Restoration at Prana Lodge
Afar Magazine published an article early this year, “Where to Travel the Year According to Your Astrological Sign.” Whilst I don’t believe that our date of birth predicts the future much less correlates with our travel preferences, it is always oddly unsettling when you see a bit of truth in your horoscope. And according to the astrologer, Pisces (like me) are drawn to vast open space like the ocean, forest, or desert where they feel connected to the world and their creative energy sparks. Perhaps this is why my weekend walking a largely deserted beach at Prana Lodge was a welcomed respite. This wasn’t an activity-laden weekend, but a time for self-reflection, reading (I finished two books), beach combing, and relieving tense muscles at the spa.
Chintsa East is relatively easy to get to – a little over an hour flight to East London and then another 45 minute drive through undulating green hills. This area is largely off the beaten path for most foreign tourists and with the number of competing spectacular South African destinations, this area is likely not at the top of the list. That being said, if you are an avid hiker (the Wild Coast is popular for its multi-day sojourns that overlook expansive ocean vistas) or if you simply want to experience the coastline without seeing a single building, let alone a high-rise, this is the place for you. The other reason to explore this part of the country is if you want to experience Xhosa culture and South African history – Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko are both from this area.
Prana Lodge is set quite a distance from the sea, but as soon as you open your door you can hear the din of waves breaking. The desolate, unspoilt beach stretches for kilometers in either direction from the lodge and is easily accessible by boardwalk through densely vegetated dune forest. From there, you descend steep stairs (or run down the sand dune) to the beach. I spent most of my time walking along the beach, searching for shells, and photographing the ocean detritus that washed ashore. I think if I lived here, I would create an entire photographic series of the seaweed, shells, rocks, and occasionally plastic trash that is artfully arranged on the sand. While it was too cold to swim, the water was warm enough for wading. On one of my morning walks, I only passed five people and two dogs in almost two hours. On another walk it rained lightly. This is solitude at its best.
It was dark when I arrived and a glimpse of the ocean had to wait until morning. I settled into the luxurious Sapphire Suite before decamping to the bar area to read my book in front of the fire. I opted for full board, but breakfast and dinner are large meals and will satisfy most people for the entire day. The food is incredible (babotie spring rolls, duck confit, malva pudding to name a few standouts). Dinners are served in front of a fire in the small, romantic dining room. There is a small Wellness Centre that is not to be missed.
After a jam-packed, visitor-heavy April a weekend of quiet contemplation on the beach was the type of recalibration that I needed.