Lux African safaris for newlyweds

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NEW YORK -- Forty years ago, a red-and-white 1956 Olds 88 whisked this grandma off to a rented cottage on Lake Hopatcong in New Jersey, a 50-minute drive from my family home, for my first and only honeymoon.

Miami topped the charts of romantic getaways for East Coast newlyweds back then, while couples who lighted on exotic Hawaii made the social pages of the Newark Evening News.

To me, the idea of tramping off to Africa would have been tantamount to bicycling to the moon.

Today, Orient-Express Safaris is one of a number of companies offering Africa honeymoons, with amenities designed for couples in love.

An average of three to four couples a month take these trips, said Karl Parkinson, the company's marketing manager. Not all are honeymooners, but 37% are American, he added.

The firm owns and operates three luxury lodges in Botswana: the Khwai River Lodge, overlooking the river and the Moremi Wildlife Reserve; Eagle Island Camp on the island of Xaxaba in the Okavango Delta; and Savute Elephant Camp in the Chobe National Park.

Now, couples who book the outfit's Journey to the Heart honeymoon can opt for its newest service: a trip add-on the company describes as "decadent."

Naturally Wild Exclusive Experiences include in-suite sensuous massages (in 1963, a sensuous massage was what your dog got when you rubbed his belly) and intimate dinners at one of the company's luxury tented safari camps in Botswana, as well as helicopter and boat tours in and around Botswana's Okavango Delta.

The spa-like treatments available include the Naturally Wild Total Wellness Massage, a blend of Swedish, Thai, shiatsu, pressure point and Indian head massage. Then there's the African Storm Treatment, which features full-body exfoliation, mineral mud-wrap and African Hot Stone Therapy. Rates for these massage treatments begin at $70 per person.

Dinner is served under the skies on the couple's lanai.

As an added touch, newlyweds can request aromatherapy candles, wildflower petals on the king-size bed and an African liqueur.

Other romantic tour options abound. Couples can choose to hire a private plane or helicopter (cost included in tour price) for a game-viewing flight; take a boat trip; or opt for full-day game drives. The private, guided tours begin at $420 per couple.

Commission is 10% on massages and tours when they are booked with accommodations.

The four- or six-night Journey to the Heart package, also commissionable at 10%, offers a choice of stays at two or all three of the company's Botswana lodges.

The package features air transfer from Maun to the first camp of choice; intercamp air transfers; meals, including a private dinner; drinks, excluding premium brands; a departure gift; accommodations; game-viewing activities; medical evacuation insurance; National Park fees; departure tax; and 10% Botswana VAT.

Rates, valid Jan. 5 through June 30, are $2,340 per person for a four-night package, staying a maximum of two nights in any of the three camps; and $3,170 per person for a six-night plan, staying at any camp, any choice of nights.

As part of the Naturally Wild launch, clients who book before March 1 receive three complimentary nights at one of two Orient-Express hotels: the Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town or the Westcliff in Johannesburg. This offer does not include air fare between Botswana and South Africa.

For reservations, contact [email protected]. More information can be found at www.orient-express.com.

To contact Destinations editor Margaret Myre, send e-mail to [email protected].

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