Prince Harry takes Meghan Markle for romantic birthday getaway to Africa

Markle was photographed heading off on a safari with Harry.

— -- Prince Harry whisked Meghan Markle away on a romantic getaway to Africa to celebrate his girlfriend's 36th birthday.

Harry, 32, and Markle, a California-born actress on the TV show "Suits, were photographed together by the British newspaper The Sun as they headed off on a safari.

Harry appeared to give other passengers the thumbs-up as he smiled while walking arm-in-arm with Markle on the tarmac in Southern Africa.

Markle spent last week celebrating her birthday in London with her mother, leading many to speculate that an engagement between Harry and Markle is imminent.

Harry and Markle were introduced by mutual friends last summer, reportedly at London's members-only Soho House. While the relationship initially remained under the radar, which allowed the couple to get to know each other privately, it wasn't long before their blossoming romance captivated the world media.

Markle also recently shut down her lifestyle blog, The Tig, and ended her partnership with Canadian clothing chain Reitmans, two more steps that would be required if she were to join the royal family, who fiercely guard their privacy.

Harry joined the "Suits" actress over Easter weekend in Toronto instead of spending Easter at Windsor with his family, indicating just how serious the relationship had become. In March, she accompanied him to a wedding in Jamaica for a childhood pal from Eton, the school Harry attended as a teenager.

Markle, who has served as an ambassador for World Vision, has reportedly bonded with Harry over their charitable interests.

Africa has always held a special place for Prince Harry. He opened his charity Sentebale, which means "forget me not" in Lesotho, in honor of his mother, Princess Diana. Last year, he attended the International AIDS Conference, speaking alongside Elton John in Durban, South Africa. Last July, he spent three weeks in Malawi working with African Parks, a conservation NGO, on “500 Elephants,” a project described by African Parks as “one of the largest and most significant elephant translocations in conservation history.”

And last September he participated in another conservation project to aid endangered black rhinos.

Harry has described Africa as a "second home" and has expressed his love for the continent as the one place he can enjoy some privacy and anonymity. He also fell for first love Chelsy Davy and vacationed there multiple times with the Zimbabwean-born lawyer. Africa also holds special significance for Prince William and Princess Kate. William proposed to Kate in a secluded log cabin in Mount Kenya National Park in 2010. It was also in Africa Harry's grandmother Queen Elizabeth learned on Feb. 6, 1952, in Kenya that her father, King George VI, had died and she would ascend the throne as queen.

Harry has expressed his interest in settling down, saying in 2015, "Of course I would love to have kids right now but there's a process that one has to go through."

Many of his friends are married, and he has relished being "Uncle Harry" to Prince George, 4, and Princess Charlotte 2, the children of his brother and sister-in-law, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

Harry, the fifth in line to the British throne, would need to ask Queen Elizabeth's permission before marrying Markle because she is a divorcee. However, since Prince Charles married Camilla in 2005, it is unlikely that would be an impediment.

Markle was married to film producer Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013.

While no one knows whether Harry may give Markle a ring for her birthday, many expect the eagerly-anticipated engagement may happen just before or following the Invictus Games.