8 African Experiences to Transform You

Have you ever gone on a trip thinking from the outset: this will change my life?

I haven’t and yet, in retrospect, each and every trip has in some way transformed me, transformed my life.

What’s most surprising though, looking back at my travels through Africa, is how so often it isn’t simply the expected or the dramatic that starts the change in motion. It’s a myriad of many little spells and sparks.

It isn’t merely seeing Kilimanjaro standing tall in the distance that gives you renewed energy, clarity, understanding. It’s so much more than that. Like walking it perhaps… Experiencing the process.

Or horse-riding in the shadow of the great mountain, with a horse and a guide that you connect with. Or cycling across the wild plains of big cat country, starting out in fear and finishing in joy. 

Transformation is in the release of anxiety and the acceptance of the unknown.

It isn’t merely being in nature, it’s your openness to it, your presence. It’s the healers and elders helping you to find the words to comprehend it all. To show you the path to new truths.

It isn’t merely the elephant rubbing its trunk against your cheek, but the safe space created by the keepers and handlers and other guests in unique sanctuaries.

Africa can transform you in a conversation, a show of kindness and compassion on a drive from the airport to your lodge, with the dirt roads, bush scent and dance of impala across your view. A connecting of minds and hearts and senses.

Sometimes it takes longer, the course of a week-long stay, as your nerve and sinew remember how to relax, release, in the hands of a therapist or the warm sea’s light embrace. In the remembrance of the wisdom of the simple things.

The change can start slowly, at the beginning of a mountain trail, with the natter of the mind still holding your heart in its fist, and might only show itself clearly once the last valley has been crossed. When the fresh air has blown a new course through you. When the clouds lift and light shines in at just the right angle to create the epiphany that everything is, actually, as it should be.

Transformation can come in the form of a book, a concert, heartbreak as much as love, calamity as much as good fortune. It can come instantly or take months, years. And when it does, life is always better for it.

Consider this your invitation to the kind of travel that goes deeper, the kind of journeys that transform, the kind of adventures that Africa has in abundance.

Here are 8 African experiences to transform you.

1. Journeys in Rejuvenation

The newly-launched Londolozi Healing House takes you from the world of doing into the world of being, and combines safari excursions with artful resting, curated bodywork and yoga in the wilderness of Londolozi, in the Sabi Sand. Experience unique treatment combinations called ‘Journeys’ for true rejuvenation, restoration and transformation, guided by a team of wellness practitioners, bodywork therapists, wilderness guides, yoga instructors and a sound healer.

Read more in Londolozi’s blog and website.

2. Canoeing the Zambezi River

Feel the sweet blend of adrenaline, trepidation and wilderness on a ride down one of Africa’s most renowned rivers at Royal Chundu, in Zambia. It is a journey that takes you out of yourself only to bring you more into yourself. Get up close to the watery mystery, its animals and plant life, scents and sounds while paddling with a guide. It’s one of those rare moments in life that stand out, that stay with you and make you feel both, strangely, more peaceful and alive. Alive among elephants, otters, hippo, crocodiles and great African fish eagles, of course…

3. Connecting with Elephants

Spending time connecting with the elephant herd at Camp Jabulani you learn as much about yourself as you do elephants. Discovering the ways these great animals live, love and play is eye-opening – how every part of their existence is geared towards assisting each other, their compassion and depth, their capacity for fun and curiosity. If you open yourself to them and their lessons, their love, you are bound to go home a more enlightened and peaceful person.

4. Mindful Eating

The culinary experience at Greenhouse, at The Cellars-Hohenort in Cape Town, transforms the way we see food. It goes beyond mere taste and presentation. It is a journey that impels you to think about each mouthful, to be mindful while dining and to give your attention to the story behind the ingredients, the dish, the culture, land and people involved. Eating will never be the same for you after a meal here.

5. A Sense of Time with Rock Art

Learning about how others live, lived, is one of travel’s greatest gifts. It gives you greater clarity when looking at your own day to day, but also your place in time. It reminds you that the ways things are done are not fixed laws, but rather accepted fads. It reminds you of your freedom to live in your own way. Witnessing the tales and art work of the hunter gatherer Bushmen tribes on the rock walls of Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat in the Cederberg Mountains does just this. With a rock art curator to guide you in the process, you’ll discover the spiritual world of these indigenous people – the most ancient tribe in the world – and likely be moved by their philosophy of touching the earth lightly.

6. Animals Never Before Seen

There is something special about Anjajavy le Lodge in Madagascar. It is one of the most authentic and sincere places you will come across on your travels. A wild land of mangroves, beautiful coral reefs, bays and baobabs, fossil caves, white beaches, traditional tombs, and animals unique only to this Indian Ocean island – lemurs, fossa, giant chameleons. With no threat posed (none of the animals are poisonous), you’ll find yourself overcoming fears, you’ll see the adventurer in you step out, your courage ignited by the ocean air. It’s freeing and when one feels free, anything is possible. Witnessing such a feat of conservation at work in the protected Anjajavy reserve reminds you of the power of a few inspired individuals. Perhaps your inner conservationist will blossom here too.

7. The Mountains are Calling

Cape Town is a special place, with special powers, but much of its magic lies in it mountains. Even the sight of them has had people pop up houses all around their foothills and cliffs. The transformation happens, though, once you put foot to rocky earth. With every step winding up Lion’s Head, Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, and so many others, you’ll feel your heart pulsing,  sweat glowing and endorphins rolling. Somehow, at the end of a hike in these mountains, looking out over sea and city, answers arise, concerns dissolve, ideas are sparked and that new leaf feeling takes over. Time spent disconnected, away from phones and computers, will do this. Make a habit of returning to the mountains for clarity and energy and you’ll see the transformation start to take shape.

Explore the mountains from your base at Ellerman House, The Cellars-Hohenort or Delaire Graff Estate.

8. At One With A Horse in the Wild

Whether your horse is in the desert or has no name is irrelevant, the magic happens in your connection with this sensitive and powerful animal. One of the most potent and enchanting places to feel the transformative powers of horsekind is ol Donyo Lodge in the Chyulu Hills of Kenya. Traipsing across open plains with leopard, elephant, giraffe, wildebeest and other wild things all around, you have only your horse and yourself to trust. It takes two, as they say… It’s a lesson for professional and beginner riders alike, as this is no country farm. At the end of the ride, you’ll notice how in the moment you are, you might even feel confidence and pride return, you’ll definitely feel in awe of the natural world and the majestic, humane and respectful way the horses move between the other four-legged animals of this wilderness. A great lesson for us all.

20 Degres Sud’s Famous Mauritian Chicken Curry

For a taste of Mauritius, its rich Creole spices and Eastern influences, we share with you a special recipe from a cooking class at 20 Degres Sud, creating their Famous Mauritian Chicken Curry.

For 6 People

1kg unskinned chicken legs
2 peeled potatoes cut into small cubes
3 peeled tomatoes
5 curry leaves
2 onions
40g garlic & ginger paste
100g curry pouder
15g brown sugar
375ml home made chicken stock
Fresh coriander
2 dry chilli

Method
Debone and skin the chicken. Cut into small pieces of 3cm. Pan fry the chicken in natural oil. Reserve.
Crush garlic and ginger to get a smooth paste. In a large pan, heat some oil and cook the onions with the garlic and ginger paste. Add curry leaves, peeled tomatoes, chilli, sugar and curry powder.
Let it cook slowly for 5 minutes. When dry, add enough chicken stock to rehydrate the mix. Repeat 5 to 6 times to cook the mix correctly.
Mince 2 onions, season and fry in hot oil.
Add the chicken and let it simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
Adjust seasoning during cooking.
Top up with fresh diced coriander and fried onions to serve.

How We Celebrated World Oceans Day 2018

“This is where I first learnt to swim,” he said. “As a kid we used to come down to this exact beach, my cousins and I. The whole family.”

Grant, now the Head Chef of Ellerman House, spoke as he pointed to the sandy inlet stretching out from sea to street beside the harbour in Kalk Bay, Cape Town.

I tried to picture him, the tallest of our chefs in Africa, as a young boy. When this failed, I pictured myself, as a girl, learning to swim in a family friend’s pool. I tried to flip back to that earliest memory of being in the sea. And I saw it – the first waterwings, the first bodyboard, the first wetsuit.

I saw the ocean and the traffic jams it had caused with all the cityfolk making their way to the sea on baking Cape days. I saw all the picnic baskets, snorkels, goggles, flippers, sand castles, umbrellas. Paraphernalia of the oceanlover.

I could see Grant now among them, just one of the crowd of boys excited to be barefoot and free, on sand and in sea.

Today we were standing on the harbour jetty looking out over the beachfront and at the blue – the light blue, deep blue, flat blue, choppy blue.

“I think that’s them,” Grant said, pointing to a spec on the horizon.

“No, that’s going the opposite way. That boat’s still going out to sea,” said another member of our party.

We waited some more, as the spec grew closer, bigger, until we could spy the people on board – our Chef and Maître de Maison cum fishermen. Ashley Moss (Greenhouse, The Cellars-Hohenort) and Paul Bruce-Brand (Ellerman House), respectively, who had spent the morning, from sunrise to noon, out at sea with a local fisherman.

“Look at them,” Grant said, “they’re still smiling.”

It was not the warmest day. The sky and sea were not blue as I might have alluded to. They were a white-grey. But it was true, the men were smiling. Even Fadil, who had allowed our two to fish with him for a morning, was smiling.

“Maybe they’ve been converted,” I said. Thinking of the sea and her spell. Thinking of Grant and me as kids, splashing in the shallow waves for hours, immune to the frostbite and brain-freeze. Thinking of our smiles and yelps and cartwheels and somersaults, like seals playing mermen and mermaids. Thinking of that general glow the sea casts over you. How it washes away the rest of the world, while you lose yourself in its world.

Paul and Ashley stepped off the boat, onto the harbour jetty, carrying their catch of the day – red roman and bream. We joked about their size, the way fishermen do. But really we were impressed, a little envious, and wishing we’d had the courage to join them.

We had come to learn more about the local fishing community, about supporting local and sustainable fishing practices. We had come to remind ourselves of the smell of the sea, and all the reasons we need and love it.

It wasn’t quite until Grant took me back to my childhood that I realised just how pivotal the ocean has been in my life, in all the lives around me – from our earliest memories, our favourite memories, to those still being made.

There are infinite reasons and ways to celebrate World Oceans Day, as it fell on 8 June this week. One of the most appealing ways, we thought, was food…

In collaboration with Relais & Châteaux alongside the NGO  Ethic Ocean, the chefs of several of the Relais & Châteaux hotels and lodges in Africa and the Indian Ocean planned, prepared and served a  special seafood dinner on the night of World Oceans Day to shed light on sustainability, on looking after our oceans while still enjoying them and their bounty.

Below is a look at the hotels and lodges that participated and the menus created by the chefs, from the wilderness of South Africa and the city lights of Cape Town and Johannesburg to the tropical Indian Ocean islands of Zanzibar, Mauritius and the Seychelles.

Discover more:

Relais & Châteaux + Exquisite Fish
Relais & Châteaux’s Celebrity Chefs Fight to Save Our Oceans
Attenborough’s message for World Oceans Day

20 Degres Sud, Mauritius

Read more > WOD_20 Degres Sud Menu

North Island, Seychelles

Read more >

Camp Jambulani, Kapama Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Read more >

Londolozi Private Game Reserve, Sabi Sand, South Africa

Read more >

Delaire Graff Estate, Cape Winelands

Read more >

Ellerman House, Cape Town, South Africa

Read more >

Zanzibar Luxury White Sand Villas & Spa, Zanzibar

Read more > WOD_Zanzibar White Sand Menu 2018

AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, Johannesburg, South Africa

Read more >

“The sea is as near as we come to another world.” – Anne Stevenson