World’s Greatest Hotels: Oyster Box


The next in our series on iconic hotels around the world is Oyster Box in Umhlanga, South Africa.

Since 1947, this property in Umhlanga, near Durban, has been as much a landmark as the red-and-white striped lighthouse it overlooks.

With the warm seas and subtropical climate, this seaside hotel is a favourite with South African and international visitors alike. They especially make a beeline for the property during the June/July winter holidays as there is still the promise in Umhlanga of fine weather.

Life-Saving Surgery 

Unquestionably luxurious yet relaxed, this long-loved hotel was given life-saving surgery in 2007 when the Tollman family of the Red Carnation Hotels Collection purchased the hotel.

They shuttered it for two years for an extensive rebuild worthy of the first hotel built in the area, and it reopened in October 2009.

While the hotel is pet-friendly and guests in garden suites are welcome to bring their dogs and cats, one feline rules the roost. Skabenga, the storied Oyster Box tabby cat, has pride of place (and his own Facebook page).

Unlike many hotels where public areas are designed for people in transit, here you will find many a guest lounging near the hand-knotted carpets in the reception area or ensconced with a book in a wingback chair.

Notable Décor

Décor throughout the property is notable, especially the chandeliers in The Palm Court that came from The Savoy Hotel in London. The curry buffet in

The Ocean Terrace is celebrated in a city renowned for its Indian cuisine. Executive chef Kevin Joseph has also been behind a new curry offering in the London hotel Rubens at the Palace.

There are two heated swimming pools at the Oyster Box near the multi-award-winning spa with its marble-clad authentic Eastern Hamman.

One is overlooking the Indian Ocean and the famous lighthouse, while the other one is more private in a verdant courtyard.

For seclusion, the clock library on the first floor is a retreat, and, a little higher up in the building, the Lighthouse Bar has an enviable view and first-rate cocktails.

Fresh opened oysters
Fresh opened oysters

A Luxurious Home Away From Home

There are 86 rooms, suites, and villas that either face the sea or the lush gardens.

In each of the beautifully appointed marble bathrooms, there are two robes, and the hotel’s signature range of amenities, B|Africa, especially formulated for the South African properties by founder and chairman Beatrice (Bea) Tollman.

Repeat guests will find a welcome-back helium-filled balloon in the room too.

The Oyster Box is as popular with local day visitors as it is with residential guests.

The afternoon-tea service, a lavish confection and candy-laden treat, is highly acclaimed, and at breakfast you can expect freshly shucked oysters and bottles of bubbly on the buffet.

Of course, there is a 24-seater cinema showing classic movies as well as new releases, and complimentary popcorn, hot chocolate, and toffees.

Exactly what you would expect from an iconic hotel at the seaside.

Words by Brian Berkman 



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