Exactly halfway between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, lies the intriguing harbour town of Mossel Bay on South Africa’s popular Garden Route.
Blessed with a warm and stable climate, and the gorgeous beaches of the Indian Ocean, the town has been a beach holiday destination for more than a century. However, with good roads, a rich heritage and the development of inland game reserves and resorts, the area surrounding Mossel Bay has become a major drawcard for tourists.
We set off to explore and this is our story.
Hotel Portao Diaz
Coming from Witsand, a small coastal town at the mouth of the Breede River, it’s less than two hours to Mossel Bay. For our first two nights, we stayed at Hotel Portao Diaz. We looked it up on the internet and it looked great. We neglected, however, to look up the exact “location” of the property, so we followed the directions provided by the hotel. After ending up in a local township, we thought that perhaps we took a wrong turn somewhere? Yet, here we were, driving right past the hotel gates, clearly marked. Carl and I looked at each other and could read each other’s minds. Well, this is going to be a different experience…
Hannah and Georgia had fallen asleep on the back seat and awoke as we parked the car inside the gates. As they got out, blankets, teddy bears and other paraphernalia fell out the back doors as usual. We thought that we’d perhaps check in first and come back for those later.
Inside we were met by Executive Marketing Manager, Tertius Coetzer, who offered us coffee and gave us a friendly overview of the hotel and its history as the only hotel to accept black and coloured guests during Apartheid. The hotel is more than fifty years old and is rightly proud of its colourful heritage. Situated in D’Almeida, a previously disadvantaged suburb of Mossel Bay, Hotel Portao Diaz has beautiful panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Outeniqua Mountains, and the local township.
We had to wait a while to check into our suite, as an electrician was fixing something in the roof and somehow put his foot through the ceiling of our room. Nevertheless, the girls enjoyed the hot chocolate Tertius offered them.
We stayed in a self-catering suite with an ample sized main bedroom and the girls loved having their own room with four bunks to choose from. We could see where the ceiling had been fixed but it was no bother. Unfortunately, the room didn’t have a balcony or any means of “stepping out” for the kids but it was cold outside so they happily stayed indoors while we unpacked a few things to keep them busy. The hotel doesn’t provide any facilities for children but they do have a lovely pool area, which would be great in summer. The pool is next to the hotel’s Urban Boma, where breakfast and dinner are served in authentic South African style. Most of the food is cooked in pots or on the open fire in the pit… chicken livers, bacon kebabs, skilpadjies (lamb’s liver wrapped in fat), roosterkoek (bread dough cooked on a grid over the coals). If this is not your game, not to worry, they offer scrambled eggs too! Alternatively, there’s also a buffet with cereals and bread.
Dinner at Hotel Portao Diaz was an amazing experience for all of us. The food was once again cooked on the fire and the staff was dressed to the nines in their traditional attire. The girls and I had a fun time having our faces painted in traditional style by Blommie, a bubbly woman from the Eastern Cape. After we all looked the part, Blommie and a group of young girls from the local township enthralled us with traditional dancing and singing, in which we were invited to take part. It was hugely entertaining and our girls thoroughly enjoyed it.
Overall, if you’re looking for a five-star hotel with a kids club, then this is not the place for you. If, however, you are looking for an affordable family friendly place to stay while exploring Mossel Bay and the surrounding area, then you might just enjoy this slightly different experience. We did.
This extract was originally published in the summer issue of Holidays and Kids magazine. You can read the whole article here.