits that their honeymoon opened a brand new page in their love story.
“Our honeymoon was a sweet little piece of heaven.We didn’t know we could fall in love any more than we already had,” Kabera says.
The origin of honeymoons
The honeymoon is a tradition that is treasured all over the world. So, what is its origin?
According to research done by The Pavilions Resorts Limited this year, legends have it that honeymoons existed before the marriage ceremony came into being.
In the earliest days, the groom simply took the woman of his choice to be his bride into hiding, sometimes with his groomsmen there to help him. This is where the term “swept off her feet” came from – a blanket would often be thrown over the bride and she would be carried off on a horseback. This lasted as long as it took for the lady’s relatives to stop searching for her, which was about a month, as marked by the phases of the moon, thus, the “moon” in honeymoon.
The term honeymoon is packed with symbolism. The mead, or honey wine, is sweet and symbolises the particular sweetness of the first month of marriage. It is a time free of the stresses and tensions everyday life puts on the relationship as time goes on. The moon symbolises the phases or cycles of the couple’s relationship. Like the moon, the couple’s relationship would have its brighter moments and its darker ones.
Honeymoon spots in Rwanda
Whereas some couples choose places outside Rwanda to have their honeymoon, there are really amazing places within Rwanda that offer the “honeymoon of your dreams.”
Take Nyungwe Forest Lodge, for example, it lies on the edge of Nyungwe Rainforest National Park in the South West of the country.
The place is ideal as a bride can be pampered in the spa with sensual massages and body scrubs - a nice way to wash off stress from the wedding. They have a cozy lounge with fire places and 24-hour room service.
Nadege Karangwa, the guest relations manager at Nyungwe Forest Lodge says that they receive couples from outside the country for their honeymoon.
“Actually we receive more foreigners than Rwandan residents for honeymoons.
“We make the couples comfortable; decorate their rooms in a special way so that they have the right ambience for newlyweds.The place is peaceful and a great way to get away from the chaos in the city,”Nadege says.
“The room rates for residents are $230 for a single and $405 for a double and $320 for a single and $590 a double for non-residents,” Karangwa says.
Wilson Habimana, the founder and manager of Wilson Tours Travel Agency Ltd, says that a number of couples contact them in search of the perfect honeymoon destination.
“What we do is we organise a package for them, it can include a hotel, transport and other activities depending on the number of days. I work with different hotels therefore I help my clients get what they need for their dream vacation,” Habimana says.
“My clients book places according to what they dream of and I also provide them with guidance according to what each partner likes, whether its animals, a water scenery or others,”Habimana adds.
The most popular destinations among couples are Nyungwe, Karongi near Lake Kivu, Rubavu and AkageraNational Park because of the attractive accommodation facilities.
Sarah Hall, the tourism and marketing manager at Akagera Management Company, says that they have a few enquiries about honeymooning at Ruzizi (a lodge in Akagera), as some foreigners like the spot.
She says, “We’ve even hosted a wedding at Ruzizi Tented Lodge where the wedding party booked the entire lodge for a few days. It’s the perfect location for a few days away, close to Kigali, secluded and peaceful with just nine tented rooms.
“We do offer a luxury tree top tent to those wanting an extra special experience. It is set four meters high with a great view over Lake Ihema, a large king size bed, a free-standing bath, double sinks, outdoor shower and hammock on the deck.
Hall also says that if people feel like exploring the park, there are boat trips, night drives and other activities. Many people just want to relax and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the lodge.
She adds that the number of honeymooners in and out of Rwanda is still low but they hope to get more in the future.
The prices at Akagera are $165 for double or twin tent (per person per night sharing) for non-residents and $130 for residents. For single occupancy, it’s $230 for non-residents and $185 for residents.
The luxury tent (per person per night sharing) is $240 for non-residents and $200 for residents. Luxury tent (single occupancy) is $335 for non-residents and $280 for residents.
Gisenyi, in the North, is another popular getaway destination newlyweds can explore.
Enclosed by palm shaded sandy beaches, the place is the perfect destination to relax; with soothing lakeside beaches and hotels with rooms that offer a breathtaking view of Lake Kivu.
Best honeymoon destinations in Africa
For travelers, Africa has it all: iconic wildlife, epic landscapes, ancient wonders, and an incredible variety of cultures that have intrigued intrepid adventurers for centuries! However, this vast and beautiful continent also has its sweet side, and it’s a perfect place for newlyweds looking to experience the ultimate romantic getaway. A honeymoon, after all, is usually a once-in-a-lifetime affair, so why not make it unforgettable?
From a candle-lit desert oasis to a dreamy tropical archipelago, here are the 10 best honeymoon destinations in Africa.
Tofo, Mozambique - While the gorgeous coastal nation of Mozambique might not be everyone’s first thought for a honeymoon, the sleepy town of Tofo really does have all the ingredients for a perfect trip. Nestled on a tranquil bay looking out over the Indian Ocean, Tofo is a colonial-era fishing village where the pace of life is syrupy slow and the ocean air is filled with the scent of fresh grilled lobster. It also happens to be the world’s premier destination for swimming with whale sharks and manta rays and home to one of Africa’s most responsible and sustainable marine tourism industries.
Douz, Tunisia - The golden dunes and unparalleled night skies of the Tunisian desert also make for a surprisingly romantic honeymoon. Those planning a trip should consider starting their Tunisia experience at Yadis Ksar Ghilane, a desert encampment which combines the romantic setting of a palm-lined desert oasis with the comforts of luxury desert tents. Douz, often referred to as the “Gateway to the Sahara,” is also a popular launching point for excursions to the Jebil National Park as well as off-roading trips to the Sahara.
Masai Mara National Park, Kenya - Honeymooners looking for a more adventurous getaway would do good to consider a multi-day route through Kenya’s Masai Mara National Park. The Masai Mara, one of Kenya’s most popular parks, is home to a stunning variety of animals including the famous “Big 5” of the African grasslands and serves as the backdrop to the world’s most awe-inspiring animal migration. Beyond the wildlife and unique local culture, couples can also reserve stays at some of the more luxurious bush camps and spend their evenings sipping gin & tonics riverside or taking an al-fresco shower while the sun sets over the countryside.
Zanzibar, Tanzania - Few African destinations have the coastal or historical appeal of Zanzibar, a white-sand archipelago off the coast of Tanzania whose historic district of Stone Town is one of East Africa’s few remaining ancient cities and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Curious couples should consider heading to Nungwi, a quiet touristy village on the northern tip of Unguja Island where they can spend their post-nuptial days relaxing next to the turquoise waters, cruising through vibrant mangroves, and exploring the delightful “ghost islands” that appear during low tide.
Great Rift Valley, Kenya - The area surrounding Lake Naivasha in Kenya’s Great Rift Valley is one of the most spectacular in the country in terms of natural abundance. It’s also full of charming colonial-style country hotels where Mother Nature is literally at your door step. The region is home to hundreds of bird species (especially flamingos) and is an ideal starting point to explore attractions like Hell’s Gate National Park, a otherworldly terrain of cliffs and volcanoes, as well as the giraffes and zebras of Crater Lake Game Sanctuary.
Cape Winelands, South Africa - Rather than Tuscany or Napa, why not opt for the rugged mountains and rolling vineyards of South Africa’s Cape Winelands for your honeymoon? The green valleys that make up the Winelands are wedged between scenic peaks and dotted by historic wineries and estates dating back to the time of the Huguenots. Here, you can leisurely explore the country’s most charming historical wineries, sample some of the cellars’ best vintages, and experience life in one of the world’s premier wine regions.
Couples need quality time
Stella Muteteri, employee MTN
A honeymoon gives a couple quality time not only to relax but also envision their future together. It is during this time that they can set goals and start their marriage life with fresh minds for productive years ahead of them.
It helps relieve wedding stress
Claude Nshimiyimana, receptionist
The wedding period is more stressful than any other time for a couple. Thus, I believe the honeymoon is necessary and relevant for them to refresh their minds so as to make decisions regarding their marriage. However, the honeymoon requires a sizeable amount of money, depending on what one wants, and in this case, I think it’s wise if the couple saves beforehand.
It’s not worth it
Emmanuel Simon, broker
I don’t see the relevance of a honeymoon. One can have a great time at home and relax if they wish to do so. Looking at the financial side, imagine the kind of investment or future saving you can make out of the money you would spend on the honeymoon? If you ask me, it’s not worth it.
It’s a once in a lifetime thing
Steven Muhumuza, student
With the busy lifestyles people have these days, I believe a honeymoon is a time people shouldn’t take for granted since the chance to ‘get away’ might not come around easily. Look at it as adventure, or an opportunity to know what is beyond your home with your loved one. It’s an experience and a memory worth having; most especially if you can afford it and it won’t affect the family’s future - financially.
Compiled by Dennis Agaba