The lobby of The Views Hotel
After a second report from the trade show floor of Indaba in Durban, South Africa, Jena Tesse Fox takes a quick flight to Knyssa, for some unique property tours and, more, wildlife encounters.
Airlines throughout the United States, please take note: Even when flying short distances of two hours or less, South African Airways checks bags for free, provides at least two drinks onboard and offers at least a sandwich. It can be done, guys. I’m just sayin’.
So after several days of running all over Durban, we caught a quick flight over to Knysna (the “k” is silent, I’ve learned, and the name rhymes with “Liza,” but with an “n”) in the Western Cape Province and headed over to The Views Hotel, a brand-new property right on the beach that really lives up to its name. (From my window, I can see nothing but ocean and sky. It’s wonderfully Zen. From my balcony, I can see the beach. It’s still Zen.) The boutique property has just 19 rooms and suites, only five of which don’t face the sea. The rooms themselves match the sea-and-sky-theme of the view, with polished driftwood for the flooring and tiny, smooth pebbles in the open-plan bathroom. (General Manager Jackie Joubert can be reached at [email protected].)
The main restaurant at The Views, Sails is headed by executive chef Craig Bloemsma, who creates a new menu each day depending on what is fresh and available. Generally, he limits the menu to four starters and three entrees, though he did say that he’ll accommodate any special requests possible. (My beef fillet with mustard sauce was quite tasty.) For breakfasts, the hotel offers a first course continental buffet and a hot second course—no one in the group tried the bacon-and-eggs ice cream, but it certainly sounded intriguing. (If anyone does try it, please drop me a line and tell me how it is…or what it is, for that matter.)
A Suite's bedroom at the Pezula
We also checked out Pezula, a six-year-old seaside resort that will be hosting the French team for the World Cup. (Ha! You thought I’d get through an entire post without mentioning soccer, didn’t you?) The property has fireplaces everywhere, and—with low buildings set into hillsides—gives off a comfortably luxe vibe. The wine cellar (90 percent of which is local vintages) doubles as a tasting room; the spa has a post-treatment room with massage waterbeds; guests can borrow bikes for getting around; and there are champagne, whiskey and cigar bars for various tastes. All of the suites (both the Villa and Studio) categories have balconies, heated floors and (of course) fireplaces. Cool touch: The Presidential Suite has a dedicated butler.
If a dedicated butler isn’t enough, the ultimate place to stay at Pezula is a complex down the road from the main resort (accessible by free shuttle) called The Castle, made up of two full apartments that can be rented individually or together. A private chef and butler are included, as are all meals and activities. Ten adults can stay in the complete complex, and rates for the full property start at about $11,885 per night. For more information or special requests, agents can contact Russel Binks, director of hospitality at [email protected].
Within an hour’s drive of The Views are two sanctuaries for wild animals: Elephant Sanctuary and Tenikwa. We started at the former and learned about their six elephants that have been rescued from Kruger National Park. Patrick, our guide, explained that each of them have disadvantages that would have made their survival in the wild very difficult if not impossible. (Ironically, a genetic condition that prevents tusks from growing has saved many elephants from ivory-hunting poachers, but keeps them from digging out roots in winter. What saves them from one fate condemns them to another.) I got to walk with Thandie, who let me pet her and explore her tail and feet…in exchange for peanuts, apples and veggies, of course. (Quid pro quo.)
Thandie enjoys a a drink
We then headed to Tenikwa, which is working to save endangered animals from extinction by rescuing abandoned, orphaned or injured birds and cats and either rehabilitating them to return to the wild or keeping them to maintain the gene pool. (Pamphlets in the reception hall offer suggestions on responsible wildlife touring.) Our guide, Sizwe, showed us around—and then into—the large outdoor pens that contained rescued cats, many of whom had been raised in the sanctuary and were not afraid of people. A leopard normally prefers to stay hidden in the brush, Sizwe told us, but their leopard was perfectly comfortable sitting around…and even stalking us through the fence. (We were warned not to get too close.) Next door were two young cheetahs, who seemed very eager to stay around us when we entered their pen, and even let us pet them. Turns out, leopards and cheetahs are natural enemies in the wild, and their pens are next door to one another. The cheetahs wanted us around for protection from the nearby leopard…or maybe for a snack; I’m really not sure.
An eager cheetah at Tenikwa
For a light meal in the late afternoon, we went to Bramon Wine Estate, reportedly the first successful wine estate “this far east” on the Western Cape in the community of Plettenberg Bay. We sampled two of their most popular vintages—a wonderfully dry and gently fruity Sauvignon Blanc (the first wine produced in Plettenberg Bay)--and a Pinotage, which we were told used to be exclusive to the region before being produced in California. We ate our tapas (try the springbok or ostrich carpaccio—delicious!) outside among the vines, which are dotted with red or white rose bushes to indicate what kind of grape is grown there. There are probably better ways to spend a warm afternoon, but at the moment, I can’t think of any.