Oceana has the wow factor

Every now and then one visits a place that just makes one step back and say - "wow".

Every now and then one visits a place that just makes one step back and say - "wow".

Oceana Beach and Wildlife Reserve is one such place.

On the main road just outside the laid-back seaside village of Port Alfred in Eastern Cape, Oceana is new to the tourist route but making giant strides in this lucrative market.

Owned by an American, the resort opened its doors just more than a year ago after seven years of meticulous planning and design.

The result is a resort of understated elegance and sophistication.

Situated in a private game reserve, Oceana occupies nearly 1000 hectares of prime beachfront property that is home to a wide range of birds and game.

So what makes it so different from so many other lodges scattered throughout our beautiful country?

It's that feeling of exclusivity.

The resort can accommodate a maximum of 20 people at a time and the property is designed in such a way that at times you feel you have this little slice of heaven all to yourself.

Forget about your typical hotel-lodge room. At Oceana you have a suite.

Where do I start?

Do I go on about the magnificent four-poster bed draped in the finest white cotton, the sunken bath that has a combination of 16 jets that shoot water in all directions as you lazily soak away the tensions of the body; or the largest walk-in shower I have ever seen in my life, with a shower head the size of a Frisbee?

Or should I describe how at the push of a button a large-screen plasma television emerges from a cabinet in front of the bed so you can watch any number of satellite channels.

No, for me the highlight of the room was the magnificent view it offered of the Indian Ocean a stone's throw away. This part of the coast is virtually uninhabited.

Stepping through the sliding doors on to the wrap-around balcony it was time to chill out and watch as the sun sank into the sea in a crimson haze.

With the sun finally set and the stomach starting to growl it was time for dinner.

I felt like fish and opted for a starter of crusted queen prawns with a cucumber and chilli salad, followed by a main course of grilled line fish with sauteed potatoes and a tomato and olive vinaigrette. Superb.

Lunch and dinner at the resort is accompanied by a selection of red and white wines that you can personally choose from the walk-in cellar.

Head chef Chris Greff has been with Oceana since it opened and what a delight it was to have a brief chat to him as he served his exquisite dishes.

For six years he was the personal chef to the British royal family and lived in Buckingham Palace. His anecdotes of life in the palace were amusing and at times hilarious as he shared a few secrets about the royal family.

After dinner it was time for coffee and a selection of cheeses next to the fireplace, flanked by two enormous elephant tusks. It was here that I met executive manager Geoff Bolton.

"A lot of our clients are from overseas but we are also targeting corporates in Port Elizabeth and East London," Bolton said.

"Since opening we have featured on the television show Top Billing. Morning Live has also broadcast from here. Both of generated enormous interest."

And what activities are there for residents?

"Our wellness centre is extremely popular where we offer manicures, pedicures, massages and there is a fully equipped gym," he said

"Our game drives are a favourite with overseas and local visitors. For those who want to swim we have a lovely rock pool and an area where residents can tan in private

"We also have the most amazing expanse of beach right in front of us."

Even if the weather turns nasty there are many things to keep one occupied. The library at the lodge carries a wide range of books covering everything from nature to the biographies of African statesmen.

A trip to nearby Bathurst is also recommended, since the quaint main road is lined with antique shops.

Paging through the visitors' book I came across this comment by Nandi Mgudlwa of Middledrift: "I hope heaven is like this and angels give the same service."

My sentiments exactly.

l To view a video on Oceana log on to www.sowetan.co.za