Spa haven

Shield Homes provide residential developments in Port Elizabeth and Durban: TABJ spoke to Ian Christie, one of the directors, about their plans for new builds, including a new spa…

Shield Homes make diversification look a doddle having a 20 year plus successful residential development business operating out of Port Elizabeth and Durban, a mortgage origination business and a real estate agency called Ibanga (the name means ‘Look how far we’ve come’). The group are also a presence in the South African spa business under their Shambala brand: with a day spa operating for the last six years in Port Elizabeth and a second one planned, with a boutique hotel attached, for the Hillcrest area of Durban.

Inkanyezi City

Shield Homes have seen much success with developments like Applewood Gardens in Port Elizabeth, where Ian Christie, one of their directors, tells me prices start at around R495,000. “We launched that last weekend and sold 18 out of the 29 garden units in the first week already.”

This stands them in good stead for the more ambitious 2000 units they have coming up in the Inkanyezi City development in Tongaat, Durban. “There will be 10,000 people living there by the time we’re done. There will be two schools, a shopping centre, neighbourhood relaxation areas and parks,” says Christie.

“Prices will be from a R350,000 starting point to R750,000 at the top end, but most of it will be in the R350-450,000 range as that’s where the demand really sits and that is where the banks in South Africa like to lend, in terms of end user finance.” Inkanyezi, which means ‘Morning Star’ in Zulu, is aimed mostly at first time buyers although there is a small section of more upmarket units in the development that will be built up on the hill with distant sea views. However, even these are more for middle income buyers rather than anything more expensive.

Shambala Spas

Six years ago, in response to a personal interest in the spa market, the directors of Shield Homes set up the first Shambala spa in Port Elizabeth, a 500sqm facility with 12 treatment rooms. This spa has recently had a revamp following a buying and research trip to Bali by the directors. “It’s probably the only five star spa in the Port Elizabeth area so what we’ve done, having paid all the school fees which go with trying to learn about a spa, is to decide to build a similar one in Durban which will have a 10 room boutique hotel attached to it. So this will be a combination of a day spa and also where people can come for a weekend and get the benefit of an extended period of time for their treatments, detox or anti-ageing program.”

Christie, along with co-director Belinda Schoeman, has lots of enthusiasm for the venture and Shambala Spas are clearly built with the client in mind, by a company that understands the value of spa retreats for the mind, body and spirit.  As a result of their research into the most cutting edge spa treatments available, they will be installing a special aquatonic salt water pool in the Durban Shambala. This is a pool in which you move from station to station in which underwater jets give you a massage on everything from the soles of your feet to the back of your neck. In the middle is a hot tub in which you can sit and relax. “This is going to be the show piece of the spa,” reveals Christie.

Green and serene

South Africa’s building codes ensure that you have to consider the environment when planning any building and the plans for the new Shambala spa adhere to these considerations – and beyond. They will be using the hot water in the spa to heat the building in winter through running pipes below the floors. Apart from windows that are thermally insulated and an insulated roof, they will be pumping all the water used into tanks and then treating it in that facility and re-using it to irrigate the gardens. Thereby ensuring water and energy use is at a minimum.

Shield Homes’ plans for the future include looking at the anti-ageing market for the spa part of the business. They purchased a number of machines at an anti-ageing conference in Jakarta and are now trialling them for efficacy. “We guinea pig everything ourselves,” says Christie. “We make sure before we turn anything on clients that it is completely safe and effective. We are moving away from the concept of spas just being where you go for pampering and looking at things a bit more holistically.”

Part of this move toward creating a holistic spa is also trialling DNA analysis for nutritional and health purposes. The company they are working with claim they can map out your ideal diet and exercise regime with lifestyle pointers after analysing swabs of your DNA. It is fascinating stuff but, again, something that the directors will ensure is tried out first for its effectiveness before clients are offered it at the spas.

“Ultimately we want to open five more spas within the next six to seven years.” Not all are planned for Africa with sights firmly set on opening a spa within one of the hotels in the Seychelles. “We want to internationalise ourselves and we’re also looking at getting therapists over from Bali to work in our Port Elizabeth spa, and more when we get Shambala 1000 Hills off the ground.”

Christie says the spa industry is set to grow in South Africa and although he admits that the individual practitioner offering a massage at around 60% of Shambala’s price does “chew away at our pie”, he points out that the difference is that a client gets the whole spa experience and can stay the whole day relaxing and rejuvenating, should they wish. It is an attractive proposition that South Africans are taking to very well indeed.