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Zimbali Lodge, Durban

4.0 stars
Business center
Swimming pool


Zimbali Lodge - the restaurant

Zimbali Lodge is marketed as a five star hotel and golf resort, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it without a long list of provisos. I can however fully recommend their restaurant. Zimbali’s setting is superb – it is over 60km North of Durban City Centre, and the drive takes you past the proverbial rolling hills. They’re covered in sugar cane, and during the rainy season everything is green and lush and humid. Zimbali makes the most of this and makes a feature of the landscape. The main building has an infinity pool, also facing the hills and the sea, and is designed for the weather with shady overhangs and cool dark wood throughout. It is here that they have their wonderful restaurant. Durban has a huge Indian population (look up why, the history is fascinating), and this combined with the hot weather means that curries are an excellent and popular choice. Zimbali’s restaurant specializes in curries. Our waitress, Pinky, insisted that we would enjoy our meals “medium” rather than “hot”. I cannot handle hot food, but I decided to trust her and was very glad I did! The curries were amazing, tasty and not too hot. They came with a full complement of sambals so our whole group had fun adding various pickles and salsas to customize our curries. I’m vegetarian and used to getting bland food in restaurants, but here I was not disappointed. After our meal we all moved poolside to the loungers, where we could order drinks from the bar on the other side of the pool to the restaurant. The waiters were quite happy to bring our drinks to us, as well as more food if we hadn’t been too full to order any more. The restaurant isn’t cheap by South African standards, but I thought it was worth it and tourists with foreign currency should find the prices a steal. [more ]

Zimbali Lodge: the accommodation

Zimbali Lodge and golf resort is over 60km north of Durban city centre. The free-standing gold estate houses, called “chalets” are available to rent on a self-catering basis and are dotted all over the hills. They are half hidden by rainforest-type vegetation, and the more expensive ones have views of the sea. If you stay in the main hotel instead, you’ll find yourself in one of a series of semi-detached apartments stretching into the forest. The chalets all come with a golf cart for you to use for the duration of your stay, and if you stay in the hotel, you can request a driver come pick you up or wait for one to drive past. This may make it sound like a high traffic location, but it really wasn’t! I found the hotel rooms very isolated and expensive, but ideal for a romantic getaway. The chalets are much better value for money and far more suited to a family or group. All the accommodation was beautifully appointed, and air conditioning comes standard. I spent a lot of my time at the infinity pool directly in front of the hotel, but there was a series of 3 interlinked pools right by the beach, a 10 minute golf cart drive away. This seemed to be more of a family zone, with lots of small children and their nannies, but even here one could order food etc. to be delivered.
Zimbali organizes tours, but they are monstrously over-priced, except possibly the horse-riding trips offered by the hotel which are well worth doing. Otherwise, a typical tour is the “diamond tour” where, for just under R300 (40 Dollars-ish) a van takes you to a jewellery shop and back to the hotel. I felt it was far better to rent my own car and be independent. If you don’t want to do this, the hotel does organize shuttles to and from the beach and tours to most of the local attractions. Just don’t trust their booking staff! They lost our reservations, as well as that of our friends arriving from England, they do not reply to emails and they complained about not being able to understand our friends’ accents when in desperation they kept phoning to try and get some sort of response. Most inconveniencing was our airport shuttle never arrived to take us to the hotel. We had to catch a taxi, which cost a fortune, after being unable once again to contact a relevant staff member at Zimbali. Later, Zimbali staff would not reimburse us and it took 3 days to receive a very cursory apology for our being stranded at the airport and then ignored on our arrival at the lodge. Also, they charge for everything. It’s a 5 star establishment with 5 star prices, but things like internet access and airport shuttles cost extra. If you have loads of cash to spare, don’t mind reconfirming things several times and want a beautiful cocoon of accommodation, go to Zimbali, but rather stay elsewhere if you want to interact with your location a bit more. [more ]

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