The Oyster Box is the cat’s whiskers

Posted on 27 November 2019

Skabenga is a cat that has lived a life most people can only dream of. Forget that cats have nine lives, this Tabby Cat seems to be making sure he is living his best life at the ultra-luxurious Oyster Box in Durban.

To be fair, Skabenga hasn’t always had the easiest life. He’s had his fair share of close calls, having broken his leg once and being lost for days. Life for animals is treacherous with humans buzzing around, especially if you’re lounging on the red carpet at the entrance to the hotel.

Skabenga the famous tabby cat.

Skabenga, Zulu for ‘hooligan’ or ‘vagabond’, is the furthest thing from what he really is. He’s posh with an aristocratic air about him as he traipses the hallways and lies around the foyer as though he owns the place. In a sense, Skabenga does own it. He is the face of The Oyster Box, one of Durban’s proudest and most famous hotels. It’s plush and oozes luxury as it stands a stone’s throw away from the iconic uMhlanga Lighthouse.

No one knows when Skabenga arrived at the hotel, but he has become an icon. He doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to take off any time soon either, and who could blame him? Life here is as good as it gets for cats – and paying guests, of course.

The Oyster Box started as The Oyster Lodge way back in 1863. The lodge cottage was built as a navigational beacon and was later sold to Ken O’Connor and his sister, Kay Hill. It was then transformed into a tea garden and restaurant before it became a fully-fledged hotel in 1954.

Every view oozes luxury at the Oyster Box Hotel.

It was in 2006 that the history of the hotel took a turn for the better. Experienced hoteliers Bea and Stanley Tollman took ownership of The Oyster Box because it was the place where they fell in love. It was here that they had their first ‘real date’. They set about reinvigorating the hotel and restoring it to its former glory. You can feel that labour of love the moment you step into the foyer.

The charming staff are dressed in The Oyster Box’s signature colours of red and white. The entrance is warm and inviting, and the wooden finishes, high ceilings and classic lounge furniture are a gentle reminder of the hotel’s posh history. It’s an ideal establishment for dinner parties and other celebrations – you can’t help but be happy here. It’s always buzzing, no matter what time you visit.

Staff are dressed in red and white attire.

But The Oyster Box is not all about the old days. It still delivers top-class hospitality as evidenced by its 2019 Lilizela Tourism Award for best hotel. The hotel stands head and shoulders above its competition on this plush stretch of the Durban seaside. The hotel is a holiday destination all on its own even in this popular east-coast city.

The children will feel right at home too, with Skabenga to pet, sand castles to craft at the nearby beach and delicious milkshakes on order at the poolside bar. From the moment they enter, kids are spoilt with scratch cards, fishing nets and warm smiles.

The rooms are elegantly decorated with high-perched beds and little touches that are attentive to the guests’ comfort. With uninterrupted views of the waves crashing outside your balcony, you can’t help but feel completely at ease.

The rooms are light, airy and elegantly decorated.

Take some time to familiarise yourself with the amenities in the hotel; a magnificent library reminds us that slowing down and reading something that’s not on your phone is necessary while on holiday. The Lighthouse Bar upstairs serves cocktails with ocean views.

What makes The Oyster Box special are its unique experiences. You can spend an evening with Executive Chef Kevin Joseph who will take you on his journey with food in The Kitchen. It’s a rare glimpse through the eyes of an expert who understands food and can pass on some useful knowledge.

The penthouse suite has it’s own pool.

The Oyster Box has also established its own apiaries, to collect its own honey and satisfy your sweet tooth. High Tea is where you will find heaven’s buffet table. Muffins and cupcakes … so many cakes and pastries –you name it, it’s available at The Palm Court at tea time.

If you’re up for something completely different, sign up for a private curry cooking master class, where you will be taken to the 100-year-old Spice Emporium. It’s the modern spice route at your fingertips. You then get to cook your meal using those spices, and enjoy it on the Ocean Terrace. All while soaking up the sunshine, taking in Durban’s natural beauty, and living your best life.

It’s the cat’s whiskers.

Images: Supplied and Nidha Narrandes

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