Risen from the ashes
Tintswalo Atlantic, South Africa – More beautiful, more serene, more sumptuous – the new Tintswalo Atlantic honours the past while stepping forward into a bright future. Rampant bush fires across Table Mountain National Park razed the lodge in early 2015, but the owners’ attitude of grace and positivity has ensured the boutique hotel has reopened its doors in record time – once again offering discerning guests a unique retreat on a protected beach below dramatic Chapman’s Peak.
Seafront locations in Cape Town don’t come more exclusive than this: a pebbled beach lapped by the Atlantic at the base of Chapman’s Peak, one of the landmarks of the southern peninsula and famous for the scenic drive that winds around its edge. Tintswalo Atlantic nestles discreetly on its slopes, so hidden from the road above that motorists often don’t realise it’s there. These beautiful slopes are protected as part of Table Mountain National Park, a haven for indigenous fynbos and milkwood trees.
Unfortunately, this idyllic natural position put the boutique hotel directly in the path of a rampant bush fire that swept across the southern reaches of the park in early 2015. “The fire just swooped down on us,” says Tintswalo Lodges Group CFO and co-owner, Gaye Corbett. “We lost the whole main lodge area, kitchens, decks, the dining room, lounges and five suites. Over 80 percent of the lodge went up in flames, including 300-year-old milkwood trees.”
Tintswalo means ‘the intangible feeling of love, gratitude and peace bestowed upon someone offering you a meaningful and worthy gift’ and with this in mind, the Corbett and Goosen families remained focused on the magnificent landscape they felt lucky to inhabit. Just two days after Tintswalo Atlantic was razed, they announced it would be rebuilt immediately. The first timber was laid for the Lamu Island Suite in April, quite symbolically, as it was the first building to be ravaged by the fire the month before. And as the lodge took shape, Gaye and her daughter, Lisa Goosen, along with Caroline Wright of Spatial Concepts, combed the country for exquisite finishes to replace those lost. Gaye says support and enthusiasm were everywhere and made the job that much easier and more worthwhile.
“In the rebuilding we have taken the opportunity to implement changes,” says Gaye, “but these are not great changes because we are governed by Table Mountain National Park regulations. The main change was that when we originally built, it was to accommodate the old milkwood trees, but these were all destroyed in the fire. So the new lounge and dining room were built without that restriction and are by default bigger, more user-friendly spaces. This was our compensation for losing the milkwoods.”
Still, these trees are not entirely lost. “We didn’t just want to discard the dead trees,” explains Gaye, “they were part of our original journey and I wanted to retain the spirit of them in the new lodge. So their wood is being used to create signature pieces of furniture and will also form part of the new bar and the dining room table.” In addition, antique doors were sourced from exotic locations like Zanzibar and India, and restored to splendour.
While on the outside Tintswalo Atlantic has the same footprint, with a few bathrooms slightly larger and some suites raised higher off the ground, the new interiors are quite different in look and feel.
“The theme is still ‘islands’,” says Gaye, “but the colours are completely different to before and all the furniture had to be remade, so there’s a very different feel now compared to the old Tintswalo Atlantic.” Well over 100 different imported fabrics have been used in the soft furnishings, their colours – turquoise, sea greens and blues – those of the ever-present ocean beyond the deck.
The style remains classic and comfortable, with each of the 12 suites completely individual. “I wanted to create something inspirational, like a home from home, just better,” says Gaye. “We are so fortunate to be surrounded by the most wonderful and naturally beautiful environment, so it’s important to us that our guests are intrigued, entertained and captivated by our eclectic interiors.”
Special elements, such as the shell décor detail in every bathroom, have also been recreated. Gaye invested her time and dedication into personally creating the shell decoration that was unique to each bathroom previously and she resumed the task again this second time around.
While the lodge was being rebuilt, all the staff remained employed and did charity work at the NSRI, old age homes and orphanages in the Hout Bay area – initiating and running several projects in a bid to give back to the community that so generously supported Tintswalo Atlantic through the difficult days after the fire. Staff training was also done during this time and, when the lodge structure was up, staff prepared gardens and planted trees. Six big milkwoods were planted around the lodge, and Just Trees donated 750 small indigenous trees to assist in regreening the mountain.
Former guests were invited to join the team in planting trees and General Managers Ryno and Melissa du Rand said the response was incredible. “Capetonians jumped at the offer,” says Ryno, “and some couples who were married at Tintswalo Atlantic even expressed that they would like to have their (future) children christened at the site of their tree. Other guests wrote personal wishes on a traditional Tintswalo wishing stone and buried these at the roots of their trees.”
In a gesture of appreciation to the City of Cape Town emergency services, NSRI, fire department, volunteers and the Hout Bay community, Tintswalo Atlantic will host an annual charity event to mark the day of the fire on 2 March. “We will celebrate these brave people and thank them annually by giving them the opportunity to experience the hospitality of the new Tintswalo Atlantic,” says Gaye. “They take risks on a daily basis and we want them to know how much we appreciate them.” Gaye also lauds the staff and says all 30 plus of them have shown great mettle. “I believe we have the best staff ever, from our management couple Ryno and Melissa to our executive chef Jeantelle van Staden – who I believe to be one of the best and most creative chefs in the country – and everyone else between. They have all worked tirelessly to help open Tintswalo Atlantic within just eight months – and a full month ahead of schedule.”
Now discerning travellers from around the world who want to experience a place with a serious wow factor can again visit Tintswalo Atlantic. Here you are so close to the sea, “any closer you’d need a boat,” laughs Gaye. It’s a place for nature and ocean lovers, honeymooners and lovers of all ages who come to renew their vows or make them for the first time. Or if you simply want to rejuvenate body and soul, recline on a private deck with the ocean as natural theatre, then this too is your place in the sun. For at the end of the day, when the sun sinks into the Atlantic Ocean before you, and decadent sundowner canapés are served in a gentle sea breeze, you’ll believe that nirvana does exist and it may just be right here.