Arrival/Check-In: The four-story Oyster Box Hotel, a Red Carnation hotel opened in 1947 and reopened in 2009 after a masterful rebuild, is a pleasant diversion from the modern high-rises lining the beachfront promenade in Umhlanga Rocks, just outside downtown Durban. I was warmly greeted, pleasantly surprised with an upgrade, treated to a choice of cool drinks and then escorted to my sea-facing Buthelezi suite, with an overview of the property en route. A bellman arrived shortly afterward with my bag.
Guest Quarters: Upon entering my suite — one of the property’s 86 guestrooms, suites and villas — I was immediately drawn to the glass doors, which opened onto a long, private balcony overlooking the Umhlanga Lighthouse, beachside promenade and beach, and distant freighters awaiting entrance to Durban’s Indian Ocean port. After taking in the views, I shifted my gaze to the expansive living room and bedroom, decorated in handsome shades of blue with a mix of floral and geometric patterns, and connected via sliding doors inside and to the exterior balcony.
The living room had an ample seating area along with a desk with good lighting and multiple outlets. A powder room, located near the entry to the living room, makes it possible to hold meetings without revealing the bedroom. The bedroom, like the living room, opened to the balcony through a set of sliding doors. The master bath, open to the bedroom through a shuttered window, had a deep soaking tub, separate and huge rainwater shower, water closet, heated towel bars, double vanity and a selection of oversized B|Africa amenities. An entry hall, with double closets and a dressing table, provided access from the bedroom.
My suite, like all rooms on the property, included a stocked minibar, complimentary WiFi, an electric kettle with a selection of teas and coffees as well as a shortbread snack, newspapers and magazines, and fresh fruit and flowers. There were wall-mounted flat-screen satellite TVs in both rooms with sanitized and bagged remotes for each provided. Beach towels and umbrellas were available upon request.
Services/Amenities: En route to my room, I saw the Palm Court, where afternoon tea was being served; the Grill Room, where I dined that night; the Terrace Room, where breakfast was served; the Clock Library, with pieces from the owner’s collection; the beachside infinity pool; and the hotel’s bars, including the Lighthouse Bar, an elegant room overlooking the lighthouse. Along the way, I couldn’t help admiring the hotel’s collection of works by contemporary Zulu-speaking artists from KwaZulu-Natal. Later, I walked downtown, ambled along the beachside promenade and toured the full-service spa with fitness center, adjacent to the garden pool. After dinner, I discovered the 24-seat theater, where five movies are screened daily. The included full breakfast featured lavish hot and cold buffets as well as individually prepared items such as eggs Benedict. I took mine on the terrace, overlooking the lighthouse, and was thrilled to watch a pod of dolphins swim by just offshore.
The Experience: The service-oriented hotel staff couldn’t do anything to make my stay more perfect. When I requested a U.S. adapter, it showed up in minutes; when I had trouble getting online, a tech assistant immediately came to my room. My only regret was spending just one night here. I didn’t have enough time to enjoy the renowned curry buffet or truly relax and gaze over the Indian Ocean from the pool or on the beach. When I found myself with a half-hour to kill before my airport shuttle, I retreated to the spa’s relaxation areas and sipped tea while plotting my return.
- Less than 10 minutes for check-in
- Separate tub and shower
- Large vanity
- High-quality towels
- Powerful, unattached hair dryer
- High-quality bed linens
- Large, flat-screen television
- Large desk with convenient outlets
- Large, complimentary laptop safe
- Complimentary in-room WiFi
- Complimentary bottled water
- Stocked minibar
- Ample lighting
- In-room coffeemaker
- Iron and ironing board
- On-site restaurant and bar
- 24-hour room service
- 24-hour state-of-the-art fitness center
- Turn-down service
The Oyster Box
2 Lighthouse Road, Umhlanga Rocks 4319
KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
tel 27 31514 5000
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