Africa is home to a number of iconic hotels known the world over for their majestic status and superlative service - think the Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe, La Mamounia in Marrakech and Kenya’s Norfolk Hotel. Two such properties sit proudly in South Africa; in glorious Cape Town you have the Mount Nelson Hotel, now owned and operated by Belmond, and in KwaZulu Natal lies the Oyster Box Hotel, part of the Red Carnation hotel group.
Having recently visited both, Africa Travel are in the perfect position to guide you through what makes these hotels so special.
The Oyster Box overlooks the sea In the upmarket coastal resort of Umhlanga, now the go-to beachside area for those visiting the Durban area. Just 15 minute drive from Durban airport, the hotel offers direct access to the sands below and is within safe walking distance to numerous eateries and bars. Guests could spend their time between the pool deck, the beach and the local boutiques without the need to drive, bur this would be a shame as KwaZulu Natal has numerous attractions within an easy drive of the hotel.
Being one of Cape Town’s first luxury hotels, the Mount Nelson had the choice of locations, and its founders chose well. Situated in large grounds close to the South African Parliament & Company Gardens, it lies at the foot of Table Mountain and adjacent to Kloof Street, one of the city’s most vibrant roads and home to an eclectic range of restaurants, shops, bars & boutiques. Those wanting more shops can take advantage of the hotel’s frequent shuttle service down to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.
The Oyster Box was originally a private home which in the 1950’s was turned into a tearoom, then into a restaurant, and then into a 3-star hotel before being acquired in 2006 by the Red Carnation group. A two year project followed which transformed the hotel into the sparkling jewel it is today.
Built at the end of the 19th Century for the First Class passengers of the Union Castle shipping line, (which operated between the UK and Cape Town), the Mount Nelson has slowly expanded over the years to now incorporate 7 separate wings, and this year it celebrates 100 years of being painted pink to mark the end of World War 1.
Opulence, elegance and service are the hallmarks of the Oyster Box. The chequered tile floors, chandeliers, ceiling fans and palms play host to the hotel’s famous lunchtime curry buffet and to an impressive afternoon tea spread, whilst the colours of the nearby red and white-striped lighthouse are beautifully replicated throughout the stunning pool area.
The Mount Nelson is known for its extraordinary gardens, personalised service, extensive facilities, and for its renowned afternoon tea. In a city where space is at a premium, the gardens are the largest of any hotel in Cape Town, and are home to two swimming pools, (both heated – another novelty in Cape Town), a spa, gym, tennis courts and children’s club.
At the Oyster Box, a beautiful private cinema shows films throughout the day, (with the front desk providing you with complimentary popcorn and sweets), whilst those lounging by the pools can enjoy free ice creams. Foodies can enjoy some great treats - the breakfast menu includes such classics as kedgeree, liver, Welsh rarebit, minute steak and oysters, whilst the leisurely will appreciate the bathroom TV and waterproof remote control found in some of the suites!
Some of the Mount Nelson’s big pluses include nine acres of space, a swimming pool large enough to actually do lengths in, priority booking for the ever-popular afternoon tea, free tours of the gardens, and a proper, year-round children’s club.
The monkeys at the Oyster Box who raid the Ocean Terrace at breakfast & lunch time can be a pain, and the pool area can get crowded on a hot day, (although to be fair there is also a 2nd, normally quieter, pool hidden away).
The Mount Nelson can also get very busy in peak season, and there can often be crowds for the afternoon tea, but the gardens are large enough to always be able to find a secluded spot, and the quieter Cottage Pool is reserved for over-16s only.
It is not really fair to say that one is better than the other. They both pride themselves on their service levels and on their 5-star facilities, but they offer different experiences in different locations. The Oyster Box is arguably South Africa’s premier beachside hotel, whereas the Mount Nelson is the prime sport for those seeking luxury and a bit of breathing space in vibrant Cape Town.
So our verdict? Don’t choose one over the other, visit them both - combine a beach stay in KwaZulu Natal with a city stay in Cape Town and experience the best of both worlds (and properties).
If you're interested in visiting either of the properties mentioned get in touch with our experts by calling 020 7843 3500 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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