Easy does it: Staycation fun at The Boardwalk

Beachfront hotel lines up activities for guests just a stone's throw from the city

The Boardwalk Hotel arranged a game drive at Pabala Private Nature Reserve just outside Hankey
WILD TIME: The Boardwalk Hotel arranged a game drive at Pabala Private Nature Reserve just outside Hankey
Image: NICHOLAS RICHARDS

It was a long, hard few weeks. Deadlines had to be met, kids had to be fetched and carried, and meals had to be cooked. And the school term had dragged on and on.

This mom was tired. This mom needed a break. So when Sun International's The Boardwalk in Gqeberha invited said tired mom and her family to the hotel for a weekend of family fun and activities, she jumped at the opportunity for a staycation.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, including the way we travel and take our holidays. With travel restrictions in place during the hard lockdown, staycations have become popular for many families.

And there is no better way to support local tourism by exploring your own city and surrounds.

According to Wikipedia, a staycation, or holistay, is a period in which an individual or family stays home and participates in leisure activities within day-trip distance of their home.

The best part about living in Gqeberha is that nothing is more than a 20-minute drive in the city. So after we packed our car, we headed for the ideally located Boardwalk Hotel situated along the city's main beachfront.

I hadn't set foot in a hotel since the pandemic started, so it was interesting to see how hotels had adapted.

First, we couldn't enter the hotel without a mask on. Second, you had to sanitise your hands as you entered the hotel. At the welcome desk, you had your temperature taken, sanitised your hands again and everyone was social distancing.

I was very impressed with the Covid-19 protocols in place, and my family and I felt safe at the hotel. 

After we checked in, we were escorted to our beautiful family room on the first floor.

It had more than enough space for the four of us, and offered gorgeous views overlooking the ocean. And nothing beats an autumnal sunset.

Of course the kids wanted to explore the rest of the hotel, so we quickly unpacked and headed down to the lobby.

Our boys quickly found the gym and indoor swimming pool, and that is where we stayed for the rest of the evening.

To quote our eldest, Levi, “the pool is like a bath”. The pool was a popular spot with guests. Its warm water and décor reminded me of the Roman baths.

After we eventually managed to drag the kids back to our suite, we ordered takeout and enjoyed each other's company.

After the kids fell asleep, I sneaked out for a quick workout in the gym.

There is a tongue-in-cheek saying that “mom's of little boys work from sun up until son down,” so I try to make the most of any alone time I can get.

And, true to form, the kids were up at 6 the next morning.

I was so glad to hear that the hotel starts serving breakfast at 6am, because as soon as the boys open their eyes they want to eat.

After a quick shower, we headed downstairs for breakfast.

The protocols in place are a stark reminder of the weird times we are living in.

The cereal, fruit, cheese, ham, danishes, waffles and so on are all individually packed for safety. The hot food is dished up by the staff and you have to wear your mask in the area where the food is served.

Breakfast was downright delicious. 

We spent the morning in the pool and by the beachfront, where we enjoyed a light lunch at one of the restaurants.

The Boardwalk is being revamped, so all of its restaurants and activities are closed.

The Boardwalk Hotel marketing manager Nqobile Qupe said they had to think out of the box and collaborate with other tourism industry players for activities for their guests to enjoy.

We left the baby with granny while my husband, Levi and I hopped into the hotel bus with Qupe and her husband.

The hotel organised a gin and honey tasting and a game drive at Pabala Private Nature Reserve outside Hankey. It is a mere 35 minutes from Gqeberha.

When we arrived at Pabala, we were welcomed by marketing manager Heidi Halgryn. She led us through the gin tasting (Levi had Fanta).

The reserve makes its own handcrafted gin. I am not a gin fan, but I did enjoy the prickly pear gin and it was interesting to learn about the various gins they make.

We then moved on to the honey. We also had a few bee visitors who joined us while we sampled their honey. The pure raw honey they make is incredible and I left the tasting with a new appreciation for  bees.

Buzzing with gin and honey, we met our guide, NK, who took us on a game drive in the reserve.

It was a beautiful, warm afternoon and all the animals were out to greet us.

We saw many buck, giraffe and wildebeest, and the best part was watching my son enjoy his first game drive. He had the most amazing time.

Half way through the drive, we stopped to enjoy drinks and snacks, and take in the rolling views of the farmland.

On the way back, we also noticed the devastation the drought has brought to the area.

Back at the Pabala conference centre, we enjoyed sundowners while watching a glorious sunset. It was the perfect end to a wonderful day.

On the drive back, Levi fell asleep, so when we got back to the hotel we called it a night.

The next morning we were up early again and after breakfast the driver took us to Sundays River to enjoy a river cruise. Our two-year-old, Daniel, joined us this time.

The weather was ideal for a lazy river cruise and my boys were excited to be on a boat for the first time.

After we put on their life jackets, we headed out on the river. It was good to see families out enjoying the river. It felt normal again.

My sons loved it when the boat driver went fast. They laughed and held on for dear life. Oh, to be a child again!

This was a highlight for them, while for us the highlight was watching them experience these things for the first time.

The cruise lasted 1½ hours and was the perfect ending to a fabulous family staycation.

  • To book a boat cruise on the Sundays River, go to www.sundaze.co.za.
  • To book accommodation at  Sun International The Boardwalk Hotel, contact reservations on 041-507-9434.

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