Friday was the day of my very first spa experience. While Mangwanani was been voted spa of the year, this didn’t mean much to me as I was still concerned about being touched by strangers. (This seems to be common spa-virgin fear!). Driving to Kuilsriver is quite a way out of town, but the drive is worth it thanks to the beautiful views. I’ve often looked at the hills behind the airport and wondered what lay there. The answer: Mangwanani! Situated on the Zevenwacht Wine Estate, the spa is the king of hill being located right on the top. I felt a little lost driving around the bends, but eventually I arrived at the top to take in the phenomenal views across Cape Town and Stellenbosch.
Mangwanani is an empowerment company with its employees participating in profit share (they are able to become share holders depending on their loyalty and input). Mangwanani offers a fully professional service and while it is mainly women who work there, they indicate that no indecent behaviour will be tolerated.
My day at Mangwanani started with changing into a fluffy white gown and slippers. My possessions were locked away inside little cupboards in the changing rooms. (You keep the key.) Next is lunch, which is part of the package and served at 1pm. I had the chicken stew, served in a miniature potjie pot – very cute. This was accompanied by salsa and yellow rice. For dessert, I could choose between chocolate cake, hazel nut and white chocolate (actually marshmallow) cake and carrot cake. Beverages are also readily available and are included in the package. The lunch was good and ended with the staff singing a welcome song to us guests. It occurred to me how common it is to listen to singing in Africa and felt this was an awesome touch for foreigners, should they visit the spa. I also received a ‘birthday card’ which I could not understand considering my birthday was at the start of the year! But then I realised, one receives a ‘birthday card’ on one’s first visit to Mangwanani!
My first treatment was a full body massage. My masseuse was female, which made me feel more comfortable, especially as a first time visitor. All the staff were very courteous about privacy which allowed me to enjoy the experience. I selected a medium massage pressure which was great, but I have to own to the fact that having knots worked out can be pretty painful! The stone therapy was my next experience. After seeing dozens of photos of perfectly aligned stones on the back of some model, I didn’t realise that the masseuse actually rubbed the body down with the hot stones. It feels the same as those first few seconds in a hot shower when the body relaxes and adjusts to the temperature, a really great sensation.
After the body massage, I was offered some cucumber water and moved onto my foot and lower leg massage. The foot and hand massage room is L shaped and offered a beautiful view over the northern suburbs, down to Canal Walk, Cape Town city and the harbour in the distance. The foot masseuse was a little under confident but remained professional. We had a little giggle when the man next to me started to snore! She too used hot stones (kept warm by being placed against a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel) on my feet and lower legs. It was enjoyable and again, having muscles that are not usually touched, is quite a weird feeling. For example, the muscles along the shin bone feel very unusual when being massaged!
Finally, I had the neck and head massage. At some points I felt like I was getting knuckle rubbed on my head until the masseuse offered to use oil on my scalp. Yes please! The masseuse placed a rolled up towel on my shoulders which gave my neck support while she worked her magic. Again I have to reiterate – having shoulder knots worked out can be rather painful! Luckily, the beautiful view framing Devil’s Peak from the Southern suburbs side, all the way down past Houtbay passage, Constantia, Muizenberg mountains, to Fish Hoek and onwards, was pretty enough for me to ignore the pain!
The day ended off with cheese and biscuits (with fig preserve) and refreshments upstairs, with many of the clients snuggling next to the fire place with hot chocolate. The weather was miserable when I visited Mangwanani, but the staff’s attentiveness and professionalism brightened up the experience. The staff of Mangwanani were very kind and hospitable. I hope it continues to be one of the best spas in South Africa.
Last thought: There was an office outing on the day I visited, which did tend to dominate the ambient atmosphere. With “Please consider other visitors”, “no cell phone” signs, etc. there was not much the staff of Mangwanani could do to control the group considering they too were clients. I would suggest asking reservations if there are any groups attending in order to try and avoid them if you want a truly peaceful experience.[slideshow]