How Harry and Meghan’s African safari cemented their romance

Since their marriage in 2018, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have given fans unprecedented insight into their relationship, revealing how their romance blossomed from their first date in London in the summer of 2016 to their wedding day and beyond.

In his 2023 memoir, Spare, Harry gave the greatest glimpse behind palace walls to the foundation of their relationship, detailing how his love for Meghan was cemented during a short visit to Africa soon after they first met.

Africa as a continent has been the site of some of Harry’s most profound personal experiences and he revealed during a speech at the UN in 2022 marking Nelson Mandela International Day, it was where he found his “soulmate.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in a photograph released to promote the Netflix show “Harry & Meghan,” 2022. The couple met in the summer of 2016.


“Since I first visited Africa at 13 years old, I’ve always found hope on the continent. In fact, for most of my life, it has been my lifeline, a place where I have found peace and healing time and time again,” he said.

“It’s where I’ve felt closest to my mother and sought solace after she died, and where I knew I had found a soulmate in my wife.”

Here, Newsweek looks at how Harry and Meghan’s safari getaway in Botswana cemented their royal romance and how the prince remembered it in his memoir Spare.

‘Come With Me’

In his memoir, Harry revealed that after just two dates, he and Meghan had arranged to meet for a week’s safari vacation in Botswana.

The couple had met in London during a summer where both were busy with pre-arranged plans. They both had one week to spare are took the opportunity to see each other in Africa.

“I gave her my best Botswana pitch,” the prince wrote, detailing his love for the country where he not only had friends but where he was able to connect with himself and nature, something he wanted to share with Meghan.

Prince Harry in Spare

“I gave her my best Botswana pitch. Birthplace of all humankind. Most sparsely populated nation on earth. True garden of Eden, with 40 percent of the land given over to nature. Plus, the largest number of elephants of any nation on earth. Above all, it was the place where I’d found myself, where I always re-found myself, where I always felt close to—magic? If she was interested in magic, she should come with me, experience it with me.”

‘It Was Awkward’

Between their second date and their rendezvous in Botswana, Harry and Meghan built their relationship long-distance while she was in Canada and he between Britain and Africa.

When they eventually met again in person at the home of Harry’s friend in Botswana, the prince told his readers that there was an awkwardness between them that soon turned into excitement.

Prince Harry in Spare

“We hugged, and it was awkward, not just because of the sandwich but the unavoidable suspense. We’d talked and FaceTimed countless times since our first dates, but this was all new and different. And a bit strange. We were both thinking the same things. Is it going to translate? To another continent? And what if it doesn’t?”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle
Prince Harry and Meghan Markle photographed in Botswana in 2016, included in their Netflix docuseries “Harry & Meghan,” 2022. The couple met for a short safari vacation in Botswana after first meeting in London.


Shameful Stereotype

After breaking the ice with one another during a safari drive through the Botswanan wilderness, Harry revealed that while unpacking at a small camp set up in the bush that he’d had preconceived notions of how Meghan might travel.

“I was shamefully stereotyping,” he wrote. “American actress equals diva.”

Prince Harry in Spare

“She opened her small suitcase—she needed to get something. Here it comes, I thought. The mirror, the hairdryer, the makeup kit, the fluffy duvet, the dozen pairs of shoes. I was shamefully stereotyping: American actress equals diva. To my shock, and delight, there was nothing in that suitcase but bare essentials. Shorts, ripped jeans and snacks. And a yoga mat.”

‘I’ll Keep You Safe’

As the couple’s romance blossomed, the prince described how at night he comforted Meghan as the sounds of the wildlife around them grew louder in the darkness.

“Trust me,” he told her. “I’ll keep you safe.”

Prince Harry in Spare

“Soon after, the tent shook from a loud roar. Lions. ‘Are we going to be OK?’ ‘Yes. Don’t worry.’ She lay down, put her head on my chest. ‘Trust me,’ I told her. ‘I’ll keep you safe.'”

‘She’s Perfect’

As Meghan and Harry began to open up in one another’s company and she interacted with his friends, Harry told readers he was quickly realizing she was the “perfect” woman for him.

Prince Harry in Spare

“Meg told us a bit about her life, about growing up in Los Angeles, about her struggles to become an actress, doing quick changes between auditions in her rundown SUV on which the doors didn’t always work. She was forced to enter through the boot. She talked about her growing portfolio as an entrepreneur, her lifestyle website, which had tens of thousands of readers. In her free time she did philanthropic work—she was especially fierce about women’s issues. I was fascinated, hanging on every word, while in the background I heard a faint drumbeat: ‘She’s perfect, she’s perfect, she’s perfect.'”

‘Ok—You Got Me’

After a short stay, Meghan needed to return to Canada and Harry had forward plans with friends to get to. The prince wrote that they parted from one another reluctantly and said they would stay in close contact.

The prince then told readers that during his vacation with friends his phone was damaged when it fell overboard during watersports activities. Confronted with the reality of not being able to contact Meghan, his feelings for her became obvious.

The prince wrote her a note which a friend photographed and sent to her from their phone. In it he told her, “OK you got me—can’t stop thinking about you.”

Prince Harry in Spare

“Hey Beautiful. OK you got me—can’t stop thinking about you, missing you,
LOTS. Phone went in river. Sad face…Apart from that, having an amazing
time. Wish u were here.”

Harry and Meghan’s relationship became public just weeks after their Botswana vacation and they announced their engagement in November 2017.

Since their marriage and split from the monarchy, Africa has remained important to the couple and in May 2024 they visited Nigeria for a three-day visit connected with the Invictus Games.

James Crawford-Smith is Newsweek‘s royal reporter, based in London. You can find him on X (formerly Twitter) at @jrcrawfordsmith and read his stories on Newsweek‘s The Royals Facebook page.

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