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Port Elizabeth - Wild waves, wild fossils and wild family fun are what you’ll find in this paradise two hours from Durban.
Go for a walk on the beach to discover dinosaur bones, ammonite fossils, giant clams and ancient shark teeth with guide Bennie Mbotho, who will take great delight in pointing out the petrified logs.
The heritage walk to this petrified forest is a guaranteed highlight of a stay at the Wild Coast Sun. Fossils may not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, but it is worth it to hear Mbotho talk about the area. He is incredibly knowledgeable – and entertaining.
He is also happy to take pictures of you in the “white man’s caves” where shipwreck victims sheltered from the elements along this lonely and stormy stretch of beach.
But if a two-hour walk seems too much of a strain, there are many other activities – and a whole lot of nothing to do. Stretch out on a lounger by the pool with a cocktail in hand while the kids frolìc in the water, play a round of golf on the breathtaking course, or have a spin at the roulette table.
The hotel also offers horse rides along the beach, for experienced riders and beginners.
And then there is the spa for afterwards, a pamper session for those stiff, tired muscles. Even if that sounds like too much work, you can just lie on the lounger on your balcony (aim for a room with a sea view) and watch the passing ships, and the monkeys playing on the lawns below (they are quite cheeky and they can get up to the balconies, so keep the doors locked).
Kilometres away from the city, it is an oasis of relaxation for adults and a haven for children. There is plenty to keep them busy and parents do not need to worry about their safety as they enjoy themselves on the lush lawns and in pools specially designed for safe swimming.
One of the main attractions is the Wild Waves Water Park. In the past year, it has become so popular people come from as far as Tongaat and the Midlands to experience the rides. The two most popular are not for the faint-hearted. The Aqualoop starts with a plummet of 17 metres and goes into a near-vertical loop before you eventually end up in the splashdown lane. Wild Waves manager Rory Payn says people are quite happy to wait an hour for the few thrill-ride seconds the Aqualoop offers.
Payn is particularly proud of the Boomerango, which also has people queueing: it starts as a normal supertube, which you do on an inflatable tube that’s provided. So far, so good. But then… there’s a 17-metre drop, and up a near-vertical wall.
Will you ever go over the top?
“Of course not,” Payn says with a laugh. “Perfectly safe.”
As is the special kids’ area, for little ones under 1.2 metres, or about eight years old. Judging by the excited shouts and laughter of the children, the giant pineapple bucket that dumps a few kilolitres of water over the play area – it’s like a huge jungle gym in the water – is a hit.
In season, it’s best to get there early: although the park has the capacity to entertain 3 500 people, Payn lets in only 2 500 – to ensure that people don’t have to wait too long for a ride or for a bite at the two outlets on the premises.
There’s also Waterworld, which you’ll get to by shuttle from the hotel.
There you can go for a leisurely cruise on the Umtamvuna River, which forms the border between KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. But alas, not at sunset, thanks to Eastern Cape government red tape. It’s a scenic trip and a good way to see the inland jungle.
Waterworld also offers paddle boats for more family fun, waterskiing and jet-skiing.
Nothing quite works up an appetite like a long day in the sun and in the water.
There are several options to choose from, including Squires Loft, Fishmonger, fast food from Steers and Debonairs, and lunch at Driftwood Terrace. Chico’s is an experience – its buffet offers more choices than you can dream of, including a mean lamb curry, KwaZulu-Natal-style, all for R195 a person. Get there early – it’s very popular.
And then it’s time to call it a day. Open the sliding doors wide to let in the fresh ocean breeze, have a bubble bath, and fall into the crisp white linen of the king-size bed. There’s nothing more relaxing.
l Venter and Du Preez went courtesy of Sun International.
The Wild Coast Sun is offering a special that lasts until the end of November, at R770 a person a night, which includes breakfast. Phone 039 305 9111 for bookings. - Saturday Star