Joburg Expat: Umhlanga Rocks and the Oyster Box Hotel

May 23, 2012

Umhlanga Rocks and the Oyster Box Hotel

If it seems like we've been constantly traveling these past few months, it is because we've been constantly traveling these past few months.

Before you turn green with envy, you should know that I typically approach the prospect of another trip with rather a big sigh: Places to research, rates to compare, bookings to make - with the added stress of five pairs of eyes scrutinizing every aspect of the outcome and giving me the evil stare if it's anything less than stellar - and, god forbid, suitcases to pack.

This is typically the point where Noisette tells me to get a grip and realize how cushy my life is, if all I can find to complain about is packing to hang out in what I admit here in Africa has been utter luxury. And yet. I do NOT like packing. Even though I've done it often enough. I'd much rather stay in our beautiful house, where everything is right where it should be within easy reach, without rummaging in a bag, and where I have time to do what I like best, which is write about stuff. Of course I'd never have anything to write about if I never went anywhere, so it's a good thing other people prod me to go on trips with them.

Like to the beach.

Our most recent trip, already almost a month back at the end of the kids' April term break, took us to Umhlanga Rocks, a lovely resort village near Durban on the Indian Ocean. You'll find it perhaps a bit weird that we've lived in South Africa for over two years and have never once made it to its third-largest city before. But that's Durban for you. What with Cape Town as a rival for quick weekend trips, it just doesn't get the attention.

And it's actually not exactly to Durban that we went, but rather Umhlanga Rocks. Because that's where the Oyster Box Hotel is, and we'd heard a lot about the Oyster Box Hotel. Old-world colonial charm, a lighthouse, and a beautiful beach probably best describe what the Oyster Box is all about. Compared to our recent stay at one of the world's largest hotels or so it seemed, the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, the Oyster Box felt rather intimate, almost cramped. But that's precisely what we liked about it. Being greeted by the doorman who could have passed for David Livingstone himself (or, rather, my image of him), what with the khaki uniform and tropics helmet, finding the well-staffed reception desk right inside the revolving door, taking a few more steps through another set of doors to stand on the Ocean Terrace with its wonderful view of the lighthouse and beach was exactly how we liked it. There was no getting lost in the Oyster Box Hotel. Even my failure to triple-confirm our adjoining rooms request, resulting in the kids' room being located directly UNDER our room, not next to it, turned out not to be a problem, as they were practically connected via a stairway. And we could send knocking signals back and forth.

The weather was pleasant, when it wasn't windy, which according to the locals it is quite a lot. The water was of a lovely temperature, when compared to Cape Town, but nothing spectacular when one thinks of the Southeastern United States seaboard, and especially not when one thinks of the tropical Indian Ocean. What I mean to say is that the water was rather colder than I would have imagined. I have yet to find nice warm water anywhere in Africa. 

We did venture into Durban eventually and you'll have to wait for my next post for the story on that. Noisette and Jabulani meant to go diving (Zax was on a school trip to Fraenschhoek that weekend) but the trip was canceled due to bad visibility. And no one seemed interested in checking out the so-called Sharks Board, where you can observe how the shark nets (yes, they are there, spanning miles and miles of oceanfront) are monitored and repaired, perhaps including the dissection of a stranded shark, which I thought would be fascinating. And there was no kite surfing outfit in sight, something I still have on my bucket list.

So we mostly spent our three day beach trip on, well, the beach, as you can see below.

Jumping over the waves provided entertainment for hours

The surf was powerful and we were warned by life guards several times not to go in far

The pool deck at the Oyster Box Hotel. Doesn't it look like a drawing rather than the real thing?

View of Umhlanga lighthouse from Oyster Box Hotel, Umhlanga Rocks, KwaZulu-Natal






LighthouseThe rocksCaught by a local


My favorite picture of the lot!

Sunshine was always hit the hardest, and so were her bikini bottoms

Jabulani and Impatience getting ready...

...and then taking the leap.

It's hard to imagine a more scenic coastline than that

Some of those containers in the distance were parked out there the entire weekend. To think
that ours once sat out there too! For weeks and weeks, most likely.

Last, but not least, my personal highlight of the trip to Umhlanga Rocks was an opportunity to meet my recent penpal and fellow blogger Stephanie, a transplant to Umhlanga Rocks from the U.S. with a South African husband and three small children who had gone out of her way to email me advice on what to do in Umhlanga and where to stay. We sat down for a chat in the spectacular library of our hotel, a place I am embarrassed to admit I did not take a single picture of, I was so engrossed in our chat exchanging expat stories, parenting advice, and even tips for iPhone apps. We talked for two hours straight and then it was time to part ways again. I did not even think of taking a picture of the two of us to show you, but do go on and check out her blog, Elliott and his Sisters.

And if you'd like to read more about the Oyster Box Hotel, check out my review on Tripadvisor.



7 comments :

- Suzie - said...

Did they ever went further into the sea or were they too scared of sharks?! ;-)

Sine said...

Thanks ilario.
No, Suzie, they didn't, but that's because a life guard kept coming by telling us not to go in farther than the surf, because of the undercurrent. I'm glad, I was a bit worried about the kids!

geronimo said...

Hello Sine, thoroughly entertaining blogpost. As a fellow expat (moved to SA 2years ago from the UK) it's always interesting to read other peoples blogs and insights into South Africa. You have a Lovely writing style. I have a blog section attached to our Travel and Accommodation website and if you are interested in being featured please drop me a line. Happy to reciprocate as well. My South African wife and I live in Port Alfred on the Eastern Cape coast -have you been there?

Sine said...

Yes, I'd be happy to if you give me some more information. No, haven't been to the Eastern Cape, though it's on my long list of places I'd like to still see. A good friend of mine grew up in East London.

rockwatching said...

see video on the Sharks Board http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cHHAQVz0qc

W. A. Jeffrey said...

Love the lighthouse photos. I'm a sucker for those. The one that showed it from the side with the ocean to the right looks like it could have come from New England. Too bad about the library as I would love to see a photo.

Sine said...

Thanks, and yes, a bit New England. We lived in North Carolina for a long time and so I'm also a sucker for lighthouses, and the Umhlanga one reminded me of the ones found there as well.