The Untouched Coast of Vilankulo Mozambique

August 7, 2018

Earlier this year we travelled to Vilankulo. A small town situated along the Mozambique coastline that acts as a gateway to the ever so epic Bazaruto Archipelago. Originally called Vilanculos during colonial times the town was named after local tribal chief Gamala Vilankulo Mukoke, the name was changed to Vilankulo when Mozambique become independent 1975.

The beaches run endlessly up the coastline and are wild in nature with the each palm tree adopting their own personality. During low tide the ocean mysteriously hides itself leaving the once bobbing dhows stranded on the white sands longing  to be rescued against a seamless African sky dotted with cotton-candy clouds.

Each morning we would explore the wonderfully wide shores and sand-blasted hideaways that the coastline of Vilankulo had to offer us stopping from time to time to hide beneath a mangrove tree from the summer heat. We found plenty of washed up coconuts and mountains of wild oysters shells glistening in the sun.

All walks were proceeded by fresh coconut water that our chef at Vila La Mar, Ernesto, would prepare for us by effortlessly scaling a six metre palm tree out back with his machete, followed by a quick education about the three stages of coconut maturity.

We stayed at Vila La Mar for the week we spent in Vilankulo. A beautiful self-catering luxury villa situated on the beach and set back in lush tropical gardens. There’s not much to do at the villa besides soaking up the sun while reading endless summer novels. Which to be honest, suited me just fine.

As for Vilankulo itself there’s plenty of activities to keep you entertained during your stay:
Day trips to the nearby islands in the Bazaruto Archipelago. (Detailed blog post to follow soon about that.)
– Go for a sunset horse riding safari. Your guide will take you along parts of untouched beach for a real ‘island hideaway’ feel. You even have the option of going swimming with the horses.
Explore the small (only 5km) town of Vilankulo. The town shuts down on Sunday’s so make a plan to visit during the week.
Go shopping for fresh fish for dinner. Every afternoon, around 4pm at the beach near Oddysea Dive, the fishermen beach their motleyed dhows. Women and children load the fish and seafood into colourful plastic buckets and a pop-up auction follows. This is a small glimpse into the daily lives of the locals.
Visit local beach bars such as Casbah, Samara or Archipelago Resort for lunch and cocktails.
Go diving/snorkelling. I have never seen so many colourful fish in such close proximity. I’ve snorkelled in a lot of places around the world and the Archipelago still wins hands down. The Bazaruto islands and its surrounding coral reefs were declared a national park in 1971.
– If horse riding isn’t for you there’s always the option to go on a sunset dhow safari.
– Vilanculos is the perfect place to learn to kite surf.

Vilankulo has been growing extensively over the last decade with a considerable inward investment into its tourism infrastructure. It is home to a new international airport which has daily flights to several regional destinations.

With that being said the town is still very rural with most of the locals living a very simple life either farming or fishing while most homes are built out of dried reeds and tin. Colour is embraced throughout the town with the colour blocking of buildings and handmade garments. Games of informal football take place on the beach while fisherman mend their nets nearby or play a game of cards.

A special shoutout to two of my very best friends Marius and Paul for introducing us to Vilankulo who unfortunately had to drop out of our holiday due to medical reasons. They always used to tell us stories about this small Mozambique town and how special the place was but I never fully grasped it’s magic until I got to experience it for myself.

An untouched coastline, thousands of wild palm trees, a preserved coral reef still abundant with sea life, azure blue waters with deserted islands scattered throughout, simple living consisting of fresh coconuts and omega rich fish. What’s not to love?

Till next time Vilankulo.

wearing:
orange swimsuit – Sommer Swim
white flare trousers – H&M Studio
cat eye sunnies – Le Specs
mini fang necklace – Missoma
black dress – H&M Trend
stripped espadrilles – H&M
wooden bag – Shop On Y Va
tortoise shell sunnies – Miu Miu
lace lingerie – Cotton On Body
white tee – Mango
yellow jumper – Holiday Boileau
denim shorts – Zara
round basket bag – Shop On Y Va
rope sandals – Nomadic State of Mind
yellow floral dress – Mango
yellow dress – Free People
maroon sandals – Trenery
stripped shorts – Billabong
stripped silk set – H&M Trend
flat sunnies – Celine
white shirt – H&M Trend
basket shopper – Cotton On


* All photos taken by myself and Justin Polkey 

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48 Hours in the Cape Winelands

July 5, 2018

Last week we headed out of town for a two day adventure in the winelands to celebrate my birthday. I’m a bit of an introvert and not big on parties but prefer getaways, particularly ones that include lots of food, as my birthday treat.

Our first stop on our mini road trip was Terroir at Kleine Zalze, a quiet vineyard setting overlooking the mountains of Stellenbosch where we were greeted by Chef Michael Broughton who has been running to kitchen at Terroir since 2004. I was completely blown away with my experience at Terroir. No fancy entrance or decor, no frilly airs and graces but rather a restaurant that serves exceptional food plated with a certain flare and refinement. The service is phenomenal with the perfect amount of small talk from the waiters and small touches like the refolding  of our napkins each time we got up to take a stroll around the garden.

It’s hard to choose a favourite dish from our four course (more like eight because Justin and I shared each dish on the menu) tasting menu however the Malay style baby squid with smoked mackerel, aioli and coconut was a definite stand out, presented as a beautiful wreath and robust in flavour, I won’t be forgetting that dish anytime soon.

Each dish on the menu was paired perfectly with Kleine Zalze’s award winning wines. The perfect opportunity to sample and savour the the farms wines. In the end we stocked up on a case their 2016 Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier, a fruity wine with allspice flavours and floral nose. They also have a range of rather affordable yet sophisticated MCC’s.

Kleine Zalze are currently running a winter special which is valid till the 30th September –  a 2 course menu for R295 or a four course menu for R450 p.p with each special including a glass of Kleine Zalze award winning wine. Booking is recommended.

Terroir’s menu evolves with the seasons and the inspiration of chef Michael Broughton however I’ve attached an example of what we experienced below in order of the images:

Starters
Comté onion soup with a poached hens egg and onion brioche
Malay style baby squid with smoked mackerel, aïoli and coconut
Prawn risotto with Broughton’s famous sauce américaine (This dish has been on the menu for 14 years!)
Lamb with parision gnocchi, kimchi, aïoli and jus

Mains
Duck with roasted kohlrabi, rhubarb jus and carrot crumble
Pan fried line fish served with coconut yogurt curry, bhaji, pak choi and confit onion

Desserts
Sacher with caramel crunch and kirsch ice cream
Vanilla bean tart with honey ice cream and almond crumble

 

With fill and happy tummies we headed to Majeka House in Stellenbosch to check in for our night’s stay. Majeka House has been on my travel wish list for years now and was voted the best design hotel in the Condé Nast Johansens 2017 awards. The hotel is situated in a small leafy suburb of Stellenbosch surrounded by mountains and vineyards and a ten minute drive to the town’s centre.

The hotel went under a major refurbishment in 2011 by designer Etienne Hanekom who created a “neo-colonial look with subtle French and Moroccan influences.”  A light and airy ambience is filled with hand crafted furniture and quirky design details such as a statue, carving or painting of a pig as a tribute to the owner’s love for the animal.

We were shown to our dreamy poolside room complete with flamingo wallpaper making all my pink and electric dreams come true. Majeka House has a total of 23 rooms spread across four room categories offering a wealth of experiences for a variety of travellers.

I spent the remainder of my afternoon between the hydrotherapy pool, sauna and swimming pool at Majeka House’s very own spa. A beautiful open space that allows for the flow of light courtesy of their sky light. With two single therapy rooms and a room for couples’ treatments, the spa offers a range of holistic facial and body treatments, unfortunately they were fully booked during our stay.

Makaron restaurant was closed so dinner was served in the cosy MLounge amongst the bookshelves of French novels where we dined on oysters and bubbles, a wagyu beef burger and calamari. We retired to our room early to watch the FIFA world cup from our insanely large and comfortable hotel bed.

I woke up on next morning a year older and a whole lot happier, the loviest of staff at Majeka House had baked me my very own birthday cake. A sort of carrot cake topped with a blue berry compote, fresh mint and layered in cream cheese frosting – yes please!

Breakfast was served out on the garden terrace amongst the mosaic tiles and Moroccan inspired cacti. If there’s one thing Majeka House do better than most hotels it has got to be their breakfast. A selection of freshly baked pastries from classic croissants to mouth watering madeleines and french caramels and a selection of freshly baked breads. Bubbles and fruit jars adorn the buffet table with too many delicious dishes to choose from the hot menu. I was torn between the warm whiskey oats and the smoked salmon rösti. I vow to return to Majeka House just to eat every pastry on their breakfast table. It’s sublime.

Majeka House lived up to all my expectations and more. Such warm and welcoming service throughout our stay and I seriously hope to return one day soon.

All packed up we bid our farewells to Majeka House and took the scenic route to Franschhoek via Helshoogte pass for our next foodie stop – Haute Cabrière.

I’ve always been a fan of Haute Cabrière’s wines, particularly their Chardonnay Pinot Noir which pairs perfectly with sushi during those hot summer days, however on this particular chilly winter’s afternoon I was craving a big glass of their Reserve Pinot Noir – a fruity wine with hints of tobacco and spice.

Lunch was served inside, an elegant setting nestled inside a stone cellar beside a majestic fireplace. We opted for a two course meal from their a la carte menu, they also offer a 6 course tasting menu which offers an explosion of flavours such as pan fried sweet bread and venison ragout. The food philosophy of Haute Cabrière is courtesy of chefs Nic van Wyk and Westley Muller who inspire bold flavours while making use of classic techniques.

Haute Cabrière’s winter prices are seriously reasonable with a full 6 course tasting menu costing R450 p.p for both food and wine. (Valid till 31 August) As mentioned earlier we just opted for the two course menu which costs R290 for a starter and a main.

Starters
Pea and chorizo soup. Fresh peas, crispy chorizo, pork puff and pea velouote
Steak tartare. Hand cut sirloin with a quail egg (Is that not the prettiest steak tartare you’ve ever seen?!)

Mains
Prawns. Fresh tagliatelle, chill, garlic, parsley and parmesan
Wild mushroom risotto. Parmesan and truffle foam

See their full menu here.

Our final stop on our Cape Winelands tour was La Petite Ferme.  “A destination for all local and international guests, offering award-winning cuisine, wines and accommodation” and the most spectacular view of the whole of Franschhoek.

The story behind this establishment is truly something quite beautiful. The 40 seater restaurant burnt down in a tragic fire back in 1996, what’s truly remarkable though is that it was brought back to life over the next 6 months thanks to the local community and staff who still work in the kitchen to this day.

La Petite Ferme offers a range of luxury accommodation with large rooms that boost the best of views. We had our own private liabary suite with (once again) our own swimming pool. Pity the weather turned on us otherwise I might just have spent my whole afternoon soaking up he remaining warmth like a lizard in the sun.

With the change in weather and the restaurant closed for the evening we decided to order some cheeky room service. My meal was outstanding and definitely the most plate worthy (read insta worthy) room service I’ve ever received which has only left me wanting to return to La Petite Ferme to experience their full on dining experience.

 

Breakfast was served the following morning in their newly renovated bright and elegant restaurant while fires blazed in each corner. Their full farm breakfast still makes my mouth water whenever I think about it. Edamame beans, foraged mushrooms and smoked bacon- simple, hearty and absolutely delicious.

After breakfast we had a wine orientation guided by a very charismatic Avron Williams to learn about the history of La Petite Ferme’s wine making and the growth of their vines. Every wine orientation is followed by a seated tasting of their beautiful wines in the bar with a story of how each wine came into fruition. We tasted a total of 6 of their wines – three reds and three whites. My favourite still being their Shiraz. It’s a truly unique and interesting experience that left me wanting to sign up for a mini wine course of sorts to learn more about wine.

The Cape Winelands are looking truly remarkable at this time of the year and most restaurants and hotels are running winter deals, it’s the perfect excuse to plan a weekend away with your loved one or friends. In my opinion Cape Town is actually more beautiful during the winter so why not embrace it and swap Netflix out for a lunch amounts the vineyards.


*All photos by myself and Justin Polkey.

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WILD with French Gala

July 14, 2016

There’s nothing that quite compares to taking a walk on the wild side… and I literally mean “the wild side”.

I’ve had some pretty interesting shoots as a model over the past seven years but working with wild animals always tops the list. Riding Zebra’s, racing cheetahs, catching the breeze with eagles, walking with elephants and hanging out with Lions.

There’s a level of respect that you develop and knowledge that you gain when working in such close proximity to such powerful creatures and you realise how volatile our world truly is and the importance of preserving what and who we’ve been blessed with to share our incredible planet.

We tend to take a lot of things in our life for granted and it’s for that very reason that I have always kept a gratitude diary where every couple of days or so I write down a few things that I am grateful for. Be it the dinner my mother prepared for me or the fact that I have running water when I turn on the taps.

A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles.

xxx
EJ

WILD // French Gala
Photographer: Adrian Nakic
Stylist: Charla Carter
H&M: June Sawyer
Model: Me, Outlaws Models

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