The Sunny Side - The Fairmont Zimbali's Never-Ending Bounty

Our first impression of the deservedly well-renowned Fairmont Zimbali Resort came in the form of a long, paved road, cutting through luscious greenery as it ploughed towards the lobby of the 5-star establishment. As we curved along the circumference of a palm-packed roundabout, the hotel’s majestic glass entrance finally came into view and it was then, before attending our custom-planned welcome lunch service, or entering our ocean-view suite, or traipsing across the resort’s private beach, that my husband and I realised the once-in-a-lifetime value of what we were about to experience.

As we would come to realise over the course of our 3-night stay at Durban’s finest resort, the Fairmont Zimbali is so much more than a hotel, and no less than a standalone world, where life is lived to the finest degree, with a most effortless sense of elegance.

The view from our suite

The view from our suite

The Resort

A mere 30-minute drive from central Durban, set on a property almost too vast to imagine, the resort includes a number of restaurants (each of them top-class, but I digress), 5 beautiful outdoor pools, a private beach long enough to walk for hours, a gym, a wonderfully decadent spa and a handful of bars. Basically, a weekend away at Fairmont Zimbali Resort puts you in touch with everything that you could wish to do outside the bounds of the hotel, and then some. And from the shallow end of the main pool, right through to the bicycle rental gazebo, we were greeted with smiles and a special warmth of character, the likes of which is a rarity in today’s busy world.

Zimbali Lodge

Zimbali Lodge

Further into the thick of the property lies the Fairmont Zimbali lodge, a vestige of an older time, and although it’s much smaller than its sister resort, it is certainly not short of character. While venturing through the lodge’s grounds we caught sight of a rare Crown Eagle that has nested just next to the Lodge’s dining area.


The Food

Aside from the extensive breakfast buffet, smoothie bar and obligatory (ahem) Bloody Mary station, the resort boasts a number of restaurants and cafes, each more exquisite than the other. We started our food journey at the cafe/cocktail bar 31 Degrees with a wonderful pair of light meals accompanied by fresh sushi. 31 Degrees would turn out to be our most frequently-visited haunt during the duration of our stay, but it was certainly not our favourite (although the cocktails there were nothing short of phenomenal). The title of best food venue, in my humble opinion, would have to be shared by the North-Indian fine dining restaurant, OSA, and the Mexican eatery, Ayoba!. While OSA’s depth of flavour and authentic North-Indian dishes forced us to push ourselves to uncomfortable levels of fullness, Ayoba! proved to be the light-bite eatery that an early dinner calls for, serving up beautifully-rendered and flavour-packed favourites from the land of Tequila and Tacos. If I were to recommend one dish from each, I would say that OSA’s vegetarian Thali, and the Black Bean Nachos, with chips and guac, from Ayoba! are the most tasty options. Just make sure that you go into the restaurants at Zimbali with an empty stomach, and a lot of time to spare, because you’ll need it.

Breakfast at Coral Tree

Breakfast at Coral Tree

As if the service and quality of food at any one of the restaurants weren’t enough, we had an immaculately prepared and beautifully presented in-room three-course dinner on our final night at Fairmont Zimbali Resort that was on par with any of the other meals we had during our time there. Plus, there’s something super romantic about eating dinner in the comfort of your ocean-view hotel room!


The Extras

During our all-too-brief stay, we were treated by the hotel to - amongst other things - a few really amazing activities. After settling in and getting the lay of the land, so to speak, we were given a couple of bicycles and encouraged to explore the property. A short while later, we found ourselves in the middle of a barely-developed cul-de-sac, having pushed our holiday bodies as hard as we could over hills and through shallow valleys. In this small enclave it only took us a few moments before we realised that the relative silence that had surrounded us for the duration of our ride had been broken by some very inquisitive visitors - Vervet Monkeys. Family groups slowly surrounded us from every angle, chewing on unnamed shrubs and keeping a keen collective eye on us, the new arrivals, while generally going about their rather cute, rather monkey-ish business. While they can be a little bit forward when food is involved, the Vervet Monkeys are absolutely harmless and are a must-see for guests at the resort. A short cycle back to the hotel took us across the path of a young grazing bush buck which, amazingly enough, allowed us to get up close without running off. Such close encounters are simply magical and have to be experienced to be appreciated.

The following day, shortly after breakfast, we were excitedly ushered into what appeared to be a brand new car, with our own private driver, Anthony, and driven to central Durban. There we got the chance to visit Victoria Market place, where we browsed through souvenirs, spices and South African crafts before heading over to Durban’s world famous Botanic Garden, which is home to some of the rarest and most interesting plant species on the planet, including an Orchid house and a specific type of cycad that is last remaining plant of its kind and therefore, an utterly priceless specimen.

Aside from being a kind and pleasant guide during our tour, Anthony was also remarkably knowledgeable on the history and culture of Durban and its surrounds, painting a vivid picture of the city.

Durban Botanical Gardens

Durban Botanical Gardens

To end the day, we took to the beach with a blanket, two baskets full of finger-food, a couple of towels, and a bottle of crisp white wine, to see in the late afternoon on the shores of the Indian Ocean. There’s nothing like a beach picnic next to slow, crashing waves, underneath a pale blue sky.


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Lanzerac - A Moment in Time Defined by Taste And Style

From mountains to forests and vineyards to fields, the quiet Lanzerac oasis has it all. Situated in the charismatic and dainty old town of Stellenbosch, the hotel captures the essence of countryside stillness while remaining close enough to all of the most attractive aspects of the surrounding town.

We arrived in the late afternoon of a cool summer’s day, just a few hours before sunset, which allowed us to expedite our warm-hearted greeting service and head out on a tour of the magnificent property. Unassuming from the outside, the Lanzerac grounds unfold into something truly awe inspiring once explored beyond the surface; mountains encircle 150 hectares of luscious greenery, 50 hectares of which are used to grow the vines that create Lanzerac's distinct award–winning wines, all of which can be tasted at a complimentary wine-tasting for guests of the resort.

Dotted around the property are buildings that imbue the perfect balance between old styles and new sensibilities, combining architecture that harkens back to the 1690s with clean, distinct design aspects that speak for a more modern approach. The simple fact that they have pulled this off so undeniably well makes Lanzerac a sight to be seen, and all this before we had even stepped into our quarters!


After an extensive and informative tour, we were shown to our room, which was exceptional, to say the least – part of a newly renovated block and boasting original, centuries old bare–brick walls, dark wood floors and a lavishly large bathroom, the whole room said one thing: Luxury. Decorative accents came from old vintage pieces collected from a multitude of private dealers and antique warehouses. After getting to grips with our abode for the night, we eventually slipped into our dinner wear, had a glass of the estate’s signature Pinotage, and headed out to dinner.


Upon entering the old colonial dining area, we were cordially greeted by the Maitre d’, led to our table, and walked through the extensive menu before being left to our own devices. Needless to say, we had a hard time choosing what to eat, eventually deciding on a set of starters, mains and desserts that absolutely blew us away. The highlight of the night was almost certainly the Patagonian squid that my husband ordered (it came highly recommended by our waiter), which he claims is one of the best meals he has ever eaten! Coupled with the immaculate wine pairings created by our amazing waiter, the dinner went from something rather casual, to an all-ōut taste sensation. Hyperbole aside, I can safely say that the dining experience at Lanzerac was definitely in my top 5 in South Africa, and I don’t say that lightly!

After dinner, we retired to our bedroom, full–bellied and ready to sleep. The comfort of the room, aided by a rather large bath and a few more glasses of Lanzerac’s own made our rest deep and uninterrupted.


Awoken the next morning, in true Hollywood fashion, by the chirping of birds, we slowly got into gear and headed out for a breakfast that almost trumped our dinner; oysters, pastries, nuts, fresh juices, champagne, granola and great coffee are just some of the things that make up the breakfast spread at Lanzerac. As I'm sure you can imagine, we took our time and left our outdoor breakfast table feeling fresh and very, very satisfied.

With that, it was time to bid farewell to Lanzerac, the welcoming staff and the amazing grounds, but not without first grabbing a bottle of their unparalleled Pinotage to take home with us. On the drive back to the city we couldn't help but reminisce over how amazing the past two days had been, and concluded that one way or another we would have to go back, but next time for much longer. 

Find out more about Lanzerac here.

Babylonstoren: A Self-Sustaining Paradise In The Winelands

Babylonstoren is a Cape Dutch Farm Hotel, located about an hour’s drive from Cape Town (45 minutes if you hurry). Built in 1692, it is one of the oldest establishments in the area, with a rich history of farming and trading. It is essentially South African, boasting all the very best that Western Cape has to offer, with a hint of the old Dutch days shining through in the architecture and layout of the compound. Vines, orchards, plants and bushes cover the land as far as the eye can see, surrounded by a border of picturesque mountains in every direction.

We found ourselves there on a day that was too hot for a South African spring and too cold for summer (read: the perfect kind of weather) with a single backpack for the two of us, holding everything we might need for the night.  

As we parked the car we were greeted by Warren, a smiling concierge, who gave us a brief overview of the area while walking us to our cottage, which looked like a very well kept old Dutch manor from the outside. As we stepped in, however, we encountered an astonishing interior; the open-plan living area tastefully blurs the line between old and new, with glass walls all around the kitchen, a small library separating the living room from the dining space, high ceilings, lots of light, marble bathroom flooring and an enormous fireplace to keep us cozy after nightfall. All finished with incredible attention to detail and style. Safe to say, we took the tour of the cottage with our mouths slightly open, and our eyes wider than usual.

Once Warren finished up and left us to our own devices, we cracked open one of the two complimentary bottles of Babylonstoren’s own wine that came with the cottage, peeled a couple of the farm-grown blood oranges, and soaked it all up. Needless to say, we were absolutely smitten and could not wait to see what the surrounding areas had to offer.

Once we’d finished our chardonnay and gathered our senses, we headed out to the cellars, where an informative young lady gave us an extensive tour through the production process and storage methods of the vineyard. From there we were shown into the new wine tasting room, a beautiful class cuboid surrounded by the very vines used to make the wine that they serve. We were pleasantly surprised by the arrival of a vegetable platter made up of everything that was currently in season in the garden and, to my husband’s great delight, freshly baked bread from the bakery.

Drinks started with the sommelier bringing us each a glass of Babylonstoren’s Sprankler – a sparkling wine that is produced using the old champagne method, carrying a sultry apple aroma and a crisp, refreshing taste. Next up, a light Viognier, followed by a Rose and a couple of the extremely bold house reds. We sat and nibbled until there was nothing left, except for an empty platter and two very satisfied, albeit slightly tipsy guests.

We spent the next hour and a half on bikes provided by the hotel, riding down endless roads between vines, olive trees and orange trees. There is beauty everywhere you look and it felt as though we could get lost in that moment forever, peeking at each other between trees and admiring the vastness of the surrounding land.

We returned to our cottage as the sun dipped below the horizon, freshened up and made our way straight back out, setting our trajectory for Babel, the fine-dining establishment on the grounds.  Four courses, all made from the freshest ingredients in the garden, took us on yet another adventure – one of olfactory and textural bewilderment. I enjoyed a salad as my starter, which was made up of incredible ingredients such as waterblommetjies (water lilies), fresh pear, pak choi and more, all doused in an aromatic Thai green curry vinaigrette. This was followed by a mushroom risotto (easily the most flavorful risotto I’ve ever had), and finished off by and elaborate dessert featuring a chocolate fondant, coconut and lavender ice cream and gloriously sweet shards of meringue. As if it couldn’t get any better, all of the meals were perfectly paired with exquisite wines straight from the grounds. With heavy eyes and full bellies, we said goodnight to our waitress and walked back to our cottage under the starry African sky.

My husband made a fire as I filled the bathtub with water, sprinkling in bits of the bouquet of fragrant plants, which sat next to the tub. I picked a book from the shelf, took a nice long bath, and dried off in front of the fire before hopping into our bed.

The next day we woke up and went to breakfast where we were greeted by an amazing array of granola, yogurts, fruit, vegetables and juices. I was so excited by the incredible spread that I took pictures for the first 10 minutes, whilst the husband impatiently nibbled at his selection.  We filled our stomachs and headed to the main building where we met with the guide who was to give us a garden tour. We walked through the vast gardens, smelling an orange leaf here and tasting nectar from a flower there.

From there we headed to the farm stall to get freshly baked roasted garlic ciabattas and sparkling grape juice for the road. We packed our bags in the car, and said goodbye to the lovely people and place that had won our heart in such a short time. As we checked out, the concierge sent us off by saying “We’re looking forward to having you back here! You’re family now. You will always be welcome”. The last thing I said to my husband before we drove away was something along the lines of ”I really can’t wait to go back there!”

If this hasn't convinced you to visit Babylonstoren yet, here are some more amazing facts:

  • Hotel guests are free to explore 200 hectares (almost 500 acres) of the property. In addition to walking between the orchards, guests can canoe on the dam, cycle through the vineyards, birdwatch, pick fruit and veg with the chefs, have a wine tasting, relax at the Spa, have a dip in the pool or just relax.

  • At its heart lies the 3,5 hectare (8 acre) garden, which has 15 sections that include fruit, berries, bees for pollinating, indigenous plants, fragrant lawns, a prickly pear maze, a clivia tunnel and a plethora of trees of historical and botanical import.

  • If you don't stay the night, you can visit the farm with an entrance of of R10 per person and marvel at the gardens, have a wine tasting, go to one of the restaurants or the farm shop. You can easily spend the whole day there!

  • There are two restaurants on the property: Babel, the intimate signature restaurant, and the Greenhouse tea garden, where visitors to the garden can enjoy tea under the majestic old oaks. Guests can also enjoy wine tasting and delicious platters at the Tasting Room.

  • All the fresh produce used in the restaurant dishes are planted and harvested in the garden. The things that aren't produced at the farm are sourced locally.

You can find more information regarding the farm and hotel on their website.