As lockdown is easing, the sun is shining and it is the perfect time to visit South Africa’s iconic hotels. And where better to start exploring than a visit to a national treasure, the stunning Oyster Box Hotel?
Imagine sitting on a veranda overlooking the ocean surrounded by old-world charm sipping your favourite cocktail … A school of dolphins play in the Indian Ocean in front of you while the resident tabby cat, Skabenga, rubs up against your legs. This is what you can expect at the Oyster Box in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal.
Since 1947, the Oyster Box has been a national treasure as much as the red-and-white-striped lighthouse it overlooks. The hotel is known for its out-of-this-world service, charm, exquisite dining and lush gardens next to the beach. While it boasts many awards and five stars (it was recently voted the No 1 ‘Top Resort in Africa’ in the 2020 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards), it still manages to retain an old-world charm while offering all modern conveniences expected from a world-class hotel. In 2007, the Tollman family of the Red Carnation Hotels Collection purchased the hotel and gave it a two-year makeover.
The hotel is always bustling with guests, and that adds to its allure. Guests are lounging in the public areas and relaxing in beautiful wingback chairs. You may even come across pets, as The Oyster Box is one of South Africa’s few pet-friendly hotels. But one feline rules the roost – Skabenga, the Oyster Box tabby cat, has a place of pride. His Zulu name means ‘hooligan’ and he has been living at the hotel for more years than anybody cares to remember. Having wandered into the property as a stray, he was fed tasty, expensive titbits by guests and with life so good, who can blame him for never wanting to leave!
When you enter the hotel, the stylish décor will immediately transport you to another era. The lobby has a whirling staircase and marble floors while the walls are decorated with richly coloured paintings by local artists. A must-see are the chandeliers from the Savoy Hotel in London in the Palm Court.
Guests can enjoy relaxing next to two heated swimming pools. One overlooking the famous lighthouse, while the other is more private, in a verdant courtyard. There is no end to the spoils you can expect here – from being treated to fresh fruit and ice-creams to exotic cocktails and a host of other treats.
If you feel like taking a break and spending some time alone, you can visit The Clock Library or stroll over to the award-winning spa. Or visit the gym to work off all those decadent treats.
To top it all, there is an exclusive and intimate 24-seater cinema screening movies five times daily. And there is a special programme for kids 4−12 with endless activities and facilities – from a playroom and face-painting to storytelling, arts and crafts, and pizza-making. Special programmes are offered in peak and holiday periods.
Your home away from home
With 86 rooms, suites and villas facing either the ocean or the lush gardens, you will be treated like royalty. The rooms are large and opulent, and each have unique features. Robes and signature B|Africa amenities, specially formulated for the group’s South African properties by the founder and chairman, Bea Tollman, can be found in every room. Beach gear such as sun cream, beach games and umbrellas are standard.
A fancy affair
Inspired by the hotel’s original colonial architecture and resplendent with chandeliers purchased from the Savoy Hotel in London, High Tea is a lengthy, leisurely affair. Here, tea is taken from Royal Albert china in the ‘Friendship’ range from the famous British designer Miranda Kerr. Live piano music provides a perfect backdrop and adds a personal element to the beautiful Palm Court.
Individual tea stands, served table-side, include a generous offering of sweet and savoury creations – from scones, meringues, macarons and cupcakes, to samosas, dainty sandwiches, cheese and crackers and savoury tarts along with a selection of teas and deliciously complex coffee, sparkling wine, and fresh juices.
Other dining experiences
The hotel is legendary for its wide array of dining experiences.
The Grill Room, the culinary gem of the hotel, adjoins the smaller, more intimate Colony Room, and serves world-renowned signature dishes such as crayfish and prawn cocktail and black forest duck or freshly caught seafood with wines selected by the resident sommelier.
The Ocean Terrace is a family favourite for breakfast, lunch or dinner – it is friendly and informal with a terrace overlooking the infinity pool and the rolling Indian Ocean.
From the Lighthouse Bar you will have sight of the most spectacular sunsets KwaZulu-Natal has to offer. It is richly inviting with live music, delicious snacks and exotic cocktails served on the large terrace for the best views of the lighthouse and ocean.
At the Oyster Bar you can be sure to have an elegant and refined experience enjoying champagne and oysters from the hotel’s own oyster beds, with live music, a light menu and fresh cocktails.
The Chukka Bar is an authentic old-world bar full of charm and character. It is a favourite of the locals who wish to enjoy hearty snacks and the fine selection of whiskeys, beers and cigars.
The Wine Cellar with its glass ceiling is just below the Oyster Bar and is uniquely suited to intimate dinner parties, tastings or special events. The sommelier will host the event and present tastings from the award-winning wine list, which boasts the finest selection of South African and international vintages.
The hotel group believes that environmental stewardship is good for business. They are committed to developing their business to support sustainability and are mindful of the impact it has on the environment.
They ensure they walk the talk when it comes to treading lightly on earth and recognise their responsibility to incorporate leading practices in eco-tourism in order to create hotels truly respectful of the environment.
All properties in the group have conservation at their core and are committed to the protection, preservation and promotion of the places in which they operate, including natural, cultural and community environments.
For more information, to make a booking or to visit the hotel visit https://www.oysterboxhotel.com/