Fairmont Zimbali Resort
What We Love
- Mix of beach time and nature activities on the Ballito coast, just 30 minutes north of Durban
- Choice of five outdoor swimming pools
- Popular with families thanks to the kids club, multiroom villas and varied dining options
What To Know
- The beach is a short walk or buggy ride away
- Expect to see some wildlife in and around the resort, and the occasional opportunistic monkey at your table
- Bathrooms have double vanities and stand-alone deep soaking tubs
- Golf Course
- Handicap Accessible
- Kids Club
- Parking On Site
A one-hour flight from Johannesburg or a 30-minute drive from Durban, the Fairmont Zimbali Resort is a destination for beach time, water sports in the warm Indian Ocean and nature-focused adventures in the surrounding coastal forest. The nine restaurants cover the culinary spectrum, from Mexican lunch fare at Ayoba and seafood favorites at OSA to cocktails and snacks at beachside Ma Khaza and themed buffets at Coral Tree. Common throughout are the use of fresh seasonal ingredients and knockout Indian Ocean views, where possible. The 154 guestrooms take inspiration from the surrounding beach, ocean and jungle landscape, with pale stone flooring, hardwood furniture and earth tones, from the throw pillows to curtains. The large open-plan bathrooms have a contemporary look, with double vanities and stand-alone deep soaking tubs. All are stocked with posh Le Labo Rose 31 products. Each room comes with a work desk and walk-in wardrobe, and many are available as adjoining rooms for families. Days here are spent by the pools or on the beach, or there’s the Willow Stream Spa for pampering treatments using local ingredients (marula, rooibos, aloe and more) and the nearby 18-hole Zimbali Country Club for a round of golf.
In the Area
Beyond the golf and spa time, the Zimbali Coastal Estate is a destination for nature lovers. Explore the surrounding subtropical coastal forest on guided walks, go bird and butterfly watching on the hotel grounds, or master your serve on the property’s two tennis courts. Farther afield, the concierge can organize deep sea fishing and scuba diving excursions in the Indian Ocean, or a chance to see dolphins on a special boat tour. History buffs should make a stop at the Drakensberg Park World Heritage Site to see the ancient cave paintings, the largest collection of cave paintings in southern Africa.
How to Get There
Don't expect much from Coral tree restaurant. 5 star rating not true reflection from a cleanliness and staff engagement perspective. Expect to dish out tips excessively if you are foreigner. Be aware of sneaky marketing scam related to 'free' tour. Dining options are limited. Overpriced food and drink, does not live up to quality.
We booked a 6 night stay, 11 months prior. 3 days before we were due to arrive, our travel agent called to say that Fairmont Zimbali had a large corporate booking they had accepted and therefore had said we could no longer stay for 3 of our 6 nights. The alternative offered was certainly higher quality in terms of accommodation and service but it was not a resort so did not have access to the facilities supposedly available here.
Anyway, we were very, very well looked after at the Oyster Box - it is a great place to stay. We would go there again. We arrived here after our 3 nights there. Check-in was not possible in the morning (around 10.30 am) we didn't expect to have access to a room but thought they may allow us to check-in. So we headed to the golf course for our pre-booked tee-time. The golf course and staff were good - welcoming, helpful and accommodating. The golf course is also good, well kept with great views (and some challenging holes). Back to check-in and the room was ready(it was after normal check in time by now) but the staff did not complete processes correctly (only became apparent when we left but more on that later).
We were allocated a higher grade room than we had booked and paid for (nice gesture) and provided with a meal at Coral Tree. We cannot say this fully made up for the disappointment and stress but at least it was an attempt.
So, the suites are comfortable (bath tub plug didn't work well so it was very difficult to fill the bath). Patio good size but in shade pretty much all day. Rooms were not well replenished - no bottled water left, coffee / tea not replaced, towels removed but not replaced (despite them being hung on rails rather than left on floor etc). There was also an extreme lack of information about the hotel in the room - no list of prices of items in mini-bar, nothing to remind you of opening times of restaurant, pool etc, nothing about where facilities could be found (spa, ice etc).
Overall, staff in the bars and restaurants were helpful and friendly and food was OK in The Coral Tree (nothing special but perfectly acceptable).
Porters and car valets were the most helpful of all - happy to help and arrange transport around the resort. The Valley of the Pools was quiet (it is winter) but very clean and well staffed; the walk from Zimbali Lodge to the Valley is well worth the effort as you get really good views of the lagoons and birds along the way as well as the sea / shore- line. The beach club looked good, but was closed for a private function on the day we walked down. The hotel pool was very pleasant - comfortable sun loungers and again, good staff. Water in the pool was freezing (guess this goes with time of year).
We came to check out, needing to get away to the airport for our flight. We were told that there had been no pre- payment identified for the room. We explained what had happened re our booking etc., and were told they needed the original voucher. Now, we did have this ready to give them on arrival.... but had packed it away as it had not been collected. Luckily, we still had it but we had to try to find it and this delayed us to the point where we had to pay late return charges on the hire car.
All in all, we would be unlikely to book here again - it is way too big and soulless to provide five star service, even if the facilities are 5 star plus there is always the chance they will not honour your booking no matter how far in advance you have booked, and it may be that somewhere the quality of Oyster Box is not available at such short notice.
I enjoyed my time at Zimbali. I found it to be stylish, spacious, comfortable and the food was amazing. Although I had a problem with ventilation in the room and took it up with management, they assured me it would be be attend to it so I'm yet to check it out again. I still think it's one of the best places to be if you want to avoid the hustle and bustle of Durban - "Out of Durban in style."