September, 2016. I finally get my chance to go back to Africa! Four years earlier, I had travelled to Uganda for 3 weeks on a medical mission. We spent most of our time, under very primitive circumstances. There was often no running water, no proper toilets and questionable sanitary conditions. This time, the experience would be much different. The plan was to spend our vacation on safari, observing the wild animals and hopefully, experiencing new food adventures! Our time would be spent in Botswana and Zambia, celebrating our 20 year wedding anniversary. I can’t wait! The reason we chose to spend a majority of our time in Botswana is that Botswana is renowned for responsible tourism, focusing on a high-end, low impact model which benefits the local people. This focus on sustainability makes it one of the most rewarding and game-rich safari destinations in Africa.
We begin our journey in Cape Town, South Africa, at the southern most tip of Africa. We decide that this will be the spot where we can adjust to the time change, relax and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. I chose a small boutique hotel in Camps Bay.
POD Hotel proved to be the perfect option. It has the perfect blend of sleek, modern and natural elements and is set on a hillside, overlooking the ocean. The management is kind enough to upgrade us to their best room. It’s a corner unit, with floor to ceiling windows, an open concept shower, large tub, unlimited mini bar and snacks and the MOST amazing bed.
They also offer an amazing breakfast, that is included in your room rate! Yum! Highly recommend!
Our first day in South Africa, is spent on an all day tour of the wine country through African Eagle (arranged by the hotel). An amazing day, exploring the sights, sipping wine, shopping and enjoying good food. We started our wine tasting at Zevenwacht.
It’s a beautiful estate, located on a small lake, with gorgeous views. I loved how they paired their wines (Sauvignon Blanc) with a variety of cheeses.
Next we stopped in the town of Stellenbosch, located on the heart of the Cape Winelands. It is adorable, with its oak lined streets and Cale Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture!
It is picturesque and quaint, with lots of sidewalk cafes and shops.
We stopped for a quick round of shopping (a bit pricey) and then head to lunch in the town of Franschhoek. Our tour guide makes a recommendation for lunch. Not satisfied, we find another restaurant, off the beaten path. The menu looks perfect, the tables are set under large trees….and there is no one there?! We decide to take a risk and it is amazing! The duck confit, I am told, was very good. I ordered the salmon salad, over smashed potatoes. It is heavenly.
The Sauvignon Blanc is the icing on the cake! The name of the restaurant is Cafe des Arts. A great find! I hope it’s still there!
Our next stop is at Taste at Laborie.
We are welcomed by a cozy tasting room connected to a beautiful patio. Here, we get to sample a variety of wines and as an added surprise, brandy.
Our last stop is at Marianne, which offered the best views of the day, which was perfect since the sun was beginning to set in the sky, casting a beautiful glow on the landscape. Heavenly!
The next day, we opted for a half day tour of the Cape of Good Hope, Boulder Beach and surrounds. This included a hike around the Cape of Good Hope. I was in heaven! Imagine breathtaking vistas, crashing waves, Penguins, ostrich, and baboons!
Between both of these tours, we sadly, did not have a chance to experience much of the food scene in Cape Town (which is supposed to be amazing), so I guess that means I need to go back!
Our journey to our safari begins four hours north in Maun, Botswana, via a 12 seat Caravan?.
The Okavango Delta is fertile and green, despite it being the dry season. The view from the airplane is utterly unreal. From 10,000 feet you can see numerous of herds of elephants, pods of hippos and a few wandering giraffe. For the next 10 days, we will visit 4 Sanctuary Retreats lodges in Botswana, along the Okavango Delta and in Zambia, on the Zambezi River. My goal is to eat a pescetarian, gluten free diet. Will this be possible in Africa?!? Yes! It is!
The food at all if the lodges was very good, with tons of dietary options and each lodge was able to accommodate my gluten free diet. All of the Sanctuary Retreat lodges that we stayed at offered the same enormous meal plan, which is included in the cost of your stay. For breakfast, they offer a large continental breakfast, along with a small menu offering eggs and various side dishes.
Coffee, tea and baked goods are offered during the morning game drive.
To my surprise, each lodge prepared gluten free goodies, specially for me! Lunch is served in three courses, with wine and multiple options available.
Generally, a gorgeous puréed soup or beautiful salad to start. Meat, fish and vegetarian options were available for the main course. The desserts were rarely gluten free, so I opted for a fruit plate. High Tea is served before the evening game drive with a huge selection of sweets and savories along with coffee and tea.
At the end of the evening game drive, they serve a sundowners, which generally consists of wine, beer or cocktails with nuts, dried fruit and beef jerky.
Finally, dinner is served at 8pm and it’s another three course extravaganza. Phew!
All of the Sanctuary Retreat lodges that we stayed at were fantastic. Each place had magical element about it! Our favorite had to be Baine’s Camp. Located on a private concession in the Okavango Delta, this rustic styled lodge, with only 8 rooms, is intimate, has amazing service and has gorgeous surrounds.
Special thanks to Henry for making us feel so at home! Picture candlelit bubble baths under the stars as well as sleeping under the stars in the comfort of your four poster king sized bed, with the sounds of hippos, and crickets singing you to sleep. The Elephant Experience that they offer made for one of the most memorable days of my life.
And the game drives here were some of the best of our entire trip! These were experiences right out of my dreams…..
The newly remodeled Chief’s Camp was the most luxurious of all of the accommodations. We were welcomed by a huge guest house, filled with floor to ceiling windows, to take advantage of the panoramic views of the Moremi Game Reserve.
Gorgeously decorated, each guest house came complete with an indoor and outdoor shower, huge soaking tub and our own plunge pool. The food was also amazing.
We were treated to a BBQ feast of their traditional foods under a moonlit sky. The game drives here, were also very abundant! We saw the big five!
Sanctuary Chobe Chilwero was a larger camp, located on a hill top with stunning views of the Chobe River.
The chef here took special care in arranging my gluten free options. He checked in with me at every meal. I really appreciated this special attention.
The evening boat rides were wonderful and gave us a different viewing perspective for the elephants, African buffalo, hippos, crocodiles and birds.
We did enjoy one afternoon at the spa here, as well.
We were very pleased with the tranquil facilities and our massages!
Sussi & Chuma, located in Zambia, on a beautiful stretch of the Zambezi River, marked the last stop of our trip. We spent 3 days exploring Victoria Falls, taking boat rides, fishing and enjoying the spa.
The chef here made the best gluten free toast and muffins, using cassava flour. Have you ever used it? It was the base for much of the gluten free goodies that were made for me in Africa. It’s made from a root, so it’s gluten free and grain free.
Best of all it’s easy to use. The chef was kind enough to share his recipes for pancakes and chapati with me. As an added bonus, Malala (the esthetician) went entirely out of her way and purchased a 2 kg bag of cassava flour for me to take home.
(Can you imagine explaining that to the customs officer in Amsterdam?!)
Something I love about traveling the globe, is being exposed to a multitude of new flavors, spices, textures, ingredients and food combinations. My travels stay with me, not only in my memories and pictures, but in the recipes and food inspiration that follows me back to my kitchen. On this trip, the two things I have developed a huge appreciation for are cassava flour and the safari tradition of the sundowner.
The sundowner is an essential part of traditional safari life, the concept of having drinks while watching the sun go down.
It originates from the time of the great safaris of the 1920’s. Picture the serving of elegant ‘bush’ cocktails against the unforgettable backdrop of the African sunset. Our sundowner began with a gentle drive to a scenic spot where wine, cocktails and snacks are set up. Magical, memorable and romantic, the sundowner is an experience not to be missed and I look forward to replicating back home in Oregon, but there is NOTHING like an African sunset.
Visit Sanctuary Retreats for more information!