Take a deep breath and relax, de-stress and rejuvenate at any of these zen hideaways.
1. Prana Lodge Beach Resort and Spa, Chintsa East
The scent of lavender filled the room while monkeys scampered across the roof of the wellness centre. Were they jealous of the uber-relaxing aromatherapy massage I was enjoying under the healing hands of Karoo African Angel graduate Nancy Sahondo? Hardly – they live in paradise at this beach resort and probably have no idea what knots of stress in tired back muscles feel like. Nature rules here, and the wellness centre, guest suites and central lounge/dining area sit in the towering indigenous dune forest amid a carpet of clivias, with orange blossom in spring.
It’s a place of healing and regeneration, where owners Gail and Tim Davidson found solace and built a beach cottage as an escape from the Johannesburg rat race. Their five-star resort is sensitively integrated into the dune forest. The talented therapists in the spa make their own botanicals using herbs grown in the resort’s garden, in a base of coconut oil. The result is a rich, nourishing experience, whether you’re having a facial,
a wrap or a massage.
The cuisine at Prana’s restaurant is elegance incarnate. Walk yourself healthy on the beach just the other side of the dunes – it’s great for long, soul-expanding wanders.
043 704 5100, [email protected]
Words Marion Whitehead
2. Riverview Spa, Muldersdrift
Fancy sipping bubbly while sitting in a Jacuzzi overlooking the Crocodile River? In the Cradle Moon Conservancy at the foot of the Zwartkop Mountains, Riverview Spa is the perfect bush retreat just 30 minutes from Johannesburg, and 20 minutes from Pretoria. A wildebeest welcomed us and a flock of Grey Louries (Go-away Birds) squawked at our arrival.
The spa celebrates nature, rather than interferes with it. Each treatment area is secluded, along meandering pathways between trees and hills. Choose a Jacuzzi, sauna or steam-room session between treatments, or enjoy an Indian head massage on one of the many chairs scattered over grassy hills facing the river.
When all that relaxation works up an appetite, enjoy home-made muffins, scones and quiche, and other carefully prepared dishes. The malva pudding is highly recommended. Everyone goes above and beyond to ensure all the guests are relaxed and treated like gold. There are seven charming garden cottage units, each with one or two double bedrooms, perfect for a weekend escape, or for guests at weddings in the surrounding area.
083 419 6807, [email protected]
Words Carina Borralho
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3. Brookdale Health Hydro, Nottingham Road
Detox, de-stress and renew is what Brookdale Health Hydro is all about. It’s not just another spa attached to a boutique hotel, but a real hydro offering a holistic health package (three to six days). The emphasis at Brookdale is on wellness and a balanced lifestyle through stress-relief, exercise and diet.
Apart from the luxurious spa treatments (try the twin massage), you can join in the country walks around the estate and on neighbouring farms, aqua-aerobics in the indoor heated pool, and Pilates or yoga in the studio. Or you can curl up with a good book on the terrace or in one of the cosy sitting rooms, or lend a hand with their knitting project.
Integral to your stay are daily talks on nutrition, stress and coping, supplementation, fitness for health and a self-assessment workshop, often presented by owner Wendy Somers-Cox herself. But unlike other hydros I’ve been to, you don’t starve. In fact, the food is nutritious and delicious. You even get dessert, and the freshly baked breads and muffins are enough reason to buy a copy of their cookbook Heavenly and Healthy Foods.
+27 (0) 82 906 0842; 033 266 6208/507; [email protected]
Words Nita Hazell
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4. Askari Game Lodge, Plumari Private Reserve
A little more than an hour’s drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria, Askari offers a romantic, soothing countryside escape to city dwellers who aren’t in the mood for a long drive. I found the surrounding area of Hekpoort slightly depressing at this time of the year, but the kilometres of beige eventually fell away to reveal an inviting lodge at the foot of the Magalies mountain range. Our stay started with a 2.5 hour game drive on which we were so lucky to experience what will probably only happen once – the birth of a giraffe.
After a delicious à la carte dinner, we retired to our deluxe chalet, standard with an en suite bathroom. It was a delightfully undisturbed private space and the lack of sound provided a nice break from hectic city life. I found the room so comforting, I’d actually urge the lodge to rip the provided TV off the wall and remove any other distractions to actively encourage visitors to indulge in as much R&R as possible.
The Askari Spa, on the lodge grounds, is a place of tranquillity. It offers a pedicure and manicure lounge, juice bar, swimming pool and hydrotherapy bath. We settled on a 60-minute full-body massage. I’m not one for massages, but my wife told me afterwards that it was the best she’d ever had. As someone who never passes on an opportunity to get a therapeutic rub-down, that’s high praise indeed.
014 577 2658/9, [email protected]
Words Gerhard Horn
5. The Views Hotel and Spa, Wilderness
With a name like The Views, you expect this spa to have something of a decent prospect. But the name doesn’t do it justice. Perched high above Wilderness beach, this light, bright and airy spa offers sweeping vistas along the coast in both directions, with an intimate deck overlooking the expanse of deep-blue ocean that unfolds before you. This is a place where scents of the sea and fynbos mingle, creating a heady backdrop to the spa experience that awaits you inside. It’s an impressive act to follow, but one the efficient spa staff pull off with aplomb. The sumptuous treatment rooms allow for privacy and the opportunity to drift away under the expert hands of well-trained therapists. Afterwards, a visit to the hydro lounge with its beautifully detailed mosaic walls is a must.
Take a dip in the vitality pool (turn on the jets for a hydro-massage), try the tylarium sauna (offering both dry and steam saunas) or book a treatment in the spa’s pièce de résistance – the Moroccan rasul steam room. Here, deep cleansing mud treatments are combined with steam therapy and rain showers to wash it all off. The cherry on top is a tall glass of cool mint water afterwards, taken on the deck drinking in that glorious view.
044 877 8000, [email protected]
Words Bronwyn Mulrooney
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6. Tranquila Spa at Aquila Private Game Reserve, Touws River
After the morning game drive, there was just enough time between breakfast and the shuttle back to Cape Town to fit in a treatment at this new spa, so I thought why not? The spa has a modern, African theme that fits in well with the Big Five safari setting at Aquila Private Game Reserve just two hours from Cape Town.
The spa has been purpose-built, with a high-volume thatch roof over the heated indoor pool, where loungers are set out near the steam room and sauna to encourage, well, laziness of the most relaxing kind. There’s an outdoor pool as well for when the Karoo sun beats down and bakes the landscape brown. The treatment rooms are off a long, subtly lit passage where therapists usher berobed clients for their spoil. I settled in for a deep-tissue massage with natural products free of petrochemicals to ease the knots out of a back too much stuck in front of a computer.
Afterwards, I was so relaxed that I dawdled on a lounger beside the pool and was the last one to climb aboard the shuttle for the trip back to the city after my overnight safari. If you have kids in tow and want to escape to the spa for a little R&R, there’s a supervised play centre to ensure they are kept entertained.
021 430 7260, [email protected]
Words Marion Whitehead
7. Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge, Citrusdal
Sometimes the incessant hum of a computer and the boredom of endless meetings just gets to you. This is the time to escape to a country retreat, and where better than the Cederberg, where nature is unspoilt and spectacular mountains surround you. In summer, it’s best to hike early and then laze at the pool. There are various hikes, including one to see the giant stone formation that looks just like an elephant. The camp itself is in a 517-hectare private nature reserve, bordering the 80 000-hectare Cederberg Reserve. It’s a communal environment, with the twin tents and simple chalets sharing a large, well-equipped kitchen, showering facilities and an open braai facility. The ban on music devices ensures the tranquillity of the place and, with no electricity, there is no interference with the vast array of stars (Wi-Fi is available in the camp if you can’t resist outside world communication). Meals are available on request. The lodge hosts yoga retreats – the setting and setup make it an ideal venue.
Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge
Words Ann Gadd
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