MOST PEOPLE JUST DREAM ABOUT SAILING OFF INTO THE SUNSET, BUT FOR JAMES AND KERRY TAYLOR IT WAS THE START OF A BEAUTIFUL ADVENTURE, WRITES DEBBIE REYNOLDS
We’re having coffee in the Taylors’ old stomping ground of Durban North. “I was a Danville girl and James a Northlands boy,” says Kerry. “We met when we were 12 and were basically on and off from there until we got married in 1994.”
Kerry grew up on a farm in Ixopo before coming to Durban, while James was the son of newspaperman Archie Taylor, who worked with anti-apartheid activist Donald Woods on the Daily Dispatch in East London.
“When Donald was banned by the Nationalist government, we moved to Amanzimtoti where my dad started the South Coast Sun. We moved to Durban North when I started Standard six.”
After school James went off to the navy to complete his compulsory military service while Kerry studied medical technology, but it was their mutual love for the ocean that saw their lives take an unexpected turn.
“I was working at the Sharks Board as a boat skipper and had gone to Sodwana Bay to do a diving course,” explains James. “One of the dive boat skippers was ill and I stepped in to help out. When I realised my weekend wages were equivalent to a month back home, I was hooked.”
From Sodwana, where Kerry gained experience running the camp, they moved to Mozambique and then came back to Durban North. James worked in Umkomaas running a scuba diving operation followed by dive charters, while Kerry concentrated on running the family nursery in uMhlanga.
Their son Kent was born in June 1995 and their daughter Tyra came along in September 1998. By then James was largely working in the commercial diving industry spending a lot of time away from home.
“In 2001 when I was contracted to do a pipeline job in the Bazaruto area of Mozambique, I told the company I would only accept if I could bring my family,” says James. “Kerry and the kids – who were then two and five – joined me for a year on Magaruque and Paradise Islands.”
It was back to reality in 2002 when they returned home for Kent to start school. “One night after a couple of bottles of wine, we decided we needed adventure and to be together,” says Kerry.
So, James bought a yacht and in November 2002 they set sail for Australia where they planned to join Kerry’s family. They spent Christmas in a bay called Kilwa Masoko in Tanzania – and never left.
“We ended up working at a camp there,” says James. “I was building the fishing operation while Kerry was home schooling the kids and working in the lodge.”
In 2005 they bought the camp and turned it into Kilwa Ruins Lodge which became a favourite destination for international sports fishermen. After selling that, they built their own lodge, Mwangaza Hideaway, opening in 2011. Their next move was to Dar es Salaam where the children attended the international school and James picked up another contract as a private boat captain.
Kerry, meanwhile, had started another successful business turning old wooden sailing boats into bespoke furniture. “I bought the old boats, pulled them apart and trucked them to a workshop in Dar es Salaam where we made everything from shelving and wine racks to beds and bathrooms.”
With Tyra at boarding school in Pietermaritzburg and Kent at university there, the Taylors bought a flat in Ballito, so they had somewhere to stay near the airport when they visited.
They sold their lodge in 2015, but James wanted to stay on in the area taking charters and contracts to oil and gas companies so he built a Tomcat boat, custom designed for fishing and diving charters. After selling Dhow-Licious Wood and Decor and their shares in various Tanzanian businesses, the couple decided it was time to come home last year.
“Our 25th wedding anniversary to ourselves is a house which we’re currently building in Ballito,” says Kerry. “We were a bit gypsyed out and it was time to finally put down some roots.”
Which doesn’t mean they’re any less adventurous. With a passion to reduce single-use plastic, Kerry has created a natural replacement for harmful plastic wraps, using 100% cotton, bees, jojoba oil and tree resin.
“The product can be used to replace clingwrap and sandwich bags as it can be washed and re-used for up to a year,” says Kerry. Tombi Trade currently supplies clients in Tanzania, Ballito, Plettenberg Bay and Cape Town.
James, meanwhile, has launched Executive Sea Safaris, offering luxury charter trips out of Durban Harbour. “My focus is on a door-to-door service for international tourists wanting an authentic marine experience, but I also happily cater for locals who want something different,” he says. “It’s about packages designed especially for customers’ needs, from shark watching to diving at Aliwal Shoal.”
Looking back at their lives, the Taylor family has no regrets. “We’ve had experiences that you can’t buy and the opportunity to embrace new cultures,” says Kerry.
“We’ve camped in the Selous Game Reserve, sailed the African coast, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and lived on idyllic islands. We worked our butts off, faced lots of adversity but had a blast. We wanted to live a life of adventure and we certainly did that.”
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