The whole wellness

Built with blocks of Himalayan salt, Babylons­toren’s salt room is a space designed to boost deep breathing and bolster the immune system.

Wellness, the spa industry’s buzzword du jour, is something that every luxury Winelands’ destination is striving to introduce into the minds, bodies and souls of the worn-out and weary. So what’s new in the wellness game?

Let’s be clear: there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be pampered. Traditional treatments like massages and facials are still relevant on today’s spa menus. “A hotel spa will always have that pampering element,” says Lizandé Rossouw, spa manager at Lanzerac Hotel & Spa. “Remember, 80% of guests are locals – day spa visitors – and they tend to stick to perceived pampering treatments like the classic massages and facials.”

It’s these therapies that cater to those of us who desperately need to relax. “We live such fast-paced lives, what clients want most these days is relaxation. Once relaxed, they start to feel what it is their bodies actually need. That’s when the connection is made and better awareness is achieved,” adds Lizandé. The awareness she speaks of is perhaps where the need for straight-up pampering ends and holistic wellness begins. 

To explain the current demand for wellness, Ingrid Hindle, CEO of Santé Wellness Retreat & Day Spa, points out, “With the very high level of stress in most people’s lives, clients want to go somewhere where they can escape and be well looked after.” What does that entail? “Well firstly, you need to find your haven. Then, the chosen treatments depend on your goal. For example, Santé’s wellness programmes include de-stress/rejuvenate, detox, healthy ageing and ideal weight. We have drawn specific assessments and treatments from our health-optimis­ing clinic, bio-energy centre and world-class day spa. These treatments, combined with optimal nutrition and exercise, have enabled us to create programmes that produce outstanding results for our clients.”

In other words, a wellness retreat is the sum of its parts. Thinking about wellness as a holistic state of mind means more than just a massage or two. “It’s all-encompassing,” says Ingrid, adding that from the treatments and the natural products used in the day spa all the way to healthy cuisine, nothing is superficial. “Our goal is to optimise our clients’ health and get their bodies and minds functioning at their peak,” she explains. 

Wholesome food is central to the spa experience.

Ingrid is a big believer in nutrition not playing a cameo in wellness – it’s the headline act. “The power of food in healing and its role in general health are often totally underestimated,” she states. That’s why no sugar, dairy, gluten or preservatives are used at Santé and all meals are low GI.

Food is certainly more than food for thought on today’s modern treatment menu. Take Delaire Graff Estate’s spa for example, which now offers refreshing kombucha to sip post-treatment. Here, adding the benefits of fermented beverages to the spa experience is another example of the modern approach to wellness. Kombucha, a natural elixir, not only has highly praised detox properties, but is also an anti-inflammatory and helps balance the body.

Another great body balancer – available at Delaire Graff – is therapeutic reflexology, available on request. Spa manager Hildegard Carstens describes this particular treatment as “a way to clear traffic jams in the body”. She explains that when the body is in crisis, it ‘hugs’ the lesion in order to isolate the problem, but reflexology releases that hold. And, if you’re looking for a top-notch treatment in combination with a reflexology session  to really reap all the wellness rewards, she suggests taking the tailor-made approach. “Our express menu (treatments of 30 minutes each, visit delaire.co.za) means guests can build their own longer series of treatments.”

While a total holistic wellness experience sounds like the answer to hitting the refresh button, for those with only an afternoon – or an hour – to spare, the thought of spending days on retreat may be angst-inducing. Here’s where innovation really makes your spa treatment more effective. Spas such as the one at Lanzerac are uti­lising tech devices like the NeoQi Mediq, a spa capsule that works as a hydrotherapy bath. If you’re strung out but time isn’t on your side, the ThalasoVine Wellbeing Spa Ritual (R1 050 for 90 minutes; visit lanzerac.co.za) is recommended. Much of the treatment is done on – and in – the NeoQi, so after your exfoliation you won’t need to leave the treatment bed to step into the shower. Your therapist simply presses a few buttons and the capsule transforms into a healing, mineral-rich bath soak, complete with water jets. The experience includes an aroma sauna and a soothing vibro-massage. A pressure-point scalp massage by the therapist completes this feel-good hour and a half.

Another option for those with little time is The Hydro’s Liquid Body (R800 for 75 minutes; visit thehydro.co.za), which gives clients the chance to disengage busy minds. “Awareness is at the heart of all mindfulness practices,” explains The Hydro’s Jenny Bovim. She describes the treatment as “a profoundly satisfying awakening to awareness through a mind/body experience of relaxation and presence (or being), using gentle rocking movements and stretches while the client focuses on letting go”.

The Garden Spa at Babylonstoren celebrates the great outdoors with its ‘beach’ and pool.

For those who love to wallow in water but prefer old-school methods, the spa team at Babylonstoren has revived the art of the hammam and perfected the art of marrying aesthetics with top-notch therapies. From the walk through the property’s renowned garden en route to the spa to the iced tea made with farm-fresh ingredients, everything is done with pampering the client in mind, says spa manager Tania Odendaal. Describing Babylonstoren’s wellness ethos, she adds, “We believe in treating the mind so you never have to make decisions. By taking the guesswork out of the spa experience, we ensure you get the most out of your treatment.”

Then there’s the hammam. While Babylonstoren’s spa menu has much to offer, it’s this particular treatment that gets back to the basics of wellness: the power of human touch. The treatment to try is the Private Hammam Water Ritual (R2 050 for 60 minutes; visit babylonstoren.com), which includes dynamic stretching after a full-body exfoliation. Being comfortably yet firmly pulled limb by limb in a warm, steamy room and then massaged with body butter relieves so much tension that you feel as if you’ve completed a yoga class and a full body massage. Finishing off with a sit-down in the spa chill room or bamboo garden and feasting on a light lunch and freshly squeezed juice (included in the treatment) – now that’s good stress relief! 

The Winelands’ finest facial?

Gone are the days of the ‘steam-and-cream’ facial; modern high-grade treatments – like Leeu Estates Spa’s Esse Signature Facial Experience (R2 280 for 90 minutes; visit leeucollection.com) – promise complexion perfection. “This luxurious facial targets your skin’s needs using premium-grade probiotics,” explains Harminder Singh, the wellness operations manager. “It boasts high levels of probiotic actives to boost your skin’s micro-biome for maximum anti-ageing results.” The treatment includes a relaxing back and scalp massage that leaves you feeling thoroughly revitalised. 

The role of aesthetics in wellness

So you think a medical skin treatment clinic is all injections? Think again. Dr Graham Duncombe of Skin Renewal tells us why wellness is just as available in this setting as Botox.

The facilities equal an unwind. “Medical skin treatment clinics have the supervision of a medical doctor and have access to more active skin ingredients and more intensive procedures, but also have the facilities for the more gentle maintenance therapies.” 

Your skin tells your story. “Many of my patients are surprised to learn we have a holistic health approach to skin care and that we investigate issues involving the gut, sleep and hormones, among others, when we determine their treatment plans. Further benefits include selecting the most appropriate treatment plan for each patient to achieve improved success and lasting results. We often uncover important health issues that patients weren’t aware of.” 

It’s a futuristic strategy. “Internationally we see a trend of incorporating these approaches as more professionals recognise the importance of a holistic approach tailored to each patient’s individual needs. There is a better understanding of the connection between weight gain and hormone changes, mood and sleep quality; between wrinkles and inflammation and between skin eruptions and gut health. A clinical setting allows close monitoring from a medical perspective.” 

The spa of the future 

Fast forward 10 – or even five – years and will we still be talking wellness? More than ever, believes Inalie Victor, spa manager of Majeka House. “The wellness sector is growing tremen­dously,” she says, adding that the boom is down to our increased awareness of the importance of looking after our bodies both physically and mentally. She reckons the future of wellness lies essentially in on-site learning. “In the future, spas will be educating their clients about how to live the ultimate healthy life,” she suggests. “Treatments will really improve health and well-being and enable us to do more, live longer and be healthier.”  

The Hydro – Stellenbosch

The Hydro is fully equipped with world-renowned tools and protocols for detoxifying, de-stressing, energy-restoring and beautifying programmes to rejuvenate body and soul. A special emphasis is placed on the highly nutritious organic vegetarian food, much of it from The Hydro’s own garden.

Plush, spacious accommodation in various sizes boasts luxurious linens and furnishings. Suites and rooms are positioned to make the most of the stunning views, where stately trees and manicured lawns merge into gently sloping orchards and vineyards.

Nature’s benevolent determination to heal and rejuvenate is equalled only by the warmth and dedication of The Hydro’s staff, whose primary objective is to care for their patrons. These people transfer their quiet, competent and sensitive energy into everything they do. More than repair your physical, spiritual or mental exhaustion, they restore your faith. This is why it is more than a place of rest: it is a reminder of the elements that sustain us – physical, mental or spiritual. It’s a place to stop, reboot and take stock.

The Hydro is not a place that works its magic in an instant. Time changes slowly here. Each season presents the full force of life. A day takes the full span of sunrise to sunset. You know, because you watch it. You experience it.

After a few days, you will feel replenished, detoxified, beautified and nourished. Yet this ‘menu’ of facilities is just the surface of The Hydro.