How to Have a Royal-Inspired Honeymoon in Namibia With Points & Miles
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Rumor has it that Prince Harry and his bride-to-be, Meghan Markle, will have a faraway honeymoon in Namibia following Saturday’s royal wedding. Though they’ve decided to postpone their trip (because even royals have to work), we’ve been busy wondering how the newlyweds will spend their time in the coastal African country.
After all, Namibia means vast place — so though safaris are popular, they’re hardly the only reason to honeymoon in this underrated destination. In addition to luxurious tented safari camps, Namibia is also home to one of the world’s largest deserts and the haunting Skeleton Coast, with its wrecked ships and animal bones.
Couples dreaming of a honeymoon fit for the next Duke and Duchess may think a grand tour of Namibia is out of reach. But by maximizing your points and miles, you and your significant other can enjoy marital bliss in one of the most extraordinary destinations on Earth. Here’s how to make it happen.
What to Do in Namibia
Seeing wildlife on a Namibian safari will likely be your first order of business. Start by visiting Etosha National Park, where you’ll be on the lookout for four of the Big Five: elephants, leopards, desert lions and the endangered black rhinoceros.
Namibia is one of only two countries where you can spot desert elephants, distinguishable from typical African bush elephants by their longer trunks, larger feet, taller legs and smaller bodies — adaptations that allow them to live more comfortably in the blistering desert. The dry, rocky region of Damaraland is a likely place to see these elephants congregate around watering holes.
Etosha is also famous for its massive salt pan — a dramatic stretch of gleaming white that can be spotted even from space.
Serious explorers should visit the nearby Dragon’s Breath Cave where, in a nation known for cracked earth and windswept dunes, an underground lake plunges more than 400 feet down. Hire a guide to help you safely explore the cave.
Begin traveling southward, following the Skeleton Coast. This harsh shoreline is virtually uninhabited, save for a few nomadic tribes that navigate the inhospitable sands littered with more than 1,000 corroded shipwrecks and, true to its name, sun-bleached whale and seal bones.
Uniquely adapted to the hostile conditions, travelers may also encounter Cape fur seals, the only species with external ears.
Farther south, travelers can scale the ochre Sossusvlei sand dunes in the Namib Desert, which are considered some of the tallest on Earth, reaching skyward nearly 1,000 feet.
Where to Stay in Namibia
Marriott has a significant presence with the brand’s Protea Hotels scattered across Namibia, and they’re all Category 1 or 2 properties, making award redemptions very reasonable.
TPG recommends the Protea by Marriott Walvis Bay Pelican Bay, nestled between the Namib National Reserve and the Skeleton Coast. Rooms here all feature balconies or patios, and cost approximately $125, or 7,500 Marriott Reward points per night.
If you need to spend a night in the city before heading out to explore the country’s wilder stretches, the contemporary Hilton Windhoek has a rooftop swimming pool and bar with views of Namibia’s modern skyline. Room rates here start at $140, or 30,000 Hilton Honors points per night.
Tempting as it may be to use your points for the duration of your trip, Namibia’s desert lodges are truly spectacular — and you should consider splurging for at least part of your stay. With only six luxury tents, honeymooners will fall in love with the intimate Hoanib Valley Camp. Located in the remote northwestern corner of Namibia, tents here are furnished with pieces crafted by Rundu carpenters and Himba carvers.
At the &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, on the other hand, couples can bed down in a suite featuring an in-room fireplace and outdoor shower, or cool off at the lodge pool, which overlooks the vast desert landscape.
Consider using the Citi Prestige card if you decide to book a non-points property, since you’ll get a fourth night free on the paid stay when booking through the Citi Concierge. This can be a great way to save (and collect considerable points for your hotel splurge).
Reaching Namibia’s capital, Windhoek (WDH) can be a long trip. One option US-based travelers have is to fly there from Washington Dulles (IAD) via Accra (ACC) and Johannesburg (JNB) on South African Airways. It’s an intense itinerary, but it can easily be combined with a short stay in South Africa to punctuate the journey. A brief getaway to the Cape Winelands for a celebratory glass of sparkling Methode Cap Classique, perhaps?
Because South African Airways is a member of the Star Alliance network, you can redeem United MileagePlus miles to book your flights. It’ll cost you 40,000 MileagePlus miles one-way in economy to fly IAD-JNB, or 80,000 miles one-way in business class. You’ll also have to pay the taxes and fees on the ticket. You can also use those United MileagePlus miles to fly from Washington Dulles (IAD) to Windhoek (WDH) via Addis Ababa (ADD) on Ethiopian Airlines (also a Star Alliance member), which will cost you the same number of United MileagePlus miles as South African.
Delta is another option, flying nonstop from Atlanta (ATL) to Johannesburg (JNB). There, you can snag a cheap ticket on South African to Windhoek, which usually hovers around $140 one way. Delta doesn’t publish an award chart, but expect to fork over a minimum of 40,000 miles for one-way in economy or 110,000 in DeltaOne for a one-way award. You can transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Delta SkyMiles at a 1:1 ratio or Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints to Delta SkyMiles, also at a 1:1 ratio.
You can also fly Qatar from Los Angeles (LAX), Houston (IAH), Dallas (DFW), Miami (MIA), Washington, DC (IAD), Chicago (ORD), Philadelphia (PHL), New York (JFK), Boston (BOS) or Atlanta (ATL) to Doha (DOH) and then onward to Windhoek (WDH). If you have time to stop for a few days in the Middle East, this could be a good opportunity for a mini-moon, but it does route you rather out of the way.
For the ultimate honeymoon treat, book you and your Mrs. or Mr. in one of Qatar’s QSuites, available from New York (JFK), Chicago (ORD) or Washington, DC (IAD). You can book a QSuites award with a variety of mileage programs, though your best bet is probably Japan Airlines’ Mileage Bank program, which is a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest.
It will cost you 125,000 miles round-trip in business class (and keep in mind that if you transfer from SPG, you’ll get a 5,000-mile bonus for every 20,000 points you transfer, bringing down your total cost to 100,000 Starpoints). Also note that QSuites aren’t available on the DOH-WDH segment of the itinerary, but you’ll still be flying comfortably in Qatar’s 787 business class.
Check out the complete TPG guide to maximizing your points, miles and credit cards for your wedding and honeymoon.
Featured image by Patrick Neill via Unsplash.
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