Bronwyn and I first met Mark and Samantha during their initial scouting visit to South Africa in 2009. Vassaaliki was already a going concern and the idea of setting up a resort in SA to cater for European naturists in the depths of the northern winter had appealed to Mark’s entrepreneurial instinct.
Vasnat, as the SA edition was named, operated for two summers and we were fortunate enough to manage two short visits there. We enjoyed both visits and were acutely aware of the fact that Vasnat was very different from any other naturist experience available in in South Africa.
When Mark and Samantha found that the season was too short for the economics to work, they left behind a vast number of local fans and envious naturists, who hadn’t visited Vasnat while it lasted. They had also introduced fresh thinking which challenged much of the myopia which seemed to mark naturism in SA, before their arrival.
Having visited Vasnat, Bronwyn and I found ourselves on the Vassaliki mailing list, which describes the delights of the island resort. In 2014, as newly independent parents, we decided to celebrate a special anniversary, by testing the promise implied by this slick marketing.
Because the journey to and from Kefalonia, would involve transits of 30 and 40 hours respectively, we decided to extend our stay from ten to fourteen days. However, we both privately suspected that some measure of boredom would be unavoidable.
Or so we thought, before we left home. Vassaliki and Kefalonia far exceeded any of our expectations.
Being familiar with Vasnat, we were expecting Vassaliki to be well equipped and charmingly decorated, with neatly kept gardens and in this we were not disappointed. What we hadn’t anticipated was the rural setting among the olive groves, with views extending to the picturesque village of Spartia and the ocean.
Our familiarity with the Vasnat business model suggested that we would enjoy socialising with our fellow guests. We were expecting a convivial, cosmopolitan mix, which proved to be the case. Although the majority were British there were also French, Italian and Norwegian visitors.
On arrival we were surprised to find that of the other ten couples resident at the time, there was another from SA. After meeting our countrymen, we were even more intrigued to discover that they live barely ten kilometres from our home. Our visits only overlapped by four days, but meeting with them made a critical difference to our holiday.
We first met Sam’s father and stepmother on our second visit to Vasnat when they like us were really visitors. We hadn’t encountered Simon and Sheryl as essential staff whose strengths complement and overlap with those of Mark and Sam. Simon and Sheryl are great hosts each blessed with empathy and a warm sense of humour. The other great thing is that like Mark and Sam, both Simon and Sheryl prefer to cope with the summer heat the natural way, when off duty.
Mark and Sam have succeeded in integrating Vassaliki into the local community and have secured deals for their guests with many of the local businesses, where they seem to be on first name terms with the owners. While the standard of cuisine at Vassaliki is very high, the focus is local and guests are gently, urged to eat out, to sample local specialities like Kefalonian meat pie and Lamb Kleftiko.
While nude swimming is not legally sanctioned in Greece, no-one gets bothered by the sight of unencumbered bodies at the nearest beach Paliolinos., which is sparsely populated. Although the next beach at Avithos, attracts more users, it does have a” recognized” clothing optional section off to the side.
At Avithos most of the other nude users were Vassaliki guests, but we were joined by others, including a British couple whom we had met before at “Smiling George’s” Taverna, in Spartia. They had hired a villa in Spartia and described themselves as “part time” naturists.
The water at both beaches is pristine and refreshing. Because the sea bed slopes very gently and there is no surf, Bronwyn was surprised to find herself getting far further into the sea, than she would have dared in the Indian Ocean surf.
Mark and Sam encourage guests to explore the island. On arrival, Sam furnishes guests with a user friendly information pack and the resort arranges for hired cars to be delivered to and collected, from Vassaliki.
Our Saffer friends, who had hired a scooter themselves suggested a practical, if risky, alternative to a hired car, a quad bike. Not only did the quad operate on the smell of an oil rag, but we discovered an enthralling way of experiencing a new country. Bronwyn was delighted at the various aromas as we drove about and she enjoyed getting an unrestricted view of the quaint and varied architecture. Driving on the “wrong side” proved to be a simple matter as the local drivers appeared remarkably courteous and tolerant.
Apart from theme evenings on Mondays (movies and pizzas), Wednesdays (barbeque and Jenga) and Fridays (meze), which are all optional, there is also a weekly excursion (if numbers suffice) around the waterway, starting from Argostoli.
We participated in each of these events, at least once during our stay and enjoyed all immensely for different reasons. One of the movies we watched,” Captain Correlli’s Mandolin”which had been filmed on location in Kefalonia served to give us an insight into the island’s history which was further augmented by a visit to the nearby castle of St George.
For me the highlight of our stay was the day cruise on the Argostoli waterway. As a keen dinghy sailor in my youth, I was in my element as we motored around the windswept bay, clad by the brilliant sunshine.
We passed the sea bass farms, the “earth quake” village and Lixouri, landing at two deserted beaches en route. At the first we took turns to visit a cave which could only be accessed, via the water, while at the second, we had the opportunity to smear ourselves with rejuvenating clay, much like they do in initiation schools back home. Sadly the clay had no lasting effect on our appearances, but it seemed to scare off the only intolerant textiles we came across during our stay.
For Bronwyn the highlight was unquestionably our means of transport. Although armed with international driver’s licences, we had decided before leaving home, that resort transport and our own feet, would suffice to get around. On arrival in Kefalonia, we discovered otherwise and thanks to our mates’ suggestion, I found my very own “biker chick”.
There is little doubt that we will be back next year or the year after, but this time for three weeks. Having learned to drive on the right, we will probably hire a car for a couple of days to reach the more distant parts of the island, but for most of the time we will hire a quad.
However, I do hope that I have less difficulty in persuading Bronwyn to return the machine, than last time.