Family-friendly? Let’s put it to the test

Kwa-Zulu Natal

Durban - Remember that ‘80s sitcom Cheers? Its theme song went: “Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came…” Well, that’s the song that played in my head during my stay at the Fairmont Zimbali Resort in KwaZulu-Natal.

But the back story first. My husband and I had been apprehensive about going on holiday to an exclusive resort with our 19-month-old. Children are adventurous and vocal so an upmarket resort and toddler didn’t seem like a good match.

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Spacious suites offer a very special home away from home.The Coral Tree restaurant offers themed dinners with spectacular views.Fairmont Zimbali resort, from its atmosphere and beautiful layout to its friendly staff, is designed to engage you as if people there know you.

But since Fairmont Zimbali Resort claimed to be family-friendly, a chance to spend a weekend there seemed a good opportunity to test that claim.

Fairmont Zimbali resort is located on prime KZN real estate. It’s also a beautiful setting with lush greenery, rolling hills, pristine beaches and a forest reserve.

The resort itself combines KZN’s rich Zulu heritage with first-world style and amenities. Guests can experience nature, enjoy a round or two of golf on the greens, party up a storm at one of their establishments or lounge around one of five outdoor pools or at the clubhouse.

On arrival, a friendly porter immediately took our luggage, while another whisked our car away to safe parking.

Already impressed, we entered the main reception and it felt as if we’d walked into a different world – the Fairmont Zimbali world with friendly Fairmont people where even the air was scented.

Delicate white orchids were on most surfaces while a collection of traditional Zulu woven hats adorned a wall.

The resort has 154 well-appointed rooms. I’d requested a room with a kitchenette (useful when travelling with a baby).

What we got was a stylish suite with a modern kitchenette tucked away in a corner and huge sea-facing windows (stunning views of the Indian Ocean) that overlooked the resort’s gorgeous blue pools. The decor was the perfect marriage of elegance and functionality. Earthy tones, wood and stone combined with clean lines to provide a luxurious, calm home away from home.

Large dark wooden double doors opened from the living room into a large bedroom with chic lighting fixtures and a king-size bed at the middle of it all.

Next to that stood a colour co-ordinated camp cot that had already been made up for the little guest.

After settling in, we decided to check out our surroundings – which brings me to the Cheers theme song. Walking down the corridors, it really did feel like a place where everyone knows your name. Staff were courteous, professional and helpful at every turn, from the cleaning staff to management, every guest was treated with the utmost respect.

That’s one of Fairmont Zimbali’s founding principles – engaging service – and it’s entrenched in everything they do. From the kind of staff hired to the resort’s layout, it’s all designed to welcome and engage you.

On our first night, we dined at Coral Tree, one of the nine contemporary dining and entertainment venues which offer a dazzling range of appetising options. Coral Tree is renowned for its attractive cuisine and themed buffets. Ours was the Friday Mozambican Seafood Affair. The restaurant offers something different every day.

My husband and I enjoyed flavourful seafood dishes, but my real indulgence was dessert.

Our table was set up with a baby chair and whenever my toddler became restless, a helpful waitress was on hand to take him on to their large outdoor dining area for a few minutes. The live music also created the perfect dining mood while serving as an interesting distraction for my son.

Dining at the resort is its own experience, with a selection of everything from local delicacies to ethnic dishes on offer.

Ayoba Restaurant offers guests a chance to wine and dine around their pool. It has a fun, easygoing vibe and a menu boasting a fiesta of Mexican flavours.

OSA on the other hand is an innovative Asian fusion restaurant that serves sushi, seafood, curry and prime South African grain-fed beef cuts. The contemporary and elegant decor and feel mirror its menu, with all meals paired with wine from the most sought-after vineyards in South Africa.

Parents who want to visit some of the restaurants which may not be suitable for small children can either leave their child at the kids’ club with child minders or request an in-suite babysitter.

I was treated to a revitalising facial at the resort’s Willow Stream Spa, while my husband and son enjoyed play time around the grounds and pools.

Our final night at the resort was spent dining in (room service) and enjoying some downtime in the comfort of our luxurious suite before having that wonderful Fairmont scent fade away as we made our 45-minute trip back to the bustle of Durban.

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