Warning: there are seven (!) official mealtimes on an &Beyond safari. Until you’ve actually experienced them, it may sound excessive, but be forewarned. You’ll likely set out with the best intentions of eating ‘sensibly’ and skipping a few of those feeding times, but chances are it just won’t (nor should it) happen. Each and every meal, nibble, drink and dessert is indeed a celebration not to be missed.
Across all 29 camps and lodges in our portfolio, the recipe for an unforgettable guest experience is universal. It is the perfect mix of exhilarating wildlife sightings, cultural interactions and bucket list adventures in iconic natural destinations with industry-leading guides, combined with world-class hospitality in luxurious homes-away-from-home, and imbued throughout with good, old-fashioned comfort food for the soul.
The food obviously being a crucial ingredient in this well-honed recipe. A well-fed guest is a happy guest, which is why our expert chefs put so much time, expertise, creativity and flair into perfecting each of those seven official mealtimes.
These 10 tenets behind our food ethos ensure that each and every ‘moment on the lips’ is indeed a celebration.
&Beyond food is a celebration of sustainable, regionally-inspired and wholesome food.
1. Our family recipe
Our food philosophy is simple. &Beyond food exudes the essence of each destination’s richness, history and soul. Fresh, locally-produced and regionally-inspired food is our aim, purchased wherever possible from the surrounding communities or lovingly harvested in our own lodge shambas (vegetable gardens).
Across six African countries, and Chile too, our expert chefs use only the freshest farm-to-table ingredients to whip up mouth-watering meals that are robust, irresistible and bursting with delicious local flair. Before, during and after each day’s adventure, guests can look forward to generous (and moreish) dishes that are imbued with tradition, flavour and a sense of place.
The food is wholesome, healthy and natural — not drowned in sauces, over-processed or over-reduced. Never gimmicky, over-fussy, decorated or over-presented, the food in each of our lodges is, quite simply, hearty, home-style goodness.
Forget Michelin stars, these are million-star meals, cooked with love, shared with joy and served in absolute, guilt-free abundance amidst flickering lanterns and an impossibly starry sky.
Think gourmet (but never pretentious) comfort food. The kind of meals you never want to end. They make you happy, they fill you up and most of all, they make you want to take the recipes (and sometimes the chefs!) back home with you.
Forget Michelin stars, these are million-star meals…
2. Food that is as unique as our lodges
We have never, nor will we ever, subscribe to a cookie-cutter approach when it comes to our lodges. Each &Beyond lodge has a distinct and refreshingly authentic sense of place that celebrates the area’s cultural heritage, natural luxury and local charm. No two &Beyond lodges are the same.
Just as each lodge has its own strong identity in terms of its architecture and carefully-selected interiors, it also has its own unique food identity that also pays homage to the destination, its local influences and cultural traditions.
From the African farmhouse flavours of &Beyond Klein’s Camp to the African bistro-inspired menus of &Beyond Nxabega Okavango Tented Camp, to the elegantly vintage ‘stoep’ dining at &Beyond Kirkman’s Kamp and the fresh, garden-to-table goodness of &Beyond Vira Vira, each regionally-inspired and thoughtfully-planned food identity is as unique and memorable as the lodge itself.
3. Tried, tested and perfected
Across 29 lodges, our chef teams have achieved and maintained an impressive 95% overall food score from guests. Of course, dietary needs, individual tastes and the way people enjoy food are constantly evolving, so our chefs regularly train, collaborate and brainstorm to ensure the menus consistently exceed guests’ expectations.
We ran a highly successful, two-year test kitchen whereby all of our (then) 10,000 recipes were reviewed and painstakingly downsized to just 1,000 best-of-the-best recipes. Then, the fun part: each and every one of those 1,000 recipes were then sampled, critiqued, reworked and perfected.
The end result was a comprehensive 13-volume &Beyond cookbook that is used by all of our chefs across the group. It is a work-in-progress that is consistently reviewed and added to as tastes evolve, and each chef certainly brings his or her own talents, personal recipes and cultural traditions to the plate, bowl, glass, and so on.
Our regional chef trainers travel regularly throughout their regions to work closely with the chefs at each lodge to inspire new ideas, switch up the menus and try new techniques to create the same old mouth-watering magic.
The teams also gather annually for festive Food Fundi (East African slang for expert) workshops where they are inspired by a panel of food experts (from renowned chefs and hospitality specialists, to esteemed sommeliers, mixologists and baristas) to ensure that our menus are world-class, always memorable and go-back-for-more delicious.
4. Preserving cultural heritage
Every culture has its own way of idolising and indulging in food and one of the greatest joys of travel is interacting authentically with these cultures and embracing their foreign flavours and delicacies.
Food is a celebration, not just of local flavours, but of a destination’s longstanding culinary and cultural heritage. Ancient recipes and cooking techniques for iconic traditional dishes are proudly passed down from one generation to the next, ensuring the time-honoured traditions and cultural legacy are preserved.
While our chefs are trained in a wide assortment of cooking styles and will always tailor the meals to suit specific guest preferences, our lodge menus proudly feature traditional dishes to give guests the option of tasting the local fare.
From fragrant Zanzibari coconut curries and spicy Mozambican peri-peri prawns, to flame-grilled Maasai chicken, zesty Chilean ceviche and Botswana’s slow-cooked seswaa beef, our chefs are passionate about celebrating and preserving their cultural heritage through food.
5. Local is lekker
The South African saying, “local is lekker,” which means that the things closest to home are the best, certainly rings true when it comes to preparing fresh, wholesome meals. Our chefs are passionate about sourcing healthy, organic and free-range food locally, responsibly and sustainably.
Currently, 89% of the food at our lodges is procured locally and we support 22 thriving community gardens. This obviously improves the quality and nutrition value of the meals served, but also greatly reduces our carbon footprint and uplifts and empowers local businesses, farmers and suppliers.
6. Spoilt for choice
Every &Beyond guest experience is tailormade, from the action-packed or slow-paced journey itself, right down to each day’s adventures, added surprises and, of course, those irresistible meals.
Our chefs cater for the unique culinary preferences and dietary requirements of all guests. So whether you’re vegetarian, pescatarian, flexitarian, vegan, gluten-intolerant, dairy-intolerant, kosher or Halal—you name it—our kitchens have you covered. And not just ‘covered’ with one lazy, uncreative meal alternative. Our chefs will ensure there is variety, flavour and creativity for all food lovers, regardless of dietary needs and preferences.
In addition to adapting for all tastes, is the ever-important focus on wellness and self-care. While each meal is made with natural, healthy and organic ingredients, guests can also indulge in a wide range of health foods and restorative tonics.
From freshly-pressed organic fruit juices and superfood smoothies and fruit bowls, to wholesome ancient grains, baobab powder, super seeds, homemade protein bites and digestive probiotics, guests can happily maintain a healthy body and mind while travelling.
Kombucha is available on morning game drives and some lodges also have a collection of restorative wellness shots (aloe vera, turmeric and ginger, beet kevass, activated charcoal or fresh coconut water to name a few).
7. Lucky number seven
That’s right. An &Beyond safari has seven official and guilt-free feeding times. Admittedly, the bulk of each safari day is indeed spent sitting idly in a vehicle, but the schedule does have a pace to it.
From early, half-asleep wake-up calls to lingering late next to a fire, sharing stories and not wanting the day to end, the safari schedule is adventurous and adrenaline-filled. And for that, safari goers need to be well fed (and well hydrated, of course, with bevvies of choice).
Seven official mealtimes…
8. Cheers to that
A true celebration of wholesome, mood-boosting comfort food just isn’t complete without being perfectly paired with a wide selection of creative beverages. The bars at our lodges are well-stocked with world-class wines, premium spirits, craft beers and creative garnishes.
From welcome drinks, wellness shots and tropical smoothies, to artisanal drinks, local cocktails and wine pairings, there is no shortage of celebratory libations. Each lodge also provides an enticing range of cordials, tonics and non-alcoholic spirits to quench all thirsts.
Learn how to say cheers in the local language and be sure to sample the unique delicacies of each destination: dawa cocktails in East Africa; pisco sours in Chile and Peru; Mozambican rum; Indian lassis; Sri Lankan Ceylon tea; and Windhoek lager in Namibia, to name a few.
Around the world in 10 drinks...
9. Theatre of safari
This is the pièce de résistance. Long gone are the days of a quick soft drink, standard sundowner and collection of dry fruit, mixed nuts and biltong (dried, cured meat) at a morning or evening drinks stop.
Our ‘theatre of safari’ takes it up an unforgettable notch with creative, unexpected surprises that will surely stand out in the memories of safari goers. Surprises should be just that, and each lodge will have its own unique take on it, but we’re talking taco & gin bar, bourbon & cigar bar, Prosecco & pancake stop … in the middle of the bush, shared with your beloved travel tribe.
No more run-of-the-mill snacks or drinks. Equipped with a small hot plate or gas burner, the ranger can upgrade your standard bush coffee to a moreish Amarula cappuccino, heated and topped up with a milk frother. Think hot popcorn on the burner, olives and nuts quickly pan roasted in front of you, fresh fruit skewers, miniature pies or enchiladas, muesli jars, homemade seed bars and power snacks, hot soups in a flask, or warm fruit cobblers. Hungry yet?
And don’t let the word safari fool you, our teams in Asia and South America use equally delicious and dramatic theatrics when it comes to celebrating food. How about freshly baked breads, homemade cheeses and hot cappuccinos on a table made of snow atop an active volcano in Chile? An Indian feast of a picnic beneath a Banyan tree at an ancient temple? Or some hot Ladakhi ginger tea and snacks high up in the Himalayas overlooking one of the high-altitude salt lakes?
10. Any excuse to celebrate, anywhere
The theatre of food is just as important as the ongoing show that Mother Nature puts on for guests, in fact it complements those heart-warming wildlife sightings and dramatic landscapes.
Each meal is a celebration of the location and indeed the company you’re in. The ever-enchanting setting for each meal will change throughout your stay, from bush breakfasts, poolside lunches, fairy circle dinners or starlit boma gatherings, to private in-room meals, al fresco picnics or fairytale bush dinners, each and every meal is a memorable occasion.
There’s an affectionate term in the safari industry for that slight, but unavoidable safari weight gain. We like to call it lodge podge. Leave the diet at home and travel as though calories don’t count when you’re on holiday. Lodge podge will happen, embrace it. Would you rather look back and remember those bottomless glasses of Prosecco and countless pancakes with every topping in the middle of the African bush, or look back and remember denying yourself the indulgence?
As they say in Afrikaans, magie vol, ogies toe. When the tummy is full, the eyes will close. The sign of a fantastic meal. Bon appétit!
SEE WHAT LIES BEYOND
Subscribe to the Bateleur Magazine.