IF hosts Rani Resorts would have allowed it, I could have spent each second of the four days enjoyed recently at their breathtakingly beautiful Indigo Bay Island Resort & Spa, in Mozambique, simply â€œchillingâ€.
If thatâ€™s correct slang, when shade temperatures nudged 36ÂºC, in full sun, 45ÂºC was common and a turquoise-blue-green see-through shallow fish-filled sea temperature hovered around 28ÂºC.
Thereâ€™s no such thing as a free lunch, supper or long weekend in Eden and it was often necessary to jot down the odd superlatives-studded sentence in notebook, whisper a word into my trusty spy tape recorder or point the digital for one ofÂ 832 stunning photographs taken this trip.
Possibly one of us would have spurned all activities offered, remaining on the beach in deck chair with a best seller.
He did say â€œnoâ€ politely to a â€œcultural tourâ€ of Bazaruto Island, which had my eyebrows raised. Iâ€™m not into groupie visits to typical kraals: in this case with attractively raggedy unkempt reedy roofs having waterproofing qualities enhanced by plastic bags.
But I really enjoyed that particular after-breakfast trip. Somewhere in the 114 guest, 250 staff luxury hotel I read Bazaruto Island â€“â€“ 37km long and 7km at its widest â€“â€“ â€œboastedâ€ 189 bird species.
I disputed that number as we had seen most common Mashonaland and Manicaland avians, plus coastal birds â€“â€“ including aÂ majestic osprey â€“â€“ and ornithological species at home (with huge crocs) in brackish freshwater lakes.
ItÂ wasnâ€™t a dedicated twitching trip, but my estimate was that on a safari vehicle drive through the island and in Indigo Bayâ€™s lush gardens and on the beach (my chalet was under 12m from the ocean at high tide), Iâ€™d seen close on 200 species withoutÂ trying.
So, returning to Ha-ha-ha-hare (Africaâ€™s fun capital) and Nigel Wheatleyâ€™s highly readable, invaluable Where to Watch Birds in Africa (Russell Friedman Books, Halfway House, RSA) I wasnâ€™t surprised to read that Mozambique had 690 bird species, compared to Zimbabweâ€™s roughly 400 types, about 800 in South Africa, more than 1 000 in Tanzania.. As a review like this must have the odd carp: please, Rani, get an up-to-date check list prepared! (There arenâ€™t many moans.)
I left a heavily leather bound â€œSasolâ€ at the office, thinkingÂ it too heavy to lug around and lodges always have their own copies of that, Roberts or Newman, anyway.
Indigo Bay didnâ€™t! It had Robertsâ€™ on line, but it was hard to get on computers due to a couple of geeks, seemingly spending their whole holiday blogging about it!
The island has red duiker and coastal samango monkey as well as crocs and the placid warm seas surrounding it are home to a myriad families of multi-coloured fish, sharks, turtles, dolphins, dugongs; even whales at the right time of year (August-November).
A â€œmustnâ€™t missâ€ activity was the 40 minute sea trip to Santa Carolina (aka Paradise Island) for a superb seafood braai and snorkelling in shallow pristine waters. The excursion lasted about five hours and was led by Blessed Mpofu â€“â€“ a former guide at Indigo Bayâ€™s sister hotel, Stanley & Livingstone, Victoria Falls â€“â€“ now equally at home with Indian Ocean flora and fauna as he was with that of the Zambezi Valley.
Iâ€™m not mad about spas, but an hourâ€™s competent â€œthwackingâ€Â in the Swedish, Thai and Indian-head style of massage by a girl proving to be the daughter of an ANC guerilla general was, again, unmiss-able..
Sanctuary Spas owns this operation, recently named third best spa in the world by Tatler magazine. It has four treatment rooms, wet room, steam room, outdoor ice pool, outdoor hydro pool and the best views of the resort, perched on the peak of a gomo with a grand view of the sun setting theatrically over Africaâ€™s mainland.
Body glowing, tension knots unravelled and totally relaxed, an aprÃ¨s-thwack mixed fruit smoothie enjoyed on a comfortable sun lounger, waiting for colleagues to end facials was a memorable experience.
There are island horse treks and this is a good way to see the dunes, the highest, steepest on any island in the world; probably the most dramatic. The steeds, specially selected â€œBoerpedsâ€, love to take their mounts into the sea for a sundowner dip; trails are guided and suitable for both novices and advanced riders.
Nights were stupendous: squillions of stars laid out like sparkling gems on a black velvet African sky; nightjars and the odd bat chasing their prey in the outer periphery of the hotelâ€™s lamps, as a soft wind soughs and gentle breakers unfold on the beach.Â Just to sit there and chat â€“â€“ or simply think â€“â€“ with a cocktail, glass of fine wine of one of Mozambiqueâ€™s three great beers, as crayfish, lobster or tiger prawns are seared on the braai is a great experience.
And to fill waking hours between mealtimes and help hone an appetite already whetted by wind, fresh air and sunshine, there is angling including fly-fishing and spear fishing, sailing, kayaking, wind-surfing, snorkelling, scuba diving, cruising, beach games, a fully equipped gym, bird, whale or dolphin-watching, Qolf (a nine-hole mini-game of golf worth an article onÂ its own!) or simply, swimming, sunbathing or reading and relaxing.
My only other quibbles refer to the hotelâ€™s wonderful long, deep, wide, luxury baths in which to relax after hours of doing plenty (or little). They seem to me plumbed the wrong way round; I was necessary to clamber into the bath in order to insert plug and operate taps (or to shut the Venetian blinds before clambering into said bath, by this time abubble with luxurious foam of a type only usually seen in a Joan Collins movie!)
So: three â€œchelpsâ€: birding info, separate the nerds from the computers,, swing baths round. Not much keeps Indigo Bay being the paradise on earth most of those lucky enough to have been there see it as.
By Dusty Miller