A week. An entire week of doing nothing...
I cannot remember when last I had the luxury of doing nothing for this long. The concept of a vacation is quite alien to me because of my job as a travel journalist, but this is to be an actual, real holiday. Just rest, sand and sea, family and friends. The self-catering Tsogo Sun Cabana Beach Resort hotel is located on the idyllic coastline just north of Durban in uMhlanga in the Kwa-Zulu Natal province of South Africa. Packing the previous day, up early and driving the seven hours or so from Johannesburg brings back childhood memories of the anticipation of carefree seaside holidays.
We finally arrive at about 4:00 in the afternoon on a beautifully warm day for this time of year - but then there is never really any discernible winter in this area of the country. Styled in the theme of a classic Mediterranean village, the resort can accommodate up to 1,000 guests but still feels like an oasis of peace and warmth, with year-round sunny weather and the beautiful golden swimming beaches on your doorstep.
Our unit is located on the 12th floor with fantastic vistas of the Indian Ocean. Guests can enjoy a choice of tastefully furnished seaside apartments, which can accommodate between two and six people each. Options include Beachfront, Duplex, Terrace, Tower, and Penthouse apartments, which are serviced daily.
The Resort features standard rooms available in two configurations, one-bedroom Beachfront units and two-bedroom Tower apartments.
The 31 Beachfront units have one bedroom, one bathroom, full kitchen and terrace or balcony, making them perfect for a couple planning an escape to the beach.
The 80 Tower apartments offer more space with two separate bedrooms, one of which features an en-suite bathroom plus extra guest toilet and shower. Tower apartments have full kitchens, lounge with sleeper couch and a terrace or balcony. All units are sea facing and are ideal for a family or small group headed to uMhlanga.
The four sleeper Terrace Apartment features an open plan bedroom, living area and full kitchen. The second small bedroom has two single beds and a guest toilet. Apartments are sea facing and have their own balcony. These apartments at Cabana Beach Resort in uMhlanga Rocks are a great option for younger families.
The six one-bedroom en-suite luxury Penthouse apartments feature a spacious lounge with sleeper couch, beautiful dining area, large private terrace and full kitchen. These luxury apartments are sea facing with magnificent views.
Each room is air conditioned with full self-catering facilities - alternatively, there is the convenience of room service available from the in-house restaurants.
We quickly unpack and go exploring. A range of services and amenities are offered here including a fully-equipped fitness center that has personal trainers available, steam bath, two inviting pools, a bowling green, squash and tennis courts and a beauty salon. A courtesy shuttle is provided for guests to Suncoast Casino and Entertainment Center at scheduled times.
The afore-mentioned weather this time of year is blissful with sunny days and no wind so the days start to run into each other in contended bliss and slowly the harrowed pace of life in the real world makes way for a soft routine we happily fall into - morning walks along the beach promenade, mid-day and lunch at the pool side with the entertainment team providing fun in the form of music quizzes, bingo and live music. The afternoon is spent having a nap and then it’s time for dinner, either home-made (there is quite a big shopping mall five-minutes’ walk away and one of the biggest malls in Durban is a free shuttle away) or at one of the many small restaurants dotted along the coast, within easy walking distance. And then the nights... oh the nights. Sitting on your sky-high balcony after dinner listening to thundering seas roar far beneath me furiously, looking out over far away flickering lights of ships and lost, just lost in reverie...
And so long, languid, golden days flowed into balmy, calming nights, falling asleep each night to the roar of the ocean.
The resort is exceptionally child-friendly and kids under 18 stay and eat breakfast free and the kids’ holiday programs and activities as well as day care facilities for younger children ensure you can relax knowing your kids are safe and having a great holiday. There is also a kid pool and an adult only pool - a superb idea!
One of the highlights here in terms of self-catering, is the service which Pick & Pay (one of the country’s biggest retailers) offers to and from their store. Just call them and they’ll pick you up within five minutes in either an air-conditioned vehicle or a tuk-tuk. Prepare for a thrilling and fun-filled drive in the tuk-tuk with the amazing Jacob! We screech and laugh like children as he expertly negotiates his way along the not-long roads like Speedy Gonzales.
They also organize a "braai" or barbeque for guests on certain nights but they don’t provide any food - only the fire - so bring all your own food and cutlery and crockery. If you don’t feel like cooking, other dining options here include The Wimpy, which is open from 7:00 to 19:00 daily and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as providing a poolside menu.
uMhlanga’s Mediterranean Maritimo’s Restaurant offers a great dining experience with exceptional seafood and continental cuisine. Open seven days a week from 11:00 to 22:00, the restaurant offers spectacular views over the Indian Ocean. The Lighthouse Café is open from 7:00 to 21:00 daily serving fresh and tasty breakfast, lunch and dinner complemented by stunning ocean views.
As with any big resort anywhere, there were a couple of hick-ups (much could be done to improve the smoking policy - there is no smoking allowed anywhere including all outside areas), but for the most part, the memories of a holiday at Cabana Beach will last you a lifetime.
There are no direct flights between Durban and China but Air China flies to and from Johannesburg several times a week. We advise that you either rent a car in Johannesburg or take any of the several daily local flights to Durban.