Days at Sea

Trafalgar, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa Book from R2,560

Top dollar art-of-living and top name artworks at this unique Indian Ocean hideaway
Guido Schoeldgen's jazzy photographic works of art may be familiar to you if you've spent time in Ibiza, Hamburg or Cape Town. For this creative adventure he headed for the beach to craft 5 amazing suites for couples, amidst the lush subtropical vegetation of Natal's stunning Hibiscus Coast.

Days at Sea (a fittingly quirky name), is an art hotel in the truest sense, and doubles as a showcase for contemporary sculptures, projected photographs and paintings by the likes of Christo, Eva Ohlow and Christopher Lorenz, as well as a good deal of Guido's own work. The building's boxy architectural lines and angular furnishings are in a clean cut, Noughties vein and are perfectly pepped up by Gordon Rattey's funky stick tables, Philippe Starck chairs and Bombo stools; the eyecatching lacquered free-standing bar is a work of art in its own right.

The hotel centres around a slickly crafted open-plan restaurant, overlooking the rolling breakers of the Indian Ocean, where you dine on gourmet cuisine to the strains of Pavarotti whilst watching monkeys swing amongst the palms and dolphins cut through the waves. The mood is cool, contemporary and artfully seductive. Coastal couples' hideaways don't come much better than this.

Highs

  • The oceanside position is picture-perfect
  • Fab food (served on your private terrace if you prefer) with a wine cellar to match
  • Masses of chill-out space for just 4 suites and a separate hideaway for 2-4, so you can choose to be as sociable as you like
  • Young, proactive staff who go that extra mile to make your stay really special
  • The Hibiscus Coast, named after the lush subtropical gardens between Port Edward and Port Shepstone, boasts long, sandy beaches and pleasantly warm seas (compared to Cape Town and the Garden Route)

Lows

  • You won't necessarily meet Guido or his wife Annette; they are often in Cape Town or away on their travels
  • You'll need to keep your bedroom door pulled shut at night to keep out unwanted monkeys
  • Not for families - no children under 14 are allowed

Best time to go

The Hibiscus Coast is seeing a growing number of visitors - mostly South African - throughout the year, with peak times coming at Christmas and again at Easter. Nearby, Port Edward's Silver Beach hosts a huge New Year's Eve party every year and the best time for hitting the beach is from December through to April or May. Bear in mind that during July and August (which is South African winter), the nights can be chilly, though it's generally dry and sunny by day and the golf courses are practically empty! July to November is a good time to combine a visit to Days at Sea with a stay in a game lodge - there are less leaves on the bushes so the game is more visible. In October and November (springtime in the southern hemisphere) you can expect to see a fair amount of rain. Autumn (May-July) sees the Sardine Run, when millions of sardines spawn in the cool waters of the Agulhas Bank and then move northward along this coast in shoals up to 10km long, attracting lots of other wildlife (including dolphins and hungry sharks) as they go.

Our top tips

Don't forget your insect repellent: although this part of the coast is malaria-free, you'll be more comfortable dining alfresco if you're wearing a protective cream.

Great for...

Beach
Foodie
Honeymoon
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Art Hotel
  • 4 suites + 1 villa (for 2-4)
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • Not suitable
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • CD library
Room:

Rooms

The 4 guest suites are big and airy sleeping spaces with maximum aesthetic appeal; they are born of Guido's love for contemporary interiors. All white walls and light screed floors provide a neutral canvas for eye-catching photographs, paintings and sculptures with a predominance of Guido's own creations. The suites slickly marry glass, stainless steel and wooden decking, whilst tables, sofas and armchairs are mostly modern design classics.

As you'd imagine, the visual focus is the sea: high French windows with silvered Venetian blinds, coupled with a big sweep of private terrace, ensure that you really get to commune with the ocean.

And what's inside your room is just as spoiling: a full quotient of bedroom hardware: including flatscreen TVs and DVD players, WiFi, hot and cold air-conditioning, underfloor heating, a minibar, a telephone and a sound system. As well as comfy-and-funky sofas, each suite has twin loungers and a dining table and chairs; just ask if you'd prefer to have any meal served in the intimacy of your suite. Beds are kingsize, linen is top of the range, and silk bedrunners and bright cushions add a twist of colour.

The suites are named after different animals in the local KwaZulu dialect. Our first choice would be Umkhomo which, appropriately for a room of this size, means whale; it measures a massive 170 sq.m., with a huge sitting-cum-dining area and a massive sun deck from which a staircase leads straight down to the drop-rim pool.

Next in line comes Ufudu (meaning turtle): another huge sleeping space with a really romantic vibe, secreted away amongst thick stands of frangipani and palms. It's one level down from the dining area.

Inyoni (bird) and Inkawu (monkey) are smaller rooms but decorated with just as much jazz and snazz, and each is blessed with an ocean-facing terrace. Inyoni is a symphony of blue, with a funky sky-coloured sofa and daybed. Inkawu is decorated in greens and has a huge painting by Guido of mermaids and fish; the feel is ethereal, the views are stunning.

Bathrooms aren't enormous, but are similarly luxurious and design-conscious, with more original artworks, swish taps and plenty of monogrammed creams, shampoo and gel. You'll also find a big pile of fluffy white towels, as well as bathrobes and slippers. Don't expect a bathtub but rather a high-power shower: Ufudu's was designed so that your ablutions are accompanied by an ocean view.

If you really want privacy, head a few hundred metres down the street to The Artist's Retreat, a heady hideaway for honeymooners or 2 (friendly) couples travelling together. You get your own Jacuzzi, a drop-rim pool and masses of living space in a kind of oriental-boudoir style (the cherry red dining area is a real wow), plus the ever-present prospect of the sea. It comes with its own staff, though you can also choose to self-cater in its state-of-the-art kitchen.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Dvd player
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Slippers
  • Terrace
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Days at Sea's restaurant is at the heart of this diminutive hotel, and opens to the public at lunch and dinner time.

The mood is that of a chilled diner-by-the-sea: Philippe Starck bucket chairs flank square white tables, strains of opera alternate with Ibiza sounds and those of the ocean, a high wall beside the bar serves as a screen for videos and slide shows of Africa, whilst young, black-aproned waiting staff slip between the tables. For a large part of the year, sliding glass doors are pulled aside to let in the ocean breeze, whilst in cooler weather the doors are pulled to and overhead gas heaters are lit. And any of your meals can be served on your suite's terrace should you fancy a more intimate event; you can even have your table set up on the beach if prearranged.

Guido describes the food as con-fusion cuisine - an eclectic mix of East and West which takes what's fresh and local as its first point of reference. An extra treat comes in the form one of the best wine cellars in KwaZulu: a fabulous selection of South African listings and the novelty of a big range of rieslings from Germany.

The 4-course supper produced for us was superb. A light bruschetta of mozzarella served with cherry tomatoes and a confit of pesto was followed by beef carpaccio served with parmesan and drizzled in virgin olive oil. Our main course was a delicious fillet of grilled cuta (a KwaZulu fish) bought fresh from the slab in the local market, served with a chickpea and black olive Provençale salad. A dessert of meringue served with a banana and butterscotch whipped cream sauce was just as scrummy. We weren't really aware of much confusion, but rather a sure hand with a Mediterranean touch.

At lunch you get to choose between something from 'The Small Menu' and a couple of specials which will be chalked up in the dining room. Again, the slant is towards the Mediterranean: baguettes with thinly sliced Parma ham, a Caprese salad, ravioli with sage and butter, or perhaps a fresh seafood salad depending on what's available at the local market.

It felt great to get away from the standard buffet formula at breakfast. Served at your table, the presentation is as manicured as that of dinner: a plate of tropical fruits, another of cheeses and cold cuts, muesli and yoghurt, a basket of freshly baked bread and croissants - and then the cooked breakfast of your choice accompanied by the best espresso coffee and freshly squeezed fruit juices.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Coffee maker
  • Coffee tea making
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Head for the beach: there's miles of powdery white sand right on your doorstep and 5 local beaches have blue flag status

  • Dip into the stunning drop rim pool, then laze and gaze the afternoon away

  • Treat yourself to a massage accompanied by the music of Chopin on a beauty deck hidden amongst the palm trees

  • Rent bicycles in Margate and cycle the coast; or mountain bike inland in the hills

  • Go deep-sea fishing or take a whale-and dolphin-watching cruise (the Sardine Run in May-July draws huge shoals)

  • The Wild Coast, just across the border in Transkei, offers even more fabulous coastal scenery and hiking

  • Play a round or 2 of golf: the Wild Coast Sun, San Lameer and Southbroom courses are all close at hand, and at Southbroom you can get expert advice from pro golfer Derek James

  • Play tennis in South Broom: there are racquets and balls available at reception

  • Learn to scuba dive: PADI courses can be arranged in Shelly Beach (20 minutes away) and there's masses to see beneath the waves, including beautiful reefs and sharks

  • All manner of watersports, including sailing, surfing and windsurfing, are available along the Wild Coast

  • Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve is a must, with canyons and waterfalls, trails and bungee jumping

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Horse-riding
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Scuba diving courses
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Whalewatching
  • Windsurfing

Kids

No kids under the age of 14 are accepted: this place is for grown-ups.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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