Nakai Beach Homestay- a way of life

Diagnosed with advanced Lymphoma cancer, Claude Venter was given six months to live by medical specialists. Seven years later, he looked relaxed and happy as he recounted his journey and explained how his decision to seek an alternative remedy saved his life- and changed his and that of his partners, Grant Horak and Paulo da Rosa.

Claude probably thought me ADD as I kept bobbing my head left and right. Whales, dolphins- lots of them, cavorting in the ocean beyond the deck at Nakai Beach Homestay. Nakai means “on the beach” in Polynesian and the gorgeous boutique retreat that the three are rightfully proud of is perched high above Trafalgar Beach on Kwazulu-Natal’s lower south coast.

What a view! What a stunningly situated property. What a turnaround for all three. This team of very successful interior designers and landscapers are really walking the talk. Their search for a purified environment to aid Claude’s recovery led them to this special part of KZN, where the clean air is oxygen and ozone rich. The water, both drinking and general usage, is purified. The food is nearly all organic- and delicious. There are two kitchens- one for vegans and the other for whatever is flavour of the day, so vegetarians, pescatarians and carnivores will be equally delighted.

As it happened an ex-chef friend commandeered the kitchen for dinner so hard working Grant, the driving force behind Nakai- and chief cook and bottle washer, was excused boots. Nor did I taste his cooked breakfast in the sun filled Gauguin Café and Juice Bar since I opted for a flipping delicious cacao and superfood smoothie, yoghurt and berries.

Nakai Beach is a homestay. The partners and Grant’s mum Lorraine live there along with dogs Maui, Kona and Milo so it’s their home, a showpiece for their impeccable design skills and a five star retreat in one package. It is a restorative and rejuvenating space in which to heal, relax and bliss out.

The bedrooms- with balconies- are sublime and individually themed, though the general feel is consistent throughout. Bold colours, clean lines, beautiful fabrics, finishes and the OCD touches that being a good designer requires. Paulo is proudly afflicted and even the kitchen drawers are a testament to this and to care filled design. Everywhere, inside and out, the eye delights in visual feasts that feed the soul.

I was in the vibrant Amazon themed room and found myself lulled to sleep by the surf below unexpectedly soon after I arrived- and for many total relaxation is the reason to visit.

You can opt to do as little as possible, lazing by the infinity pool, soaking up the sun, the views, the tranquility, though most opt for Paulo’s yoga sessions on the deck or in the brand new yoga studio, complete with underfloor heating. Paulo has dedicated his life to the path and enjoys all disciplines. He offers classes, different retreats, hosts guest teachers of other disciplines and is always on hand.

Steps off the deck take you down through the stretch of coastal forest reserve and to the pristine beach. Trafalgar is a marine reserve and, unusual for the south coast, the beaches are long, straight and flat, with black rocks and shallow pools galore. If you traipse to the main, blue flag beach there are life guards and shark nets. The partners took it upon themselves to jolly up the lifeguard huts and benches with colourful paintwork. The surf is often great and snorkelling too, with 90 million year old fossil beds not far from shore.

There are fossils on land too and the beach below Nakai has been in the news a fair bit as it is (then isn’t, then is) a naturist beach. It’s safe to say that if you take your kit off nobody will bother- and in any case you will probably have the beach to yourself.

Claude’s cancer and recovery completely changed his outlook. “I was all about the six pack, the look” he chuckles. That’s not to say he won’t notice a six pack but he’s at ease, at peace- and that peace and pleasure in life is what guests take away when they reluctantly depart this gem.


Brookdale Health Hydro- A repeat peak performance

Sitting in reception at –Brookdale Health Hydro just outside Nottingham Road village in the KwaZulu-Natal midlands- looking through the French doors as I signed my life away, I had a “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” moment. People on a chilly winter’s day in bathrobes and slippers eating their lunch. That was as an outsider. Once you’re “inside” it’s all good- so good they may as well throw away the key.

But they wouldn’t. And inmates sneak off now and again for a round of golf at Gowrie around the bend or, like truant kids and much to the amusement of the staff, a pint and a pie at over-the-road Rawdons or further afield.

You may have heard “Those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach”. What utter codswallop I thought as Cara Larter administered the best Swedish massage I’ve had (I’ve had many). My body learned a fair bit about itself under her strong, intuitive hands. I most often fall asleep during a long massage but I was trying to pay attention as knots and niggles were expertly released.

The same could be said for Mbali, Zinzi, Sarah or any of the therapists.

It’s not just the therapies that taught. The lecture room is a busy place. Brookdale’s concepts and systems are holistic, balanced, integrated, well researched and most effective- or so my detox headache informed me. Happily it was mild and intermittent and soon cleared as plenty of water, treatments, a couple of aquacise classes and brisk walks took effect. So too chef Juliet Stephenson’s wholesome, delicious food.












I imagine many are apprehensive before visiting. Will they survive on the odd lettuce leaf and watery clear consommé? Trust me, it’s not like that. Yes, there’s no caffeine, no alcohol and if you need to smoke or make a cellphone call you will have to traipse off to the rose garden round back. Not a bad spot by any means, with views over the brook of cherry trees and hillside. You won’t go hungry though- and the food is delicious. Juliette has produced two successful cookbooks, but I was chuffed to attend her cooking demo in the unusually simple kitchen, especially when I found that the food prepared was not in either book. Actually, no cooking took place (apart from toasting of nuts), but the “carrot cake” was as good as any from an oven- a baked version a little later served as a comparison.

Repurposed bathtubs out back, now full of herbs and veggies, are evidence of Juliet’s recycling knack. The popular day spa has also been considerably enhanced since my first visit, with the addition of a conservatory- a great place to keep warm on drafty days, considering guests are almost always in robes.

My mum weaned me on the dietary advice of Adelle Davis who preached the benefits of whole grains and breads, fresh vegetables, vitamin supplements, limits on sugar, and avoidance of packaged and processed foods in the 50’s and 60’s. Those tenets have developed considerably since, I learned while attending talks by owner Wendy Somers-Cox and dieticians Caryn Davies (nutrition) and Tanya March- a real eye opener on gut health.

By the time I left though I was in a completely different state from when I arrived, happy on my drive and mindful of the inspirational Ralph Waldo Emerson quote left on my pillow the previous night. I don’t much like inspirational quotes. Not in the “insert inspirational quote” or décor way so often used by many places. Here it’s different, heartfelt and a reflection of Brookdale and one of many reasons so many have been coming back since Tony and Wendy Somers-Cox opened the hydro in 1992. Some, like hydro GM Marilyn Cox, have never left. What an advert she is- engaging, vivacious, clear, considerate and radiating good vibes and health

All the best places I’ve visited are run by involved owners who lead by example. Dynamo Wendy is one such owner, imbuing consistency, quality, energy, confidence and other qualities on staff and guests alike.

I’ve lounged in a robe elsewhere and had fantastic treatments and it was grand, lovely, but just, well, indulgent. At Brookdale there’s purpose- your wellness. “There is a point to what we do” said therapist April McNally during a brisk early morning walk before brekkie. It’s a highly skilled, drilled and motivated team with everyone rowing in the same direction.

You choose how much you engage or disengage,  how much you row or are rowed, but I suggest falling in with the regime (for want of a better word) to get the most out of your stay. Answer the wake-up knock, with a pot of Rooibos tea, on your door and take advantage of the fact that all Brookdale’s packages, apart from their specific therapies or activities, include morning walks and aquacise, guided relaxation, yoga and Pilates classes and Clarins demos. The gym is open to all, the indoor heated pool (there’s an outdoor pool too) is open until 9pm, with Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room alongside.

There’s time and space for quietude on a lounger, wincing along the reflexology path or navigating the labyrinth, or meandering alongside the brook and in the forest in-between. There is a wi-fi hotspot and dstv, whether you’re in a standard room or luxury suite, though my tv stayed off.

Almost all Brookdale’s staff live on the property and it’s a highly skilled, drilled and motivated team. The high percentage of long-termers, or returning staff members, is a recommendation in itself, as is the high percentage of returning guests from within and without South Africa.

About the Author: 

For the better part of a decade I have travelled hard, fast and continuously- chasing deadlines for weekly travel features linked to prizes. Not being quite a tourist, or on holiday, affords a different perspective, as does “speed dating” with owners and staff. Like in movies, associations and relationships are accelerated and in most cases I get a peek behind the scenes of the many wonder filled places I’ve been. Have a peek yourself.