Not to start with, anyway. Blazing skies on a warm afternoon make for civilised conditions, and a sprawling hotel and casino is hardly the wildest of locales. It?s not out and out luxury perhaps ? this is more family getaway than champagne and caviar resort ? but certainly not the buffer from the menacing surrounds that the name suggests it must be.
18 beautiful holes
A day changes all that, for two reasons. The Wild Coast Sun, an hour and a half?s drive south of Durban, boasts one of the country?s more exquisite golf courses; a vast tribute to the surrounds it plays out within. Working with, rather than against, the natural make-up of the area the course dives in and out of the undulations, producing a stunning course ? and a magnificent vantage point from which to appreciate the raw beauty of the Wild Coast.
And beauty it is ? from the breathtaking 12th hole you tee off seventy metres above the thick canopy of trees and hidden river that precede the fairway, with the Indian Ocean lying on the horizon; to the terrifying 13th where another thickly wooded ravine occupies the entire space between tee and green. The course climbs and falls with the contours of the land and the synergy makes the impact of playing the course all the more powerful.
That?s one reason to appreciate the wild aspect; the other is the weather. Benign on arrival, a temperamental beast soon shows itself and blue skies are banished in favour of menacing grey, wind picking up with great enthusiasm and white horses dancing upon a once-calm sea. Wild Coast it most certainly is ? which makes the sanctuary of the Wild Coast Sun all the more welcome.
The 19th hole and more...
It?s a hotel well aware of its surroundings. A vast swimming pool looks down upon the beach a hundred metres away, encouraging lazy days; the implied decadence only heightened by the fact that with reception on the fourth floor, one descends to the pool deck, sinking into the languid welcome the hotel offers. A viewing platform on the floor above offers further pause for appreciation of the ocean ? both in moments of warm sunshine, and when the Wild Coast takes on a darker mood.
When that mood arises it offers a starkly different image, but one just as beautiful. That said, turning weather lessens the appeal of a stroll on the beach or a morning down at the watersports centre, careering up and down the Umtamvuna River on a pair of waterskis. The casino offers distraction (for some, the only one), but family holidays are hardly to be spent in front of the slot machine all day; where to, then, for alternate entertainment?
The hotel boasts a cinema within, for those not content with the myriad programs on the internal satellite server ? not necessarily Oscar-winning fare (the Wayans brothers in a plot that has them dressing up as teenage white girls in an undercover operation, being the cinematic highlight of my stay), but probably the ideal type of movie for the younger, less-discerning viewer.
Restaurants? Several ? from the carnivorous lair that is Squires, a cheerful temple to meat-eating endeavour (friendly, if somewhat laboured service, with good ribs, a better lamb shank, and an excellent strawberry milkshake?), to the flagship Commodore; the Wild Coast Sun?s fine dining experience.
Excellent food, a small but most adequate wine list (seemingly unlimited stock of ?97 Uitkyk Carlonet) and a very regal, old-school sense of charm. Sadly, one senses that the restaurant that doesn?t seem to see as much attention as it should, a charming army of waiters servicing an all but empty restaurant with enthusiasm, but not quite the polish the venue requires, and indeed deserves.
It?s a mild concern, though, for it would take a quite outstanding restaurant to overtake the location as the chief attraction. The more agoraphobic may take daily refuge at the card tables hoping for a stroke of fortune, but the real charm of the Wild Coast Sun lies away from the casino, however. It?s a golfer?s paradise, Golf Digest ranking the course the sixth best in the country, but even the non-golfer won?t be immune to the rugged delights of an untamed getaway. Not wild? Give it a day or two.