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

The Silent World of Anjajavy

On a morning adventure into the big blue waters around Anjajavy le Lodge, in the north of Madagascar, I discovered a few new things about life, love and myself.

On that early Indian Ocean morning, lodge guide, Jonhson would pop his head out of the surface every now and again and shout out the name of a certain colourful thingamajig flittering past us. I realised, after a while, that it really isn’t only we humans who like to give our kids peculiar names. It’s a pastime that is even more popular with fish.

The epiphany began with the convict surgeonfish and continued with the twinspot snapper and rubberlips, who, with eye-and-nose goggles pulling at my mouth, appeared to me as somewhat of a kindred spirit.

Plectorhinchus playfairi – whitebarred rubberlips

As I started to fret that Jonhson had sunk to the bottom of the ocean bed, it also struck me that I had been snorkelling incorrectly my entire life. I’ve always sort of bobbed about on the top, trying to stay out of the way of wavy kelp and sharks, but Jonhston would take one great breath and then kick his way down, down, down, sailing smoothly into the coral caverns and crannies, seeking out every kind of fish he could find. This was the adventurer’s style of snorkelling, I realised, and I quickly followed suit.

Further down, with my ears well immersed, I experienced the true silence of the ocean for the first time. The kind of stillness that had been limited to the bath tub before. Now I shared my bath and bubbles with other lifeforms. I discovered the kind of comfortable silence that usually comes from long-held friendships.

While I’m sure the boxfish, halfmoon butterfly and emperor angelfish were enjoying a vibrant tête-à-tête among themselves, Rubberlips and I, at least I, in Rubberlips’ presence, was wrapped in quiet awe – in what Jacques Cousteau spoke of when he said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

“I swam across the rocks and compared myself favourably with the sars,” the French explorer and conservationist wrote. “To swim fishlike, horizontally, was the logical method in a medium eight hundred times denser than air. To halt and hang attached to nothing, no lines or air pipe to the surface, was a dream. At night I had often had visions of flying by extending my arms as wings. Now I flew without wings. (Since that first aqualung flight, I have never had a dream of flying.)”

It seemed like the same held for Jonhson.

Back on the boat and goggle-free, he told me that he had never snorkelled before arriving at Anjajavy le Lodge – several years ago. But while working in this unique part of the island, the waters of the protected peninsula and their rich sea life called him day after day, until he had mastered the art. The art of adventurer snorkelling.

He was hooked. In that catch-and-release kind of way, returning to land again, but with more wonder for the silent world than he could ever have imagined.

It’s evident in his growing collection of underwater photography and, like Madagascar’s own Cousteau, he uses each excursion into the sea to seek out and capture the complexity below. Because you can only conserve what you know about, he says. And because, really, he’s fallen in love with that feeling of flying without wings.


Take a look at some images from Jonhson’s Anjajavy collection:

Chaetodon auriga – Threadfin Butterflyfish
Chaetodon auriga – Threadfin Butterflyfish
Acanthurus triostegus – Convict surgeonfish
Acanthurus triostegus – Convict surgeonfish
Zanclus cornutus (Moorish Idol)
Pomacanthus imperator (emperor angelfish)
Ophiocoma erinaceus – boxfish
Lutjanus bohar (two-spot red snapper or twinspot snapper)
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Leiaster coriaceus – red spot sea starfish
Heniochus acuminatus – longfin bannerfish
Chaetodon trifasciatus – melon butterflyfish
Chaetodon trifasciatus – melon butterflyfish
Chaetodon lunula – Halfmoon butterfly

Flying to the Ends of the Earth – Madagascar

There are places in the world that are so remote they can only be accessed by air. Places that hold a great mystery for travellers and a distinctive bounty for those living there.

In the globetrotting series, Flying to the Ends of the Earth, pilot and former Royal Marine, Arthur Williams flies to places just like this – the world’s most remote and spectacular regions – by way of small prop plane. His mission: to find out how people survive and thrive there. The series opens your eyes to what these unique corners of Earth have in common – a sense of true adventure, authenticity, and a freedom and space – space without people – that is hard to find.

One faraway wilderness that holds this attraction for us is the island of Madagascar – more particularly, the protected Anjajavy peninsula where Anjajavy le Lodge sits between sea and forest.

We’ve written about our love affair with this part of the world before, but we thought we’d unravel the simple mystery of just how to get to paradise.

Below are a few need-to-knows about visiting one of the world’s most remote and remarkable corners.

Getting There

No road leads to Anjajavy… Only a few paths that gradually fade away lead from the town of Majunga to the lodge. You need to access Anjajavy le Lodge by a private plane which will land you gently in the heart of the reserve – the end of the world!

International flights from Europe, South Africa or Reunion fly in to Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar. Then a private flight will fly you over the west coast of the Grande Ile for 1 hour and 40 minutes to reach the peninsula of Anjajavy.

Formalities

Your passport, valid for the following six months, will be stamped with a free visa for a stay of 30 days from arrival at the international airport of Ivato in Antananarivo.

Time difference

Madagascar: GMT + 3 hours

A time peculiar to Anjajavy le Lodge was created so to be better adjusted to the natural cycles of the reserve and the village. At 5 pm, lemurs naturally join guests in the Oasis garden to take advantage the foliage. It is fresh hour, right in time for the “5 O’clock tea”.

Anjajavy le Lodge: GMT + 4 hours

Health

Anjajavy le Lodge has its own medical doctor or a paramedic staff based at the hotel. They are responsible for risk control supervision in terms of food safety (including daily microbiological control, inspections, delivery and medical supervision and employee training). They recommend taking a probiotic to help visitors who are travelling to other regions of Madagascar before going to Anjajavy.

No vaccination is required. Your vaccination records should however be up to date.

Malaria prevalence on the peninsula of Anjajavy is weak. Antimalarial treatment is however recommended in any part of Madagascar. Contact your doctor for advice.

Mineral water will be available in your villa throughout your stay.

Suitcases

Luggage needs to be flexible, 140 cm of linear dimension (height + width + depth) to fit light planes compartments. The maximum weight of baggage should not exceed 20 kg per person.

Dress code

In order to honor the hotel’s particular environment, the preferred dress code is “casual chic / safari chic / tropical chic” for the evening. No T-shirts and caps at dinner. To be culturally respectful, it is not suitable for women to reveal a bare chest. The same applies in the public areas of the lodge, whether it be on the beach or at the swimming pool.

Don’t forget sunscreen, sunglasses and light clothes.  Closed and/or walking shoes could be useful for some hikes. The hotel has a shop for common products.

Calm and stillness are all around. Children and teenagers will appreciate the peaceful character of the premises if they are initiated to it before arrival.

Communication

Anjajavy is an isolated place, the mobile coverage is restricted. The hotel uses a satellite connection for telephone and internet.

The maximum flow rate is 1 Mb/s which they share between everyone. For technical reasons beyond their control, this connection may be cut or delayed, sometimes for long periods.

A simple download can considerably disrupt the overall connection. They ask guests to be kind and to avoid video streaming and disable automatic updates for connected devices.

Currency

Malagasy currency: Ariary

one Euro = approximately 3,500 Ariary

Accepted currencies

Ariary, Euros and US Dollars

Credit cards

The lodge does not take commissions on credit card payments by International Visa Card and MasterCard.

Read more about Anjajavy le Lodge and Madagascar in our blog here >