Eastern promise

We travel to Prana, a secluded lodge and wellness spa named after the Sanskrit word for ‘life force’ or ‘vital energy’

ANDREA PAFITIS-HILL

WHERE IS IT? Chintsa East (formerly Cintsa) on the Wild Coast, Eastern Cape
HOW TO GET THERE? Fly to East London – Prana Lodge is a 40-minute drive from East London Airport. The lodge can arrange airport transfers, if required.

BEST-KEPT SECRET? A magical retreat and wellness spa tucked away in an indigenous dune forest along Chintsa Bay. Lodge owners Gail and Tim Davidson are also ownercustodians of the private beach estate on which they built their lodge and home, with direct access a mere flight of steps away – once you sink your toes into the silky sand, 21km of undisturbed beach awaits your footprints. After your morning stroll, follow the path back to the wellness spa, where three experienced Thai therapists will do their nimble best to knead – or walk all over! – stubborn knots and sore muscles.

THE LODGE Gail and Tim’s love of and frequent travels to the East have influenced the style of the lodge, which features sloping pagoda roofs, Zen garden statues and soothing water bowls filled with petals.

ACCOMMODATION Seven spacious and elegantly furnished suites have been individually designed around and named after a specific theme – choose from Citrine, Emerald, Forest, Ruby, Sapphire, Tanzanite and Turquoise. Paintings by wellknown South African artists hang on the walls of each suite and thick Persian rugs line the floors. Generous bathrooms with oversized bathtubs and a choice of indoor or outdoor showers are another highlight of each suite, as are the patio and plungepool where you can lounge securely and privately.

FOOD Executive chef Jaycee Ferreira’s natural flair for food runs in his family – his aunt Elizabeth Bond owned the wellloved former Swobond’s restaurant in Pretoria. Assisted by the very capable Janine Els (whose cheese muffins and pastries are worth writing home about), Jaycee creates delicate yet unpretentious menus that combine classic French cuisine with Eastern accents. His previous cheffing experience includes the Protea Hotel Capital and the Tea Café in Pretoria, Rovos Rail, and Etali Safari Lodge at Madikwe. For breakfast, we feasted on fresh smoothies and classic honey-drizzled French toast with crispy bacon and organic rocket plucked fresh from the herb garden – Jaycee says that with the “amazing green fingers of the Thai staff, we grow whatever we can at the lodge”. Light lunches of tempura baby calamari and potato rösti with wasabiinfused cream cheese and smoked salmon were perfect midday hunger busters. Fireside dinners in the candlelit dining room awaited us with retro-revival starters like Jaycee’s twist on an avocado Ritz. Mains of beautifully tender duck presented three ways and Parmesancrusted lamb were a highlight.

While decadent, dinners are elegantly portioned to leave room for desserts like the trio of homemade crème brûlée, wildberry and saffron pistachio ice cream.

X FACTOR Whether you’re simply seeking R&R with five-star fare or a large helping of soul food from the wellness services available, this is the spot for you. Says Gail – who is a trained nurse and highly qualified wellness coach – “I’ve always known this property had healing energy. When Tim and I were stressed out in Joburg we’d come here for a holiday and after two or three days we felt completely well.” Gail’s own journey to wellness is a remarkable one: at age 43, she suffered two strokes that left her completely paralysed down one side of her body. Realising the need to focus on recovering, Gail knew exactly where to do this: “I stayed on this property for quite some time and really got on the mend. It was then that I had the dream to open the wellness centre – it’s an important aspect of the lodge that is close to my heart.” As testament to this, Prana was awarded the second Annual Adventure Province Tourism and Conservation Award for Best Spa and Wellness Centre in the Eastern Cape just 18 months after opening.

BONUS POINTS Holistic getaway workshops that include accommodation and meals, as well as meditation, yoga and tai chi classes. For those interested in soaking up the outdoor offerings of the Eastern Cape, the lodge can arrange everything from private game-viewing trips to surfing, hiking, horse riding, tennis, golf, fishing and bird watching. From time to time, the lodge also holds popular food and wine pairing evenings.

HOW MUCH? Rates start at R1 700 per person sharing for dinner, bed and breakfast.

For more info or to book a stay at Prana Lodge, call 043-704-5100 or visit www.pranalodge.co.za.

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