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Located on the South East Coast of Mozambique, the pristine beauty of White Pearl Resorts has to be seen to be believed.
The most adorable baby giraffe is standing right in the middle of the vast savannah where elephants are meandering to the left. It is so newly born the umbilical cord is still suspended from its abdomen. “Where is your mother?” we ask in unison. Our field guide backs up and about sixty yards to our right we notice the mother giraffe languidly roaming around, unperturbed by the separation from her new-born. She seems more interested in our presence than that of her neonate. We patiently wait as she shifts her focus back to her offspring and joins it while the little one hides shyly behind its mama’s tall stature and shoots one last look our way before heading off into the sunset.
But I digress. I have been invited to visit the Jewel of the Indian Ocean and after punctilious planning, I am on my way to White Pearl Resorts. On the particular Friday morning of my departure, I am feeling somewhat fluish which seems expedited by the flights to get to my destination. I have since learnt that alternating air pressure and sore ears cause major discomfort.
It is suggested to me that with the scheduled transfer from Maputo to White Pearl and the involvement of a helicopter flight’s tight schedule, it would be best to spend one night in Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, which I duly did. The obvious choice is the city’s only 5-star hotel, Polana Serena, situated along the tree-lined boulevard in one of Maputo’s most exclusive residential districts.
It is easy to see why it’s a favourite choice amongst celebrities and dignitaries – with 153 rooms and three varying restaurants to pick from, you are spoilt for choice. I am met by the stunningly leggy Ilda Thomas, Sales Manager at Polana Serena, who shows me around the imposing façade and sprawling grounds. I have been allocated a corner room with a beautiful view of the ocean and would enjoy its spoils more if my ears would just stop hurting. Ilda instantaneously offers to hand me over to a butler, who drives me to a nearby pharmacy. Four trips later and my non-comprehension of Portuguese still hadn’t yielded any reprieve. What impressed me the most are the butlers going the extra mile to try and assist me. The Polana Serena is unquestionably the Grand Dame of Africa.
The following morning, after a hearty breakfast at Polana Serena, I am transported back to Maputo International Airport by a driver from the hotel for my helicopter transfer to White Pearl Resorts. The helicopter flight of 30 minutes allows me to take in the beautiful scenery en route to White Pearl.
At the landing strip at White Pearl, I am welcomed by Pita Chimuka and my butler, Jorge Macia who relieve me of my luggage and escort me to the reception area. I am offered a cool refresher towel, a revitalizing drink and some fresh fruit by General Manager, Rachel Buchner. I pause for a moment to savour the magnificence of the ultra-stylish white interiors while the expanse of the unspoilt beach and mesmerising ocean reach as far as the eye can see.
My Beach Pool Suite, Suite 4, is the pinnacle of style and elegance. The white floors are cool underfoot and a ‘Welcome to White Pearl’ is lovingly displayed in bristly twigs on my bed.
There is no time to linger as my beach picnic is waiting. My lunch spot is a covered gazebo with my feet touching the silky sand and the sound and sight of the ocean my musical accompaniment. Jorge is swift with my drinks order and my table is laden with the most exquisite food imaginable – a feast so delicious that one of the daybeds on the beach looks dangerously inviting for a siesta.
The choices are bounteous and my plate overflows with a variety of the White Pearl Tapas selection – beef samoosas, vegetable spring rolls and prawn herb rissoles served with sweet chili sauce, wedges of fresh lemon and garlic mint yoghurt; Chicken and Beef Prego rolls with chips and Mamoli chili sauce, Lime & whiskey prawns, a portion of fries, Greek salad and for dessert there is the very well-loved Mozambique Pasteis de Nata – a classic Portuguese custard creation. Instead of surrendering to a nap, I take a leisurely stroll to my room.
Perfectly positioned between the trees, I negotiate the steps leading down to my freestanding dwelling with its plunge pool and private deck, imagining how blissful it must be to spend a few weeks here. Boredom isn’t an option as there is so much to do, but the picturesque setting and unbridled scenery distracts me that I find myself standing quietly admiring the handywork of the labour of love it must have taken to construct such an incredible place.
I open the sliding door which leads into my 581 square feet domicile. I kick of my shoes as barefoot luxury has never felt this good. The simplicity of the white cupboards, bedding, bath and vanities is contrasted by the Duck Egg Blue shades of the curtains and the couch. From every vantage point you can gaze at the blue yonder of the ocean in front of you. The freestanding bath has the most incredible view over the sea and bathing at sunset is a treat.
The private plunge pool on my deck is playing second fiddle as my desire is to take a walk on the unspoiled stretch of beach. I am startled when the tide laps at my feet and the water is enticingly warm. I sit on the cool sand and watch as sand crabs scurry across the beach, just to disappear into tiny little holes they had dug.
It is time for High Tea in the Reading Room and the Cake of the Day is the most decadent Chocolate Cake. You can order any beverage you fancy to accompany this mouth-watering masterpiece.
After witnessing the most incredible sunset, it is time to meet with Rachel at the bar area to observe traditional drumming as performed by “Thova Nenge” meaning ‘break your leg’. Rachel joins me for dinner in the Jelly Fish restaurant, which is a festive array of dishes prepared in the most outstanding fashion by Chef Ananias Chambule. My beach picnic was so filling that I forego the starter and instead dine on the perfectly prepared Herb Grilled Sirlion Steak, served with potato & pumpkin mash and conclude my meal with the Vanilla Homemade Ice-Cream.
After a cleansing shower on my outside deck with the wonderfully fragrant Healing Ocean products, I retire to my comfortable King sized bed where I fall into a deep sleep. The fresh sea air and busy day have had the desired effect and I wake up refreshed the next morning, ready to face another beautiful day in paradise.
I get up before the sun rises to experience the magic of the red ball of fire emerging from behind what looks like the curve of the Earth. As I stand facing the crashing waves, I cannot think of anywhere else I would rather be in this moment with perfection all around me. I realise the absolute truth in the saying ‘leave only footprints’ is apt here and anywhere where nature abounds.
Breakfast is served in the Jelly Fish restaurant and I try not to overindulge as I’m scheduled to go on an Ocean Safari and would hate for the boat to sink. Jorge assures me that I will be fine and I forego the healthy muesli and yoghurt option, instead ordering my all-time favourite English Breakfast with the most delicious cappuccino.
At the Dive Centre, I am met and briefed by Isaac Nhamirre, Diving instructor and Assistant activity manager. He has a deep love and respect for all creatures of the earth and water, which is tangible as we approach a pod of bottlenose dolphins swimming towards and around the Rubber Duck. With the additional expertise of Lifeguard Pedro Tembe, the behaviour of the dolphins is carefully monitored and you are encouraged to lower yourself into the water to have them swimming alongside you.
White Pearl resorts has some of the healthiest coral reefs in Mozambique, making for incredible diving sites. You should not be surprised when during a scuba diving or snorkelling session you are joined by a leatherback or loggerhead turtle. Ponte Mamoli beach boasts one of the richest turtle nesting sites in the world, where you can watch the hatchlings make their way to the ocean from February each year.
To add another element of fun to the Ocean Safari, Isaac suggests whoever spots a whale or a dolphin gets a lollilop. Before setting off on our Safari, Field Guide Jason Coetzer had already seen a whale breaching in the depths of the ocean. To find a whale is not as easy as it sounds, despite their enormous size of 33 tons, they can swim up to 16 miles per hour.
Both Isaac and Pedro had spotted two different pods of dolphins and I’m hoping to also earn a lollilop by being the first one to lay eyes on a whale. Isaac suddenly points to the blue, which is overwhelming as there is so much of it. My initial reaction is that it looks like a shark fin, but I’m told it’s a whale. Suddenly this mass careens out of the water, makes a gigantic splash and lobtails (flapping its tail) before disappearing further on its migratory route. Between July and November each year, these majestic creatures grace the shores of Mozambique for their annual migration.
I have hardly set foot on terra firma when Jorge appears out of nowhere with my drink of choice. What an incredible privilege to have him as my butler, making my stay so wonderfully comfortable.
In an hour’s time we are leaving on Safari with a visit to the Maputo Special Reserve. White Pearl Resorts is the first property in Southern Mozambique to offer a complete Bush and Beach experience, and with the newly built road tar road, cutting travelling time between Maputo and the coast to just 45 minutes, getting here will be so much simpler.
Jason and Nicole Panos, Field & Marine guide load myself and Rachel into the Safari vehicle and we make our way to the 256,989 acre Reserve to the West of White Pearl. With its vast and rugged beauty, Maputo Special Reserve is home to a number of elephant populations and other animal species. A large variety of birds can be seen around the dam and the number of wildlife will see an increase due to the reintroduction of animals in conjunction with the Peace Parks Foundation.
As we are about to leave the Reserve, we see three large herds of elephants and decide to give them space as they are wild and not habituated to vehicles. The matriarch makes her displeasure known as she hurtles towards us, ears flapping.
Safely back at White Pearl, dinner is served in the Reading Room and Rachel joins me for the sublime food and some stimulating conversation. For Starters, I opt for the Calamari Tempura, served on a bed of risotto, dusted with lemon zest & parsley gremolata and for Main Course I choose the Beef A Portuguesa – Pan-fried rump steak with Parma ham, olives, a fried egg & traditional Portuguese potato. My ‘Sweet Endings’ is the simple albeit delicious Homemade Berry Frozen Yoghurt.
It is my last night at White Pearl and I indulge in a relaxing candlelit bath before retiring to bed. After a final delicious breakfast, I try to persuade Jorge that two nights are just not long enough for me to really have enjoyed everything White Pearl has to offer – I have not done the horse riding, stargazing, Spa treatment or even tried out my plunge pool! He gives me his signature smile, gently coaxes my suitcase out of my stern grip and walks me to reception. I try to charm Rachel in letting me stay one more night but with a full house tonight, I am left with no choice but to return home. But, I’ll be back. With my family. They too need to experience paradise.
Where to stay:
For the perfect City, Beach and Bush escape, a night in Maputo at the Serena Polana combined with two or more nights at White Pearl Resorts is the ideal invigoration and relaxation suggestion.
*** Thank you to White Pearl Resorts and Serena Polana for hosting me.
Views expressed are the author’s own.