NOVEMBER 2012 – There are a handful of places on earth where you have to pinch yourself just to be sure that what you’re seeing is real. The quaint little fishing village of Paternoster, on the Cape West Coast, is one of these places – and Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel proudly honours the ancient indigenous travellers of this coastline, while welcoming modern-day discerning guests inspired by its serenity and surreal natural beauty. Here, heaven meets earth on the shores of the Atlantic.
Paternoster has plenty of stories to tell, some carried on the wind and others held closely to its chest to be revealed to those who listen closely. This is a place of wild beauty, and wide white beaches washed by an ocean that’s cool and enigmatic. Here too, the sea is strewn with the skeletons of ships that struck rock off the coast and settled forever on the sea floor. And so Paternoster came to be named. Shipwrecked sailors gave thanks to ‘our father’ for making it to shore safely after their crafts sank, and visitors to this little hamlet still give thanks every day for the privilege of soaking up the serenity of this soulful place.
Everything and nothing has changed since the ancient Strandlopers ambled the deserted coastline feasting on shellfish and bountiful seafood. The plentiful fruits from the sea remain in vast quantities of fresh fish, huge black mussels and abundant West Coast crayfish, caught by traditional local fishermen for their livelihood. They venture out in tiny wooden boats painted in vibrant reds and blues, named to reflect their life’s priorities. Zenidine, Visveld, Wikkel and Troubles all lie on Paternoster beach, waiting for wind and tide to be right to head out to the fishing grounds, just like fishing boats – and fishermen – here have done for many centuries. As the oldest fishing village on the West Coast, Paternoster has a unique atmosphere of authenticity and gentle vibrancy imbued by its traditional community. Here life is lived to the rhythms of tides and winds and nature dictates the doings for the day, every day. So too at Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel, with its uninterrupted oceanscape views across vast expanses of perfect white beaches and twinkling turquoise ocean. These far-reaching vistas in watercolours are balm for the soul and splendid natural theatre. ‘Here you can completely leave the world behind,’ says co-owner Simone Jacke. ‘Strandloper is a retreat, a place of calm that is completely private and secluded. It’s so much more than a hotel, Strandloper is a philosophy of being in harmony with nature and blending in with the delicate beauty of the surroundings. So interiors are silent. They don’t compete with what’s outside, but instead showcase the natural splendour of this unique coastline.’
At Strandloper, the nine rooms, three Ocean Suites and spacious King and Presidential suites are all appointed in organic, pared-down furnishings that reflect the surrounding natural environment of wood, stone and washed colours. Here, luxury is understated with clean lines, pure linens and a neutral palette of textures that are uncluttered and soothing. Small splashes of accent colours and Nguni hide mats lend layered depth. The charming Courtyard rooms enchant with intimate outdoor spaces for chilling in hammocks in complete privacy, to the sound of gentle running water – and there are outdoor showers, too. All are set in sweeping indigenous gardens of dancing purples and blues. While most suites have ocean views, others have languid nature views, but sun beds at the Ocean Lounge offer sea views to all guests in a relaxed and laid-back setting. This is also where meals are served – from sumptuous organic-inspired breakfasts that showcase fresh local cuisine prepared with unique flair, to delectable light and healthy lunches, and dinners that reflect the finest offerings of the area – all conjured up and prepared with finesse by master chef Lovemore Mandabva, whose passion for his craft is palpable. Afternoon teas and fresh baked cakes are also offered at the Ocean Lounge, which opens up to flow right onto the milky white beach.
‘Strandloper is driven by passion,’ says Simone, ‘it’s about offering our guests a full and authentic experience of Paternoster; experiences we hope will live in their memories long after they leave here, and which will encourage them to return for more.’ All around there is prolific bird watching and whales come into the bay to frolic between July and December. There are dolphins year round too, and the indigenous fynbos to discover, long, long beach walks, kayak trips at sea, seal and penguin colonies to visit, and the little village of Paternoster to browse in. Uniquely though, Strandloper offers personal encounters with the local townsfolk and fishermen in a bid to create lasting impressions and true West Coast experiences for guests who wish to understand the rhythms of this ancient fishing village and its evocative culture. Yet Strandloper doesn’t just showcase the magnificent area, it gives back to it too as part of its holistic philosophy of integrated practice. The property has partnered with a local organisation focused on empowering disadvantaged children from Paternoster through ongoing education and health projects, so that the children of the West Coast can be proud ambassadors for the magnificent area they call home. Included in the Strandloper property is also four kilometres of undisturbed, sandy beach, where guests can amble along the shoreline at leisure or hike it and picnic on fresh shucked oysters and champagne at the end of their efforts. A gourmet picnic awaits them on the beach at Groot Paternoster reserve, in an idyllic setting surrounded by the region’s wild fynbos and flowers. Alternately, a gourmet picnic excursion to Cape Columbine Nature Reserve is also offered. Here, guests can climb the nostalgic white Cape Columbine lighthouse for sweeping views of the coastline, horizon to horizon. Having worked up an appetite, they’ll enjoy a gourmet picnic served along with champagne, while comfortably nestled among sea rocks with vistas of tiny bays and rhythmic waves.
Seafood lovers have an enchanting option to head out with local fishermen to catch their own fish and crayfish, which is then prepared for them for dinner on a rustic beach grill under a canopy of stars. It’s pure romance, unfettered and real. Yet another popular outdoor dining option, is a traditional braai evening. This localstyled barbecue includes succulent steaks, spareribs, lamb chops and boerewors, all grilled to perfection on an open fire under the stars. It’s a classic way to end the day in true South African style, sitting around an open fire with ocean waves as background music, tasting the flavours of the Rainbow Nation. Alternatively, curl up in your secluded suite, order in and relax surrounded by views so breath taking they could all be the subject of paintings. Throw open the doors and let the sun and sky inside. Every whim is met in suite too, with complimentary Wi-Fi, satellite TV, DVD and audio systems, mini bars, tea and coffee facilities and air-conditioning for hot summer days. Importantly, despite every laid-back luxury, Strandloper still treads lightly, using energy-efficient appliances, solar water heating and low energy air-conditioning.