Honeymoon Beaches
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Honeymoon Beaches

The undiscovered beaches of Brazil, the secret kingdom of Bhutan, the isolated safari lodges of Tanzania—for three couples, a long-haul trip proved to be the perfect honeymoon

Brazil

Whales are frolicking off Praia do
Rosa, surfers are taming Florianópolis's breaks, and Grace and I
 are enjoying our own aquatic adventure, sipping champagne in our
suite's whirlpool, gazing at the fishing boats plying the emerald coast.
There's something to be said for a honeymoon in Santa Catarina, a
Brazilian state with long, windswept beaches, rare marine life, and a
surfeit of Gisele Bündchen types (the supermodel is from a
neighboring state and visits frequently).

Our first stop is Ponta
dos Ganchos, a 20-bungalow hotel on a peninsula outside the fishing
village of Governador Celso Ramos. We feel spoiled: our enormous room
has panoramic ocean views, furnishings that match the colors of the
palms hanging over our sundeck, and all the requisite luxuries: a
flat-screen TV, a bed that seems twice the size of our Brooklyn
apartment. "I could get used to this," my wife says from the walk-in
shower. This might be a problem, I think.

We spend our days swinging in hammocks, stirring only for grilled shrimp flambéed
with cachaça at the open-air restaurant. The highlight?A
candlelit dinner for two on a small island. We are lucky to get a
reservation (only one party is allowed on the island at a time), and as
the waiter delivers our champagne, Grace goes dreamy. I promise to buy
us an island one day.

If Ponta dos Ganchos is sexy and secluded,
the island of Florianópolis is Hawaii without volcanoes. When we
arrive, a surfing championship is in progress on Joaquina
beach—naturally, there's Gisele watching Kelly Slater from the
shore. In the evenings, the beautiful people cram into the clubs,
turning the place into a Latino St.-Tropez. In truth, Grace and I prefer
Ostradamus, an oyster restaurant in Ribeirão da Ilha, a
cobblestoned village that has not changed much in 300 years.

In 2000, a part of Santa Catarina was declared a whale sanctuary, and
decades after being hunted to near extinction, the majestic southern
right whales now breed here. It is South America's best whale watching,
especially at Praia do Rosa, a beach town where the eco-resort Pousada
Vida Sol e Mar runs excursions along the coast. The boat gets so close
to the creatures we can almost touch their barnacles. We're heading back
to shore when Grace spots a calf in the swells. "Look, honey, a baby!"
she says, beaming. Babies and a private island: I have work to
do.—DOUGLAS ROGERS

Bhutan

We are 150 steep
stone steps away from the 17th-century, cliff-hugging Taktsang
Monastery. My knees are shaking from fear and cold, and my head is
spinning with altitude sickness. Using my hands as blinders to avoid
seeing the 2,000-foot plummet waiting beyond a single six-inch misstep,
I realize something: walking down the aisle was only slightly scarier
than this.

Bhutan, a Buddhist kingdom of snowy Himalayan peaks and
stupa-studded valleys, is butterfly-inducing all around. Even my
husband, Steve, who was a rock at our wedding, got misty when seeing the
country for the first time, from a plane 35,000 feet in the air. He
insisted it had nothing to do with the fact that we were on our third
flight or that the pilot had just "assured" the passengers, "It may look
like we're going to crash into the mountains, but don't worry. We
won't."

There's not a single tourist trap in the country (there
isn't even a traffic light), which means that we spend our days
climbing, walking sticks in hand, up to Buddhist temples and fortresses,
or biking down pristine switchback mountain trails. Outsiders cannot
visit holy places unaccompanied, so we often travel with our Bhutanese
guide, Dorji, a serene 23-year-old who talks to us about her past
reincarnations and is endlessly amused by our modest displays of
"Western" affection (that would be hand-holding).

Not that we
don't have plenty of alone time. A mere 13,000 tourists visit Bhutan
each year, and it feels as if we're the only guests at the understatedly
luxurious Uma Paro. (Government requirements make it impossible to spend
less than $200 a day here, which means that the patchouli- loving
backpackers remain across the range in Nepal.) One reason that Steve and
I chose Bhutan is that it is so extravagant, remote, and difficult to
get to, we thought a trip here could only be justified as a post-wedding
indulgence.

We actually love the absence of distracting on-site
hotel activities. There's really not that much to do, other than the
favorite Bhutanese pastime, archery, which we attempt (Steve, decent;
me, not so much). All of which leaves more time for lounging together in
the Uma spa's traditional Bhutanese hot-stone bath. Steve and I melt in
this secluded outdoor tub, warmed by fire-heated river stones, smiling
as we sip steaming cups of ginger tea. If marriage is anything like
this, then we are in for a lifetime of bliss. —JESSICA SHAW


Tanzania

My husband, Tim, and I have been lured on a
safari by the Out of Africa dream: the proximity to Mother Nature, the
outright adventure. Not only does the name Tanzania sound effortlessly
exotic, but also, for me, East Africa retains the mystique of a wilder,
less trodden path, something that a place like South Africa has
lost.

Fantasies aside, nothing prepares us for our arrival at
Tanzania's Ngorongoro Crater—a 12-mile-wide caldera teeming with
wildlife—or for Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, which, like all of our
stops, is a CC Africa property. The cluster of mud huts on stilts,
inspired by the traditional Masai style, clings to the lip of the vast
basin; 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 are
panoramic views, even from our bathroom, where a bubble bath strewn with
fragrant rose petals is awaiting us.

Early the next morning, we
descend right into that view, passing local Masai children walking
barefoot to school. As the sun rises, the crater floor comes alive with
elephants, wildebeests, hyenas, ostriches, and lions. Tim and I feel
especially fortunate when we spot an endangered black rhino.

The
hop to the next lodge is on a hair-raising flight in a minuscule
propeller plane, but our bird's-eye peek of Mount Kilimanjaro makes it
worthwhile. Klein's Camp, on the northern edge of the Serengeti, is
private property, so other than the lodge's 20 guests there are no
tourists within 24,000 acres—just the odd Masai herdsman tending
his cattle. From the veranda in our circular stone cottage we spot
elephant herds grazing below and eagles circling above, inspiring Tim to
use the easel and watercolors provided in our room.

Our next
stop paints a whole new picture: tranquil Lake Manyara Tree Lodge,
surrounded by the mountain escarpment of the Great Rift Valley. CC
Africa owns the only accommodations in this national park: 10 cabins
cradled in the boughs of ancient mahogany trees. We wake to baboons on
our balcony and set off with our ranger, Claude, searching for rare
tree-climbing lions and the 387 species of birds, including
candy-colored flamingos. We see hippos, impalas, and many birds, but no
lions. As we're about to leave, we spot two of them, 30 feet up in the
branches, as though they've appeared just for us.—VANESSA BARNEBY



Brazil

Ponta dos Ganchos
104 Rua Eupídio
Alves do Nascimento, Gov. Celso Ramos; 800/ 735-2478 or
55-48/3262-5000; www.pontadosganchos.com.br; doubles from $445,
including all meals.

Ostradamus
7640 Rod. Baldicero Filomeno,
Ribeirão da Ilha; 55-48/3337-5711; dinner for two
$40.

Whale Watching
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.

Bhutan

Uma Paro
Paro, Bhutan; 975- 8/271-597; www.uma.como.bz; doubles from
$250.

Tanzania

CC Africa Lodges
888/882-3742;
www.ccafrica.com. Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, doubles from $640; Klein's
Camp, $980; Lake Manyara Tree Lodge, $980; prices include meals and
daily safari drives.

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