Oubaai Treasure

With so many issues facing the tourism industry, and so many other things to report on, it’s not often that I get to revue properties these days. But ten days ago I had the honour of enjoying breakfast with the members of the Garden Route Editor’s Forum (find it on Facebook). This informal networking group gets together every two months or so at different venues in the area, and while we’ve been to some wonderful places, I can honestly say that the Hyatt Regency Oubaai Golf Resort and Spa was one of the most impressive.

This 100-room hotel is situated near Herold’s Bay, just south of the George Airport, and you can tell it’s going to be different from the moment you arrive at the gatehouse – because the gatekeepers and security people are friendly. Now friendliness may seem obvious to you – but how many times have I approached an upscale resort only to be made to feel like a criminal? Almost every time. So full marks there.

But the friendliness at the gate wasn’t a one-off: I found everyone I met at Oubaai like that. And they were living under difficult conditions at the time, too, with many of the staff living temporarily in-house due to service delivery protests in the local township. (The  protestors were preventing people from going to work – but the staff were having none of that. They made a plan. They came to work.)

After a tour of the Spa (which stands out for many reasons, not least of which being the fact that each treatment room has its own shower), we visited executive chef Marcus Linder in his office (complete with mini kitchen, chef’s table, and fantastic views of the golf course and the ocean beyond), and then general manager Jaco le Roux and his team entertained us to breakfast in the Presidential Suite.

It was jaw-dropping. (Two bedrooms, lounge, dining room, more fantastic views… but let’s not gush…)

Over poached eggs served on English muffins (my favourite way of eating eggs, by the way), Jaco told me that Oubaai is making a concerted effort to reach out to the people of the Garden Route. That’s why they have events like their Spring Festival (which took place on the 3rd of September, and featured a fantastic line-up of South African entertainers), and their decorator’s and furniture maker’s fair, which took place on the weekend after our visit. He pointed out, quite correctly, that the many up-market estates that sprang up over the last decade or so originally went for exclusivity above all else – but that they were finding that this was now creating problems for themselves because it was off-putting for many potential guests. It’s the reason why so many estate-based restaurants and golf courses are struggling – outsiders don’t feel welcome.

Jaco said that Oubaai (which is now about 20 months old) recognised this as a problem from the beginning. So, whilst safety and security are no less important here than anywhere else, the comfort of every guest is the hotel’s most important consideration.

And friendliness = comfort.

Sadly we didn’t have time to visit the golf course, The Clubhouse or the restaurants (Waterside GrillCucina Restaurant, Waterside Bar),  but we did take a stroll through The Village Market, which boasts hair and beauty salons, art galleries, and a children’s play area (complete with full time child minders), and through the very simple but very evocative bonsai garden.

As a resident of the area, I’m not likely to be staying overnight anytime soon, but I do plan to make use of their Freesia Spa in the not too distant future.

I’ll report back when I do, shall I?

Martin Hatchuel

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