WAKING UP to the smell of salty sea air, it took a while to adjust to my surroundings.
My host: the internationally acclaimed Oyster Box Hotel in the burgeoning Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal, that afforded a front row seat to Durban’s Indian Ocean shaking off her mist-shrouded coat as the rest of the city was waking up.
Upon our arrival, yours truly and team were welcomed by porters, who wore pith helmets accompanied by that receptive smile a sign that our two day stay would be astounding, marvelous (if you have a better superlative to help describe it-be my guest.)
According to international Daily Telegraph, “in all their colour and spice, it is more quirky than imposing grande dame” in reference to the hotel that is celebrating its 65th anniversary.
“Colonial at first whiff, the lobby features whirling palace staircases, liquescent marble floors, and the slurred whirring of ceiling fans. But the public areas beyond are a confection of colour: red-and-white candy-striped textiles, roses curled around chandeliers (pinched from the Savoy in London), arrangements of anthurium flowers, and Mediterranean tapestries woven with dusky threads,” continued the Daily Telegraph.
The Oyster Box is a playground for the rich and famous- having played host to the likes of international singer Cliff Richard, Prince Albert & Princess Charlene of Monaco, former President FW de Klerk and comedian Leon Schuster, amongst others.
During breakfast-having left our spacious and delightfully decorated and well co-ordinated buttercup yellowish room, facing the Indian Ocean as requested-we bumped onto Soweto’s popular eatery owner Sakhumzi, famous for being situated along the Vilakazi Street-that has produced two of the World’s Laureates.
One couldn’t help but notice a sizeable number of international guests who were sipping chilly champagne- accompanied by continental breakfast, fresh orchids, bowls of fruit, et al…as the morning breaks- so they say.
Posed the question on the success of the hotel over 65 years, General Manager Wayne Coetzer waxed lyrically that:” Undoubtedly, the success of any hotel is based on how its people are looked after.
We employ over 300 people and I am proud to say that our owners really care about the people who work here, and with happy staff a foundation has been set.
The executive management team carry this philosophy throughout the organization. Today, hospitality is all about ensuring a good balance and that staff have a life outside of work, so they look forward to coming to work. However, everyone needs to understand that there is simply no room for error at a 5-star hotel, when it comes to standards, delivery and service.”
Talk of no room for errors, the Oyster Box Hotel that is part of Leading Hotels group and the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, pride itself on one of its outstanding and long serving members Henry Pakiri, whom I met during my much anticipated Currie rice dinner.
Pakiri (madala in iSisulu) has been with the hotel for all most 55 years.
Looking strong and recalling every guest by name -be it checking in or having dinner- Henry has been accorded the Maitre’d of the Grill Room, a sign of dedication and honour he has contributed to this distinctive establishment. And up to today, no errors could be placed on his shoulders.
Verulam born, Henry started his relationship with the hotel in 1964, as a waiter in the children’s dining room.
“My best thing about his job is that while it is different every day, I look forward to seeing ‘the regulars’ that return time and again”
Many of them have been dining in The Grill Room for so long that Hendry knows exactly what they are going to order without even asking them!
Oh yes, we feasted on his cuisine as he ordered-two nights but still its hard to comprehend, stru.
As for the gigantic swmming pool, lets skip that subjects ‘cos my team flatly refused the offer to delve in, suffice to say they instead opted for the beach that is only a walk away from my regal room. It boast 86 rooms ranging from Presidential, Superior Garden Villa to Luxury Sea facing Suite, and so forth.
Synonymous for both local and international accolades, this 5-star graded hotel is poised on the Umhlanga beachfront, where the Indian Ocean froths and scuds against the coastal rocks and a red-and-white lighthouse (signature) that flickers at night to welcome ships sailing into Durban’s harbour.
Its surrounding beaches, such as Umdloti and La Lucia, are great for dolphin watching, surfing and diving. Downtown Durban is a 20-minute drive, while the airport is 17 minutes away by car.
Yes, quality does not come cheap, but according to Joanne Hayes (PR guru) this an opportunity for would-be travelers or couples who just got married -to visit the property for honeymoon and indulge in the ambience it has to offer.
‘Come and sleep beautifully, the world is your oyster…’
For more information on Oyster Box Hotel visit: https://www.oysterboxhotel.com