had never met a cage fighter before, let alone a Cameroonian cage fighter. But here I was, after a picnic, slipping and sliding up a path away from a beautiful remote beach in Haga Haga in the Eastern Cape on the arm of Alfred. Alfred was a cage fighter. He is very strong, rather taciturn, and has a French accent. “Did you have a stage name?” I asked. “Non. I am Alfred,” he said. Silence, as we slipped and slid a bit more. “Did you make money?” “Non. Other people made money.” “Did you ever lose a fight?” “Non. I was a bodyguard.” Alfred works, trains and coaches guests at the lovely, five-star Miarestate Hotel & Spa.
No, you don’t go there to become a cage fighter. You go there as a guest to enjoy luxury, exclusivity and pampering, spectacular Wild Coast scenery, game and superb food.
You take scenic hikes, go horse riding over the coastal dunes, swim or surf on a secluded beach and lagoon where whales and dolphins frolic and drift. Or if you want to get more active, you can use the small gym, or box with Alfred as a rosy dawn breaks over the Indian Ocean.
Miarestate Hotel & Spa is the love child of Nonkqubela Noloyiso Mazwai. One of South Africa’s brightest stars in mining, she describes herself as an Eastern Cape country girl who is far more at home there than the big city.
When she lost her daughter, Mia, in a road accident, Mazwai bought a beautiful old farm house 75km from East London, as a personal retreat. Tucked away among ancient milkwood and fig trees, and surrounded by rolling lawns, a couple of kilometres from the coast, it was the perfect place to find solace and rest. She called it Miarestate.
Friends and visitors urged her to share its beauty and so Miarestate Hotel & Spa was born.
Today, set among 740 hectares of coastal and valley forest, nine comfortable guest rooms – including two executive rooms with private, heated plunge pools – provide the perfect fivestar holiday destination. There’s even a small executive conference centre tucked away on the edge of the forest.
Because there are no dangerous predators in the wildlife reserve, it’s safe and comfortable for adults and children to go walking, mountain biking, to just doddle along on a bicycle, or go CREATURE COMFORTS on a guided game drive.
The hotel is very child-friendly, with all sorts of activities to keep children interested and engaged while the parents have a spa treatment or enjoy let’s-get-away-from-the-kids time.
Blesbok gaze benignly at us, zebras graze, blue wildebeest cavort and impalas twitch their fluffy white tails as Melanie, Miarestate’s general manager, Sonja from Getaway magazine and I go birding early one morning. It’s winter, so the birdlife is not as spectacular as in summer, but we tick off some quality birds: a crowned hornbill, a Knysna turaco, a fish eagle, a jackal buzzard.
On the very edge of a thick pocket of endemic forest, we stop at the hotel’s two comfortable wooden cabins, a perfect honeymoon retreat or a hideaway for guests who want almost complete isolation. A river runs through the forest and as we clamber over stepping stones into its green depths, vervet monkeys watch us curiously.
On the beach we look for shells and sip chilled wine.
Back at Miarestate, the international chef and his team have prepared a fabulous menu for us designed around the finest local produce and complemented by a top South African wine list.
If you love the finer things in life, natural beauty, exclusivity and a get-away-from-it-all experience, this luxury hotel will hit the spot. Pricing:
Bed and breakfast in a deluxe room is R1 295 per person sharing (full board, including meals and activities, but not alcohol, is R1 995)
Superior room, bed and breakfast is R1 545 per person (R2 245 full board)
Executive suite, bed and breakfast is R2 045 per person (R2 745 full board) Turkington was a guest of Miarestate Hotel & Spa. Contact the hotel on 043 841 1152,
or visit miarestate.co.za
beach at Miarestate is a great place to watch the annual sardine run, which starts in May or June.
A PICNIC WITH A PUNCH The hotel prepares picnic lunches at your request
A cosy lounge at the luxury boutique hotel OUT OF AFRICA Guests are free to walk in the game reserve as there are no predators