Hidden gem in Empangeni

Published Jun 23, 2017


THERE is something about small towns that make me feel at home. For one, there is not much chaos with travellers at tourist attractions and two, you get to enjoy the simple pleasures on a holiday.

Empangeni in northern KwaZulu-Natal, while many would disagree, was that place. Its close enough to major amenities, but still isolated enough to enjoy a quiet restful break.

For most it is just a stopover for a quick cup of coffee before heading to Richard’s Bay or other parts of Zululand.

But that should not be the case.

I would admit, the place does not have the biggest attractions and not many tourists would be planning special getaways here, but for domestic travel and road trips, this place should be considered.

For people visiting KwaZulu-Natal, a few hours here is what you would need to escape from holiday stress or just plan the next leg of your journey.

The hotel establishments nearby are cost effective should you decide that you want to stay a night.

Even millennials are taken care off with a range of eateries and lounges/bars on offer in the town.

At the hub of it all is the Umfolozi Hotel Casino Convention Resort, one of the town’s most prized attractions.

The hotel, a huge drawcard for domestic travellers, is run by the Peermont brand of hotels and celebrating their 15 year anniversary this year.

It was a  two hour drive to the resort, but the calm traffic on a Thursday morning made it go smoothly.

The hotel is a separate building to the casino, but over the weekend that I was there it was quite busy.

After exploring Empangeni for a few hours, I retired to my room that had a king size bed, a desk, a shower, tea/coffee making facilities and a flat screen television.

Although three star, some of the amenities offered surpasses those offered at 4 star establishments.

The room was cosy and the hallways had minimal noise.

There are a range of activities for people of all ages. The Sugar Room Bar and Lounge is a great place for cocktails, live jazz or sporting highlights.

Every Friday, there is karaoke evenings from 8pm. Those singing compete for a grand prize.

The children are also occupied with video and arcade games available. For children from 1 to 13 years of age, there is a creche with educational activities to help parents unwind after a long day.

The food was by far my favourite part of my trip. Chef Richard Ndlazi and his team outdid themselves, bringing out some of the best dishes I have had on my travels.

Breakfast at contemporary F.L.A.G Cafe resturant was sublime with variety for all palettes.

Dinner service at the Umoja  Bistro was also great as the team provided fresh meals with no hiccups in minutes.

I enjoyed their vegetarian burger and their chocolate fudge brownies. Their prices are reasonable too.

Room service are efficient and do not overcharge like most hotels do. I was at a hotel recently that charged an additional charge of R20 to the bill because of room service.

The hotel may be budget, but makes for a great impromptu holiday for the family or a couple who want to get away from the bustling city life. Of late, it has been popular for bleisure travellers.

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