Real Honeymoon: Melisa and Chris on Safari in Kenya

Honeymoons & Destination Weddings
Kenya safari real honeymoon

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

On September 10, 2011, Chris and I got married at Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como, Italy. After an amazing week of celebrating with friends and family in Italy, we departed for our honeymoon adventure—safari in Kenya. We had both been dying to go on safari, and basically started planning our honeymoon the day we got engaged. A close family friend recommended a travel agent that she and several friends worked with to plan safaris—all to rave reviews. We considered many countries in Africa—and all looked amazing—but we settled on Kenya because it's known for its game. We would also be going right in the middle of the Great Migration, which occurs every year from July to October, where you see vast herds of wildebeest—and the big cats that hunt them—migrating from the Serengeti to the Maasai Mara.

Giraffe Manor in Nairobi - Kenya Safari Honeymoon Giraffe Manor in Nairobi - Kenya Safari Honeymoon

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

After an eight-hour flight from Zurich to Nairobi, we arrived tired and happy at Giraffe Manor, a truly unique and special place located in the Karen district of Nairobi. Built in the 1930s, this luxury boutique hotel has maintained all the charm of the era and is now famous for its resident herd of Rothschild Giraffe, an endangered subspecies of giraffe. These gentle giants always show up around mealtime to make friends.

Baby elephants at the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage - Kenya Honeymoon

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

While in Nairobi, we also paid a visit to Daphne Sheldrick's Elephant Orphanage, part of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. This was one of the highlights of our trip! The orphanage has a nursery and rehab center for infant elephants that have lost their families. Daphne Sheldrick was the first person to successfully raise an orphan infant elephant, discovering a formula that has now been used widely (being fed to baby elephant Naipoki in the picture above). These infants are eventually released into the wild at Tsavo East National Park and end up in the care of other orphans who have been successfully reintroduced to the wild. These baby elephants have such amazing personalities, and become so attached to their keepers (reference the trunk snuggles in the picture above). We of course could not leave without adopting one (it costs about $55) and now receive regular updates on how our baby elephant is getting along—a wonderful reminder of our amazing honeymoon.

Small Plane to Lewa Downs - Kenya Honeymoon

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

After two nights in Nairobi, we began our safari adventure in Lewa Downs, a rhino sanctuary near the base of Mt. Kenya. After an hour flight on a small plane, we landed on a dirt strip in the middle of the wilderness. It was awesome.

Lewa Wilderness Trails Camp - Kenya Safari Honeymoon

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

On our way to the Lewa Wilderness Trails Lodge from the airstrip, we spotted this Maasai-led camel caravan.

Lewa Downs Wilderness Trails Guest Room - Kenya Honeymoon

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

Upon arrival at Lewa Downs Wilderness we were greeted by Kate, the friendly manager. When she showed us to our room, we were completely blown away—it was a mini house! We got settled and went to lunch, served in the main house at one big, long table. The food was another pleasant surprise. Different at every meal, everything we had was absolutely amazing. Fresh salads, pasta dishes, meats, curries, fruit—all so fresh and impeccably prepared.

Maasai guide - Kenya Safai Honeymoon Kenya Real Honeymoon Photo

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

After lunch we went out for an afternoon drive with our Maasai guide, Lari. He was a phenomenal tracker, and ensured we saw all of the "big five"—lion, rhino, leopard, elephant and Cape buffalo. Not to mention cheetah, monkey, zebra, giraffe and gazelle. Here he is scanning for game out of our Land Rover.

Lewa Wilderness Trails lodge - Kenya Safari Honeymoon

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

After sunset, we would return to camp for dinner, drinks and conversation with the other guests by a cozy fire.

Elephants on Lewa Downs - Kenya Safari Honeymoon Elephants on Lewa Downs - Kenya Safari Honeymoon

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

We saw plenty of elephants on the move in Lewa Downs. Elephant families have a matriarchal head (leading the pack here), and generally consist of her female children and their calves. (Male elephants travel in bachelor pods and seek out females when they are ready to mate.) Elephants are known for forming very special bonds with their friends and family members that they carry through their lives—rejoicing when they are reunited with old friends and family, and mourning the death of loved ones with human-like grief.

Rhino on Lew Downs - Kenya Safari Honeymoon

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

The Lewa Wildlife Conservancy created a high-security sanctuary for black and white rhinos back in the mid-1980s, after black rhinos had been poached nearly to extinction. While they are now thriving on the property, they must continue to be vigilant in protecting them from poachers, as a rhino horn will fetch more on the black market than its weight in gold due to great demand from Asia, where a rhino horn is a sign of power and virility, and believed to be a powerful aphrodisiac in powder form (this has been scientifically proven to be false). To see a rhino in person was such an incredible experience—they are truly beautiful and gentle creatures.

Lion pride on Lewa Downs - Kenya Honeymoon Safari Lion pride on Lewa Downs - Kenya Honeymoon Safari

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

On our second morning drive, we were not 100 meters from camp when we came upon a pride of lions finishing their breakfast (a very unlucky warthog). While it is tough to get up at 5 AM for the morning drives, the game viewing is so amazing then as the night hunters are often still roaming about, finishing off their meals—and the light is amazing for photographs. The incredible staff at Lewa Wilderness made the early call time easier by dropping off their delicious Kenyan coffee and biscuits as part of their in-person wake-up call service (no phones!).

Riding camels on Lewa Downs - Kenya Honeymoon

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

The amazing staff at Lewa wilderness was always planning surprises for us during our stay. At the end of one of our morning drives, they surprised us with a full breakfast camp set up in the bush. The next surprise was that we would be riding back to the main camp on camels!

Guide in Maasai warrior dress - Kenya Honeymoon

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

At the end of the afternoon drive each day, we would have Sundowners—sunset cocktails at some beautiful location in the wild. (This quickly became one of our favorite activities). In the picture above, Lewa guide Francis (wearing traditional Maasai warrior dress) pours us champagne as we take in the incredible view of the valley below us.

Giraffes on the Maasai Mara - Kenya Honeymoon Safari

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

After three amazing nights in Lewa, we jumped on another tiny plane and headed to the Maasai Mara and its vast expanse of green plains dotted with herds of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, and all the predators who feed on them. As we left the airstrip and headed toward Serian Camp, our driver veered off toward a patch of trees. He had spotted a female giraffe that had just given birth less than an hour before we arrived. She cleaned her baby as the calf wobbled around getting used to standing on its long, unfamiliar legs.

Serian Camp Guest Room - Kenya Honeymoon Serian Camp Guest Bathroom - Kenya Honeymoon

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

Our accomodations at Serian camp were a little more rustic than Lewa—permanent tents on the banks of the Mara river. All day and night you could hear hippos making their distinctive grunts on the water below. The bathroom was just outside the tent in another permanent structure, but the wall that faced the river was completely open. It was very cool during the daytime, but I must admit I never got the courage to make the trek at night!

Giraffes on the Maasai Mara - Kenya Honeymoon Safari

Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

The biggest attraction on the Mara each year is the Great Wildebeest Migration (one of the "Seven New Wonders of the World"), where over 2 million animals migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Massai Mara National Reserve in Kenya, crossing the crocodile-infested waters of the Mara River in the process. In the picture above, two giraffes cool off in the Mara River with a trail of wildebeest that survived the crossing stretching behind them.

Maasai Mara Safari Serian Camp - Kenya Honeymoon Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

One day while we were waiting to see a crossing, our guide set up a special picnic lunch that the camp had prepared for us. You can't beat the view.

Serian Camp - Kenya Honeymoon

Serian Camp Dining Room - Kenya Safari Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

After a long day driving around the game reserve, we loved coming back to Serian Camp and relaxing by the fire with glass of wine. In true safari camp form, everyone ate together around a large table each night. They offered a lot of traditional western fare, but also made the best lamb curry I have ever tasted.

Male and female lions - Kenya Safari Honeymoon Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

While on safari one is constantly confronted with the circle of life and fight for survival. We came across a male lion eating a wildebeest that appeared to have been killed hours earlier (most likely by the female pictured). The females do most of the hunting for the pride, but the males get to eat first. This female got sick of waiting for her turn and decided to pick a fight.

Kenya Real Honeymoon Safari - Melisa and Chris Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

One difficult part about a honeymoon is that, since it's just the two of you, it's hard to get a lot of shots together. This is made more difficult when one person is also a photographer, obsessed with capturing every amazing moment. My husband took this photo of me to let me know how I looked during most of the safari—but I did get great pics!

Kinondo Kwetu Resort - Kenya Honeymoon Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

After three incredible nights in the Mara, we headed to Kinondo Kwetu, a small resort on the south end of Diani Beach for some R&R (no early wake-up calls or schedules!). The vibrant turquoise of the warm Indian Ocean instantly relaxed us, and we spent 4 blissful days enjoying the sun, sand and more incredible food.

Lunch at the Kinondo Kwetu Resort - Kenya Honeymoon Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

The resort only accommodates 38 people, and when we were there only ten other people were checked in. We felt like we had to place to ourselves which is exactly what we wanted for our honeymoon. On our first day they served us lunch in a shipwreck on the beach that they had converted into a lunch table.

Kinondo Kwetu Resort Guest Lounge - Kenya Honeymoon Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

Guests could congregate for cocktails before and after dinner, or for a game of backgammon or chess, in the beautiful common rooms at the resort. The food was top notch, generally involving fresh seafood they had caught that day.

View from Kinondo Kwetu Resort - Kenya Honeymoon Beach at Kinondo Kwetu Resort - Kenya Honeymoon Photo: Courtesy of Melisa Melling

From our cabana on the beach we spent hours relaxing, reading and staring at the sea. Here, a pair of local fishermen head back to their village with the day's catch. Over the two weeks of our honeymoon, we completely fell in love with the stunning natural beauty and wonderful people and culture of Kenya, and hope to have the chance to return again someday. It truly was the trip of a lifetime.

—Melisa Melling

Newly married and dying to share your honeymoon photos with We'd love to feature them! Please email photos and a brief description to Jacqueline Gifford at

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