Cape Town spa ettiquette: 5 do’s and don’ts

Worried about what to wear (or not too…) and what to do when you visit a spa in Cape Town? Joanne de Wet, spa manager at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, lets you in on what is usually expected.

1. Don’t tip (unless you’d like to)

In most spas in Cape Town, tips are not included in the price of a treatment, and it is not customary to tip. Should you wish to leave gratuity for a therapist, however, you are more than welcome to do so.

2. Don’t make a noise

Guests are not expected to behave in any particular way when they visit the spa, but high noise levels are most definitely frowned upon as a spa environment is by nature tranquil. We also advise clients not to drink alcohol before coming for a spa treatment.

3. Do get your kit off

Most spa treatments require some degree of undress, so you should bear this in mind if you are uncomfortable about taking your clothes off. The only treatments that can be performed without removing clothes are the spa manicure and spa pedicure.

4. Do speak up

During the treatment, it is absolutely okay to say something if the therapist is making you feel uncomfortable or isn’t quite getting the pressure right in a massage, but ideally you shouldn’t need to. The therapist should ask you at least three times during a treatment if you are comfortable and if the pressure is satisfactory to ensure that you are getting the best experience possible.

5. Do check if you need to bring anything

Obviously, requirements vary from one spa to the next, but at The Spa at The Twelve Apostles Hotel, guests do not need to bring anything along. Each guest is provided with a comfortable robe, a pair of disposable slippers and a pair of disposable underwear. In the changing rooms they’ll find fluffy towels, shampoo, conditioner, body wash and shower caps. At other spas, be sure to check if you need to bring any of these items when making your booking.

Follow my lead and find Camelot in the Cape winelands

Stellar wines and exceptional food is not the only good reason to drive from Cape town to Franschhoek — The Camelot Spa at the Le Franschhoek Hotel is another, according to Rebekah Kendal. Go on, you’ll thank her later.

Somewhat counter-productively, spa menus fill me with a sense of anxiety. What if I pick one treatment and miss out on something better? So you can imagine my delight when I discovered that the signature massage at The Camelot Spa at Le Franschhoek Hotel rolls four different massage techniques into one treatment!

After a soothing cup of tea, a bite of chocolate and a quick nap in the sauna  — where little ceiling lights make it seem as if you are lying in the desert looking up at the stars — I am sufficiently softened up for more softening up.

The Camelot signature massage kicks off with a hot stone massage, which quickly banishes the persistent knots in my back. The scent of frangipani wafts across the room as the therapist moves on to the Hawaiian Kahuna massage, which involves long flowing movements, on my legs. My arms — apparently storing years of pent-up tension — get the Balinese treatment, which focuses on pressure points. Before the hour is up, the therapist treats me to an Indian head massage, which is very relaxing despite all the hair pulling.

While this particular massage lessened my fear of missing out, the menu is full of other exciting sounding treatments such as an energising Salt Glow Exfoliation and a Marine Algae Detox Wrap. The spa offers a variety of massage treatments, including Swedish massage, reflexology and aromatherapy, as well as beauty treatments.

Le Franschhoek really is a beautiful setting for a spa, so take the opportunity to stroll around the gardens before or after you treatment. And remember to make a reservation to eat at the hotel’s fine dining restaurant to round off a perfect pampering session.

Take time to zone out in Babylonstoren’s magical Garden Spa

Only about an hour’s drive from the centre of Cape Town, the Garden Spa at Babylonstoren will make you feel you’ve gone even further, and stepped into a secret fantasy garden.

While the middle of the Cape winelands is an odd place to find a hammam, or Turkish bath, the hammam at the Babylonstoren Garden Spa near Franschhoek doesn’t at all feel out of place. Tucked away in an enclosure of trees, the hammam, with its beautiful blue mosaic ceiling, is the perfect spot to let go of tension…and inhibitions.

The degree of nakedness required for this treatment — not to mention some of the intimate stretches — could be awkward in the wrong hands. Happily, the therapists at this spa are adept at putting their clients at ease.

The 60-minute water ritual in the steam-filled hammam involves a full-body exfoliation, some passive stretching and a magnificent body-butter massage. The scalp massage and cool water rinse at the end leaves you revitalised and ready to tackle the post-treatment fruit salad and freshly squeezed juice that’s waiting for you.

Who knew you could work up such an appetite being pampered?

While the private hammam water ritual is the Garden Spa’s signature treatment, a variety of other massage treatments, wraps, facials and manicures are also on offer, all incorporating fresh herbs picked daily from the estate’s extensive gardens.

You’ll find the usual spa amenities here: a sauna, steam room and heated plunge pool. If the weather is good you can have your treatment in one of the private outdoor treatment areas and in summer you’ll want to spend some time relaxing next to the pool.

Some of the treatments include — soba noodles with wild mushrooms and a coriander and miso dressing, for example — but, if not, you’re spoilt for choice between the estate’s Greenhouse and Babel restaurants.

Take pampering to the next level at these 3 top Cape Town spas

You don’t have to get out of Cape Town to say goodbye to city stresses. These top-end spas, all located at equally luxurious hotels, provide an oasis of calm in the midst of a bustling metropolis.

1. Librisa Spa

It’s not surprising that the first hotel in Cape Town to offer hot and cold running water — the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel — also boasts one of the city’s best spas. In keeping with the style of this grand hotel, the Librisa Spa, which occupies three late-Victorian buildings, embraces understated opulence with its muted velvets and sparkling chandeliers. Because the spa focuses on natural ingredients, it uses the Kalahari and Africology skincare ranges.

In addition to a Finnish sauna, steam bath and plunge pool, the spa also features a tranquil conservatory where you can sip on herbal teas after your treatment. An unexpected perk for parents is the fully supervised children’s club, where kids are kept entertained while their parents are pampered.

2. One&Only Spa

Taking the notion of getting-away-from-it-all to the next level, the One&Only has positioned its spa on a lush island in the middle of the hotel’s palm-lined grounds. The spa island comes with 12 treatment rooms, a yoga pavilion, a fitness centre, sauna and steam facilities, an ice fountain, and two vitality pools. Treatments, which incorporate African influences, are grouped around three themes: unwind, restore and elevate. The relaxation suite, which comes stocked with nutritious snacks, dried fruit, smoothies and herbal teas, makes it easy to buy into the island fantasy.

3. The Heavenly Spa

Set on the 19th floor of The Westin hotel in Cape Town, the Heavenly Spa offers panoramic views of the city and ocean. In addition to 13 treatment rooms, the spa also boasts a Sea of Dreams sleep room, which has four heated cocoon-style waterbeds. If travelling has you feeling sluggish, the Jet Lag body treatment will get you back on track. For something a little more local, opt for the African Breeze spa package, which incorporates traditional massage techniques and wooden massage sticks, as well as marula oil blended with African shea butter.

You want to try these 3 Cape winelands spas. Really, you do…

Good wine is just one of the Cape Winelands’ grand offerings. You can also indulge at a luxury spa — and focus on drinking in the beautiful scenery as you’re pummelled into submission. Rebekah Kendal recommends three of her favourite Cape winelands spas.

1. The Lanzerac Spa: Tucked away in the vineyards of the Lanzerac wine estate, this spa offers spectacular views of the Stellenbosch mountain range. In keeping with the region’s love of the vine, the spa uses TheraVine products, which incorporate a variety of locally grown grape cultivars. In addition to the usual hydro facilities, the spa also offers the Dr Fish nibble treatment, during which little fish remove the dead skin cells from your hands and feet. If the relaxing setting alone fails to completely rid you of residual tension, you can try a body stress release treatment or craniosacral therapy.

2. Mangwanani Africa Spa at Zevenwacht: Mangwanani spas, which are dotted all over South Africa, provide a slightly different spa experience because most of the women working in the spa are not qualified therapists. The goal of Mangwanani is to uplift local rural women by training them to give massages and other pampering treatments. However, this doesn’t mean that the experience is in any way inferior. Opt for one of the day or night packages, which include food and a variety of indulgent scrubs and massages, and you’ll come away feeling perfectly pampered. The Mangwanani spas also make use of their own signature range of products, which have all been made with natural ingredients.

3. Delaire Graff Spa: Four elegant treatment suites, each with their own hydrotherapy bath, make up the spa at the Delaire Graff estate. Add to that the 22-metre infinity pool, a jacuzzi, steam room and Swedish sauna, and you know you’re in for a treat. For a truly extravagant experience, book the luxury 24 Karat Gold facial, which includes a diamond tip exfoliation and a face serum and mask made with gold.