COLIN WINDELL finds Pearls in Umhlanga, without having to dive
A natural pearl is formed when an irritating microscopic object becomes trapped within the mantle folds of a pearl oyster and the beautiful result then harvested to adorn ears and necks around most of the known world. It is highly likely when The Pearls of Umhlanga started as a microsopic object it did irritate the hell out of residents.
However, like the natural process in the sea, the behemoth construction saw the two main residence blocks rise quickly skywards, followed by lower leve creep into a massive shopping complex and the The Capital Pearls hotel and conference centre.
Once a sleepy little village north of Durban, the holiday mecca of Umhlanga has transformed into a commercial and business hub with many companies pulling out of the
nigh slum conditions of central Durban to build grand new office blocks.
The Capital Pearls is primarily geared to those organisations and you are unlikely to see happy children scampering around having holiday fun – rather serious business folk more concerned about the quality of the wi-fi and the fact 24-hour room service is available.
From my room on the 22nd floor I have a magnificent view, not quite sea facing, but looking South over the main restaurant conglomeration of central Umhlanga towards Durban. Down below me the original ‘skyscraper’ of Umhlanga, the Beverley Hills Hotel, looks like a Lego piece carelessly dropped and forgotten.
Unconventional in the sense the hotel does not have rooms per se, rather offering apartments ranging from one bedroom to four – with, as it says: “For more convenient family travel, we have modest helper’s rooms with aircon, TV, single bed, kitchenette and en-suite bathroom with shower”.
There are also luxury and superior studio options – luxury having a 43 cm television and superior a 55 cm television (offering 40 DSTV channels) and balcony.
Mine is a two-bedroom apartment consisting of a main room with a king-sized bed and en-suite bathroom, while the large open plan kitchen, dining room and lounge boasts all the amenities of home including dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer.
The second room can be configured for double or single beds and also has its own bathroom facilities.
Elsewhere it has the obligatory pool deck and restaurant. My stay was limited to sampling the breakfast which complied fully with the standards expected from such an upmarket resort.
For lunch and dinner the complex has 16 restaurants and it is just a short walk to Chartwell Drive, the dining mecca of Umhlanga and home to its most famous watering hole, The George that is more than worth effort of the stroll. For those staying over on a Friday night, this pub pumps and is great fun.
The conference centre within the hotel has a banquet room able to seat 120 guests, two pool facing rooms that seat 100 each, two meeting rooms for 14 people each and two double rooms that seat 50 people each.
All of these have a large 2,4×1,4 tele/video conference screen, uncapped high-speed wi-fi and iPad docking stations.
Additional services offered to guests include free shuttle service within a 5km radius, complimentary limited laundry service in the apartments, uncapped wi-fi and a doctor and dentist on call.
The Pearls is now the de facto skyline of Umhlanga and one can only hope its lustre will not dull but grow to be as valuable as its natural counterparts.