Location: 18 kilometres from Port Elizabeth in Nelson Mandela Bay on the ‘wild side’ of the city’s coast, in the Eastern Cape. It isn’t even 15 minutes drive.
Date Visited: 4 – 6 May 2012 (Fall)
Accommodation: We stayed in a beautifully fitted 2-bedroom chalet with a kitchen, dining room, lounge & bathroom. The resort offers chalets & cottages of varying sizes, as well as camping sites for caravans & campers.
What we Drove: Our 1998, 2.8i Landrover Defender 90-series
What we did: we loved the ocean a few steps from our chalet’s front door. It is mesmerizing. We listened to the ocean, which at times washed over every thought we might have had and at other times created the rhythm of our conversation. We went for a beautiful walk. We did a treasure hunt for our lunch, enjoyed breakfast at the resort’s breakfast room, cooked supper together on an open fire. We played miniature golf, air-hockey, pool & table tennis. The children devoured the super tube water slide, while Zuko & I took the opportunity to read & think & talk. We also explored the area close to the resort.
Recommendation: The Willows is really the ideal family destination. If you live in or close to Nelson Mandela Bay, The Willows is perfect as a weekend destination, avoiding long distance travel, but still affording you the feel of being far away from home. If you’re visiting the city, The Willows is a perfect base from which to explore this area. It is 15 minutes drive from the airport and 10 minutes from almost everything else you’d want to visit.
Website: ‘The Willows Resort & Conference Centre‘
Zuko & I have many memories of Nelson Mandela Bay.
We both grew up in this city.
We went to school here.
Fell in love, here.
We left together in 1995 and returned together in 2002.
We came back with some children and had some more here.
We learnt of defeat & resilience & hope & the ability to begin again, right here in this little bit of world.
Memories aren’t words.
Memories are filled with color & texture.
This Friday afternoon we tasted and felt the memories of our own childhood as we drove through the resort to our chalet.
We swam in that tidal pool as a five-year old.
We walked on the soft sand, there, when we were seven.
We explored the rocky shore, hunting for crabs & sea stars & tiny fish when we were eight.
We did not know each other then, but somehow this shared history brings us closer together as we forge new memories with our own children in this wonderous place.
In some ways The Willows was able to retain a feeling of familiarity, despite upgrades & renovations & modernisation.
It is a welcome feeling.
While we stock the fridge and settle Maddi into our new surroundings, the older three of our tribe goes off to explore the resort.
Their free passes in hand.
Now there’s a memory.
The excitement on their faces as they opened that envelope & discovered those little cards.
‘Do they really mean we can do anything for free?’ they repeatedly ask in disbelief.
And then they’re off to go and test them.
It is almost dark when they return with laughter & excitement.
They’ve played air-hockey & foose-ball, pool & darts & soccer.
Tomorrow they’re going to super tube & play miniature golf.
It is a children’s paradise.
Not once during the entire weekend did one of them say those three dreaded words: ‘I’m bored!’
In fact, on Sunday I had to bribe the tribe with the promise of lunch at The Boma, to lure them away from The Willows.
Friday night we cooked together on an open fire.
Saturday morning, as I lay in bed, listening to the sound of the ocean’s rolling waves & our children playing, I realized that I am content.
This is good.
It is very good.
We drank coffee, then strolled down to the games room & breakfast room.
We had a slow conversation filled breakfast.
We made new friends.
Then we set off on a walk along the ocean’s edge before letting the children loose on the super tube water slide.
They were tireless.
They’re fervor inspiring other children to join the fun until a whole band of young ones were splashing through the water with excitement.
‘It always seems like summer, at The Willows’, I think as I watch from the lawn, taking the opportunity to read and talk and dream.
As the sun climbs high up into the sky & our shadows shrink to almost nothing, a scroll is brought to us.
It holds a secret.
It sets us off on an eventful treasure hunt, for our packed picnic lunch.
We seek birds on walls & ladies who listen for bells, a place of many holes and a bear who does not move.
It is the bear who tells us where we can find our lunch and as we spread the colorful blanket on neatly kept lawn and unpack an exquisite lunch, Pippa and I discover that we both love a picnic.
We resolve that we’ll do it more often as we devour a perfectly made meal.
We take an afternoon nap while the children disappear on an adventure. Later they tell us they explored some puddles and pools, found a sea star and almost caught a crab.
We join them for miniature golf.
Sophia gets a hole-in-one.
I accumulate the highest score and the tribe agrees that it is the one with the highest score who wins.
As the sun starts to set and a full moon rises, we find our way to our chalet and preparing supper together and reliving the excitement of hunting for lunch.
Sunday morning is even more relaxed.
Coffee is followed by more fresh breakfast & more conversation in the breakfast room.
We play another game of pool.
Pippa challenges me to an air-hockey stand-off.
Sophia takes on the winner.
As Zuko and I pack our bags & load the Landy, the children take a last wild splash on the super tube water slide.
Sunday Lunch has come.
Too soon, as always.
Reluctantly we say our goodbyes.
We stop at The Boma restaurant & Reptile World for lunch.
We delay the end of this journey.
As long as possible.
We could’ve stayed longer.
There is so much to do & enjoy & explore.
We didn’t get to the Seaview Lion Park or Heavenly Stables’ Beach Horseback ride.
We didn’t even consider the paintball or golf course ten minutes away.
The time together was too precious.
The time there.
On the ocean’s edge.
When we arrive home we’d travelled a mere 36 kilometres.
We created the memories of a journey.
Pippa careful places a yellow serviette holding a blue knife and fork, tied together with rough brown rope in her memory box.
Soffie takes some prestic & stick her free-pass to the inside of her cupboard’s door.
Theunsie writes on Facebook that the tribe is awesome.
Late that evening I lie in bed listening to them chew on their weekend’s experiences.
It is beautiful memories.
One’s they might just share with their children, as one day they too take them to this wondrous world.