Gin and Tonic O’Clock
There’s an amazing little gin bar I’ve known for years in a fishing village called Carvoeiro in the Algarve, where the glasses are the size of fish bowls, and the mixologist’s concoctions endless in their originality. At least that’s how it seems when you’re there. As someone who likes a G&T, the new craft gin revolution that’s recently been taking the world’s trendiest spots by storm hadn’t escaped me. Now there’s nothing quite like watching the sun go down at Azura with a gin and tonic in hand. At any of our Azuras, be it from the landrover in the bush at Azura Selous, from the dhow at Azura Benguerra, or the beach bar at Quilalea. So it was obvious - time for a craft gin bar at Azura!
I invited a few friends to come and stay on the island with some simple instructions – hand pick a few bottles of craft gin, some syrups, and spices, then pack them in your suitcase, and meet me at sunset with them on the beach. I also chose a few of my own. Cruxland infused with Kalahari truffles sounded good, a colourful bottle of Ophir with oriental spices, Wilderer with fynbos to bring out my latent wild side. Friends arrived with Musgrave pink for the ladies, Hope for those who thought they needed it, Whitley Neill with proteas and hibiscus, the deeply coloured Inverroche Amber, Malfy con Limone, and Rooibos Red - apparently suitable for morning tea as well as sundowners, or so they tried to convince me.
My team got to work splicing and dicing cucumbers, lemons and pomegranates, Faizel suggested Star anise would look pretty, I wanted to try gin with lychees, or find a chilli so mild we could do a peri-peri gin, this being Mozambique! And that’s what a gin bar does – it brings out your creative side as well as being great fun with your partner or a group of friends. It’s now a firm favourite with the guests on Azura’s islands, where they get to play mixologist as a special event once a week. Come try it, inhale the sea air combined with the scent of fynbos or truffles as you watch the sun set over Africa, and tell us which gin you like the best.
11 Kids & 11 Adults Go on Safari
Easter fell during rainy season in Tanzania this year, in theory not the best time for a safari, but we set off in two Cessna caravans with 4 other families determined to make the best of it. None of us could believe quite what an amazing trip we had. Having arrived late morning, in theory after the morning rush of animal activity, the boys and the kids headed off to fish – we have tigers, barbell and squeakers in our river that are a delight for all to catch whilst watching the passing hippos, while the girls settled in with pomegranate champagne. Not 2km from Azura Selous, out pop the lions and take a warthog down right in front of everyone…wow!
Out came the ipads, the phones, the young NatGeoWild videographer emerging in the children who ranged in age from 8 to 14. Not daunted by the scene before them, all they wanted to do was get the best footage to show their friends. And so it continued for the next 4 days with the ‘young trackers’ quite unstoppable. They eschewed riding along with parents, insisting on being squashed into one vehicle, with the Head Guide at Azura, Joseph, being their man. Lions, wild dog, elephant, hippos, crocs, giraffe, zebra, kudu, impala…so their spotting list grew and grew. Along with at least one tiger fish per day, plenty of swimming, topped off with bow and arrow making and marshmallows at the bush dinner fire. What more could you want from your safari? Maybe just a visit from the easter bunny, who arrived of course on cue.
And the parents, well we had a lot more space than usual on our landrover game viewers, but we met up with the kids for big breakfasts and sundowners in the bush – tables and beanbags seemingly emerging from nowhere, gin and tonics and kilimanjaro beers dispensed, to hear the stories of their morning and afternoon. Being old safari hands and knowing the children were taken care of did we spend some time at the pool, having massages on our decks, yoga sessions from the two yogis who were with us, well yes of course we did! Happy kids = happy parents and the days just flew by. So happy were the children, that they donated half of their precious easter egg haul to the staff, as a thank you for taking such great care of them. Family Safari in the green season, no animals to be seen in the thick green bush? Nonsense - it was a serious win and we’ll definitely be back again!
When the Wild Dog Met the Lion Cub
So there we were out on the landrover, checking out some of our our new lion cubs - the main Azura pride has 3 new little ones this year, and the Walkers pride has two, when the pack of wild dog that often frequent our area came bouncing out of the bush right in front of us: 1, 2, then eventually all 18 of them emerged from differing directions. It was as if the lions, king of their terrain after all, didn’t care, with life as usual, parents and cub casually chewing on a warthog bone that we had seen them kill earlier in the day. Right up until the first wild dog appeared…Then Mummy lion leapt into action, roaring and running in the direction of the wild dog alpha female.
So what happened? Who would run from who? Our vehicles sped to the scene of engagement. The lions, being just 3 adults, were seriously outnumbered. They closed to within metres, then they just looked at each other in a respectful kind of way, before the wild dogs turned tail, re-grouped, and bounced off in the direction they had come from to carry on their hunt for that morning.
These encounters between lion and wild dog are very common at Azura Selous, which I often call ‘predator central’. I was amazed at the restraint from the Mother lion, having already lost one of her cubs this season. She has been unable to produce milk, and even her remaining cub looked perilously thin. My daughter named the cub Farah, after Mo Farah the runner, because despite being thin it would need to be able to run long distances to survive. Seeing it share in the warthog kill was a wonderful moment, meaning a move on to solids, and a much better chance of survival. Let’s hope little Farah doesn’t have too many more run ins with the wild dog pack and makes it through OK.
Padi Junior Scuba Divers x 3
I have been waiting, not so patiently, for the day when my children would finally be able to dive with me. They have donned the equipment, and tried it out in the pool since they were 8 thanks to the Padi Bubblemaker course, and even been down to 2m in the sea with Azura’s patient dive instructors steering them from behind, whilst keeping them the right way up given the heaviness of the tank on their slight frames. But as my youngest turned 10 on Quilalea Island, I said its time, let’s get the books out and take your proper Padi Junior Open Water Scuba course. Yay – up they jumped, off to the Watersports, fins and masks at the ready.
It took just three days, and not a little patience from our instructor, to get them through the skills they needed to demonstrate in the pool and the ocean, and pass the written test, “do I really need to know this stuff”, asked my 10 year old, “can’t I just go dive?”. “Nope”, I replied, “let’s do this properly and then you can dive anywhere in the world”.
I can’t explain my joy as we fell backwards into the sea, BCD’s fully inflated, weight belts on, ready to drop down to 12m on Quilalea’s magnificent house reef. And there they were, swimming alongside me, amongst the usual spectacle of fusiliers, chocolate dip fish, surgeons, and angelfish, perfectly balanced and waving at me. They sped after turtles (we saw 5 that dive), trying to stroke their backs, gave me the OK sign every 2 minutes, then eventually calmed down into the most wonderful dive, ending with 8 blue spotted stingrays on stingray alley just off the headland of the island. Back on the island, my daughter screamed “did you see that huge titan triggerfish Mum?”, “did you see me touch the turtle”.“Did you see Dory?” said my son, “can we be marine biologists when we grow up?”. Job done. Little Jacques Cousteau’s in the making, ecstatically happy Mum .