The Oyster Box in Umhlanga has been the city’s finest luxury property for almost seven decades. Owned by internationally-renowned Red Carnation Hotels and legendary hoteliers Bea and Stanley Tollman, the establishment oozes old-world opulence spiked with modern flair and bold colour. It’s a wish list tick for luxury travellers and parents.
Perched on the shoreline overlooking Umhlanga’s lighthouse, the iconic red and white Ocean Terrace and magnificent pool plays host to the kids, with important little parental pleasures like complimentary sun cream, and pizza delivered to your sun lounger – one less meal at a table with a four-year-old!
The Terrace also serves the buffet breakfast, including a waffle and pancake stand with every confectionery under the sun producing gasps of delight, while in the evening there’s a la carte or a curry buffet – an absolute must while in Durban.
With five of us, we could opt for two rooms or stay in a two-bedroomed garden villa and loft, with a ground floor lounge and doors which open onto its own heated splash pool. The doorbell rings, a housekeeper turns up carrying an ice bucket with white wine, and a platter of sweets, chips and yoghurt for the kids. Morning and evening a newspaper hangs on the door and small details like TV controls, sterilized and wrapped, have been considered. Levels of luxury lie in the finer detail.
High Tea, starting mid-afternoon, brings together the delicacy and decadence of specialist teas, finger sandwiches, spring rolls, meringues, cupcakes, and the list goes on. Oyster Box’s spa in the gardens of the property, has been named as World’s Best Spa in 2015 and the quiet white space, modernity and serene professionalism of its therapists were as good as I have experienced anywhere.
One would assume The Oyster Box was ‘fancy’, but it is surprisingly unpretentious. It’s a pet-friendly hotel and I see dogs sitting with guests having coffee. Service is slick but amazingly understated, refusing to fawn and overstate a welcome, opting rather for engaging and warm when required. The Kids Club lays on hourly trips to the beach, sports challenges, arts and craft, board and electronic games, with a broad spectrum of age-appropriate concepts that work in a supervised, safe, and cosy bean bag environment.
The litmus test for most fathers on any given holiday is if one’s wife and children are (for the most part) happy, and to achieve that, I strangely believe that travel with some degree of polarity is highly recommended. Luxury, adventure, rest, high energy, a sole purpose, no purpose, substance, frivolity, education, and mindlessness. Life should be like that, balance is beautiful, when and where possible.