Our fourth day on the island started off as relaxing as ever. We slept in, then enjoyed a beautiful beach breakfast that Bento set up for us on the beach. It’s small gestures like that, that the &Beyond staff do, that will make your stay so much more memorable. Bento already know by now that three of us drink sparkling water, and my mom drinks still. He also knows we enjoy our coffee a bit stronger than others, and he’ll bring me a cappuccino with breakfast. He has such a shy and sweet manner, and his bright, pearly smile will make you want to smile in return too, no matter what mood you may be in. And Bento really just wanted to ensure that all of us were happy and the most relaxed and comfortable we could be.
We snacked on freshly baked muffins and fruit, and decided to skip the hot breakfast. If you know &Beyond, you will know how hearty the portions are, and that all the meals are spectacular - so it might not be the best vacation option if your idea is to lose weight... Each day, there are different muffin flavors - lemon and poppyseed, coconut and peanut butter, vanilla, banana etc. I picked all the passion fruit/granadilla off the fruit platters and ate the slices with a teaspoon. I’ve always loved their sweet, yet sour, taste.
After breakfast, we spent some time splashing around in the beautiful blue water. We walked out to the swing that’s situated in the sea. The tide wasn’t quite right to easily climb onto the swing - and we all had a great laugh lifting each other onto swings and seeing each family member jump off into the water and getting completely wet. We didn’t know what was waiting for us at lunch time...
We’ve heard stories about the Tiger Prawns and how a single prawn can fill up an entire plate, but we didn’t believe it. Because how often do you go to a restaurant and order king or giant prawns, and get served a tiny cocktail prawn? When our plates of Benguerra Prawns and Coconut Rice arrived, we couldn’t believe our eyes! The prawns actually spanned the length of the plate! I had a mini photo shoot with the prawns because I couldn’t believe that one of them was actually bigger than my hand (and of course, you’ll all see the photo shoot below). The flavor was incredible - just a lemon butter and garlic topping, allowing you to really experience the magnificent flavor of the prawns. And the coconut rice contributed to a further tropical taste. And what better way to finish off our newly found obsession with the gigantic Benguerra Prawns, than with a sweet mango sorbet? The sorbet consists of fresh mango which is mixed with a little bit of sugar and water syrup in a blender, so you still got some of the mango flesh wound up in the ice. And it’s such a refreshing treat on such warm, hot tropical summer days!
This would be one of the last chances to go snorkeling, as the moon was getting fuller, and the neap tide would mean that snorkeling would need to happen very early in the morning, and we are not really early birds (on an island vacation, that is). The waves were also a lot less calm than the first time we went snorkeling, and you could see how the moon changes influences and controls the water. Nature is so weird and wonderful.
Strangely, there were ample more fish with this restless water, than the first snorkeling experience. I saw the entire cast of Finding Nemo, except for Nino and his dad (the clown fish). We saw incredible ember parrotfish, palette surgeonfish (Dory), juvenile emperor angelfish and moorish idol(Gill). The coral reefs of Bazaruto are regarded as some of the most diverse and least disturbed reefs in the Indian Ocean, and these coral reefs are protected. We were told not to touch anything, not only for conservation, but also because some fish are poisonous and camouflage extremely well. Case in point was the leaf scorpion fish that Carlos showed us under water: it looks like a rock or piece of coral, but when Carlos waved his fin in front of the fish, it puffed up and swam a few angry millimeters from its resting place, before retreating to the sand again. The 45 minutes we spend in this tropical sea paradise went by too fast, and as we were heading back to the boat, a lonely stingray graced us with his presence, almost as if he knew it was our last snorkel in these reefs.
As we arrived back on the Benguerra sands, Bento was waiting for us with cold facecloths, fresh orange juice and his big, warm smile. You can’t help but beam back at him.
After getting some of the sea sand out of our hair, we went over to the Dhow Bar to enjoy the spectacular sunset. The orange, copper and golden hues that tease the sky contrast the palm trees could really make for an Apple Mac screensaver. Your eyes still can’t believe what you are seeing. Our bar snacks were Greek salad skewers, fresh vegetable sushi, chilli poppers, and the most incredible roasted coconut. I could have eaten the whole entire bowl! They tasted like Kellogg’s Frosties.
And now onto everybody’s favorite - dinner! On the menu for tonight, we started off with Mushroom Arancini Balls with Mustard Aioli. Arancini are rice balls originating from Sicily and they are absolutely delicious. After a starter like that, you don’t know how mains can compete. But with Grilled Crayfish on the menu, it’s not difficult to disappoint. We’ve fallen in love with the huge crayfish tails that Chef Stephen prepares for us. We’re over indulging while we still can. Another perfect end to a day filled with mouth-watering food, lots of sun and laughter.
Day 5: Benguerra Beach Picnic
Last night at the campfire, we decided on the island beach picnic for the day’s activity (so we’d give breakfast a skip). The picnic would take place on Wild Side - a secluded part of the island where the waves are bigger and wilder than in front of the lodge, and close to a fresh water lake with some small (2 meter) crocodiles and sand dunes to sand board down. We would still sit down for a morning coffee to get our caffeine fix for the day. Whilst enjoying our coffee, the chef brought out one of the killer rainbow crayfish that we would be eating later that day. I was instantly obsessed with the size of the crayfish and its beautiful colors (of course there was a photo shoot and the photos are below). This bad boy weighed at least 2,4kg! I have been fascinated with the seafood here that seems to be on steroids!
We took a cruise through the island to get to Wild Side. Our driver, Alex, pointed out various indigenous trees growing on the island such as marula, cashew, coconut and monkey orange. All the tropical palms and leaves that cover the island and the sandy roads transcend you into a different world. There is so much hidden beauty beyond the lodge. The village of the locals have neat white huts, with lots of children playing and dancing around outside under the warm African sun, and you can see they are truly happy in the simplicity.
What a delightful surprise arriving at our picnic spot! Beautiful blue tents stood on the snowy white sand, with regal blue and white towels and beach lounging pillows laid out under one, and a beautiful table set up by Jamie under the other. &Beyond knows how to do luxury well - what’s better than having a beach picnic, and not needing to do any preparation or set up (or cleaning up afterwards)? Not much I’m sure. And the presentation of everything was impeccable as always.
Playing my ultimate tropical island song, we popped a bottle of sparkling wine and started sipping away whilst soaking up this picturesque and perfect beach picnic. Life really can’t get any better than this. We were possibly the happiest we have been in a while, listening to Neil Diamond and just enjoying this piece of paradise that was ours for an afternoon. We were spoilt with an island lunch of pasta salad; green salad; calamari, chicken, beef and fish skewers; and of course some delicious chocolate brownies to end it all off with. Our picnic treats were beautifully packed in the classic &Beyond tins and ensured for a relatively mess-free lunch.
The rest of our afternoon was spent tanning on the beautiful beach towels, having a swim in the deeper and wavier water, and watching crabs dancing in and out of the waves that crashed on the beach. I may have fallen asleep whilst tanning, and woken up in full denial of any burning that had occurred. For some reason, my family members decided to poke at the burnt areas on my shoulders to point it. We had the most wonderful afternoon snacking on the picnic food with tropical drinks melting in our hands under the sun.
Back at Benguerra Island Lodge stood Bento with life-saving ice cold rock shandies. They were so refreshing and just right to cool down after we basked in the sun. Our time before sundowners was spent resting, applying some after-sun in order to be ready for the night’s festivities.
Tonight was the Benguerra Beach Braai - we had all been looking forward to it. Before the braai, we would be treated with a performance by some of the children from the village. These are some of the most energetic and happy kids I have ever seen. They passionately sang and danced in the sand (which is probably such a great work out - I should look into it) and took turns showing off their moves. They even had a few acrobatic flips and dives, and welcomed us to join them in dancing around the fire. After each song, they uttered, “Thank you!” in unison - to show their appreciation that we are listening, and almost as if they’re letting us know we’re allowed to applaud now. They had the sweetest faces with the friendliest smiles, and you could see their enjoyment and how much interacting with the guests meant to them. I wish I could show you video clips - but the lighting wasn’t great, and I decided to rather be present in their performance, than to sit and watch it through a screen. &Beyond provides the children with a meal and cold drink for the evening of the performance, and has a payment scheme which is partly used to ensure the children can be provided with school books and bags for their classes on the island. It was such a heart-warning evening, watching their performance and being part of such a good cause.
Dinner was a fantastic surf ‘n’ turf style braai. There were the incredibly large tiger prawns, crayfish kebabs coming from the rainbow cray fish showed earlier, king mackerel, and lamb chops with a pepper sauce. Whew! I’m out of breath just typing that sentence! To accompany all of this were some interesting and delectable side, ranging from coconut and pineapple salad, to mango cous-cous. Another incredible tropical island feast!
A little sunburnt, and completely in love with this island and its magnificent people, I headed to my white puffy bed for my evening slumber.