The dreamy world again

August 18, 2017 in MALDIVES | Comments (0)

A few more images. For my travel story see the last post.

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Scenic flight by seaplane from Male to Soneva Fushi

This is a personal note. I adore Soneva Fushi, If I sound a bit too professional and remote from the experience its because there was too much going on in my mind. I was there this time with my grandchild. The previous time (2014) with my daughter, who passed on to another world last year, 18 April 2016.

I could not see her clearly in my mind’s eye, just feel her presence in the trees, which somehow caught her with them forever. I wept in my heart at Turtle Beach as it had seemed so far away last time, like a shipwreck beach where we shared adventure. This time it was the scene of a dinner party reserved for a Great white Russian hunter where we ended up by accident. We moved on to Dolphin Beach for our dinner by the glimmering sea, and I wondered where the rustic swing had gone, where Aleah laid her slender frame and communed with the tropics.

She had been ill and gone through tough treatments but got better every day at Soneva Fushi, and I remembered Aleah at By the Beach dreaming in the starlight on a sunbed as the sea seethed in. By the Beach was not in action this time and was going to become an overwater restaurant, now half built.  I felt Aleah came to meet me and whisper at me through the air  that had gone viscous like the luminous lagoon. I felt her, but I could only see old photos of her in my mind.

Meanwhile I had a few small upsets like a twisted ankle, and a foot stabbed by hidden coral at the cocktail party, and was l helped by my treasured grandchild as I limped along. We had so much fun, and so much laughter, but sad times too.

Like the time I told her we should try to be truly alive. Not live in Snapchat and photos but be here and now and at Soneva Fushi, which we might never visit again,

Thank you little F being such sweet company and for putting up with your grandmother….


Paradise at the flick of a switch

in MALDIVES | Comments (0)

Returning to the tropical island of Soneva Fushi after more than three years, it seemed as laid back as ever. But there was a new special switch on the wall of the family villa.

It brought  us  closer to paradise in the way intended by the visionary Sonu and Eva Shivdasani…

The Maldives’ first barefoot luxury resort was founded 1995 and it still evokes feelings of paradise. It is not just that you have a palm fringed villa on a white beach by a luminous lagoon, with your own hammock in your jungle-wrapped garden, attended to by your warm and thoughtful butler Mr or Ms Friday….

It’s not just the vast buffets with mountains of fresh organic choices, or the complimentary icecream room open all day, or all the other generous details.

It is that you can have a holiday away from all the buzz and agitation of our modern world at the flick of a switch (or check up on the world when you need to.) and feel the peace of a coral island.

There are many unlabelled switches in the villa but this magic switch is clearly labelled wifi. A few years ago you didn’t get wifi in the villas – now you can switch it on or off – especially useful when you have kids in the second bedroom of your adorable villa.

The 11 year old  already chats on Snapchat and launches videos on Musical.ly. These are rather addictive pastimes – moreover her friends in Sweden unaware of the time distance were shooting pictures of slime and other diversions to her in the middle of her night – so her initial joy and energy vanished and she slept on her sunbed rather than getting in the water to snorkel over the fairyland of colourful fish near our villa.

Until I noticed the switch, and after bedtime there was no more wifi to wake her up..

What a difference to her energy level…

Energy and harmony

The idealistic owners Sonu and Eva have done their best to make up for the shortfalls of the modern world. To give couples and families an earth time, and a harmony with nature. They have carried out a plethora of eco friendly measures like using sustainable wood and thatch in the villas, organic food, waste recycling – even turning old glass bottles into artwork and banning water in plastic bottles. So of course they have also resisted too much electronic interference.

While other kids clubs in the Maldives have laid on the computer games and electronic noticeboards, at the magnificent new den kids club, these are absent.

In their absence old-fashioned hands-on creativity is unleashed. A whole lego room, art room, dressing up room, and of course a little adrenaline with slides into the pool and hands on football game where other kids join the 11 year old in smashing goals with lots of High Fives to celebrate

It’s a nurturing place too, with dedicated staff.

 

” A wonderful kids club – I handed the baby over and a few seconds later she was asleep” said a film star we had met without realizing she was anything except a charming person and mother.

Only when the open air movie house put on one of her movies did we realize.

Which brings me to another point about Soneva Fushi and it’s earthiness.

Everyone dresses casually most of the time. At the cocktail party on the sandbank you may see some fancy finery – but almost everyone will be barefoot. If you really planned to wear your Gucci shoes your travel agent didn’t inform you properly. They will be charmingly whipped away from you and put in a bag on arrival – and though you get them back, like everyone else you will be walking barefoot and wriggling your toes in the sand, which is the stuff the island is made over.

 Getting back to earth

But though everyone kind of looks equal. they are not. There are some exceedingly wealthy people here, pleased to get back to earth, especially families.

After all the disappointments and broken promises of family life on the frontline of business, government or entertainment they need earth time with their families and other beloveds.

Not just two generations but three or four, there are some vast villas like resorts within resorts where intimacy is nurtured with near self sufficiency. Almost half of the villas have 3 or more bedrooms – up to 9 bedrooms.

All on the beach naturally….

Though our 11 year old had been enjoying our little pool in our family villa suite, she gave a sigh of envy when we looked over villa 15.

The slide from the upper floor into the lagoon pool was a source of wonder, so was the gym.. But then do was a banyan tree growing up in the middle of the house.

The jungle is as important in the Soneva Fushi experience as the beach, the villa pools, and the sea.

In conceiving a life at Soneva Fushi that would make up for the deficiency of the modern city experience, Sonu and Eva visualized just this. Kids cycling or walking around the jungle in perfect safety with a sense of wonder.

 

“Away from the nanny, the chauffeur or perhaps the security men,” said Sonu. “They can feel freedom and adventure”

 

For adults too the jungle creates an added dimension – back to remembering childhood perhaps, with a sense of mystery from winding paths – and a sketchy map that ensures you get lost a few times and slow down.

If you have tiny tots who can’t cycle themselves simply take over a large tricycle where the little one can be loaded. And wind through the jungle barefoot.

Soneva Fushi is a large island by Maldivian standards which makes the jungle experience exceptional. among the tropical leaves and lianes it is alive with little creatures like lizards, water hens, rabbits, and flying foxes that will spread their wings over the sky of your jungle bathroom at twilight. While coming from the beach into your jungle garden are hermit crabs. They will cooperatively drag their borrowed shells into a sand castle, to add to the thrill for the youngsters.

Other experiences the kids and grown up kids will never forget are the famous Soneva signatures of ice cream parlour open all day, Cinema Paradiso where you lie on loungers staring up at the stars munching popcorn as you wait for a movie to start.

Then there are the surprises, like a dinner arranged on the beach, or after a sunset cruise (where with normal luck you see dolphins popping out of the ocean)  you may get dropped on a pier where there is live music and canapes, and then walk along a beautifully lit path  to find more delicacies in a forest clearing.

 

 Magic’s bottomline

Behind all the magic lie two solid things. A commitment to the environment with waste management, water treatment etc., and true luxury hotel quality – with excellent food and beverage, well maintsined villas.  and effortless service. There are butlers for every villa who will help you with every possible problem that emerges – like falling off your bike (to name a true incident and bringing instant medical care to me).

A range of exceptional experiences are usually added on to feel you have touched all the elements the Msldives is known for (extra fee if you have not managed to get some added value).  A dolphin cruise. Snorkeling and picnic on a deserted island. Manta ray and whale shark swims within season (May to Sep).

But to tell the truth there is good snorkeling on the house reef – which is some 50 metres out, or  easily reached from the sunset bar. The lovely film star I wrote of above brought her family there on  my advice, including kids and grandmother.

Great for kids….

MAH00184

Great also for grandmothers and grandfathers…great grandmothers and great grandfathers.

And of course, for honeymooner who want to get back to nature…


Memories from Life’s Journey

July 10, 2016 in SWEDEN,THAILAND | Comments (0)

Aleah our Julia. These are a few memories from Thailand.

It was our journey, my beloved daughter. Our journey in life. Our sad, illness torn lives. Our wondrous, creative inspired lives. Now you are gone, forever and forever.

I try to put on the torn coat of my life for my onward journey. Sometims I hear you talk to me so deep inside my mind. I dont believe in heaven or anything like that. But you live on in so many of us. My cheeks are wet with tears.

So darling I know you would think I was crazy to cry. You would grunt with dissaproval. I was not allowed, none of us were allowed to be sad about you. You believed in magic and if you didnt say you were ill, you could materialize health.

There were times of pure escape from that all. Its when we travelled in faroff tropical climes, where winter never comes. You hated the winter, You hated the cold. Your lungs could not take it.

Here are some images from one of our holidays in Thailand. Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Kamalaya was our favourite spot. Our paradise. But everywhere we found joy and a soft peace, divorced from your illness that lingered and lurked in wait and played games and disappeared and then came back and then went and then came back….leading you out of this life.

 

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Arriving Koh Phangan

 


Kamalaya. We dare to call it paradise….

December 5, 2014 in THAILAND | Comments (13)

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Breakfast breads take or leave detox

 It took only a short while, and my daughter got an almost FIERCE look and said. I have to say — Kamalaya must be paradise…

We were here at this destination spa to recover from stress and burnout like so many others. Arriving at a hotel lobby where Buddha reclined over a lily pond, we were handed our private programme of “activities” – 11 hours of treatments that involved little more than lying in total pleasure getting massages to hands, feet, head, back and body…
Then programme in hand we had lunch – the biggest surprise of all. We knew we were going to have healthy food but we had no idea what the food would really be like.
Healthy food may not sound so delightful – harking back to days when mummy said: eat your food its good for you, If you dont – you wont get any dessert,,,
But then illness and allergies changed all so desserts became punishment not reward. “White” (sugar, dairy, starch) left you feeling bad.
Suddenly here is a menu that is thick like a book and full of delights – most of them without sugar, starch and dairy, most not fried….but more than that. Not just negatives, positives. With time we found the food to be full of colour, form and taste . inviting. More about that later.

We soon realized that Kamalaya though a destination spa is nothing like a clinic. It is more like a cosmopolitan village in stunning tropical scenery, warm and friendly, designed to give you back your joy in living-. Some pleasures are good for you …

 

No one forces you to do anything at Kamalaya. It is up to you. You can get involved in activities from morning to night, or just lie on a sunbed on the beach with a healthy (or less healthy) drink.

 

Most people however choose a package of health treatments. Since it was founded in 2005, dedicated detox packages have been the number one favourite at Kamalaya. Now the Stress & Burnout programme has passed detox in popularity due to the increasing stresses and strains felt by young business people and professionals. Under repeated stress the body suffers, you can get inflammation, aches and pains, sleep disorders – and drastic loss of energy. Adrenal Burnout! Kamalaya comes to the rescue with detox food, low in inflammatory properties, and calming treatments for the nervous system.

 

The lightest of the Burnout packages is Relax & Renew. This is designed as a super-relaxing holiday and includes some 11 hours of treatments, mostly massages of different kinds. The next step up is called Asian Bliss and includes also personal meditation, and a choice of reike (hands on healing) or Chinese medicine (acupuncture etc.). The most intense Burnout package, the 14 days Balance and Revitalize Comprehensive, includes also personal mentoring, Ayurvedic massage and the amazing Shirodhara therapy – an ancient Ayurvedic treatment that involves dropping warm oils onto the head and body. All packages include relaxing massages.

 
 
 
Making a choice
With a choice of over 70 treatments grouped into these packages, it can be very hard to choose. But no need to worry about putting all our eggs in one basket. Doing stress and burnout you can engage in a gentler detox as all foods suitable for detox are labelled on the buffet or a la carte menu.
 
The important thing to know is that the packages include full board. You can eat healthy, amazingly delicious food choosing freely from both the buffet and a la carte menus.
 
To show what amazing value you get: at Select Collection (www.selectcollection.se/info@selectcollection.se) you can book a 7 night stay at Kamalaya including accommodation, transfer, a Relax & Renew package of treatments (11 hours of treatments in total), and all inclusive food & drink (without alcohol) from 27500 SEK including flight from Stockholm and a wellness voucher for EUR 150. A week of top value luxury with so many dimensions, from body to soul.
 
 
 
Sensuality and warmth
Kamalaya is a gift to the senses, starting with the vistas and the smell of flowers and incense. We had a spacious sea-view villa with white corner sofa and big terrace. Our outdoor bathroom was drenched in the perfume of tropical flowers as a tree leant over the curved brick wall.
 
There are also some delightful waterfront villas with own pools. High up and popular with young people are the seaview suites and the well sized and lowest priced hillside rooms. Opening soon are some luxury suites with phenomenal views, up near the new gym and the yoga platform.
 
The resort is built in tropical gardens under very tall palm trees, with a tumbling freshwater stream through it all. It’s a steep slope and at every point you can see the glitter of the sea stretching over to the silhouette of offshore islands.
 
The stream runs down to goldfish ponds beside a freeform pool among magical sculptures. The restaurants all have sensational views.  So do the treatment rooms – 40 of them. Drenched in pleasurable sensation after a massage, you open your eyes, and are stunned over again by the brilliance of the vistas.
 
Now you wander out to a lookout place to sink into a sofa for a ginger or lemon grass tea in a tiny earthenware pot and wonder at the magic of life. If you had forgotten joy existed, now you will remember.
 
If you want, you can meet people, or stay in total privacy, dining in your accommodation or sitting alone at tables with a view. 
 
If you choose to sit at the community tables, as we sometimes did, you will likely meet artists, singers, business people and academics, researchers, housewives, therapists, and mothers on their annual visit while the husband looks after the kids. You see couples, men together, women together, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. (Children are allowed but keep a very low profile). 
 
The service is memorable. Looking over my shoulder during a meal one of the waitresses asked me: “Are you looking for your friend? She is up at the heated pool in the Wellness area.”
 
How did she know all that? It felt like a genuine part of caring.
 
Losing weight is a pleasure
Food is central to Kamalaya’s charms. Losing weight here (sustainably) is a pleasure. And if you are actually instructed to gain weight (as we were) – life is a fest.
 
At Kamalaya you learn that healthy food can be far more delicious than unhealthy food. Eaten with pleasure and no worry over the consequences, totally fresh, full of choice, taste and colour.
 
So many people in the modern world suffer vague unpleasant symptoms – not just caused by stress but by fried food, white starch and sugar – like aching muscles, creeping sensations, flatulence, restless nights. Our millions of years of human evolution did not prepare us for refined food, and our bodies don’t tend to cope.
 
After a plane journey you may feel even worse so it takes a few days to feel really good and rested. But you will notice results.
 
The choice of food is vast – the menus go on and on – everything from Thai and international vegetarian to meat and fish.  Labels guide you to a detox diet – without sugar, dairy and wheat – if you want to go that route.
 
Fresh fruit and vegetable juices in dozens of health giving combinations can be ordered almost all day long, each long glass adorned with orchids or pieces of pineapple.
 
We enjoyed many memorable dishes from those three heavy “books” the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Lobster and mango salad with cocounut and wasabi dressing; roasted pumpkin and sunflower seed dumplings with balsamic vinegar and ruccola; quinoa sushi with tamarind sauce; chilled avocado soup with galanajulienne; Vietnamese spring rolls with steamed rice wrapping around poached prawns with vegetables and chili sauce were among my favourites. Though if I have to choose one it would be the baked black cod with avocado, cucumber and watermelon mustard sauce. Cries of delight were also heard from those enjoying the Australian lamb filled with Zucchini and fig caponata.
 
Desserts are astounding, and good for you.  How about raw chocolate and avocado cake? Or chocolate mousse without dairy or sugar. It’s like a dream come true.
 
After a punishing health diet, one girl here was like a soul reborn. She had felt in a prison, unable to dine out as so little was available in Sweden. Suddenly the world of joy and plenty has come to her – without breaking her regime.
 
 
Thank you, thank you, thank you…
 
I was in the Wellness area’s change rooms, where women come and go from their treatments, wrapped in sarongs.
 
Hearing talk about an astounding meditation session with Smitha, a young woman burst out: “Smitha…isn’t she amazing. She can see into your soul!”
 
She explained what lead her to Kamalaya and Smitha – her business. “I have had so much stress with my company growing fast and five of my best consultants going on maternity leave. I needed a holiday. I thought of going to a dedicated detox resort to lose weight, luckily I didn’t. I registered for detox at Kamalaya but at my wellness consultation they pointed out I was in far too fragile state for heavy detox – I had adrenal burnout.
 
“So I am doing a stress and burnout programme to help me run my business – including time with a mentor, Smitha.”
 
She added with delightfully British irony: “I thought that she would help me write a business plan – instead she got me to find emotional obstacles from my childhood. She is amazing.”
 
Several people had found Kamalaya by accident (or divine luck). They asked their travel agents for a holiday resort where they could swim and have good food and maybe some yoga. They found so much more…
 
A song writer from Sydney, who merely came for a holiday by the sea said: “When I got here I was given a wellness consultation so I enrolled for Relax & Renew (5 night package) spread over 10 days. I go running up the mountain on my own trail (5 km) – use the gym and do relaxing treatments. Evenings I go to my room (a seaview suite) to write songs.”
 
In particular he found the Indian Head massage utterly amazing. Then he went on to try meditation with Smitha. With the addition of yoga and mocktails (instead of cocktails) he ended up very inspired and ready to keep up a healthy lifestyle on return to Sydney.
 
Several had chosen to do a la carte treatments for a spiritual path of healing and self discovery.
 
I found one of these guests next to me at the lookout point. She was staring at the view but suddenly could not keep it to herself.
 
“I want to cry it is so beautiful,” she said, adding she would have her last swim and then return to Australia today. Some 10 minutes later I was in one of the lunch dining salas as she ran past to the beach. She stopped by one of the mentors, and was beaming, radiating with bliss and joy.
“I just have to say thank you,” she said. “Thank you, thank you, thank you…”
 
At any one time Kamalaya boasts 60 to 80% repeaters!  Most resorts in November on Koh Samui were running at 50% – it is the rainy season on the island – but Kamalaya was at 80% occupancy.
 
Everyone I spoke to wants to come back – everyone felt Kamalaya was their own special place. As we do…
 
 
Getting to feel good
You don’t always feel good straight away. You can feel jittery waking in the morning with the old stress habits of what shall I DO now, unable to sit still. But it soon passes.
 
The great thing is you start your day facing mountains of papaya and bitter sweet pomelo, wheat grass shots to stimulate your immune system…and if you wish it, cappuccino, omelettes, pancakes….or raw salads, quinoa bread and many other choices. 
 
Meanwhile you have a sense of purpose with your programme of treatments … you feel pampered and taken care of, and begin to feel life’s potential – one of Kamalaya’s stated aims.
 
Starting early in the morning before breakfast you can keep even more active by including the complementary programme of activities.
 
Start the day perhaps with hatha yoga way up on the yoga platform with far views over the sea. Follow with pranayama breathing or yoga and meditation. In the afternoon you could perhaps join a tea ceremony, pilates session, tai chi, aqua aerobics at the pool, or a power walk. 
 
There is a changing programme of visiting practitioners, world leaders in their field. These are not included in the packages, but they do offer appetizers as part of the complementary activities.
 
In all this you meet wonderful people BUT more important you meet yourself…the part you will take onward with you home again. The part you need to treasure…
 
Leaving Kamalaya is a sad moment. It’s not easy to go back to the world…
 
But for days afterwards we felt a warm glow,  enriched by the experiences of peace and harmony, the moments of self knowledge, and the dream of returning one day to Kamalaya.
 
Next time though  – we will stay two weeks!
 
 

White Pearl on the Sands

January 10, 2014 in MOZAMBIQUE | Comments (1)

On the way by sand track

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BEACHTIME IN MOZAMBIQUE …CLICK THROUGH THE IMAGES
Wrapped in quiet luxury, White Pearl lies on a sublime beach nestled into gigantic sand dunes on the unspoilt coasts of southern Mozambique

Beaches in Europe never look like this. The restless Indian Ocean has pounded silica and feldspar into sand, and even tiny specks of diamonds lie among wide pristine sands stretching for miles upon miles. Fringing the beaches, gigantic sand dunes are draped with glistening green forests where monkeys, bush babies and tiny antelope live off the land. Trees twist and turn, lianes tangle together, and the feel is breathtakingly wild and primeval, with the sound of birds and pounding of waves.

These beaches are some of the world’s last and most heartbreakingly beautiful wildernesses. Here you share the sands with loggerhead and leatherback turtles who have come in since ages past to lay their eggs, and Southern Right whales spawn offshore-

The waters are tropical as the Trade Winds drive water down the coast from equatorial regions, so there are coral reefs offshore, colorful fish, rays. Dolphins and, for the adventurous, sharks on the reefs

Beach forever

White Pearl Mozambique lies on nearly 40 km of unbroken beach stretching all the way from south of Kosi Bay in South Africa to near the capital Maputo.

The sands are golden with a blush …wide and endless; you would have to walk 18 km along the beach to get to the next little town. Perfect for someone who wants to jog and get fit amidst exquisite beauty. Or just for those who want to wander and pick up seashells on the shore.

At White Pearl you stay in quiet comfort, with divine food, your own pool, and wide views of the sea and sand, yet wrapped in the privacy of exuberant greenery.

Book suite 6 for your honeymoon, your recovery, your treat – that was our favourite. Suite 5 next door is also fabulous, so are all the beachfront suites, and we also favour suite 11 a little up the slope.

The higher rooms have the furthest views, but then you see the other suite rooftops, so if you have a fantasy about returning to the Garden of Eden you will prefer the views that we had, showing nothing but nature beyond your comfy sofa, your bath with a view and your swimming pool on the deck.

This was turtle time, so we shared the beach with the night visitors. Turtle walking tours go in the evenings when the tide is right. People are encouraged not to do their own turtle tours as you have to be very careful not to disturb these creatures on these inherited sands …. The sands of multi-generations before them…

In the southern winter then the whales come, and play and spawn in these waters.
Rain washed out some of the included activities. Instead of the usual short thunder storm in the afternoon, steady warm rain came and went on impulse from iron grey clouds. Nursing colds, we did not dare to go out to sea for dolphin watching. Nor did we go snorkeling, diving with the hotel dive shop or turtle walking. We longingly watched a boat bobbing out over the waves. Heading for a reef and dolphin waters…

But we were still happy. We chose instead to go to the spa. I had a divine hydromassage on a special hydromassage bed.

WHAT TO DO

Waterports, horse riding, snorkling, diving, beach walking, tours to the nearby elephant reserve.

For those who like to swan around in the latest swimwear – be noticed, pop in to little boutiques and markets, eye the lifeguards, this is not your beach.
There are not even any lifeguards.

Nor is it your beach if you want a sea that is glass still like a swimming pool. This is an ocean for those who adore the sense of eternity from the sound of the sea and the tides. For those who like to try surfing, or bobbing up and down on the waves.

The waves surged in evenly, and kids enjoyed floating in the water behind the first breakers, not far from the edge. The rest of us chose to dip in the infinity pool, the beach bar pool or our own pool. Or just sit on our powder blue sofa staring at the waves. This is the way to fill your soul.

A lot of soul is involved in the food too

The head chef is a treasure who comes from the Polano hotel that dates back as a legend to the days as a Portuguese colony. For us he produced imaginative personal menus headed with our names, and built up on our info given to AndBeyond. Along with interviews with us on site through an interpreter (he is Portuguese).

The dining room is all glass to give you the beauty of your surroundings. With candlelight silver and glassware the night has sparkling ambience along with great food. Lunch is served at the beach bar.

GETTING TO WHITE PEARL

Getting to White Pearl was a delightful adventure.
Our wonderful AndBeyond driver Sipo took us to the Kosi Bay border on a surfaced road. White Pearl was already waiting on the other side with the essential 4wd. Then we drove on a sand track – that criss crossed grasslands and then lush tangled dune forest.
The atmosphere of southern Mozambique is relaxed, cheerful. Clean picturesque villages with reed houses and paintings on walls ( all by the same artist), offered little pubs and restaurants well frequented by young tourists who seemed to be camping within easy reach of beaches.
This is the same road you follow if you fly from Maputo by light plane, as the air strip is near the Kosi Bay border with South Africa. However an airstrip closer to White Pearl is under construction.


Home in the bush

January 6, 2014 in SOUTH AFRICA | Comments (8)

Vlei Lodge

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Our private pool to share with the animals

AndBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve has six intimate Lodges, each very different, making the most of the variety in natural vegetation and topograpy. We stayed in three Lodges and enjoyed three very different experiences. From high on a hill at Mountain Lodge in southern Phinda, to Forest Lodge hidden under the canopy of Sand Forest, to the ultimate luxury of a cottage at six roomed Vlei Lodge, with its views of herds of animals from our private pool. Though Vlei was definitely our favourite I can recommend moving just to get the different moods and different eco zones – to the tune of at least 2 nights at Vlei following 2 nights elsewhere.

Click through the gallery at the top to see more pictures of Vlei Lodge…

Mountain Lodge

Mountain Lodge lies in southern Phinda in an area of tall hills and thick acacia veld or savannah. We had room/suite (chalet) number 12, the one most loved at Phinda Mountain Lodge, as it faces the most stunning views.

The chalets are very chic with thick clean golden thatch as roof and ceiling, a spacious lounge area, lovely bathroom with long double vanities, Feng shui bath in the centre with morning views over green hills, and two showers, one out there on the extensive deck. Stepping outside on our first sunny day in South Africa, we saw the joy of golden sun spread over the green early morning hills, and play on the surface of our plunge pool.

There are 25 chalets at Mountain Lodge which means 50 guests. The public areas are placed way up for the views, and the pool is a perfect place to be if you didn’t have your own pool too. It also has a conference centre.

Click through the gallery at the top to see more pictures of Mountain Lodge…

Forest Lodge

Here at this somehow simpler but very special camp, there are 16 glass walled chalets deep in the sand forest, way under the canopy. You meander down past the tall trunks and curving branches in the leaf filtered light over a sand path, in meditational quietness to get to your room. Built on stilts over the sand, the chalets can be relocated easily to spare this precious rare coastal rainforest that remains thanks to conservation efforts.

forest lodge view out

People who live in glass houses, have the dreamiest views

In the room you see all around you into the forest underworld. We saw red duiker through our glass walls and heard the cry of bush babies and red chested cuckoos the locals call Piet Mij Vrouw. Like the European cuckoo it repeats itself, in this case saying piet mij vrouw or Whip Poor Will.

The veranda has a sofa and 3 large candles as well as a complimentary minibar to go with the all inclusive. This is a magical place to recline and let the sounds of the night enchant you. The chance of a leopard slinking by is not non existent. One was seen in the camp the next night when we had moved on to Vlei Lodge. My daughter who lay there for hours wished she had seen it.

At night they draw the curtains for you, for a sense of privacy in your glass house, though each glass cabin stands hidden in the bush reached by a side path. Come morning, you cannot wait to see out into the secrets of the forest milieu. One way to enjoy the view is standing in the shower. The door open wide… and from the bath too you have forest views.

The public area areas at Forest Lodge are charming. Wooden platorms with sofas and dining tables, overlooking parkland.

The hands on of management was remarkable: we felt we were just 2 there, not 32. The head chef Stuart met us to discuss our special needs with happy enjoyment at the challenge and Phindas organic garden and juice machine came into good employ.
The boma, a typical feature of any self respecting game lodge, does need good weather. And we were so lucky that the rain had cleared that day, allowing us to dine there in the light of fires, with the caterwauling of bush babies, and the flicker of warm light.
No private plunge pools at Forest Lodge but a very attractive round common pool – quite deserted actually. You are either on safari, eating or sleeping – very little time to swim. And no wifi in the rooms.

Click through the gallery at the top to see more pictures of Forest Lodge…

Vlei Lodge

We loved all the lodges. But exclusive six room Vlei Lodge is undoubtedly our favourite, certainly a place of bliss if you stay in chalet number 6.
In the cooler hours nyala, impala, warthogs and more come right in to graze off the acacias or the grass on the open area. This is safari as you dream of…if you prefer serenity to activity, floating in your jewel of a pool, lying on your sunbed, and seeing these animals in their wild freedom. You can even view them from your net draped bed through the wide glass doors, or from the shower or the feng shui bath tub.
In the heat of day they move off into the shadows under the trees, but now is a time to catch up on your wifi or just catch up on your sleep after all the hectic game watching by 4WD. I suggest you will cry your eyes out if you don’t book at least 3 nights here, or 2 here and 2 at another lodge. A problem Is that people seldom leave enough time to enjoy their gorgeous accommodation properly at the Select game reserves.

The head chef at Vlei  is aptly called Happiness and was very typically happy  to get personal instructions from Stuart at Forest Lodge, regarding how to create delicious fare even for vegetarians and vegans. We were so touched at this caring invovlement by Stuart in a special visit to instruct Happiness. And we enjoyed also the greeting at the gate by British manager Sara. Generally the hands on feel at Vlei and Forest lodges is wonderful, warm, silken…

Click through the gallery at the top to see more pictures of Vlei Lodge…

Sole use lodges

Zuka is nestled into a parkland area, oh so colonially thatched and spreading with old style verandas under cover. With only 4 bedrooms, it is the most delightful place to rent if you have an extended family, along with your own safari vehicle, ranger, tracker, cook and butler. If you occupy 3 bedrooms they do not wedge in another couple, but leave the bedroom empty. Six is a good number as you will all fit on the safari vehicle together. The modern feature is an open kitchen – but you don’t have to work in it as you have your private chef to watch at work instead.

Homestead is a manor house also perfect for sole use – the one we missed seeing due to the elephant visitor.
A site inspection was scheduled for around noon. But when we met our ranger on the deck at Forest Lodge he told us the hot news.
An elephant bull in musk had ‘trashed’ Homestead. He put his tusks through the windows, threw a chair and attacked the planks of the deck. Our tracker suggested that he had seen his own reflection in the windows and thought it was competition for the cows he was desiring. Now no guests were to approach the area…hence our site inspection was cancelled.
The bull had escaped from neighbouring Mkuze game reserve and made its way into Phinda. The last we heard of him was that he had come upon the big herd of Phinda elephants and was traipsing along behind them, hoping to get a lookin at some of the cows. Nick told us they were waiting hoping that Mkuze would come to fetch him (no easy task).

 

Rock Lodge is on a clifftop with sight of birds wheeling. Also exclusive with only 6 self standing suites.


Safari & Beach

January 5, 2014 in SOUTH AFRICA | Comments (0)

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Slinking beauty

SAFARI AT PHINDA

Continuing our safari and beach holiday in Southern Africa, amidst fascinating biodiversity and different landscapes.

Flight direct to Durban from Dubai on Emirates, then all travel done by car and 4WD, driven with silken courtesy and perfect safety by And Beyond and Town&Country Tours.

Now the wild joys of safari…

On safari you are hunting, with your camera and with your eyes. Since the best sightings are at the hours between day and night, including sunrise and sunset, you are woken early, in summer at a startling 5am, and given rusks and tea before setting out to see the dawn break over Africa. Breakfast is around 9am after the hunt, and dinner again late in the black and usually starry night, after the evening drive. Yes you are on the go…

There is an intimacy about your safari-ing.
You are given your own game ranger and tracker, usually sharing him with 5 other people. But we had the good fortune to have our game ranger Nick and our tracker Tom all to ourselves. It is certainly worth the extra money to try to book your own vehicle and ranger. It becomes your own hunt…

Nick took upon himself the earnest duty of finding all the big five just for us. Guided by the camp’s radio transmissions, we would head towards a spot where game had been sighted, watching for tracks over the sand roads. The tracker Tom could tell you just by looking how many hours ago a buffalo or elephant passed.

They are very careful not to disturb the game, or the beautiful terrain. No more than 2 vehicles are allowed at a sighting. Because of rain we were not allowed to drive offroad, as in the mud the beautiful bushlands can be carved up and ruined. But there are many intimate tracks that take you deep into the stirring romance of the bushveld.
Phinda has seven eco zones, so part of the adventure is finding yourself in very different scenery. Rocky mountain tops, then down onto the wetlands which were lush green spiky grasslands, fringed by lala veld (rich in lala palms), then into the sandforest with its tight canopy creating a hidden world, and out into open parklands with trees dotted over grassveld, finally deep into thorn thickets….

And of course the look of everything changes as darkness turns to dawn blushing on the sky, then blazing sun or silver rain. Again, the afternoon light dimming into a sky blooming with sunset and finally night. Perhaps most exciting of all, with Tom spotlighting left and right watching with his eagle eyes.

The Big Five

The Big Five are not necessarily the biggest – they are the ones the first hunters considered the most dangerous.

Our first of the Big Five came without trying. A bunch of young rouge buffalo lying in a mud puddle. ‘Stand up very slowly,’  said Nick who felt we could get better pictures above the long grass. ‘If they stand up sit down. It means they are about to charge.’ Buffalo are not called one of the Big Five for nothing,

Number 2 was the lion king on our second evening, Lying on sandy ground near a dam. Lording it out with two ladies, we saw him turned down for his amorous advances, whereupon he just gave up to lie in the sun and sleep. They are so used to vehicles we seemed invisible to them

Number 3 was a herd of 40 elephants, on the glistening marshland, in a frieze against the sunset. Gradually they dispersed, heading towards acacias silhouetted against the reddest sky. Not before some of the elders approached us giving signal that we should move off.

That elephant are one of the Big Five was dramatized for us the next day when we had a rendezvous with Nick to see one of the elegant lodges especially suitable for 3G travel. The visit is off! A bull elephant in musk has trashed the place.
The next night we came close to cheetah, not considered as Big Five. But splendid big cats and a thrill to see three beauties each staring in a different direction to cover the panorama of the wetlands. Then driving the sand roads we spotted two lionesses just by the roadside and shouted Stop. Tom was exposed on the front of our vehicle so they had to drive forwards to allow Tom to get off the tracker’s seat and back into our open vehicle. They stared with their powerful yellow eyes, as if to pounce…but finally our ranger and tracker noted their behavior was calm enough for us to reverse. We adored our lions…

Now night was falling and we began the most exciting hunt of all — for our fourth of the Big Five – leopard.

Tracks showed that the oldest and biggest leopard had crossed into a block of dense bush. Tom predicted where he would emerge, and sure enough he came out of the darkness walking towards us along the road and right by the jeep.

His muscles rippled and his spotted coat seemed alive and glowing… It was the most exciting moment of meeting the other kingdom.

Then he headed off down the road, with us following, and I got this little proof…

Next morning early we were up at 5 to do our last hunting. Nick was devoted to this triumph . and so we got to see Number 5, a white rhino. They looked very peaceful, almost bovine. Hard to imagine that they are dangerous….

The most dangerous animal

It is of course man, not the Big Five who are dangerous, in 2013 year 964 rhinos have been killed in South Africa by unscrupulous moneymaking poachers. The North Koreans are the main villains Nick told us and they employ Mozambicans to do their dirty work. Number one villain is the president of that monster regime

As DH Lawrence wrote
‘MAN THE ONLY ANIMAL ON EARTH TO FEAR’

Nick told us it is possible they will lift the ban on rhino horn and devalue the absurdly high rhino horn price by flooding the market. They will farm rhino for the horns; if you cut off the horn it grows again. The reason poachers kill the animals is for their own safety… rhinos are after all one of the Big Five.

Next blog will cover the lodges at Phinda

 

 


Four beaches and Five Big animals

December 29, 2013 in DUBAI,MOZAMBIQUE,SOUTH AFRICA | Comments (1)

FOUR BEACHES AND FIVE BIG ANIMALS.

We combined the South African bush and a “hunt” for the Big Five with two beach resorts and two luxurious urban hotels on the beach, hence my title. Just a little sunshine broke months of rain…but we escaped the swelter of 30 to 35 degrees C that usually marks summers in these subtopical areas of the northern South African coastline and southern Mozambique…

2 windows

Sun filters through the canopy of sand forest at Forest Lodge Phinda, where our glass walled cabin number 14 is embedded with intriguing views.  This night a leapard was spotted in the camp – we had already moved on to Vlei Lodge …

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And sun glances on the refreshing water of our own pool at Vlei Lodge Phinda – hot enough to swim. Plenty of game to be seen from this cottage number 6, and elephants often come to drink from this pool

Who cries for the sun when the nights are magical? Lantern lit private dinners on our deck. The sounds of the deep sand forest, including the cry of tiny primates called Bush Babies. And perhaps most magical of all a boma dinner, in a walled area safe for outdoor dining in the unfenced camp, lit by fire. A bush baby came down to steal Danish Blue Cheese…

boma dinner video

More to follow.

A little glimpse of what is coming. A preview of the beaches…

DSC00284 beach rocktail stretching 35 km

A beach that stretches from a world heritage area in South Africa up to Santa Maria in Mozambique – at least 35 km

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Rustic steps down to a wild beach where 7 turtles laid eggs last night, and 2 were seen browsing on a reef by a diver we met at R ocktail Beach Camp

And the animals…

elephants with baby

And the exciting places to stay …

DSC00114 rocktail our veranda

And then two more beaches as bonus. With a stopover in Dubai, our first urban resort on the beach was the Ritz-Carlton Dubai…

ritz carlton al fresco

Breakfast alfresco – with the beach over there somewhere, no time to visit it on our overnight stop

In Umhlanga near Durban, the delightful Oyster Box revealed the second beach of our trip; we had a room with a view of the red golden sands and the thunder of waves on the beach.

oyster box sea v ideo


Franschhoek: rustic luxury

March 17, 2013 in SOUTH AFRICA | Comments (0)

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Franschhoek Country Villas

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Sunbaked fountains

Franschhoek Country House & Villas: 24 Rooms, no private pools, 2 public pools, garden, 2 restaurants, 4 lounges

Kind of charmingly faded and somehow laid back, but some nice features. Number one it is very close to the village of Franschhoek (2 km or 2 minutes from South Africa’s best gourmet dining at Reubens and Le Quartier Francais for example), reached by free shuttle.

The rambling buildings have a sun-kissed country air that appeals, with plenty of warmth and individuality, and there are some very nicely renovated Villa Suites that reflect an old fashioned elegance with trendy cottagey touches.

Old fountains gush, a little stained by time, and the gardens are not tip top, just very quaint, and relaxed. There are four lounges spread out here and there, and terraces with mountain views.

“We are like a French country estate,” said one of the public relations staff. Indeed rustic.
I looked over a duplex garden cottage suite. The bedroom opened into a walled (shared) garden with running water and was quite pleasant, though the garden would not appeal to those with order and clipping mania. Upstairs was a small lounge that opened to a balcony.

Villa suite
The Villa suite was much nicer – very spacious and renovated with taste and warmth, harking back to olden days in a trendy way (painted and scratched). Woven “ye olde worlde” chair covers. The bedroom was huge and the lounge fine. Bathrooms all nice.

Two pools
The resort lies in a flat part of Franschhoek Valley where the mountains seem further off and the setting less dramatic, but still very appealing. You are only 1 km from the beginning of Franschhoek Village. They do not like the guests to walk on the main road and have a free shuttle.
There are two small swimming pools.
Points
• Quick shuttle to Franschhoek Village

• Pleasant laid back atmosphere, rustic and rambling

• Roomy attractive villa suites feel luxurious


The one and the only?

February 10, 2013 in SOUTH AFRICA | Comments (6)

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View from the lobby bar

PLEASE USE FIREFOX – having problems with EXPLORER

One&Only Cape Town: 91 Marina rooms & suites, 40 Island rooms & suites, 5 bars, grills & restaurants, spa, hairdresser.

I first saw the One&Only brand’s entry into Cape Town as a new building in a remote corner of the Waterfront. Now on an overnight stay I felt it vibrantly lived in, and a destination in itself with lots going on, albeit some 10 minutes walk or so to the rest of the Waterfront happenings.

Capetonians come in to enjoy the dazzling international Nobu, and the beloved Reubens restaurant, which has spread here from its fame in Franschhoek. Or the lobby bar with its iconic views. It was here I met an old friend Madi…she joined me on hotel inspection and tea…

The main wing towers up by the yacht marina with one side facing Table Mountain, and the hotel’s own island. A canal meanders in and around the island bearing boats and adding a lush watery view. Here you get the low rise island rooms, the real resort style lagoon pool frequented by families and bikini girls, a spa, the great hairdresser (Wayne). And a casual restaurant offering pool views

Pool restaurant Isola O&O

The best views though are not from the island but from the Marina wing restaurants and accommodations.

Tables spill out from the restaurants onto a terrace by the canal which bakes in summer sun. On these hot terraces (or cooler inside a great wall of glass) you can view the canal, the palms and the flat top of the iconic mountain. The lobby is a great meeting place to sink into deep sofas and sip a drink, enjoy the delicate pastries of afternoon tea (145 zar), or enjoy a reasonable meal with a fabulous view. (I had a light and delicious tempura with dips for 85 zar)

All rooms are spacious (from 63sqm) and all have balconies…which is pretty unusual for Cape Town. Sol Kerzner One&Only set out to build the most luxurious hotel in Cape Town and has created suave and spacious interiors and lovely smooth contemporary lines. I preferred the Marina rooms (which are lower priced anyway).

Rooms in style

I had the lowest category room – a Marina Harbour View – and loved it. It is big – some 63 sqm, with spacious balcony high above the aquarium and yacht harbour.

Marina harbour view balcony

Sleek stylish rooms

The other side of the Marina wing has the iconic Table Mountain View over the canal for which you pay a tad extra. Some of the rooms have a huge king bed, and others two queens (suiting families).

Marina mountain view room looks over the canal and island – iconic views

Marina double queen room takes 2 adults and 2 kids:

Then there are one-bedroom Marina suites which have in addition lounge dining areas upping their size to double the normal rooms, or even more space (Marina Grand suites).

The island accommodation provides spacious rooms and one and two three bedroom suites – priced over the Marina rooms of similar category, though to my way of thinking the Marina rooms are nicer because of their views and layout. They feel more open.

All rooms have balconies… Every item is perfect, sexy contemporary design and quality. All have nespresso machines. The welcome amenities follow up on what the website promises combining international best with local – for here you get mebos (rolled dried fruit) and biltong (raw dried meat cured with salt)….along with delicious wine and fruit.

Fabulous, high standard all round,  though lacking the intimate quality of Cape Grace.

Kids

There is a small but colourful kids club (free of charge), with a bleak outside play area – perhaps they think kids don’t want to play outside in the heat but then why not grow some trees. The slides and swings are very rudimentary compared with Scandinavian standards.

To quote O&O – the advantages for kids

  • Extensive selection of inter-leading rooms
  • Family friendly dining venues at Reuben’s and Isola
  • Complimentary use of KidsOnly Club facilities: Nintendo Wii, PS3 and a selection of board games
  • Daily programme of supervised activities for 4-11 year olds at the KidsOnly ClubBabysitting facilities (upon reservation)
  • Complimentary use of: Baby cot / high chair / bottle warmer / steriliser
  • 50% discount in all restaurants for children under twelve.

Tradition

Afternoon tea with high class confectionary

At O&O you get more sophisticated variety, like a high class delicatessen rather than a kid’s party.

In a nutshell

• A destination in itself with range of top restaurants incl Nobu & Reubens, great spa, top hairdresser etc

• Nice views from Marina building and rooms with more open feel

• Stylish, clean and contemporary

• Plenty space to dine and breakast al fresco at the hotel

• Big lagoon pool with lush tropical atmosphere

• Nice destination for families

Note: a little further away from the Waterfront Centre