Did you know that there is an alternative spelling for Paradise? It’s Miar Estate, and I found this out on a recent visit to my old stomping ground, the Wild Coast. It had been literally decades since I last visited as a suntan seeking schoolboy on his summer break.
But a helicopter ride from East London airport showed that very little had changed. Yes, more development is visible– Cintsa has grown dramatically from its sleepy 60’s form – but the endless beaches, rolling green headlands, and deep gorges bringing rivers to the sea are still there in their limitless beauty.
Nonkqubela Mazwai was born and grew up in Idutywa and has been very successful in the mining business. She’d always had a yearning for the unique geographical and spiritual landscape of the Kei river region, and in 2008 bought the three farms that comprise Miar Estate.
The primary aim was to have a place in which she and family and friends could escape the pressures of the rat race and unwind in an environment little touched by time. But, largely because she’d recently taken a sabbatical from mining, and her eternally driving entrepreneurial spirit was looking for something to do, the Miar Estate project was born and brought to the marvellous fruition that I experienced.
One of the farmhouses was converted into a 9 room hotel that commands a stunning view down to the ocean. The design effortlessly and tastefully combines the owner’s love of the timeless classics – one of her favourite possessions is an E-type Jaguar – with the contemporary and the African.
There is great comfort and style without sacrificing intimacy and an at-home feel. The food is of exceptional quality – even without considering the logistics of a lengthy supply chain – bistro style and served by the friendliest staff you can imagine. And the to-do options are manifold and varied.
Feeling lazy? No problem. Lounge next to the pool, drink in the views, read, relax, sleep. A little more energetic, but not too much so? Take a guided tour around the farm and spot the colourful Knysna Loerie and the shy dappled bushbuck and enjoy the herds of zebra and blesbok and wildebeest and impala and the loping curiosity of the resident giraffes.
Loads of pent-up energy needing to be released? Take a horse-back ride; ride a mountain bike along the 35k trail that has been created around the farm, which ranges in difficulty from ‘even a child can handle it’ to ‘you have got to be kidding’. Just walk - as lazily or briskly as you like around the farm, or do a portion of the Strandloper beach trail that passes the property on its way from Kei Mouth to Gonubie.
The only thing you MUST do while in this Eden is spend some ‘me’ time at the spa. I regard myself as a connoisseur of the spa experience – guided by the philosophy that life is too short not to spoil oneself whenever the opportunity presents itself – and this was a good an experience as I have had anywhere. Like with so much else about the place, it’s the attention to detail that transforms the excellent to the sublime.
Miar is a destination in itself; or it can luxuriously book-end a trip to more rugged parts of the Wild Coast north of the Kei; or it can be the jump-off and pick-me-up points of walking the Strandloper trial. However you do it – be a Nike follower and Just Do It.