Diamond safari

05 Sep 2016
4 min read
FOUR looks at the world’s first from Ellerman House in Cape Town, which allows guests to go on a diamond safari in a bid to hunt their own wild treasures…
Trip of a lifetime

Ellerman House, in partnership withBenguela Diamonds, is offering its guests an exclusive opportunity to embark on a ‘diamond safari’ to the mineral-rich west coast of South Africa – a unique place of origin for diamonds worthy of the most exquisite jewellery settings. Benguela Diamonds is named after the predominant current, the cold, nutrient-rich Benguela Current, which flows in a northerly direction off the west coast of South Africa, and the diamonds themselves arerare sea diamondsthat can only be dived for.

‘Diamonds are forever’, and are the purest and most brilliant of the earth’s precious gemstones. Investing in a special diamond is not an everyday purchase, which is why this unique trip – the first of its kind in South Africa – has been curated as a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Guests get to follow the journey of an ocean diamond from its humble origin beneath the surface of the sea to its transformation into a symbol of love and object of beauty. This exciting new experience, exclusive to Ellerman House guests, is particularly attractive to couples planning an engagement or celebrating an anniversary or milestone in their lives.

The tailor-made day trip begins with an early morning private charter flight from Cape Town to Port Nolloth on the west coast. The adventure begins the moment you are collected from Ellerman House by chauffeured limousine and transferred to a private terminal at Cape Town International Airport for a scenic flight on board a Swiss-designed Pilatus PC12 jet or a Kingair 200 aircraft. The journey takes approximately an hour and 15 minutes, following the desolate but beautiful coastline to Port Nolloth. There’s time to drink a toast to the adventure ahead and take memorable photographs before landing.

Home base for the day is a luxurious, contemporary villa right on the coast, between Port Nolloth and McDoogles Bay, directly in front of Benguela’s private offshore concession. Decorated in marine tones of blue and white, the villa offers a high level of luxury and comfort to ensure that every aspect of your day is relaxed and pleasurable.

The morning begins with a cup of coffee or a glass of freshly pressed fruit and vegetable juice, followed by breakfast. Fresh and healthy or decidedly decadent, guests are offered a tempting selection of hot and cold breakfast dishes while the host presents an introduction to the day’s activities.

By mid-morning, the adventure gets under way with the option of joining the Benguela dive masters under the water. A current Padi Open Water 1 certificate is all that’s required, as the dive is an entry level one, in fairly shallow water. For those who choose not to dive, it’s just as exciting to be on the boat waiting for the precious seabed gravel to be brought up to the surface. The gravel runsinto a classifier that separates the larger stones from the gravel. The remaining gravel is then ‘jigged’ which means that the diamonds are sorted from the gravel using a vibrating pan system. The heavier gemstones, such as garnets, olivines and diamonds, fall into the pan. Only then does the final sorting and grading process begin.

A gourmet lunch awaits on the terrace of the villa after being on the sea. A private chef accompanies guests for the day to take care of all culinary needs. Ellerman House villa guests will be accompanied by their personal in-villa chef. In keeping with the coastal setting, Ellerman House suggests a delicious seafood lunch of fresh line-caught fish or west coast crayfish, depending on the season. The gourmet lunch is paired to award-winning South African wines, handpicked from Ellerman House’s exceptional wine collection.

After lunch it’s time to sort through the day’s richest pickings with an expert from Benguela’s sorting team, and learn more about the grading of diamonds. This is the magical moment to select a rough diamond to be cut, polished and set into a piece of jewellery at the design studio in Stellenbosch. While nature determines the colour, carat-weight and clarity of a diamond, only a skilled craftsman can determine the cut, displaying the fire, sparkle and beauty of the diamond. When a diamond is cut to perfect proportions – not too deep nor too shallow – light will reflect inside the stone and disperse through the top of the stone, giving it an inner radiance.

By late afternoon, guests are winging their way back to Cape Town aboard their private aircraft. Safely back at Ellerman House, guests round off the day by indulging in the hotel’s signature Dom Perignon Experience. As the sun sinks into the ocean, pop the cork on a bottle of vintage Dom Perignon paired to a delicious bento box-style dinner prepared by the executive chef.

The idea to make the diamond safari accessible to discerning clients began with one man’s dream of expanding the diamond business beyond mining by taking ownership of each step of the process to ensure authenticity, quality and seamless service. The man in question is Wynand Hendrikse, an experienced South African diamond diver for over 20 years, who launched Benguela Diamonds precisely to offer a complete service to his clients at Aphrodite Diamonds, the family run diamond and jewellery design studio he owns in Stellenbosch. Not only does the company mine and dive its own diamonds, operating a private ocean concession on the west coast, it also has its own cutting works and goldsmith.

‘Mining our own diamonds gives us a very exclusive niche in a market where traceability has become extremely important. This not only certifies the origin of our diamonds, but is also a guarantee of fair working conditions in our concession,’ explains Wynand. To his knowledge, Benguela Diamonds is the only company in the world which controls the entire journey of an ocean diamond, from mining to polishing to setting.

For visitors to Cape Town, the biggest advantage of investing in a diamond through Benguela is that it only takes three consecutive working days to get a diamond cut and polished, and a piece of jewellery designed, made and certified. It’s a high-end example of a ‘one-stop shop’, is how Wynand sums it up. Recently opened, The Studio at Ellerman House, also offers a full range of Benguela Diamonds for the convenience of its guests.

The diamond safari will be available from 1 September 2016, and is strictly dependent on prevailing weather conditions. Available for a maximum of 6 guests, the trip costs R215,000 (approx. £11,400) and includes the road transfers, return air transfer on a private jet, and all food and beverages including the Dom Perignon Experience at Ellerman House). The price remains the same, regardless whether 2, 4 or 6 guests travel together. Note that the priceexcludesthe cost of any diamonds purchased from Benguela Diamonds and alsoexcludesthe cost of designing and manufacturing a piece of jewellery.