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Luxury hotels in South Africa’s forgotten Eastern Cape

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The Eastern Cape with its windswept beaches, jungle vegetation and open-hearted, laid-back people often gets coded as a backpacker’s or surfer destination. But to view it in this light would not only be a gross discredit to the region but to the astonishing series of luxury accommodation options. 

After a stay at three luxury hotels dotted along its coast, I found that its natural beauty and warm hospitality are just a few paces away from heaven.

Prana Lodge

Set foot into this lodge in Chintsa East, and it’s easy to forget reality. Before even seeing my room, I am enchanted by the resort’s location under a canopy of trees. In the distance, I can hear the ocean. This is a place of seemingly effortless abundance as the staff warmly welcome and lead me through the jungly tract to my room. 

I was checked into the Diamond Suite, a sea-facing villa perched above the forest canopy with a private plunge pool and a spacious deck with ranging views of the Indian Ocean. A pair of hornbills glide from tree to tree nearby. 

Prana is situated on the Wild Coast in Chintsa East, a prime backpacker’s destination. Across the river in Cintsa West, is a massive backpacker as a testament to this assumption. But Prana is the only 5-star resort along the Wild Coast, a shining diamond in the rough among the untamed Wild Coast. 

A haute restaurant serves meals that not only match the location but produce a torpor among its guests that makes you never want to leave. A spa on the property gives you a reason to stay longer. The endless beach below, quite void of other people, seals the deal.  Chintsa is the entry point to the Wild Coast, only a short drive from East London Airport. But Prana encapsulates its heart so quintessentially. 

Oceana Beach & Wildlife Reserves

Oceana deserves the status as one of the flagship hotels of South Africa, blending beach and safari so harmoniously. I cannot think of another destination where views of the ocean are accentuated by a tall giraffe walking into the wind. 

Not too far from Port Alfred, the hotel is easily accessible but feels worlds away. I was booked into one of their Pool Suites, arguably one of the most luxurious hotel rooms I have laid eyes on. The leisurely stroll to the room is already impressive. Walking on an elevated deck through an ancient milkwood forest before a building reveals itself through the vegetation. Enter it, and you are mesmerised. 

An expansive room that opens up to a wide open deck with a heated splash pool that overlooks the ocean and game simultaneously. A day bed is tucked away on the far end of the deck underneath a milkwood tree. A massive en suite bathroom with once again, an unrivalled view. I could sit down in a foam bath, listen to the sound of the roaring waves, and enjoy a glass of vino, all the while feeling like I am in the most luxurious wildlife bunker. 

Walking back along the path through the forest, the hotel’s main restaurant is perched high above, giving a perspective of how expansive the beach below is. There is also a spa tucked away. The staff are impeccable, whether they take you out on an evening safari drive or top up your wine in the evening, and quick to crack a joke. It’s not only comfort in the amenities but the people as well. 

Intle Boutique Hotel

Just 45 minutes from Gqeberha on a hilltop with the surfing town of Jeffreys Bay in the distance, Intle Boutique Hotel still has that laid-back charm, but with the added pizzazz of a five-star destination. 

A revitalising in-house spa makes this an ideal destination during a coastal road trip, so you can feel re-energised after your time on the road. Intle is also situated on a vast reserve which is home to plentiful game, giraffes and zebra to name a few. On the transition zone between Fynbos and Eastern Cape thicket, it is a unique ecological niche with the flowers painting the fields in vibrant yellow.

On a game drive, we got to see wildlife up close in this unique environment before being taken for a private lunch at a pergola with an incredible view into the Gamtoos River valley below. I was dropped off there and left to enjoy the noises of the veld. Surely this must rank as one of the most sought-after proposal spots in South Africa. 

The hotel has a 360-degree view of the reserve and with roars of a lion in the distance. Don’t fret if you want to take a walk though. The lions are on the property next door. There are guided bush walks on offer, with the roar of the lion adding to the immersive feeling of being in the heart of the bushveld, but safe and secure with the knowledge that they are nowhere near and that you are far away from the worries of the world. 

Jared Ruttenberg

Jared Ruttenberg is a freelance travel journalist who enjoys connecting people and experiences through word, image and social media.

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