I ran up the last few steps to the deck in front of the restaurant where the rest of my crew were hanging out. We had arrived the previous night after dark and it was their first glimpse of the resort in daylight. By the looks on their faces I could tell that they were in love with the place. They had made themselves comfortable around a table and were having pizza and beer for breakfast while some of the others had gone for a swim in the ocean. It had been a very busy year for our company and they were in need of a good vacation. Having stayed at East Africa Safaris one night a few years ago we jumped at the opportunity to come back to this place and really explore what we could do here.
We must have hung out on that deck for a good 3 hours before heading inside the restaurant to get out of the hot African sun. The interior looks like a fisherman’s cove with mounted fish trophies and buoys decorating the reed walls. The bar has a carved Captain Morgan statue and big bell. Behind the table tennis is a wall of fame with photos of all the greatest catches and big moments the resort had seen over the last few years telling thousands of stories. Yolanda pointed to a picture of two young guys on a bulldozer. “That was when be built the road,” she said with a smile. 13 years ago.
Their story started in 2001 when her husband’s car broke down near Xai Xai, Mozambique, after a fishing trip. He stayed over with some fishermen who were camping on the land where East Africa Safaris now stands until the parts for his car arrived – except then there was nothing but dunes and bush. One of the guys mentioned that they wanted to sell the property and so Wessel went back home to his butcheries in Phalaborwa, South Africa, with the dream of living the life of a fisherman alive and well in his heart. Soon he and his brother, Phillip, decided to buy the property. They moved to Mozambique and for the first year went fishing until they had a good idea of what they wanted to do. They built roads. They built a camp and tore it down, not liking the style and started over.
Owning a lodge or a resort in Mozambique is not at all as easy as it sounds. First of all, you cannot own the land as all land is owned by the government and can only be leased. Secondly, you have to build all structures at your own risk and expense before getting a permanent lease agreement lasting 50 years. It took Yolanda, Wessel and Phillip 11 years to get everything in place. At one stage the government closed down their development for 11 months – not even allowing visits from her parents until all the paperwork were in order – bear in mind that rules constantly changed. They finally got their permanent lease in 2012.
The resort now has room for 600 guests. They have 45 staff members. They serve some of the best food in the area and they have 3 fishing world records. Looking at the bungalows they had built at Casa Ilala – our 16 sleeper mini resort next to skubbe bar – it is almost impossible to imagine that Wessel and Yolanda lived in a caravan for a year and had a long drop toilet and no running water. Our bungalows were cleaned every morning, we had a large kitchen and living area plus our own splash pool.
If you have a small group then a 6 sleeper bungalow might be perfect for you. You can opt for one with or without a pool. All the buildings are built in traditional Jekka style with grassy roofs and reedlike walls with wooden floors. Just be sure to book early as the resort is extremely popular and is packed over peak seasons.
The restaurant has spectacular food. I was told that in the early years they only had 3 items on the menu – waffles, ice cream and fish. The menu grew over the years into a book full of tasty descriptions of mouthwatering dishes and signature drinks. We spent hours laughing and talking next to the big windows with the sea breeze playing through our hair while enjoying food fit for kings.
Another option to relax at is the beach bar – Skubbe bar – where you can sit with your feet in the sand and have James bring you your drinks as you watch the fishermen get their boats ready for the early morning launch the next day.
No matter how many lists we make, we always forget something at home. The shop at the resort caters for everything from spices and milk to fishing lures and toys. They also have branded hats and shirts if you need a souvenir.
One East Africa Safaris traditions that had us laughing for days was the sniff jet. It is a wooden contraption with a metal plate that is loosely bolted together. It has 2 little holes drilled into the metal plate into which menthol sniff is placed. You place your nose close to the holes and sniff deeply as your friend hits the metal plate with the wooden hammer, shooting the sniff into your nose and clearing your sinus channels for the rest of the year. It sounds terrible – until your friend is the one sniffing the menthol and you get to laugh at their teary eyes and shocked reaction. This is a very effective way of clearing your sinusses after a swim and is not addictive.
Staying at East Africa Safaris has become the standard against which we measure all our group holidays. They made our stay comfortable and easy to handle with a large group of people – something that most resorts are not always able to do. The added bonus is all the things you can do here – from paddle ski and sandboard to quad biking and deep sea fishing and even scuba diving. The price makes it a definite yes to anybody looking for fun in the sun! Since it is just outside Xai Xai you can make the journey in one day from South Africa.
The resort is dependent on electricity from the government and, like all things in Africa, it sometimes does experience outages but they have back-up generators and running water is never a problem, so your stay here should be very comfortable.
If you would like to make a booking, contact us at (+27)17 634 5799 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Lots of love from Africa
Manda & Lizzie