At Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve — near to Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape — the infinity pool in front of our newly constructed Pool Suite, is heated. Arms draped over the rim, we gaze at the panoramic view of Coastal Thicket, down to the Dune Strandveld and azure Indian Ocean beyond. Totally private, this plunge pool and our day bed beneath a canopy of trees, make for secluded dipping and blissful suntanning.
With a male nyala browsing next to me, Brown-hooded kingfisher calling and the heady fragrance of a nearby shrub, I am immersed in nature. Most exciting of all, I am mesmerised by the spectacle of thousands of Cape gannets manoeuvring above what must be a sardine bait ball, the start of the annual sardine run. It is raining birds as they hover above the dark blue patch in the ocean then dive vertically down to grab their prey.
We set off on our game drive at the civilised time of 10am, after a leisurely breakfast on the terrace facing the vista of crescent dunes and waves. Crowned hornbills watch us, clearly envying our bountiful spread. No boot camp this, we adopt a pleasantly relaxing pace for our activities each day. Rewarded with sightings of Cape buffalo, giraffe and several buck species — including the rare Sable antelope — we enjoy the exclusivity of being the only vehicle out on the 750ha reserve. This area is home to protected species such as bontebok, Blue duiker and Common reedbuck.
Our spacious suite — with contemporary furnishing in white, grey and black — is so tranquil and appealing that we are reluctant to leave for our beach walk. Floor to ceiling plate glass walls give a perfect indoor outside feel, augmented by the large mirrors on the back wall and bathroom that reflect the exterior landscape detail. Coffee-table books and a nonfiction account of shipwrecks in the area are deliciously absorbing. With a tea and coffee station, including a lavish array of house wines, we have all we need to linger. Post sunbasking, I freshen up in the outdoor shower, using the biodegradable amenities.
Strolling on 7km of remote beach is awe-inspiring. The sand is pristine, littered with fragments of coloured algae, coral, wave-smoothed pebbles, intact shells and tracks of African black oystercatcher. Periwinkles in the littoral zone are challenged to eat morsels in the waves, before burying themselves in the sand to dodge scavenging shore birds. I try to video them but they are way too fast for me. We discover a thick weathered rope, imagining that it has a story to tell, of years in the ocean on a deep-sea fishing ship. The only people that we meet on our peregrinations are two local fisherman, who greet us with a smile, as they wait for their rods to bend.
Back to the wooden deck above the beach, we play with the walkie talkie, to summon our game ranger, as we have worked up an appetite for the three-course lunch, served next to the swimming pool in the communal area of the lodge. Food is tasty and prettily presented. Soups are delectable, served in Saturn plates; fish dishes are particularly appetising and deserts ambrosial. We find a 2010 Starke-Condé cabernet sauvignon at the back of the wine cellar, which must have been forgotten, as the price is that of a young wine.
From the bubble bath menu, we have selected the “invigorate” option, with avocado and cucumber essence. As promised, our “senses are awakened with the refreshing and zesty scent”. The bath of black stone is capacious, with an outlook of indigenous bush, the trees lit by soft spotlights. Set on a table in our suite, we savour our dinner by elegant candlelight. The combination of an unusual biome and untouched beach makes Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve a treat extraordinaire.
For more information and SA residents’ rates, visit www.oceanareserve.com
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You could hire a car from Port Elizabeth or East London to meander along the coast to Port Alfred, to Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve, or the lodge could fetch you from the airport.