As I galloped along the water’s edge of Oyster Bay Lodge’s own 3.5km beach, I couldn’t help letting out a “yeehaa”.
I was supposed to stay just one night at Oyster Bay Lodge, but arriving at dusk and leaving early morning on a media tour, just wasn’t enough. So, being a safari tart, I asked if they wouldn’t mind if I stayed another night. They thought I was a chancer, which I probably am, but a quick google search of yours truly showed that I am a real travel writer, and no novice. I’m so glad they agreed, because otherwise I would have missed my “yeehaa” and all the feelgood that is still running through my veins after a perfect beach ride. I would have also missed chatting to owner Hans Verstrate, who is a man that makes you search into your soul and question yourself.
Having visited South Africa from Holland a few years ago, Hans found that the climate, the lifestyle and the space was something he wanted in his life. Hans was in the perfect position to know how to effect change, since he was a Change Management Consultant in the Netherlands. He took his own advice, sold his business, emigrated to South Africa with his wife Elizabeth, where they looked far and wide for their perfect piece of land.
They found it along the eastern end of the Garden Route and began the building of Oyster Bay Lodge. With Hans’ business background, the hospitality and management of Oyster Bay Lodge run like clockwork, and the quality of the accommodation is superb.
Their fine dining restaurant called ‘Seagrass’, presents its food like works of art and offers intense flavours, although at times making the dishes a little over complicated.
The springbok carpaccio for example, was perfect with a little olive oil, shavings of parmesan and rocket, drizzled with balsamic reduction. It didn’t need the addition of blueberry jam and pear slices.
But you get my drift, the food here is anything but ordinary and is prepared and presented by local ladies who have been given expert training.
In contrast to all the finesse, the 235 hectare reserve is wonderfully wild and unpredictable. It has five different biomes providing habitat for antelopes, birds, reptiles, porcupines and even caracal, in riverine thickets, bushland and patches of forest, coastal wetlands and a long pristine beach backed by high sand dunes.
The line of guest rooms extending from the main bar and restaurant, all look across this array of nature towards the beach about 500 metres away.
You may see some of the twelve or so horses wandering past your room as they roam free here. Most are very placid and complete novices can live the dream of riding a horse on one of the most perfect beaches in the world.
While you are doing that, you may even see dolphins in the surf and will certainly see rare black oystercatchers who pair up for life and breed very successfully here. There are about 150 bird species in the reserve including the Kynsna Lourie, who looks like a cross dresser going through a colourful punk phase. The pointy mohican is bright green, the outer wings are a shimmery blue, but the underwings reveal a flash of scarlet as they crash around between branches in the dense forest.
After pounding the wavebreak at a steady canter, Aubrey the riding guide and I, came to a point where a line of rocks emerged from the Indian Ocean. I wondered where the oysters of Oyster Bay were to be found, but it seems that the locals have eaten them all. Michael, the Lodge Manager told that there are still some young luscious ones to be found, and they are best eaten immediately, with the taste of sea water still in them.
If horses aren’t your thing, Michael takes out bird watching walks and there are plenty of walking trails and a beach to die for. Newlyweds like Oyster Bay Lodge as a Garden Route honeymoon location, because they can do everything or nothing and have a fabulous time doing it. Picnics are delivered to various viewpoints and sundowner drinks are at the thatched wetland boma, accessed via a wobbly suspension bridge that the horses have evidently tried to cross, judging by the broken planks.
Oyster Bay Lodge is another one of the nature reserves that I wouldn’t mind owning, because it’s got so much going for it, and give me a horse and a beach and I am sold anyway!
Their rates are very reasonable for the high 4-star standard of accommodation and dining experience. And for the opportunity of being in a beautiful bubble of nature that is on the Garden Route, only an hour and a half from Port Elizabeth airport.
See more details on their website.