The Oyster Box Hotel combines old world elegance with modern day service, and proved a rather iconic stop along my trip. It’s set right on a beautiful stretch of Kwala Zulu Natal coast, so I woke up to a morning view of the famous Umhlanga lighthouse and beyond to the Indian Ocean; the perfect accompaniment to my fabulous seaside breakfast, complete with oysters. Although I wondered how I had space for more food after the delicious Indian buffet dinner on arrival – something the hotel is famed for. I discovered that Durban is home to the largest Indian community outside of Asia and a trip to the local spice market transported me briefly across the ocean to the Asian sub-continent.
Durban’s extensive coastline was abuzz with excitement as families enjoyed a morning on the beach, the waters crowded with surfers and fishermen, so I soaked up the atmosphere here before heading off to catch my flight to Port Elizabeth. From there, I continued my journey, stopping off at Hopewell Lodge to see their home-reared cheetah. After a brief stop, I drove on to the Shamwari Game Reserve (‘Shamwari’ meaning ‘my friend’ in Shona) where I could call the luxury Riverdene Lodge my home for the night.
As I arrived, I was greeted by a male lion outside the gates, which the lodge staff were understandably keen to keep out. Making the most of my wild safari view, I waited safe in my car until my majestic friend disappeared off and the staff ushered me quickly in. I couldn’t escape the incredible contrast of a primitive habitat against the modern world, both so powerful and yet so fragile.
The next morning a game-drive through the rain saw yet more of our hosts, the animals, going about their lives. A pair of cheetahs eating their breakfast and endless springbok prancing across the plains was a particularly beautiful sight, in a sometimes unforgiving landscape. Shamwari’s animal rehabilitation centre prompts us not to forget the threat we pose to those animals whose world we share, understanding poachers and the plight of the rhino seemed somehow more poignant to me having experienced the beauty of Shamwari first hand.