Approximately nine kilometers past Port Alfred, in the Eastern Cape, South Africa, there is an experience. The experience is called Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve. I say it is an experience due to its location, comfort, excellent food, wildlife, but particularly due to its most friendly and exceptional team who make your stay an out of this world experience.
Yes, it is a five star lodge – quite frankly it deserves ten!
The drive from Gqeberha, previously known as Port Elizabeth, up to Oceana is a mere two hour drive, on good roads. As you turn off the main road and pause at Oceana’s entrance, you are greeted by the most beamingly cheerful and wonderful man who makes sure you are who you should be before opening the gates and directing you to the lodge with a smile as wide as the Eastern Cape beaches themselves.
The drive up to the lodge is through bush and high dunes with a small bridge crossing two small dams with a Giraffe or two spotted along the way. It was an emotionally exciting drive for us tired ladies from Johannesburg, who had been up since 05:30 to catch the flight down.
By the time we drove up to the reception our eyes were wide, our mouths had dropped and we were raring to go! Met by the ever charming and ever professional Daniel and his colleague, we were welcomed into Oceana and then swept up into its elegance and luxury before the seagulls could squeal. Our luggage was treated to a transportation to our room suited to royalty!
Lunch was suggested and the sartorial spoils of our four night stay began. Being lunch, gravlax for me and salads for my partner, paired with some Game Reserve Merlot and lager, finished off with a honey cheese board. If this was lunch, roll on supper time. It was fresh, tasty, beautifully plated and I thought to myself, “There is a real chef in this kitchen and he or she is after my heart”.
Escorted to our suite – well I could stop right here because there are no words to describe the suite! – and shown the facilities just slammed us into silence. A beautiful wooden semi circular deck with loungers gives you a most magnificent and unforgettable view of the beach and the Indian Ocean, with bushveld in the foreground where Bonte Bokkies,Nyala and Zebra roam.
The room is exquisite: two bathrooms – one with a shower for two and the other with a beautiful bath, each with their own loo and basin – a most comfortable lounge with couches and wing back chairs, reception area, coffee/tea facilities, dining area. Crisp clean linen. Fine crockery and glassware with an Espresso Pod machine on call. You can see the sea from the bed in the morning when you wake up. If you venture out early, say 5ish or so you can watch the sunrise over the Indian Ocean, and that sight will feed your soul for the rest of the day! As I say, slammed into silence to be surrounded by such beauty and elegance.
Supper was beyond perfect. I had notified the lodge that my partner is predominantly a vegetarian with the odd bit of meat eaten for fun and Iron no doubt. Oceana upped the game by serving us two menus at each and every meal, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner: one ‘normal’ and one vegetarian. Again the food was fresh, perfectly cooked, plated exceptionally and served with laughter, grace and personalised service.
Throughout, whether it was omelettes, poached eggs, sandwiches, fillet (yes and it was cooked well done for me and no blood or pink matter!), salmon, pasta, risotto – there were no flaws. Eloquent deserts finished the evening off perfectly.
The walks on the very quiet beach fed my soul: the gulls, Red Oyster Catchers, the dunes, the beautifully blue sea and fresh air reminded me of how much we need this soul food, particularly as this was really our first venture out to the coast since the advent of COVID-19 nearly two years ago. Just to walk in open space surrounded by nature is the best healer of all.
The game drives gave us an opportunity to see their wildlife: Giraffe, Zebra, much bird life, even a poisonous tick (thank you Braden), Nyala, Sable, Bonte Bokkies and some shy Buffalo. Fortunately for us as we drove around the corner with the hysterically amusing Braden as our guide, we saw two Giraffe who did their six-second-mating for us after 30 minutes of carefully following them around in our truck. Amazing sight.
Whether we chose to have a picnic down on the beach on Oceana’s personalised sunning and picnic deck, lunch or supper served to us in our room the calibre of the cutlery, glassware, table settings and personal service was beyond compare.
Spa treatments in the room were booked. Although the weather was a tad windy and our semi circular deck could not be used to have the massages outside, the experience was pure magic.
The ‘people’ of Oceana are exceptional. Their courtesy, helpfulness and efforts to ensure that our stay – for a special occasion – was nothing short of going to the moon and back in your own personalised rocket. The lovely ladies who tended our room (switching on electric blankets during the late afternoon whenever the weather turned a bit chilly, switching on the heated towel racks and even on check out day the room was tidied up for us to finish our packing after breakfast) catered to our every need; the lovely waitresses who were on service in the restaurant had humour and panache and we thoroughly enjoyed meeting and interacting with them.
The Chef, on our final night, presented the most amazing significant sixty birthday cake to my partner, which she shared with the staff and one couple at the next table who were celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary.
Did we want for anything – no.
Were we happy and comfortable – oh yes
Did the food make us long for supper time – oh yes
Did the location meet our expectations – oh yes and far beyond
Did we enjoy their wildlife – absolutely and Braden was a good sport as well
Did we feel spoilt – oh my yes
Would we go back – in an absolute speed boat of a flash
There are more than five stars at Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve – there are so many stars you cannot count them.
If you are looking for me… I’m lost inside my head on my way back to Oceana.