Our Honeymoon

Mnemba Island

Our wedding was held on a beautiful beach at Mnemba Island in Zanzibar, Africa. After celebrating at our reception until the small early hours, we quietly left and strolled down the beach to our honeymoon tent. Inside our tent, I had already placed pink champagne, flowers and truffles for my new wife. And we shared a romantic early morning bowl of strawberries and cream:

Honeymoon tent with champagne, flowers & truffles; and strawberries in cream

This had been the most wonderful day of our lives and while we were resting I gave Keely a beautiful crystal seahorse brooch as a wedding gift:

We were slow to sleep that morning but gradually the day’s exciting events caught up on us and dawn found us sleeping soundly. And we continued to have a slow start to the day, choosing to snuggle the rest of the morning away:

Inside our honeymoon tent at Zanzibar

But early that afternoon I roused my darling for a surprise I had arranged – I had commissioned our portraits to be taken, then some leisure time at the private beach:

Our beach portraits … then enjoying ourselves on the beach

Following our fun in the sun, we went to dinner at this amazing romantic restaurant perched atop of its own island right by the beach. This restaurant was totally exclusive and romantic; it catered to only one couple per night:

Romantic private restaurant on its own island on our beach

Following our delicious meal we strolled paw-in-paw back to our tent for an early night – because the next morning we were leaving to spend the rest of the week exploring the soaring heights of Africa’s highest peak (Mt Kilimanjaro), the endless plains of the Serengeti and the incredible Ngorongoro Crater.

Standing on the Roof of Africa

Keely posing with Mt Kilimanjaro in the background

Mt Kilimanjaro lies on the border of Tanzania and Kenya, just south of the equator. And at an altitude of 5895m (19,341 ft) above sea level, it is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world.

Kilimanjaro began forming at least 500,000 years ago and is now comprised of three distinct volcanic cones – Kibo 5895m (19,341 ft), Mawanzi 5149m (16,893 ft) and Shira 3962m (13,000 ft). Uhuru Peak is the highest summit on Kibo’s crater rim.

Map showing Zanzibar (far right middle), Kilimanjaro & Serengeti

We trekked up the lower levels of the mountain and were amazed at the significant numbers of wildlife inhabiting the area. Mammals include elephants, buffaloes, elands, duikers, leopards, baboons, and blue monkeys. The area is also frequented by colourful birds.

top row: Blue Monkey, herd of Elephants, Yellow-bellied Waxbill   middle row: Leopard, Duiker, African Hunting Dog; bottom row: Lion, Eland, Colobus Monkey

Our accommodation throughout our journey up Mt Kilimanjaro was a wonderful tent that magically appeared at every stop and was always appointed with our every comfort in mind.

Our tent for the duration of our safari to the top of Mt Kilimanjaro

We gradually left the green lower levels behind us and trekked up the snowy high levels and finally on to the very top of the mountain.

Standing on the Roof of Africa

Serengeti National Park

Tanzania’s oldest and most popular national park, the Serengeti, is famed for its annual herbivore migration, when some six million hooves pound the plains, like a vast voracious lawnmower on an exodus north.

A million wildebeest join more than 200,000 zebra and 300,000 Thompson’s gazelle in a frenzied three-week bout of fresh grazing and territorial conquests, pushing north in columns as long as 25 miles to replenish the species in a brief population explosion that produces more than 8,000 calves daily before the 1000km (600 mile) pilgrimage begins again.

Wildebeest and Thompson’s Gazelles
Yet even when the migration is quiet, the Serengeti offers scintillating game-viewing – great herds of buffalo, smaller groups of elephants and giraffe, and thousands upon thousands of eland, impala and Grants gazelle for as far as the eye can see.
A quick snap with an Elephant mum & baby
Golden-maned lion prides laze under shade trees, solitary leopards haunt the acacia trees lining the Seronera River, while a high density of cheetahs prowl the southeastern plains. Almost uniquely, all three African jackal species occur here, alongside the spotted hyena and a host of more elusive small predators, ranging from the insectivorous aardwolf to the beautiful serval cat.
top left, clockwise: Lion, African Jackal, Spotted Hyena, Aardwolf
But there is more to Serengeti than large mammals. A full 100 varieties of dung beetle have been recorded, as have 500-plus bird species ranging from the outsized ostrich and bizarre secretary bird of the open grassland to the black eagles that soar effortlessly above the Lobo Hills.
Dung beetles are important little critters

Serengeti Serval Cat and Secretary Bird

Ngorongoro Crater

The Ngorongoro Crater sits on the eastern border of the Serengeti National Park and is what remains of a nearly 3 million year old massive volcano. Now collapsed and eroded, it forms an extraordinarily fertile bowl with areas of grassland, swamps, lerai forest (small patches of forest made up of yellow-barked acacia and yellow fever trees) and permanent water sources.

Ngorongoro Crater

In fact, the Crater is the spectacular stalking, grazing and hiding grounds of around 20,000 – 30,000 wild animals at any one time, which is the most densely packed concentration of wildlife in Africa.

Some inhabitants of the Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro Crater is also one of the last remaining areas in Tanzania where you are likely to see the endangered Black Rhino.

Endangered Black Rhinos

There was a lot to see and do during our safari trips, so on our time off we often took the opportunity to just sit back and relax.

Our private swimming pool

And whenever we could we made a point of watching the amazing sunrise and sunset of each beautiful day.

Sunrise, sunsets and (bottom right) Moonrise over Africa

The days flew by very quickly; it seemed that in no time at all we were saying goodbye to our guides and being collected by the Google Earth Jet. But we will always remember our wonderful honeymoon in exciting Africa.


My Sweet Valentine

This year marks our first Valentine’s Day together, so we decided to celebrate by doing something we had always wanted to do – take an early morning balloon flight!

Because I live in Australia, Valentine’s Day arrives earlier for me than Keely. When I awoke on Valentine’s Day, my darling greeted me with this beautiful video of our wonderful love before she retired for the day. Copy and paste this linky into your browser for a real love story:  http://tiny.cc/yifwp
The hours flew past for me until it was finally Valentine’s Day in the UK. I didn’t want my darling to have to wait until the end of the day for treats, so when she woke up I had some little things waiting for her:

Especially for my darling

I had also posted a card to her and she opened it up first thing that morning:

Keely with post from Australia!

When it was evening in the UK, I caught the Google Earth Jet from Queensland to pick Keely up from her home in beautiful Yorkshire. Before our return trip however, I took her in my arms and told her how much she meant to me and how much I loved her.

for my Sweet Valentine

We then caught the GEJ back to the RAAF Base Amberley in Brisbane, Australia to catch our hot air balloon flight. It was still quite dark when we arrived at Amberley but by the time we had been briefed on safety procedures and boarded the basket, dawn wasn’t far away and the birds had begun to waken.

There were a number of balloons going up that morning but ours was the prettiest.

Keely & Thomas before take-off

We lifted off gently from the earth, climbing higher and higher until the Airforce Base was tiny below us. By that time the sun was just peeking above the horizon, and we could see for miles and miles. We headed West for a few minutes so I could show Keely the Toowoomba Range & Laidley Valley.

left Toowoomba Range; right Laidley Valley

But our first destination was in the other direction so we changed slip stream, turned our balloon around and headed East. We passed over our closest city, Ipswich, which is like a big country town. You can still get free parking in the centre of the city!

Ipswich City CBD, Queensland

The sun was well up by now; time for some breakfast! We watched the scenery unroll below us as we sipped chilled bubbly Pink Champagne and nommed on chocolates and delicious strawberries & cream.

Pink Champagne, Strawberry & Cream, Carob Chocolates

It didn’t take long before we were at the very popular and touristy Gold Coast, the Mecca for sun worshippers, whale watchers and shoppers alike. Its skyline is unmistakable even from the air, and its beaches stretch for miles along the coast:

left Gold Coast beaches; right Whale Watching

I was anxious that the wind would carry us in the right direction for my surprise, and pretty soon my darling was exclaiming her delight and kissing me. I had arranged for a message to be written in the sand, just for her:

Miami Beach, Gold Coast – message to my darling

As we travelled up the coastline towards Brisbane, I produced a picnic basket full of my darling’s favourite food (sossidges) which we nommed on and threw to the seagulls flying below us:

Picnic basket full of sossidges

Gradually the city of Brisbane came into view, and we could also see the Brisbane River winding its way inland. Of course I pointed out the famous cricket grounds, the Woolloongabba (the ‘Gabba) to Keely:

clockwise from top: Brisbane City, Brisbane River, Woolloongabba Cricket Ground

The winds were favourable and so we decided to head a little bit further north to the beautiful Sunshine Coast, which isn’t (quite) as touristy as the Gold Coast (south of Brisbane) and you can still find a patch of sand on the beach to call your own.

A Sunshine Coast beach

On our way we drifted slightly inland for the breathtaking view of the Glasshouse Mountains. These mountains (hardened molten plugs) are all that are left of volcanoes that have long since eroded away from this Great Southern Land:

Glasshouse Mountains QLD

We also passed over Australia Zoo, which used to be home of the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. His widow Terri and kids Bindi & Robert still live at the Zoo and continue to work tirelessly for animals and conservation.

Australia Zoo: Home of Terri, Bindi & Robert Irwin
We turned our balloon East again to the Sunshine Coast beaches, and traveled up the coast past Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore and Noosa:

clockwise, top left: Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Noosa

Then, as time was slipping by, we turned our balloon towards the West, heading straight as the crow flies towards home. On the way we indulged in some very nommy ice cream desserts before touching down again at the Amberley airbase.

Sweets for the sweet

Our first Valentine’s Day was simply wonderful and a day that I will remember and cherish all my life. Having escorted my darling back to her home on the other side of the world, I returned knowing that I am indeed the luckiest dog in all the world to have such a sweet valentine.