NOVEMBER 2013 – Days At Sea, on KwaZulu-Natal’s unspoilt South Coast, adds a layer of chic sophistication to the pure relaxation of beach living, making it the most stylish of hideaways for an idyllic break to experience sand between the toes, salt on the skin and the rhythmic lull of warm Indian Ocean waves breaking on a long golden beach.
Panoramic views of endless ocean are revealed as the gates open, the sound of the surf muted only by the breeze blowing lightly in the palm trees. Welcome to Days At Sea, an intimate and secluded beach lodge in Trafalgar, on KwaZulu-Natal’s beautiful Hibiscus Coast. A graceful bronze sculpture hints at the art-loving ambience within, but for now nature draws the eye with masterly brushstrokes of sky, sea and land. Perched on a hillside that drops down to a long, deserted beach, the boutique hotel – the only five star oasis along this stretch of coast – is a clever juxtaposition of old and new, art and nature. The original 120-year-old fisherman’s house is incorporated into the whole but it’s hard to tell where new and old meet. The rooms are light and spacious, the jazzy suspended bar segues into a tranquil enclosed courtyard withpalm trees, the dining room and lounge have huge glass doors revealing ocean views and feature an old stone staircase reminiscent of a Greek fishing village. Original artworks are the focal point of the décor, not surprising since the owners are German artist and photographer Dr Guido Schoeldgen, and his fashion designer wife Annette. Their eclectic art, sculpture and furniture has been carefully gathered in the course of their globe trotting lifestyle, so alongside Guido’s own atmospheric compositions are pieces by Philippe Starck, driftwood installations by Gordon Rattey, and Balinese urns and stone carvings. There are just four individual and spacious suites at the main lodge. Each has a wide veranda looking out over the pool to the ocean, where you can enjoy breakfast in private or simply chill out. Comfortable and chic, each suite is individually decorated with original artworks to create an ambience of sophisticated yet informal elegance. If this all sounds as though it’s designed more for adults than children, it is; Days At Sea only takes children of 14 and over, so think romantic escape rather than family destination. Secluded on the hillside further along the beach, a short golf buggy ride away from the main lodge, is the even more lavish Artist’s Retreat, an independent two bedroom villa with a modern Balinese flavour and its own private infinity pool, deck, dramatic red-and-black dining room, large lounge with chandeliers and a huge red couch. An even more private hideaway for two couples, it comes with its own private staff. It’s very easy to let leisurely afternoons happily drift by lounging in the ‘fl oating’ gazebos, suspended over the drop where the hill swoops down to the beach – they’re a prime vantage point for whale watching in winter and spring. The holiday mood continues with romantic strolls along the pristine beach, where you’ll see hardly a soul. Swim in the warm ocean or dip in the pool back up at the hotel, where you can linger to watch sunset turn the sky all the shades from vermilion to violet. Or follow the winding paths to the secret garden therapy room, glimpsing monkeys and exotic birds in the trees, and indulge in a blissful massage while gazing up at Christopher Lorenz’s wonderful ceiling painting. Dedicated golfers are spoilt for choice with three world-class courses at nearby San Lameer, Southbroom and the Wild Coast Sun Resort, and the nearby Aliwal Shoal has stunning marine life on its coral reef for divers to explore. In such an intimate and individual setting a formal à la carte menu would be out of place. Instead, the delicious fusion of Italian, French and Asian cuisine is worked into varied set menus according to guests’ tastes, and crafted from fresh seasonal ingredients sourced daily. The cellar is a journey of exploration in itself – awarded platinum by Diners International – where afi cionados can browse the superb wine collection. As night falls, Guido’s Ibizan Café del Mar music plays softly in the background and a striking halogen spotlight illuminates the breakers below, adding a touch of drama – or a concert is projected onto the lounge wall. So blissful is the spectacular location, the serene ambience and relaxed pampering at Days At Sea that it’s impossible to leave without promising to return to the Hibiscus Coast for another generous measure of its balmy beach magic.