……BY BILLY SUTER……
THERE have been some changes at the popular Wild Coast Sun hotel and casino since late 2017, when I last visited this great escape in 750 hectares of lush coastal land in Port Edward, formerly part of the Transkei.
It is not only the introduction of well-enforced Covid 19 safety protocols that is new, as the family-friendly resort has seriously pruned many trees and palms around the complex since I was last there.
The tree and shrub clearance is most noticeable around the resort’s large and always-inviting pool, the Driftwood Terrace and patio areas, where sea views are now much clearer thanks to the cleaner landscape.
The keen eye will notice that also now gone are the thatched-umbrella shades on wooden posts that once dotted the lawn between the main pool and the smaller children’s pool. Gone, too, are the two quaint Thai massage gazebos, and the rustic timber jungle gym, all of which were once close to the children’s pool.
New (and most welcome) since I was last at Wild Coast Sun are walkways, charming little wooden bridges and benches dotted around the large pond, with fountains, at the hotel entrance.
Missing is the Thai restaurant that once stood in the Aloha Village entertainment area that accommodates the tenpin bowling alley and arcade games. Another change is that a Panarotti’s restaurant has opened at the entrance to the Aloha Village. It arrived about a year ago, I was told.
Also new, and a nice touch, is the high tea held in the Lagoon Bar, close to the hotel reception, every Saturday from 1pm to 3pm, at R150 a head (adult or child). One can also top up the fun at R250 per person for unlimited sparkling wine and Bloody Marys.
I am offering a prize for two people to enjoy this treat any Saturday of their choice (the prize is valid for three months), so do enter the competition at the end of this post.
The Saturday afternoon high tea offers savoury and sweet options that include a selection of wraps (chicken, beef and veg); chicken roulade with olives and Japanese mayonnaise dressing; smoked salmon balls and rolls; open sandwiches; samoosas and spring rolls.
On the sweeter side, one can choose from caramel cake, fresh strawberries and cream, orange and cream cheese cake, lemon crunch, chocolate eclairs, jam scones with cream, choc slices and various cupcakes – along with various teas, of course.
To book for this event call 039 305 4501 or mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Another nice new promotion is the Gin Picnic one can enjoy on the lawns outside the Driftwood Terrace every last Saturday of the month. It costs R250 a head.
You will get a picnic basket (to be returned before you leave) containing a wrapped chicken or veg baguette, a mini cheese board and crackers, Greek pasta salad, crisps, peanuts and raisins, fruit, chicken strips, a mini dessert of the day, a homemade biscuit and a muffin. Also included is gin and tonic mix (of course), still water and fruit juice.
To book for this event call 039 305 2759 or mail email@example.com
For the most part, however, much stays the same at the Wild Coast Sun – and that’s part of the beauty of this relaxing getaway venue just within the Eastern Cape, a kilometre over the border from KwaZulu-Natal.
My partner, my son and I spent last weekend at the resort, having broken the almost-two-hour drive from Durban with a stop at Ramsgate’s must-do Waffle House on the way down on Friday, and a pop-in to Ramsgate’s fun, Wild West-themed Pistols Saloon Bar on the way home.
Grey skies and a slight chill kept us away from a much-anticipated return to the resort’s fun and colourful Wild Waves Water Park, created some years ago at a cost of R80 million – but we did swing by. We took the short stroll there from the main hotel complex, alongside the gym, squash courts and bowling green in the sea-facing area that, many years back, was a car park and the old Beachcomber restaurant and mini casino.
The Wild Coast Sun, which is in natural bush between the Umtamvuna and Mzamba rivers, overlooking the Indian Ocean, is always a great place to unwind, and the water park has become one of its biggest draws.
Opposite a restaurant is the reception and tickets area for the water park and change rooms, a paved area which leads to a wood and rope bridge that ushers you to the entrance of the park.
Wild Waves Water Park features colourful slides imported from Whitewater West in Canada and they are huge fun – best of them, as I fondly recall from my last visit, being the giant SuperBowl which has you sliding down into and whizzing around a giant bowl before disappearing down a funnel into a pool.
The speed slides are tall, fast and steep, and particularly popular are The Boomerang, which rocks sliders from side to side before letting them experience total weightlessness; and the novel Aqua Loop, which provides the ultimate body-slide adventure in a capsule, starting with your floor space giving way while you stand in a capsule with arms crossed.
Many people climb the many steps to get to the Aqua Loop capsule, only to chicken out at the last second. I’m one of them – I have still to pluck up the courage – but my son and partner are huge fans.
The park also offers a wonderful, children’s interactive area, KidsZone, where every few minutes a giant pineapple at the top of a large structure depicting colourful flora and fauna, containing slides and other fun fare for the young, fills and topples water on to everyone below. It’s like a water wonderland jungle gym contraption.
Also great if you want to take things a little easier is the slow tube ride along the park’s lazy river.
The park is now closed for annual maintenance until June 15, but note that the cost to enjoy it for the day is currently R190 (in season) for anyone over 1.2m tall and R95 for pensioners and anyone under 1.2m tall. Entry is free for anyone staying at the hotel.
When it comes to outdoor entertainment at Wild Coast Sun, always big draws, certainly with my partner, are skiing, canoeing or other activities in the spot close to the iconic bridge over the Umtamvuna River.
The Riverside Aqua Sports and Beach Bar offers a selection of water sports and river activities which include kayaking, speed boats, paddle boats, tube rides, water skiing and a lazy boat cruise.
Of course, there is always the welcoming main pool overlooking the ocean, for use by hotel residents only. It is close to the large Driftwood Terrace venue, where one can also now enjoy a buffet breakfast up to 11am (R200 ahead, or free if you are staying at the hotel).
It’s a great, huge room where one can also have a drink around a circular pub that looks down over a moat-like swimming pool.
Talking of bites… the casino’s long-popular Chico’s restaurant, the main attraction for the buffet breakfasts and also open for buffet dinners, has long lost its blue tablecloths and hanging baskets of red flowers, and the once-sumptuous buffet has become leaner…but so too has the price.
The venue offers good value in its evening buffet which, this past weekend, featured salads, fish, soup, a pasta dish, beef and chicken roasts with veggies, mutton and chicken-and-prawn curry, stir-fry options and an array of confectionary for puds. Pretty good for R185 a head and on weekends amiable Durban singer-actor Clinton Philander sings for diners.
Note that with Covid-19 protocols currently in place, one cannot help themselves at the buffet, and must be served. Also, distancing in queues is firmly endorsed, which can slow things down – particularly during breakfast when eggs can go cold while you wait for toast to be made. Rather get there very early or very late to avoid the queues.
The Chico’s breakfast is not nearly as wonderful as it once was – who remembers the very-early Wild Coast Sun days when oysters were part of the breakfast buffet? – but offers a substantial choice that includes the usual eggs to order, bacon, beans, sausages, cereals, fruit, croissants and other pastries…even spaghetti (?) the days we were there.
Of course, the lure of the casino tables and machines is still a strong reason for most visitors here, but after a brief flutter I always much prefer the escape and enjoyment of a long walk along the rock-flecked, rugged beach.
There is also a busy convention centre at the hotel and an 18-hole championship golf course.
The Wild Coast Sun’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. The telephone number there is 039 305 9111.
WIN HIGH TEA FOR TWO AT WILD COAST SUN
Care to put yourself in line to win a Saturday afternoon high tea for two at the Wild Coast Sun?
You simply have to be a follower of the SoSuterBill site to win. At no cost.
If you are not already a follower, simply leave your email address in the space provided towards the end of the cover page of this site, sosuterbill.com
You will then be a follower, and receive email notification whenever I file a new story.
Once you have subscribed (there is no cost), send your NAME and PHONE NUMBER via email (NOT THIS SITE’S CONTACT FORM) to email@example.com and place the words ‘WILD COAST SUN HIGH TEA’ in the subject field.
Note that the competition closes at 6pm on Sunday, June 6, and the lucky winner will be contacted soon after. (The lucky winner was Shamilla Iyer of Port Shepstone).
Also note that the prize is for the high tea only (not travel and/or accommodation should this prove necessary).
NOTE: PLEASE READ ENTRY DETAILS CAREFULLY AS SOME PEOPLE ARE ENTERING COMPETITIONS INCORRECTLY.
ALSO NOTE THAT ONLY ONE ENTRY PER SUBSCRIBER WILL BE CONSIDERED.