The Eastern Cape is often coded as a backpacker or surfer destination with its windswept beaches, jungle vegetation and open-minded, laid-back people. But to view it in this light would be a gross disservice not only to the region but to its astonishing array of luxury accommodation options.
After staying at three luxury hotels located on its shores, I found that its natural beauty and warm hospitality are just a few steps away from heaven.
Step into this precocious lodge and it’s easy to forget reality. Even before visiting my room, I was impressed by the location of the resort under the tree canopy. In the distance, I can hear the sound of the sea. It’s a place of seemingly effortless abundance as the staff warmly welcomes me and leads me through the jungle to my room.
I was checked into the Diamond Suite, an ocean-facing villa perched above the forest canopy with a private plunge pool and a spacious deck with sweeping views of the Indian Ocean. A pair of hornbills glide from tree to tree nearby.
Pran Chintsa is located on the eastern wild coast, a major backpacker’s destination. Sintsa, across the river to the west, is a huge backpacker proof of this assumption. But Pran is the Wild Coast’s only 5-star resort, a shining diamond in the rough amidst the untamed Wild Coast.
A haute restaurant serves food that not only matches the setting but also creates a torpor in its guests that makes you never want to leave. A spa on property gives you a reason to stay longer. The endless beach below, quite devoid of other people, seals the deal. Chintsa is the entry point to the Wild Coast, a short distance from East London Airport. But Prana binds her heart so beautifully.
Oceana Beaches and Wildlife Conservation
Oceana deserves its status as one of South Africa’s flagship hotels, blending beach and safari so harmoniously. I can’t think of another destination where ocean views are accented by a tall giraffe walking on air.
Not far from Port Alfred, the hotel is easily accessible but feels a world away. I was booked into one of their pool suites, arguably one of the most luxurious hotel rooms I’ve ever seen. A leisurely stroll into the room is already impressive. Walk on an elevated deck through an ancient milkwood forest before a building reveals itself through the vegetation. Enter it, and you are enchanted.
A spacious room that opens up to a wide open deck with a heated splash pool that simultaneously overlooks the ocean and game. At the far end of the deck is a day bed tucked under a milkwood tree. Again a huge en suite bathroom with an unparalleled view. I can sit in a bubble bath, listen to the roaring waves and enjoy a glass of vino, always feeling like I’m in the most luxurious wildlife bunker.
Walking along the path through the forest, the hotel’s main restaurant is at the top, giving a perspective of how wide the beach below is. There is also a spa nearby. The staff are impeccable, whether they take you on an evening safari drive or top up your wine in the evening, and are quick to crack a joke. It is not only in convenience but also comfort for people.
Intel Boutique Hotel
Just 45 minutes from Gqeberha, the hilltop surfing town of Jeffreys Bay, Intle Boutique Hotel still has that laid-back charm, but with the added pizzazz of a five-star destination.
A rejuvenating in-house spa makes it an ideal destination during a coastal road trip, so you can feel re-energized after your time on the road. Intel is located on a huge reserve with lots of game, giraffes and zebras. In the transition zone between fynbos and Eastern Cape bush, it is a unique ecological niche where flowers paint the fields a vibrant yellow.
On a game drive, we got to see the wildlife up close in this unique setting before being taken for a private lunch in a pergola with an incredible view over the Gamtus River valley below. I was dropped there and left to enjoy the sounds of the veld. Surely this has to rank as one of the most sought-after proposal spots in South Africa.
The hotel has 360-degree views of the reserve and a lion’s roar in the distance. Don’t worry if you want to walk though. The lions are on the property next door. There are guided bush walks on offer, with the roar of lions adding to the immersive feeling of being in the heart of the bushveld, but safe and secure in the knowledge that they are nowhere near and you are far from worry. the world.
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