The famed, shining, red-and-white lighthouse sitting pretty in Umhlanga has been drawing tourists for decades, and there is no better place to stay than at the iconic Oyster Box hotel, situated on the shores of the warm Indian Ocean. Creating a delightful mix of luxury and fun, The Oyster Box invites guests to sit by the pool, enjoy their diverse spa menu, feast at the morning breakfast buffet, and indulge in a glass of bubbles at their remarkable High Tea.
KwaZulu-Natal is a bewitching province. The landscape resembles that of the tropical island of Mauritius, and boasts a climate that is very similar. Humid summer days fade into relaxed balmy evenings, and visitors and residents alike flock to the seaside to get the most out of their favourite season.
Standing resolute on the KwaZulu-Natal Indian Ocean coast is the iconic red and white of the Umhlanga lighthouse. Completed in 1954, the Umhlanga Lighthouse is a proud landmark of the area and, as warden, The Oyster Box hotel has woven it into the very fabric that makes up their beloved establishment. From the red-and-white stripes of their poolside loungers to the red and white of the salt and pepper grinders that adorn the tables at The Ocean Terrace, The Oyster Box continues to do its utmost to pay homage to its famed slice of Umhlanga history.
The original structure where The Oyster Box now sits was built in 1869 as a humble beach cottage. While the building has changed dramatically, the panoramic views of the warm Indian Ocean have remained the same since the first stone for that quaint cottage was laid all those years ago. There is a kind of magic in the knowledge that as you sit on your private balcony while sipping on a glass of chilled white wine, you are soaking up a view that people have been enjoying for hundreds of years.
The hotel, owned and operated by the global Red Carnation Hotels, is known the country over for being a bastion of service excellence, and this reputation was not easily come by. Each and every member of staff at The Oyster Box greets guests with genuine smiles and heartfelt offers to do whatever they can to make the stay as memorable as possible.
The rooms at The Oyster Box combine old-school glamour with a seaside colour palette of soft blues, natural beige, and white, with the occasional pop of colour to reflect the vibrant personality of the hotel. With ten room and suite varieties, The Oyster Box caters to every guest’s needs. Step into opulence and go for a Sea Facing Deluxe Suite, which comes with a private plunge pool and puts you right on the ocean’s doorstep. Every Classic Sea Facing Room leads to a balcony with sensational views of the ocean and the beloved lighthouse. For those travelling with children, the Sea Facing Family Rooms are perfect – a master bedroom awaits parents, with a second bedroom that can accommodate two children.
The facilities at The Oyster Box are second to none. Their in-house spa is a haven of serenity in a hotel that more closely resembles a tropical oasis, complete with orchids blooming beautifully from the palm trees in the various courtyards. B|Africa, the signature product range at The Oyster Box, as well as at Red Carnation’s other properties in South Africa (The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, and Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat), was named after the portfolio’s Founder and President Bea Tollman. Made using native African plant extracts, B|Africa celebrates the flora diversity of South Africa and crafts these unique raw materials into world-class products. The B|Africa products are not only used in the hotel’s spa – they are also used as in-room toiletries, allowing every guest to experience the quality of this high-end, completely exclusive range.
The main pool at The Oyster Box is as iconic as the hotel itself. Guests can be found relaxing happily on the nautically-striped poolside loungers, while the attentive poolside bar staff supply them with endless cocktails from the extensive cocktail menu. Nothing goes better with a hot summer’s day in Umhlanga than a Strawberry Daiquiri, blended to perfection and as refreshing as can be.
Meal times at the hotel are a delight, with multiple offerings to suit every type of diner. From the top-end Grill Room to the relaxed menu at The Ocean Terrace, The Oyster Box has ensured that its culinary offering is as dazzling as its service, views, and location. One of its best-known meal offerings is the famed Curry Buffet. Served at The Ocean Terrace, the curry buffet brings together the globally-known curries and blends them deliciously with the local specialities. A minimum of six curries are served per evening, plus chicken from the Tandoor oven, fresh naan and rotis, samosas, curry accompaniments, and a selection of desserts inspired by Indian cuisine. Of course, everyone’s favourite Butter Chicken is on offer too, and it is as delicious as you could imagine.
Another of The Oysters Box’s signature culinary offerings is its High Tea, served in the decadent Palm Court. Straight out of a glamorous bygone-era film, The Palm Court features high ceilings, authentic Ceylonese fans, and giant palms, which lend the space a distinct greenhouse feeling. Shining glass jars of sweet treats decorate the centrepiece table, while pristine white tea services display the elaborate patisserie prepared by the culinary team at The Oyster Box. Scones, tarts, cakes, macarons, cupcakes, pies, and meringues of every colour, flavour, and shape are there to satisfy even the sweetest sweet tooth. A High Tea would not be a High Tea without a selection of savoury delights, and the hotel injects its signature flare into every option. Chilli bites, samosas, dainty sandwiches, cheeses, crackers, and fresh fruit are also on offer, along with a selection of silken tea from Kenya, deliciously complex coffee, sparkling wine, and fresh juices.
In keeping with the authentic and welcoming atmosphere of the hotel, jars of sweets are dotted around the hotel, and guests are invited to help themselves whenever they like – nobody is to go hungry at The Oyster Box. If you are lucky, you will even catch a friendly gaze from Skabenga, the resident cat. Somewhat of an unofficial mascot, Skabenga can be found basking in the sunshine, sleeping in the reception lounge, or greeting guests at the Guest Relations desk.
To stay at The Oyster Box is to experience the pinnacle of hospitality, in one of the most picturesque settings in the country, where you will create memories that you will cherish forever. To book your stay or to learn more about the offerings at The Oyster Box, visit www.oysterboxhotel.com.
Text by Charlotte Rogers
Photography © Red Carnation Hotels