In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit I haven’t really been a big fan of Durban’s North Coast. Being quite biased I spent all my school holidays and long weekends down the South Coast. The South Coast was like my high school sweetheart, a place I would always return to, always do the same things, see the same people. It was my place of comfort – my happy place when I needed to get away from it all.
I was recently awarded with the opportunity of a 3 night trip up the north coast. While I wasn’t as excited as my travel partner, I did see this as my opportunity to put my love affair aside with the South Coast and hopefully create a new perception about the north.
Being based in Pinetown our journey started early well what I classify as early – 7am. Needless to say we still got stuck in a bit of traffic but that was the last of the worries. (Tip: if you plan a trip during the week, either leave extremely early or from 9am onwards when everyone should be behind their desks doing their jobs!)
After driving for about an hour (2 girls in the car) a pit stop for breakfast was definitely needed. A quick R25 breakfast from Spur, in Ballito, with incredible service and a delicious daily dose of chocolate, well Hot Chocolate, we were ready for the great trek to Sodwana Bay. Did I mention 2 girls driving to an area and place neither of us had been to….ALOT of FUN!
On the way to Sodwana nothing to exciting happened, except for the fact that the drive felt so long, conversations were turning into rambling about odds and ends and of course being true women complaining about most things that clearly we were right about.
Finally (after what felt like eternity) we got to the Hluhluwe turn off. This is where the true adventure started and my love for the North Coast began. I have to be completely honest here – I’m possibly the biggest animal lover ever. If I had the capacity I would start my own farm/zoo/aquarium. From Hluhluwe to Sodwana was like a field trip for me – cows absolutely everywhere, roaming the fields, chilling in bus stops, acting like pedestrians – you name the place and you will more than likely find a couple cows and of course I can’t forget the tree climbing goats.
Along Hluhluwe you will drive past 4 massive game reserves. While most the time all you can see is bush, keep those eyes peeled because we were lucky enough to spot buck and quite a few Giraffes.
Sodwana Bay – the small part that we got to explore for about 4 hours was absolutely beautiful. Here you will find stretches of beautiful forest populated with rare and protected animals; this is one of the greatest sections of the South African coastline.
Only 5km away from Sodwana Bay Beach, a protected beach, Sodwana Bay Lodge offers the perfect combination of forest and ocean. Definitely the type of place fishermen and divers would absolutely love. With a onsite restaurant the wives or girlfriends can enjoy drinks and a great lunch while the men are catching the fish of the day for a evening braai.
While I was quite prepared to leave the next day to venture onto St Lucia, a little piece of my heart was definitely left in Sodwana.
Before heading to view Perna Perna St Lucia, we stopped for brunch at a small coffee shop as you enter St Lucia – Thyme Square. A homely and chic layout with incredible vibes ensured us that we were at the right place for a pit stop.
Perna Perns St Lucia, while it doesn’t have spectacular views, it is right in the heart of St Lucia, and the apartments… WOW beautifully appointed apartments, spacious and somewhat luxurious finished with modern decor. Perfect for a romantic break with the hubby or boyfriend!
Lake View Cabanas was our last stop for the day. While there are numerous facilities onsite from a Jungle Gym, children’s’ entertainment programme, swimming pool and restaurant, the apartments are extremely spacious and are superb.
While staying at Lake View Cabanas a hippo and croc cruise should definitely be on your Itinerary. The departure is a 4 min drive from the resort and is a 2 hour long informational and sightseeing cruise. Spot the hippo’s by the herd and learn the facts behind them and what makes them so grand as well as try find crocs camouflaging under the trees. An experience both young and old will thoroughly enjoy.
While we were already about to start our third day trek to Ballito, we had to have another stop off at Thyme Square…. This is definitely a recommendation for those staying in the area to try the coffee shop out! Huge portions, reasonable prices and a great cuppa will definitely set you off on a good note.
Our stops in Ballito consisted of viewing Chaka’s Rock Chalets and La Montagne. Chaka’s Rock Chalets offer large apartments, with partial sea views and some entertainment for the kids to enjoy. A very relaxing holiday is what to expect when staying here – and of course great service from the onsite staff.
La Montagne is an attraction itself. With loads going on at the resort you can expect an action packed stay at the resort. While the units aren’t as large as the ones we had previously seen, they offer more than enough for you to enjoy your stay. With most of them having spectacular sea views and pretty much situated about 50 metres from the golden sands of Compensation Beach, a seaside escape is what you going to get when you stay here.
Alas our last day arrived and we ventured through to Umhlanga to view Salamander. Having access to images of the resort, i wasn’t really excited about this one. Definitely the wrong approach to take when you stay here.
When arriving at Salamander, my doubts were high, however been greeted by the onsite manager with huge smiles, laughs and ice cold orange juice my perceptions slowly started to change… Needless to say they did a full 360 degree turn when I stepped into the first apartment.
Absolutely beautiful doesn’t begin to explain the apartments. Freshly refurbed and decorated spectacularly oh and of course extremely spacious and in the hub of Umhlanga – you know you in for a great stay. With partial sea views on offer, a lovely pool and deck to soak up the sun, lovely entertainment room and soon to be braai area, this resort is splendid.
While ending my trip off on a lovely note, I can now admit I have definitely left little pieces of my heart along Durban’s North Coast. A place to certainly kick back, relax and savour the surrounds!