Friday, December 27, 2013

WE HAVE JUST BEEN TO SOUTH AFRICA & MOZAMBIQUE

Safari and Beach.

A perfect Southern African holiday. This December we tried a new combination of safari and beach: Phinda, a fascinating game reserve with seven eco zones was combined with two resorts on WILD beaches washed by the warm Indian Ocean. 

Beach holiday: pristine sands stretching forever
Animal wonders: adorable baby warthogs gambolling by our
private pool at Vlei Lodge Phinda
AndBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve is home to the Big Five, myriads of other game and seven ecosystems from sand forest to palm veld – a treasure in the caring hands of our major partner in South Africa - AndBeyond
A lazy moment for the lion king, oblivious to our
 open safari vehicle
We saw all the Big Five over several safari tours with the blissful luxury of our very own game ranger Nick. And stayed in three of the six beautiful and very different lodges in Phinda game reserve.


Forest Lodge: our glass walled cabin
hidden in Sand Forest, private spot
for watching forest animals. 
Mountain Lodge, with our own plunge
pool lazily viewing rolling green hills.

And our favourite, the romantic Vlei Lodge...  


...with our own sparkling pool
where elephants often come up to drink


... and an open Serengeti feel.

We also visited oh-so-Colonial Zuka Lodge, 


Perfect for 3G families who take it for sole use
Our inspection of Homestead lodge was cancelled, as it just been visited by a frustrated bull elephant who objected to his own reflection in the windows. More about Phinda and its inhabitants later…

Now for a taste of the different beach experiences ...
Over the border, some 3 or 4 hours drive from Phnda to White Pearl, Mozambique ...
The beach shared with turtles in the Southern summer, and a
sea alive with whales in the Southern winter -
great snorkling by boat, and usually much sunnier than this

"Pearl" is a perfect word to describe this luxury resort, nestled into gigantic sand dunes with views of the endless golden beach swept clean by surging green-glinting waves. 

Suite number 6 at White Pearl  - perfectly private paradise
Our private sunbeds and private access to our beachfront
suite through the wild fringe of dune forest

We shared the endless beach with a handful of guests and turtles coming in to lay their eggs at night. For unforgettable, pampered privacy, we dined on our pool deck watching the waves, as part of the all-inclusive…

With our athletic butler Abu organizing it all. 

Also all.inclusive, but much more rustic and trembling with the feel of the wild, Rocktail Beach Camp, by Wilderness Safaris...


African chic, chandeliers of driftwood, raw wood beams
This friendly, rustic camp of canvas cabins lies in a stunning world heritage area on the northern KZN coastline of South Africa. Rocktail Beach Camp feels very very far away, hidden deep in the dune forests, though only 90 minutes or so drive from Phinda further south or the Mozambique border further north. African chic style. No phones in the rooms just foghorns   more about that later…

Now for a glimpse of the stunning beach...and waters that often get voted into the world's top ten dive sites.
A quick ride or 20 mins walk from Rocktail Beach Camp.
The beach stretches 35 km - also turtle territory

Actually there were two other beaches on this safari holiday combi. The first was rather less wild. Flying with Emirates to Durban, we had a stopover in Dubai at the Ritz-Carlton, right on the beach … in a fabulous suite with a view of palms and pool ….

Al fresco dining at the Ritz-Carlton, by pool and beach

And this is the pool in the famous lobby...

Exquisite Oriental lobby


Arrival and departure assistance at Dubai airport with the Ahlan and Marhaba services gave us more time to enjoy our hotel in Dubai before continuing to Durban, missing all the airport hassles.

The next beach was in front of an urban five star hotel at Umhlanga Rocks, a South African gem called The Oyster Box.

Our room was so close to the beach you heard the waves crashing like the thunder of a gigantic washing machine...

Ocean front room at the Oyster Box




More about our fantastic trip in the blogs to follow this...

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

HOTEL CHECK MALDIVES, Soneva Fushi

Still on his trip through paradise, Neil Bedford finds a resort that evokes all the romance of a Crusoe island without the inconveniences. He calls it: 

“The Original Desert Island Hideaway”


We arrived at Soneva Fushi in one of those thunderstorms that you can only experience in the tropics, the rain hitting the ocean so hard that it must have given the fish a headache. The beach was empty, palm trees were almost being lifted out of the sand, the sound of the storm overpowering our Mr Friday’s introduction and our clothes immediately soaked through after exiting the boat. This preamble is our excuse for spending the first day of our stay at Soneva Fushi enjoying the spa J.

The Six Senses spa focuses on natural and alternative treatments, with a focus on traditional Asia remedies and techniques. Nestled in the beachfront jungle you can choose to enjoy your treatment in open air pavilions beside the ocean or spacious duo rooms in the jungle, some of which boast sauna, steam room and plunge pool. Operated by Six Senses, the quality of treatment from the small team of outstanding therapists is all but guaranteed and guest practitioners from all over the world give more unique options.

Our own sunbeds viewing the
translucent waters

Villa on a coral island

As good as the spa is, it was a wonderful sight to open the blinds on day 2 and be dazzled by the sun. Our villa, a Soneva Fushi Villa, had an ideal location in the middle of the beach on the sunrise side of the island. From our bed and private beach garden we looked straight out over the coral waters to the endless blue sea, the horizon broken only by the hint of a beach from other distant islands. 

Just been snorkellng off the beach...

Soneva Fushi’s coral reef encircles the island and can be snorkeled from all points, quite a rarity in the Maldives, so wherever your villa lies you can quickly kit up with mask and fins and be straight in amongst the coral. The quality of reef is outstanding, with turtles and reef sharks regular sightings but the coral and smaller fish mesmerizing enough even without these.

Gearing up for snorkelling, just steps from the villa


All of the 55 villas are located within metres of the beach and are cocooned in thick vegetation that means they can hardly been seen from land or water. The exceptions to this are the private residences which at 500 - 1200 sq metres are slightly harder to hide. These residences are one of the main drawcards for families and groups travelling together as they are such a rarity in the Maldives and even though they do come at a price tag are excellent value for what you get. 

Currently under construction and one of the most anticipated accommodation options in the Indian Ocean for a number of Select Collection clients is Villa 11, an 8 bedroom beachfront private residence that is expected to be complete in early 2014. With capacity for up to 17, it will be the ideal option for a special getaway with your family, friends, neighbours, work colleagues, people you meet on the train…


Natural as can be...

Kunfunadhoo Island is one of the Maldives’ largest at 1400 metres long and almost 400 metres wide. In typical Soneva style, the jungle interior is more dense than any other island, the beach is more natural and the permanent structures are purposefully kept as hidden and natural as possible. The network of sand ‘roads’ (a feature of most Maldivian islands) follow no discernible route and you have to keep your wits about you while on your bike to watch out as the road suddenly splits in two to make way for giant mangrove or palm trees. If this gives the impression that your comfort is secondary to that of the island’s…well you are probably right but that is not to diminish the level of luxury that is still prevalent. 

Cocktail party  on the sand bank

Magical - straight out of legend

Indulgence & dining

At Cinema Paradiso you can enjoy a private screening of you and your loved one’s favourite film to watch under the stars with a bowl of popcorn; at the Maldives’ only observatory take a guided tour of the galaxy; go on a wine tasting journey around the world as you take your pick from over 5000 bottles in the hidden wine cellar; over-indulge in the delicious (and complimentary) chocolate room and ice-cream parlour; try just about any watersport in the warm blue waters of the Indian Ocean; or if this all sounds too much, visit  bar(a) bara overwater sunset bar and enjoy a classic cocktail with eagle rays and dolphins as your companions.

A reason for the amazing food. Our Mr Friday
shows me the organic garden
There are three main choices for dining – “anything you like” with your feet in the sand at Mihiree Mitha, organic food served in the trees at Fresh in the Garden, and Japanese and Korean inspired tapas by the beach at By the Beach. The focus is always on super fresh produce whether it is your ceviche, sashimi and sushi coming straight from the sea that day or fruits and roots plus well-fed chickens from local island farmers. To supplement this the extremely well cared for organic herb and vegetable garden gives the talented chefs the best choices for healthy salads.

Treats from the chocolate room
Voluptuous dessert room

And why you should ...

Book with us. Select Collection have an incredible long-standing relationship with Soneva Fushi (and sister property Soneva Kiri in Thailand) and will always be able to offer you and your travel companions the most up to date advice for your stay requirements as well as the best price.