Early breakfast; early getaway. And direct to Maputo Special Reserve, through almost 1 500 km² of agrarian conservation to reach Anvil Bay, the private and exclusive barefoot beach camp.
MAPUTO SPECIAL RESERVE
Off-roading at its best, we had deflated the tyres and listened to the warning of the angry elephants at the entrance gate to the reserve. ‘They charge vehicles. Not mock, real, deadly charge. Drive forward or reverse as fast possible in opposite direction. They big business. Grande!’ The ranger widened his arms either side of him, reinforcing the “big”. Bring it on.
Unfortunately, after spending over three hours exploring the reserve, okay, hunting down the unruly beasts. I’d only ever experienced a mock charge by an elephant. Tut! Now the thought of a real, deadly charge caused my amygdala to fire off every thrilling emotion. We never crossed their path. It was searingly hot, we resigned ourselves to accepting they took cover amid the thick bush, where vehicle tracks weren’t visible. Off-piste? No, respect the rules.
The highlight was watching three jackals stalk four adults and two young wildebeest. They’d separated from the larger herd and ungainly tried escaping an ambush. The adults outsmarted the predators by keeping close to the young, causing the jackals to surrender.
The Special Elephant Reserve, measuring just under 1 500 km² was established in 1960 to protect the elephant population in the region. In 1969 it was renamed as “Reserva Especial do Maputo”, Maputo Special Reserve, to highlight the conservation status beyond just elephants.
The naturally occurring elephant populations of KwaZulu-Natal and southern Mozambique historically moved freely across the border. However, during the Mozambican war (1975-1992) these elephants suffered greatly from setting off landmines and getting caught in snares set for smaller game. In a bid to safeguard them on the South African side, the northern border of Tembe Elephant Park was fenced in 1989. Unfortunately, this move cut the elephant population in half.
The remnant resident elephant population in Maputo Special Reserve were able to survive the civil war and are now flourishing, with the last game count revealing a population of over 400 elephants that graze in large herds on the open floodplains or explore the thick dune forests.
On their website, Anvil Bay advertised “To give our guests the best experience of life on a beach and preserve the raw natural beauty of this pristine piece of paradise we have built as little as possible at Anvil Bay. Canvas tents provide shade on the beach and a thatched retreat in the forest shelter from occasional storms. The beach bar lounge and restaurant are centrally positioned on the bay with the accommodations either side so guests can book to be close to the action or enjoy even more isolation on the north and south ends.” Nothing false about their advertising! A pristine piece of unrivalled paradise.
We spent three nights in the Casinha, all made from locally sourced sustainable materials and created by residents, nestled in the dune forest on stilted wooden decks each with its stretch of beachfront.
The owners, Ricky and Paul, delighted us with their ebullient, infectious warmth while giving us ‘romantics’ space to enjoy everything the camp provided. An ocean safari and scuba diving delivered a wealth of sea life: gigantic leatherback turtles, silky bottlenose dolphins and prehistoric-looking Dugongs. Unfortunately, the whale sharks and manta rays kept at bay.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
New Year’s Eve celebrated around a fire blazing on the beach and beneath the sizzling bright night sky. Fireworks, happy guests and a hundred metres up the beach the staff members danced and sang and were merry.
THE CHOICE IS…
If someone had to ask me to choose between Motswari Private Game Reserve, a superior bush experience, or Anvil Bay, an inimitable beach adventure I simply wouldn’t be able to…
Please Note: For copyright purposes, the resolution of each image below is considerably reduced.