Durban is a laid-back city known for being relaxation central, but even if you spend your holiday lolling on the beach or a hotel lounger, it’s great to go a step further and visit one of the city’s top spas for some professional pampering. Here, Culture Trip recommends the top five spas to visit in the city.
Just riding the glass lifts outside the Suncoast Towers to this ninth-storey salon, the Durban promenade and rolling Indian Ocean dropping away below you, is therapeutic. Each treatment room has its own change room and shower for privacy, and not to mention those views! There’s every type of facial and body treatment available, from purifying oxygen treatments to Cleopatra spa baths and Dancing Fingers (two therapists massage you in tandem and harmony), but go for the salon’s signature, The Sea Whisperer – a subtle blend of massage styles from around the world that’s utterly relaxing.
Tucked into the tropical gardens of Umhlanga’s iconic Oyster Box Hotel, this is a romantic experience best shared with a loved one. There’s a plunge pool above the view, a day room where you can nibble on delectable complimentary fresh fruit and a post-treatment tranquility lounge where you can doze on a daybed, cocooned in privacy by swathes of pale curtaining. There’s also an authentic Eastern hamman for deep cleansing and relaxing. The spa has its own range of all-natural body-care products, B|Africa, which combines indigenous African plant extracts (think baobab and marula oils, avocado butter, honey and rooibos), all sustainably harvested and not tested on animals. You’re spoilt for choice, but look no further than the B|Harmonised treatment, which incorporates meditation breathing and targets the stressed areas of the body. Total body bliss.
This little oasis on the Durban Berea is ideal for central city stays. Eales is the mom of South African actress Josette Eales, and the city’s arts set comes here to chill and rejuvenate in the treatment rooms beside a soothing water feature, with chimes and mood music and air scented with fynbos (one of SA’s indigenous plants). Eales and stellar therapists offer a slew of advanced skincare treatments (including Bio-Therapeutic LED light treatments), but it’s hard to get past the Crystal Ball Full Body Massage, using Terres d’Afrique organic products. It’s a mix of deep massage, using hands and your choice of sensuously smoothed African crystals, in a combination of reflexology, acupressure, lymphatic drainage and Swedish massage movements to relax and distress. Expect to doze off.
Buff is great fun – a beauty and treatment spa that smacks of a retro cocktail bar, complete with working jukebox, sculpture of Betty Boop, and flamingo and palm tree wallpaper. Created by sisters Tracy Gielink and Kim Davidson, who were raised in Durban’s fashion and horse-racing circles, and mother Debbie Davidson, it centres on grooming for girls and guys, from precision waxing to skin polishing and creating the perfect nails, done at imported Maletti manicure desks under ersatz clouds. The manis and pedis are called ‘hand and foot facials’ because they use premium products containing facial skin care ingredients. The hot wax is vegan and hypoallergenic. And to top it off, the Soda Fountain has a barista who pulls fresh coffee shots. The massages are great, too. Buff Parlour recently changed hands, but the new owner is intent on continuing in the same spunky vein.
Filmer, like Eales, is an industry stalwart with more than 30 years’ experience. She combines service excellence with cutting-edge technology at her serene salon at the end of a tree-lined drive in the suburb of Gillitts, 20 minutes from the city. Indulge in the Classic Half-Day Spa Package. It starts with a traditional Arabian cleansing ritual in the mosaicked rasul, where warm water eventually rains down from the ceiling to wash away the sensuous mud mask. Next comes a full body exfoliation and wrap and a deep cleanse facial. You can follow this with a snack in the Beautiful Coffee café and a session of hydrotherapy in the Jacuzzi and plunge pool overlooking the garden. The half day of spa bliss ends with your choice between a classic mani or pedi in a plush wingback chair in the luxurious lounge. The spa’s flotation therapy is worth a visit of its own.