Spa Review: Riverside Day Spa – Durban, South Africa
The best spas in the world all have something in common: They succeed in effortlessly making time stand still.
I was looking for such an experience when I stepped through the softly-swishing glass doors of the Riverside Spa in Durban. Nestled on a hill overlooking the Umgeni River, the spa is coupled to the well-known Riverside Hotel, belonging to the notable Three Cities Hotel Group.
My senses were immediately invoked by the calming sounds of soft music, and the clean open spaces of the reception area.
Having dreamed of visiting the islands of French Polynesia ever since…well…ever since I could dream; I had made sure to book the spa’s “Polynesian Experience” from their spa journeys menu.
After a brief check-in at the reception, I was escorted to the spa’s common room. I absolutely loved the décor of this space – rich royal blues and stately greys in plush velvets. The room was adorned with white orchids in large silver pots, which drew to attention the white of the wall decorations against the pale blue paint.
Large windows let in an abundance of light and paid due justice to the sweeping views over the city’s famed greenery, the commanding Umgeni river, and the majestic image of the new stadium that has forever changed Durban’s skyline.
After quickly trading my ‘street’ clothes for the velour (yes, it was winter!) bathrobe in the small but beautifully appointed change room (decorated with calla lilies); I was ushered to the lower floor to enjoy the spa facilities.
I leapt almost immediately from the shower into the ‘heated’ pool, expecting to indulge in the warm water –but alas; it was simply not heated enough. In fact, it was actually cold! Very disappointing. I thawed out in the sauna, before enjoying a quick session in the steam room (for the sake of a complete review, of course!)
I found the spa’s facilities basic, but adequate. It’s worthwhile noting that the scheduling of reservations is attempted in such a manner to ensure that guests may enjoy private time in the facilities area. As the space is quite small, this was highly appreciated.
Upon returning to the serene common room, I finally met my therapist. I took an instant liking to her bubbly personality as we proceeded to the treatment room. It was much larger than expected, with not one, but two beds, and a grand jet spa bath in the corner.
As I got comfortable, she talked me through the list of treatments in my Polynesian Experience package, and the exceptional Thalgo products she’d be employing.
The first stop on the incredible journey was the island of Taha’a. Producing 80% of French Polynesia’s vanilla, the island is aptly known as ‘Vanilla Island’. My day spa experience began with a luxurious marine salt and vanilla full-body scrub. The room filled with these delicious aromas as my skin was buffed and exfoliated to perfection. Completely attuned to my silent preferences, she lingered over the foot scrub, adding a marvelous, impromptu foot massage to the mix.
I was eager for the next stop on my journey – a visit to the tiny island of Manihi. The coral atoll, famous for its pearl farms, inspired the soothing aromatherapy spa bath with essential oils and luxurious bath pearls. My lovely therapist set up the bath exactly as I liked – piping hot. She lit a scented candle, and with a scattering of rose petals, she was gone.
As I lay soaking in the fragrant hot water, I was able to enjoy the panoramic vistas over the city.
Time lost all meaning and the rushed pace of everyday life ground to a complete halt.
I emerged, rejuvenated from the bath, and enjoyed a wonderfully-presented cup of green tea before being carried off to the next idyllic destination on my Polynesian journey; the incredible island of Bora Bora.
Famed for its beauty the world over, the island is surrounded by stunning turquoise waters and powdery soft, white sand. Accordingly, the massage that followed was a slow, powerful massage using warm sand pouches and Monoi oil to deeply relax and loosen the muscles.
I had never encountered a massage that employed sand pouches before, and I quite enjoyed the experience. My therapist hit all the right spots, saving the best for last: a brief, but deeply gratifying scalp massage. I dozed off at various times during the hour long full-body massage – such was its excellence.
The fourth, and sadly final, stop on my journey was the island of Raiatea. Regarded by the Polynesian people as a sacred marae of their ancestors, my concluding treatment entailed a radiant rub in sacred oil. Sweet-scented, with a glowing shine, the rich oil left my skin pampered and deeply nourished. The word ‘Raiatea’ loosely translates to ‘Bright Sky’… apt to describe the mega shine of my skin as I left the secluded confines of my treatment room.
I dined in the common room, and lunch consisted of a crumbed hake fillet served with veggies. It went down exceptionally well with a glass of chilled champagne.
What I loved:
- The décor – extremely serene and luxurious, it invoked a sense of calm, and made me feel relaxed and pampered… exactly as a spa should!
- Orchids and Calla lilies (my absolute favorite flower) adorned each room, and added to the glamorous feel of the spa.
- The massage: heavenly!
What I didn’t love:
- Apart from the cold ‘heated’ pool, I really have no complaints.
I will most certainly be heading back to Riverside spa for a day of pampering when I’m back in Durban!
This post was featured in iAfrica Travel on 19 July 2013
Disclaimer: No part of this spa experience was paid for by Riverside Day Spa. The views expressed in this review are from my own personal experience, and have not been prejudiced in any form.