Durban - In Zulu, Zimbali means valley of flowers and The Fairmont Zimbali Lodge certainly lived up to its name during a weekend there recently.
But the Zimbali property offers more than a scenic floral delights – it offers the chance to relax and be pampered.
There are two options for spa treatments on the estate: the world-famous Willow Stream Spa and the Mangwanani Spa. But be warned, both are in huge demand, so best book early.
While the ladies get pampered, the boys venture onto the highly challenging Zimbali Country Club course. Being a weekend hacker at best, I did my best to avoid the numerous water features and the notorious bush, but the wind saw to it that our biggest challenge was to finish 18 holes before we ran out of balls.
Be warned that if you are unfamiliar with golf on the coast and leave anything unattended in your cart, the resident marshals – the vervet monkeys – will help themselves. My playing partner made the mistake of leaving his Kit-Kat and Coke in the cart, and returned to an empty wrapper and a grinning culprit in the tree above him.
On our first night, two friends had joined us for dinner at the exquisite Thandi Restaurant, which overlooks the lodge’s pool area. Here there are several infinity pools looking across the valley to the Indian Ocean.
Waiter Claude Moonsamy suggested we opt for thali platters, which comprised several mini helpings of different curries, grilled prawns and a surprisingly refreshing rice pudding.
The main meal, preceded by a tasting trio of samoosas and tempura prawn, went deep into the night, and delivered on Claude’s promise of the best curry you will ever have.
On the second night we dined again at the Thandi Restaurant. This time our table, perched next to the deck, had been sprinkled with rose petals and pink champagne was at the ready.
After we had polished off Claude’s recommendation of beef fillet bearnaise, we headed for our room in the forest where dessert – a chocolate torte – was waiting.
But there were more surprises. As we opened the door to our room, more petals had been strewn around and a steaming, fresh bubble-bath had been drawn. So, if you are looking for a romantic getaway just minutes from the city, the lodge is the spot.
The lodge is part of the Fairmont Group’s extensive stable of international luxury experiences. During meals we encountered guests from the US, Germany, Asia and, of course, Gauteng, all of whom were eager to sample the lifestyle of the rich and famous.
The rooms are like individual chalets with views over the golf course towards the ocean. Each one is fitted with a charming Victorian bath, a king-size bed with the finest linen and a balcony.
Those who enjoy being pampered will be delighted to know there is butler service to attend to every whim.
Famous American comedian Steve Harvey was a guest here, and he commented on the lush vegetation, the stunning vistas – and the wildlife foraging in the bushes. Certainly, the walk back to your room after a hearty meal is made all the more adventurous by red wine legs and the sounds of the “jungle”.
By day, there is plenty to enjoy about Zimbali, too. For the kids, there is over 3km of beach to frolic on, and the first-class security of the estate allows them to use a golf cart to explore the endless trails.
But mainly you are there to relax. This is best done by the pool, with refreshments on tap at the popular Pool Bar, which offers live sport on big screens.
Just 20 minutes from Durban, and ten minutes from King Shaka International Airport, Zimbali Fairmont Lodge is ideally placed. Just remember to switch off your phone, and take in the smell of the flowers.