If the rituals of work and everyday life are getting to you, there are two specific rituals at the Oyster Box Hotel that will put a spring back into your step - the relaxing ritual of a full body massage and the delicious ritual of high tea, respectively.
As seen from the Lighthouse Bar. All images provided.
I’m something of a high tea aficionado, and there’s nothing more pampering than a long massage to relax after a stressful time.
Pair these treats together at one of the most stunning locations in the country and you’ll see why our recent stay at the Oyster Box Hotel was the highlight of my year! Let me hit the ‘rewind’ button...
If you've ever been to the five-star Oyster Box Hotel you'll know all about the high ceilings, palm-leaf fans, and pops of lighthouse red-and-white stripes everywhere you look, with high tea a daily occurrence. Here's why you shouldn't miss this revamped KwaZulu-Natal classic...
We stepped into the Oyster Box branded shuttle (a classy silver Merc, thank you very much) at King Shaka Airport in a bit of a haze, partly induced by the humidity – yes, even mid-winter – but also from having just survived one of the most stressful work weeks of the year and been reunited with my husband after working in different cities for a while – and on our anniversary, no less.
Soon, our eyes were soothed by the fairytale green hills of Natal and before we knew it we were cresting the road into Umhlanga Rocks, with the Oyster Box Hotel hard-to-miss above the golden sands of the Umhlanga shoreline and iconic red-and-white lighthouse above the sea twinkling calmly below, all inviting us in.
With our bags promptly taken to our extremely well-stocked suite, it was time for a quick welcome drink at reception and stopped to greet resident kitty Skabenga as he did his pre-high tea rounds – we’d be joining him for the occasion the following day.
But first, a couples massage to unwind and properly snap into holiday mode.
Any visit to the Oyster Box is magical, but we soon found that a revisit is even better. We were skipping around the grounds remembering the lush landscaped exterior and classily decorated interior, complete with all the hidden corners, as staff smiled and nodded at out sheer delight of being there.
Day 1 highlight: Magical massages
Gazebo in the Oyster Box garden. All images provided.
Soon we had found our way to the award-winning Spa by memory alone – heading down the stairs behind the building, passing the sheltered infinity pool on the left and the lily pad-topped reflection pond and Victorian gazebo on the right.
A wedding had been held on the property the day before our arrival, but there was no sign of this when we went through.
Wrapped in robes, with our belongings safely locked away in lockers, we met our therapists and were offered the second anniversary flute of bubbly of our stay, along with nibbles from the complimentary Spa buffet, before being whisked away to the couples’ treatment room.
We instantly turned our voices down a notch as the treatment room whispers tranquillity, from the soothing background music to the aromas and warmth that soon enveloped us.
Before the massage, we were asked about any injuries and preferences for massage strength – these questions are a must as they ensure any tender bits are avoided and that pressure is focused where it’s needed.
But one of the best things about the massage at the Spa at the Oyster Box is that before you lie down face first, you’re treated to their welcoming foot ritual.
A couples' massage at the Oyster Box Spa. All images provided.
For this, your feet are placed in a bowl of warm water with crystals of your choice (as it was our anniversary, we went with rose quartz for love), intended to infuse their properties in the water and thereby transfer to you. Your feet are gently exfoliated as they soak, then lightly capped in heated slippers for the duration of the massage, which is an amazing overall rejuvenator.
Foot ritual at the Oyster Box Spa. All images provided.
Turkish hammam at the Oyster Box Spa. All images provided.
By then we were ready for the B Harmonised 60 minute massage, in which you’re encouraged to “surrender yourself in a treatment designed to remove stress from the back, feet and scalp to once again align your mind and body in harmony.”
Our masseuses ensured we were breathing deeply as the treatment incorporates meditation breathing, targeting the main areas of the body which hold stress, working to release and relax not only the body but also the mind as we breathed in marula honey, and rooibos scents good enough to eat.
Warm fingers pummelled and kneaded away all that stress, and while I was told afterwards that my neck and shoulders had been very tense to start with, the tension had become a memory as I could feel the results myself. The best part? No lingering soreness the next day.
There’s no clipboarded attendee to rush you out of the Spa after your treatment, either. Guests are encouraged to craft their own Spa journey, and spend time in the private tranquillity lounge with cocoon seating and multiple tea options, or take your ‘unwind’ a step further in the slightly heated infinity pool and the Turkish hammam sauna room.
One of the highlights of my husband’s stay, this is the only one in KZN, complete with blue lights and various steam settings.
We spent quite a while engaged in all of the above before calling it a night and finding the plunge pool to be just the thing after spending time on those heated marble slabs.
Seated in the Palm Court, I was reminded of my Zululand days, drinking tea on the veranda of our farmhouse; from the familiar wicker chairs with floral cushions to the Colonial-style rattan-weave slow-turning fans. The chandeliers - purchased from The Savoy in London, excuse me - were a reminder, too, that I was actually having afternoon tea at The Oyster Box.
Instead of joining the others in the Palm Court, featuring chandeliers purchased from the Savoy Hotel in London and those lazy wooden palm-leaf fans, Stanley ushered us aside to the private Grill Room, where we were treated to flutes of sparkling grape juice and bubbly.
As the piano began playing we were presented with pots of Pure Leaf tea, the table already set with the prettiest floral and butterfly-bedecked ‘Friendship’ range of Royal Albert china.
The tea and tinkling ivories were our signal to make our way in an orderly fashion to the high tea buffet table (meaning we didn’t roll our way there on the wheeled-chairs, though we were tempted to give it a try).
Have you experienced our High Tea? Here's a sneak peek!
The table is set to brimming with so many goodies that you actually can’t take it all in with one glance.
Dotted around the side I was facing was a bright assortment of the sweetest mini bites, freshly baked daily – from tiny doughnuts to Lindt chocolate brownies, pecan nut tartlets, milktartlets, lemon meringue tartlets, custard-filled fruit tartlets, bite-sized éclairs, assorted Danish-style pastries and navy blue macarons.
We learned that the Oyster Box bakes in excess of 4,000 macarons per month, so be sure to let of these treats a few melt in your mouth!
Oysters at the Oyster Box. All images provided.
High tea at the Palm Court. All images provided.
There was also a salmon and sushi stand, complete with fresh ginger and wasabi, while the other side of the table featured savouries ranging from a full cheese-and-cracker board to fruit and nuts galore, mini pitas, chilli bites and quiches; curried samosas and mini copper pans of accompanying chutney and raita dips.
While this is all a treat for the eyes and belly alike, don't miss the pinkie-raising high tea staples of Red Carnation Hotel Collection president Bea Tollman’s delicate almond-crusted cucumber or salmon and cream cheese finger sandwiches and classic scones with jam and cream, cheese, or cream cheese, if you’re so inclined.
High tea tip! If you’re lucky enough to partake your high tea when the choc-chip banana cake is one of the featured cakes of the day, pair it with the vanilla black tea.
Once you’ve decided, you’ll be presented with your tea of choice in a little glass tea pot along with two-, three- and four-minute timer – choose the steep time appropriately depending on the blend you’ve selected.
All in all a faultless stay that served as the rejuvenation we needed.
Thank you once again, Oyster Box! Click through to my blog for the pics we took during our stay.
*Leigh Andrews was a guest of the Oyster Box Hotel. The High Tea costs R365 per person, beginning at 2:30PM and ending at 5PM daily but note that booking is essential, especially on weekends.
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