KwaZulu-Natal — known as "the garden province" of South Africa — was established in 1994, when the Zulu Bantustan territory of KwaZulu and Natal Province were merged. There are few places better for your feet to touch the soil of the Motherland for the first time than the southernmost tip of the continent. Home to the Zulu monarchy and one of the country's most popular tourist destinations, KwaZulu-Natal stretches from Port Edward in the south to the borders of Swaziland and Mozambique to the north. Its western part is marked by the beautiful and dramatic Drakensberg mountain range, and its coastline is dotted with small towns, many of which serve as seasonal leisure hubs.
It was July, winter in the region, when South African Airways delivered me into Johannesburg and from there to Durban — the largest city of the province and major center of tourism because of its warm subtropical climate and what is widely considered some of the best beaches in the world.
My first destination — the Oyster Box, an upscale colonial-style hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean just minutes from Bronze Beach. Old world charm with modern sensibilities, the 86-room hotel feels proper. An intermingling of genteel clientele and hipsters populated the go-to beach resort noted for its cull of meat and vegetarian curry dishes. And yet, one feature after another shuffles into prime focus as a magnet, from Dolphin-watching on the Ocean Terrace and Oyster Bar to its award-winning spa featuring Turkish Hammam and sensation shower, and fine dining in The Grill Room.
The pink sky atop of crisp, white wave crests crashing below hotel balconies make this the obvious retreat while away to Durban. But, my overnight at The Oyster Box was a mere introduction to the beauty and wonder of South Africa. Bright and early on day two, I was off to the village of St. Lucia and a river cruise down the estuary for views of hippos, water birds, and the Nile crocodiles. Seeing animals, unrestrained in their natural habitat is an encounter best experienced first-hand. The guide bid us farewell with a warning to beware of wandering hippos at night. It was duly noted.
On my way out of St. Lucia, I was invited to visit one of the area’s Zulu villages, Khula, and was welcomed into the modest one-room hut of a grandmother who was the sole guardian of her eight grandchildren. She was fast at work making placemats by hand from discarded potato chip bags and reeds she’d collected. The income from her sales had been sustaining her family since she lost her husband a few years ago. Though she spoke only Zulu, the impact of our brief encounter sufficed.
My few hours in Khula felt like what I came to Africa to experience, though what had drawn me to the continent, was the lure of Safari. It was the perfect primer for two solid days of planned game drives in open wildlife vehicles at Hluhluwe and Mkhuze Game reserves. Hoping to glimpse the Big Five -- African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and rhinoceros and possibly a cheetah is an energy I’d always imagined to be nothing short of magnificent; I wasn’t wrong. And it wasn’t long into the first excursion before our guide spotted rhinoceros, giraffes and elephants.
Hluhluwe, with its rolling hills and open Savannah grasslands remains an incredibly scenic reserve as it is the oldest proclaimed game reserve in Africa and world renowned for its conservation of black and white rhino; in fact, the largest population of white rhinos in the world. Wide open terrain, Mkhuze is situated in Northern Zululand, a nearly 100,000-acre game reserve distinguished for its birding possibilities. This utopia with loop roads, hides and panoramic views, and thick dense bush, grasslands and pans gives you the feeling of being in the true Africa of yesterday. A collection of accommodation styled huts within the reserve where you can quietly observe unsuspecting white and black rhino, leopard, elephant, giraffe, nyala, wildebeest, hyenas and cheetah make for an extraordinarily up-close safari experience.
Days four and five were spent at the foot of Zululand’s Ghost Mountain in the namesake Ghost Mountain Inn. The intimate and chicly rustic 50-room hotel is ideal for being situated to explore the array of coastal and wildlife reserves. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate its scenic splendor for guided walks and boat cruises accompanied by rangers. A connection with the land in Africa was something I’d always imagined would leave a lasting impression on me. Each stop through KwaZulu-Natal was a complete elevation of that expectation.
Around me, the mountains rose up like a great coliseum of vibrant hues as I was headed next to Drakensberg to explore authentic bushman rock art. uKhahlamba Park in the Drakensberg Mountains boasts the greatest concentration of San Bushman rock art in South Africa, much of it in remote, supremely beautiful surroundings with paintings of animals like the revered eland antelope, human figures and therianthropes (a metamorphosis from human to animal) representing an otherwise lost culture. All of the Drakensberg paintings are on cave sandstone, a rock custom built for the purpose. It erodes in a way that produces weatherproof overhangs so the artist can work on the sandstone which is porous causing the paint applied to sink in and “grip.” The scenes depicted with pigmenting from blood, rock or soil rich in ferric oxide (rust), charcoal, melted fat, beeswax and heat from fire for color variation are dynamic and the features distinct.
Fordoun Hotel & Spa - Set on a former dairy farm, this quaint, refined hotel is just miles from the town of Nottingham Road and 33.6 km from Karkloof Nature Reserve. Skye Bistro is its fine dining restaurant set in the heart of the exquisite KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. From beautiful log burning fires in the winter evenings to watching the sunset from the veranda over the rolling lawns of Fordoun, Skye Bistro is the perfect place to have a relaxing sumptuous meal. Its light café style lunches capture the leisure of a bygone era.
Fairmont Zimbali Resort, situated inside the exclusive Zimbali Coastal Estate, is a tranquil retreat offering the utmost in stylish comfort and unrivalled service. Located 30 minutes from Durban, this beachfront North Coast hotel provides easy access to the province’s attractions. From King Shaka International Airport, the Fairmont Zimbali Resort is easily accessible.
Drakensberg Helicopter Flip - see parts of this spectacular world heritage site few others have seen amongst the soaring peaks of the Drakensberg mountains or the magnificent countryside of the Northern KwaZulu-Natal.
"I'm not closing out 2016 rushing to 2017 searching for reprieve. I'm searching everyday for the lesson it has for me."
I tend to go dark as soon as the temperatures fall below 70 degrees, but I'm loving this beautiful blush for the cooler seasons this year.
Lesson No. 3 of 2016 — What's for you will not pass you by.
I have had more moments of panic over my destiny this year than I think ever in my life. LOL To be fair, however, I have also been in the midst of pursuing with more gusto than ever. So, I'm giving myself a pass on this one because once you learn to relinquish control because God has given you a glimpse of his dreams for you (!!!) — you realize there is no competition.
Today was a good day. I had the incredibly humbling honor of being recognized as one of Atlanta's 100 Women of Influence by the Atlanta Business League — an organization that fosters the development and enrichment of successful African-American-owned enterprises. I don't own a business (yet) but Atlanta Tribune: The Magazine, for which I serve as editor in chief, is a longtime member of the League and has enjoyed a fruitful relationship for many years. I have actually admired the women who've made this list each year for my entire career in Atlanta and hoped to one day be considered. But, I was completely surprised when the time came this year; thinking to myself: when you think nothing is happening, something is happening. I've been talking about the road to #greater on my social media channels for the past two years, and I accepted this as a nod from God that the work I consider a quiet contribution to the betterment of my community is relevant. I'm always trying to hide in the background though the message that I hope to share with the people around me often pulls me out of the crowd, and I'm reminded that your gift is the reason you were born. And because I said yes to it a long time ago, it won't be ignored ... Not even by me.
I love beauty products like I love food. So, I am always scouring lifestyle and self-care brands for what's new and interesting in cosmetics, creams, cleansers and everything in between. Here's what I'm all into right now.
I'm not the biggest fan of any season outside of summer, but I can bear these still-warm days that linger just before the leaves start to fall.
Gauze Cotton Blouse | Old Navy
Olive Pants | H&M
Heels | Love Culture
Dorado Beach a Ritz-Carlton Reserve September 08, 2016
Before I arrived at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, I’d decided that I couldn’t leave without having its Island Cobb Salad. A friend had asked me, as I was planning my trip, what I most look forward to when I travel and I admitted it was the culinary escape. Without even realizing that was top of mind for me, I’d already browsed the resort’s fare between its five options for dining.
A serene sanctuary tucked away on the Puerto Rico Caribbean coast, Dorado Beach is one of those dwellings where your mood adjusts as soon as the sound of the ocean welcomes you on property. Nothing about what you’ll experience has been left to chance.
From the reception area, a wide-open airy corridor, you are immediately tranquilized by a concoction of what you see and hear. The stimulation of senses is key here. While waiting for my room, I idled for lunch in a very modern, chill Encanto Beach Club Bar and Grill where the sand, breeze and view taunt you just steps from the shoreline. The Island Cobb Salad, I was assured, was an excellent choice. Medleyed corn, egg, cheese, avocado and plantain chips aside skewered grilled lobster and mango dressing – essentially, perfection. In the background, a subtle hum of good music which would shift to an ambient thump for evening diners. I was with it.
I had settled in, prepared to spend a bit of the afternoon on a sofa between the pool and Grill when my “Embajador” or butler, who would attend to my every need on-property, arrived to escort me through the carved out jungle. As we walked along the curvy path to a vista overlooking the eastern side of the beach, I shed all consideration of time in the balmy breeze. In my room, I straightaway opened the sliding doors to extend the space outside in from the terrace and stretched out on the chaise. I’d seen people below but somehow it was quiet; the resort’s take on guest individuality was well-achieved.
Dorado Beach, with its private residences, spa sanctuary, and harmonious sense of place that flows uninterrupted into the natural surroundings, is where you go to overload on relaxation. An intimate retreat blending Laurance Rockefeller’s novel environmental design philosophies and modern, yet minimal décor, this resort blurs the boundaries between outside and in, creating an open-air enclave that embraces the natural splendor and diverse culture of an unspoiled corner of the world. From the dedicated butler appointed to create an experience tailored to your needs to the lush indulgent spas, dining experiences and adventurous recreational prospects, the resort is clearly designed to allure the world’s most discerning travelers. It's not often you’re treated to the option of an indoor or outdoor shower. The choice isn’t difficult.
Hands On: Spa Botánico, its five-acre spa set within a fragrant pineapple garden, could almost singularly define the experience of being away here. Inspired by nature to impart a holistic sense of well-being, the refuge pairs local Puerto Rican ingredients with indigenous soothing traditions performed in the most unique of spa settings for a full sensory experience. Body scrubs are blended in the spa’s kitchen, combining Coconut Oil, Shea Butter and healing ingredients indigenous to the island. This integration with the natural world is reflected in its fresh and unique offerings which take place entirely outdoors within a lush, private garden setting. For me, the Coffee and Clove Scrub – a revitalizing treatment using caffeine, sugar and the essential oils found in cloves to exfoliate, remove impurities and leave the skin feeling soft, refined and moisturized.
Beyond the usual: Though I wouldn’t peg myself as adventurous, the lure to get out on the water of its swimmable beachfront is almost inescapable. And so I ventured out in a combo-kayak with a guide stopping to explain the geology of the surrounding mountains, the sea grass beds and marine life below. My first-time kayaking nerves were for nothing as the water was calm for quite a relaxing hour spent paddling out from the shore. If in fact you crave adventure, however, there are options like kitesurfing, paddle boarding, windsurfing and sailing.
In the early evening, when the air is soothing and the sun has set, you will note movement throughout the pathways where you’ve felt almost completely secluded in other moments. You see families and couples alike heading to dinner at Mi Casa by José Andrés for a menu of tapas and featured meals that focus on Puerto Rico farm-fresh ingredients, flavorful unions and a novel signature style; and you very well may meet them on your stroll back in for the night. And the next day, in this retreat where time stands still, it is your pleasure to do it all again.
- Katrice L. Mines
- Katrice L. Mines
For the past two years, walking has been my life. I imagine that sounds over-the-top, but it is actually more accurate than I'm sure it could possibly seem. When my cousin suggested us moving a minimum of 10,000 steps a day as a part of our family wellness challenge in 2015, I thought I'd never reach that number. But, I found my rhythm and realized that getting to 10K required a much more dedicated approach to not sitting around, and something clicked for me. I started walking the mall at lunch, getting up and walking around my office more often throughout the day and even strolling our parking lot while reading. But, what changed most was my workout habits which generally included yoga and workouts six days a week via the Coach.me app. I always worked up a good sweat but I was so focused on getting through the hour that it was like a chore. I started walking my neighborhood, first doing about five times around which took just 30 minutes. That would give me a little over 4,000 steps ... Not enough. So, I increased to an hour and would come back to the house with nearly 9,000 steps on my Fitbit; soon, I was averaging 18,000 steps a day easily. I was happy about that alone [because I'm competitive and it had become quite a competition in my family to see who could log the most steps each day].
It took me a couple of months to realize that walking had turned into an emotional and mental outlet for me, and that my sleep and digestion had improved notably. When I walk, I think things through so thoroughly that by the end, my mind is clear ... problems are worked out and the stress of the day has faded. I couldn't remember a time when I felt better.
This year during the family challenge, I decided to switch up my workout at the end of the spring because I was losing weight so quickly; and more than that, got tired of hearing about how thin I was looking. It excited me to realize that I'd found my sweet spot for dropping pounds and that my appetite was the best it's ever been but it started to be a bit counter productive as I was not noticing any remarkable changes in my upper leg muscles. So I thought, I'd just go back to my exercising -- focusing on different sections of my body each day. Fail. I did maintain my weight and fitness, but everything else was out of whack. And at the same time, I was juggling some projects that I definitely needed to be able to step away from.
My sleep was no longer restful. I told a friend that I was in the midst of a 90-day PMS mood swing ... definitely not good for those around me ... lol. And heartburn had become a nuisance. Yesterday, I started back walking.
A couple of lessons here for me: Know what's best for you and do that, despite what others think or say. And when you find the formula to wholistic wellness for yourself, stay with it. As the widely regarded saying goes, take time to do what makes your soul happy.
- Katrice L. Mines
body June 28, 2016
I'm a sucker for creams and balms. and body butters ... Anything to make my skin extra soft and smooth. This fast-absorbing body cream promises to help your body look and feel its smoothest and tightest. Powered by guaraná, a native Amazonian plant whose fruit contains one of the most potent forms of caffeine on the planet, along with a blend of nourishing Brazilian cupuaçu butter, açaí, and coconut oil, the result is irresistible, touch-me skin.
The more I travel, the more decided I am about what I need on my trips to make me most comfortable. Here's my shortlist.
A clutch for dinner is so necessary. I tend to travel with a tote for everything I collect along the way, but have at times had to use my makeup bag to downsize for dinner; this super slim MK clutch is a perfect option. Here's one similar.
I love a good hat year-round for style and convenience. I almost always carry one on my jaunts. Here's one similar.
Being able to catch up on all the movies I've been wanting to see is one of the bonuses of long-distance travel for me, so headphones are always necessary. Marshall's and TJ Maxx always have great options, but here's a pair similar to mine.
I carry a notebook or journal with me everywhere because I'm always taking notes, always. Poppin has some of the best.
I take my rest very seriously, but am a light sleeper so every little bit — like this cute kitten sleep mask — helps. Here's one you may like.
Warby Parker Westside Provisions | Atlanta
Camel riding in the desert safari
Realizing life outside of what is your everyday reality, which can sometimes feel like all there is, increases you.
Last Saturday, I returned from Doha, Qatar, equally as electrified as I had been 25 years ago; I'm most impacted by trips to locales that are furthest from my norm. Qatar Airways invited me to the opulent desert destination and capital of the peninsular Persian (Arabian) Gulf country for its inaugural direct flight out of Atlanta. When I started writing about my travels 7 years ago, this was the moment I dreamed about. It was a moment that eclipsed all of the "what ifs" that had been able to slip in and out of my thoughts over the past few years because it was confirmation that not only does God always know what's best for me, but that he has his best in mind for me.
Qatar Airways A380 on the runway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
With Atlanta’s progressively chilly winters, January was opportune to duck away to Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas. My maiden visit to the Lucayan Archipelago island group in the Atlantic Ocean was just 50 miles east of Nassau. If you know anything about Eleuthera, you know it is quite possibly the most proper introduction to the Bahamas’ 700 islands, cays and islets. Direct flights from Atlanta to Eleuthera began on Delta Airlines in December 2015; it felt just in time.
An island of casual refinement, celebrity escapes, well-considered resorts, rocky bluffs and massive coral reefs, Eleuthera is long and slender, possessing the best of two ocean worlds; on one side, the tranquil Caribbean Sea shore known as the Exuma Sound and on the other, the pulsating Atlantic Ocean shore. I was headed to The Cove Eleuthera, a breathtaking property in Gregory Town, secluded but imbued with the life and culture of the island.
The mastermind behind its development, Sidney Torres IV – an entrepreneur and venture capitalist – purchased the property in 2012, unable to ignore its copious potential as an “outer island experience that was high end, but affordable.” In just under a year, the family destination with a five-star feel was born. Its grounds were landscaped and tonnes of sand were shipped in to create a second beach, which ensures that every guest is only steps away from the ocean. More than 200,000 square feet of Cashmere Zoysia grass was laid, so that guests could walk the property barefoot. The tide of change was pronounced and the vision was precise: an intimate enclave nestled into a sheltered powdery sand cove – a gathering of stylish guestrooms, seaside cottages and villas, embraced by endless turquoise waters. The Cove features private white sand beaches, hammocks strewn throughout, a fitness center, spa, open-air sunset bar and a gourmet restaurant inspired by the island's tropical latitude and aquatic bounty. From snorkeling, paddle boarding, and kayaking to more relaxed pursuits such as lounging by the scenic, hilltop infinity pool, this is relaxation redefined.
And so general manager Chorten Wangyel is confident his guests have everything they need to discover themselves while escaping the noise of the outside world – even down to what their eyes behold. “We wanted minimal décor because your home can be so cluttered. When you go on vacation, you don’t want all that.”
In the Ocean Front Cove Suite, cool travertine flooring, warm wood accents, welcoming loungers and king sized beds join with a sweeping and spectacular sea view.
If you should choose to venture out, there is plenty to explore. A 20-minute drive north to Three Island Dock is where you can take a water taxi to Harbor Island or you can drive or bike four miles north up Queen’s Highway to explore one of Eleuthera's most popular attractions – often referred to as the "narrowest place on Earth." I passed Lenny Kravitz’s gated compound while cycling to the Glass Window Bridge. His mother actress Roxie Roker grew up nearby inspiring him to spend substantial time on the island. From the man-made bridge you can see an extraordinary contrast between the dark blue Atlantic Ocean and the calm turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. The views are stunning.
You may be far away from your everyday world, but at The Cove you are fully connected. The resort’s attention to detail … its staff’s evident mental note-taking of your preferences and the very nuances of you as a guest ensure it.
Gregory Town Grill and The Point Bar draw sun seekers in for savory fare like Bahamian Conch Fritters, Lime Spiced Fish Tacos and Spiny Lobster. So often, though, I ordered meals right on the beach just as other guests also opted when the sun was high in the sky. We didn’t have a moment of the balmy 80-degree breeze to waste. The evenings were another story. Freedom Restaurant & Sushi Bar beckons you as the sun begins to set; its menu inspired by the island's tropical latitude and aquatic bounty. To start, creamy asparagus soup with crunchy shallots, a difficult but rewarding choice. The rest, one delicious flavor memory after the next from Pan Fried Salmon Lemon Risotto and Asparagus to Lobster Fettuccini and, of course, sushi. The point of understated elegance is well made.
And I was reminded of departures from destinations that left me wanting more; here, quite the opposite.
“It’s important to get things right … in the smallest of details,” Wangyel says. “That’s what make The Cove different.”