After G and I started our honeymoon in Zambia (read about it here) we moved on to South Africa and Mozambique. South Africa was a dizzying display of safari animals and raw, beautiful landscape. We started in the Sabie Valley in a small lodge called Tanamera, passing an evening drinking South African wine and Gin and Tonics before delving into our plunge pool overlooking the valley below. We passed the night talking about all the animals we hoped we would see in the Kruger over the next few days – we were soon to see them all.
The Kruger (at least where we were in Garonga) in the dry season is striking in its simplicity. Extreme heat, dry air and scrubland stretch as far as you can see. The leafless trees thick only with vultures and acacia needles make you wonder how the animals can be so plentiful. Hordes of monkeys and baboons feasting on the berries of the Marula tree (from which they make the Amarula liquor – a heady mix of baileys and whisky in taste) and the occasional sighting of cats prowling down below. We were lucky enough to see lions playing with their cubs in a stream; a pair of cheetah brothers fat from a meal; civets and a serval hunt down its prey.
Safari days are long and full of food. The sun barely beginning to peek over the bare horizon, you set off at 5:30 am after having tea and cake, straining your eyes over the waterhole for evidence that animals were hunting overnight. After a few hours of your game drive you stop for coffee and cake before eventually returning to the lodge at around 10 to avoid the midday heat. Lunch is at 2pm followed by high tea at 4pm and the evening’s game drive. Of course, as the sun starts to set it would only be polite to stop for a sundowner of wine and a little snack. The biltong – aah, the biltong has a hold on me of which I am not proud. G and I would huddle around the not inconsiderable pot of biltong resenting every piece that any other guest took. Then it is back to camp for a three course dinner, more South African wine and collapsing in a food coma ready to do it all again the next day. My one regret – I didn’t manage to get Elvis to give me his secret marinade for his lamb Braai.
Our parting gift on the last game drive was the sighting G had been hoping for the whole trip – two beautiful white rhinos both menacing and surprisingly graceful in the way the padded around the scrubland.
We arrived in Mozambique and instantly knew we were near the sea. Although it was hot and brilliantly sunny, there was that unmistakeable waft of slightly salty cooling breeze which always instantly reminds me of Sydney. A short helicopter ride to Benguerra Island over sea speckled with coral and the enchanting variations of celadon and cerulean, azure and cobalt blue caused by the undulating sea.
It was clear from the moment we arrived that the food and drink were going to be exceptional. Fish was caught fresh each day by local fisherman on boats called Dhows – we were later to ride in one and all day you could see the local nets being cast on various parts of the beach. The daily menu was written up on a chalk blackboard each day and you had simply to choose what you wished to eat and whether you would take it in the garden, at the beach or on your own deck.
Benguerra (and the surrounding Islands) are positively overflowing with crabs and they feature heavily in the menu. G is allergic to crab but they were always more than happy to substitute for beautiful prawns or lobster, which are also abundant in the area. I, however, adore crab. In fact, one recipe stuck in my mind so much that I asked how to make it and you can find the recipe here. A crab is perfectly steamed and the white crab meat is mixed with a little of the brown meat, some spices, softened peppers (capsicums) and herbs before being stuffed back in the shell breaded and fried. Served with a little cayenne pepper and garlic aioli, it was positively heavenly and actually really easy to do (check the recipe out here). My local fishmonger will sell me the white and brown crab meat and give me the shells for free, so try it next time you’re buying!
I challenge someone to find a better combination than sun, crab and cocktails. In fact, you can drop the crab if you have to – all I really need is the sun and the cocktails. I think I looked exceptionally manly oscillating between piña coladas and a bright pink cocktail called an R&R, which is a heady mix of Mozambique rum and an African raspberry cola called Sparletta. Ever so slightly addictive and, as I found out to my dismay, the more I drank of them the more likely I was to lose a game of Boules to G. She got better as she drank and I got decidedly worse.
After snorkelling and watching dolphins play in the water we would often take a kayak out and paddle on the open ocean. I would take the opportunity of being out of earshot of everyone to sing as many Disney songs as I could remember (turns out not very many) with only my new wife to tell me I really couldn’t sing. Or so I thought until over the evening cocktails another couple asked if we were the singing pair earlier that day!
It was very sad to leave the island – to leave the beach and the sun, the wonderful staff and the amazing cocktails, the fresh seafood and the easy going lifestyle with almost no decisions to make beyond dinner choices. It had been the most blissful two weeks and was everything we’d hoped for – but as we were leaving I thought to myself, I think it just might be more fun at home with my new wife in our warm home.