More is more; less is more. A great contradiction currently exists in luxury where expense, branding, fine detail and accolades matter, but are increasingly pared back to refrain from austerity and inject consciousness into consumption. Of course, there are still a wealth of brands which showcase opulence to magnetise the affluent, but there is a growing segment of the market that quietly proposes something more subtle, more considered, and, arguably, more intelligent.
Such is the aesthetic of Babylonstoren
, the country’s most prestigious farm, originated by one of its most successful couples, owned by Koos Bekker’s wife, the infinitely talented Karen Roos. Of course, one could easily put the farm’s success down to a liberal budget, but that I can wholeheartedly assert would mean you hadn’t been there and understood what makes it unique. These purists know how to deliver simplicity and luxury together, without forcing it, or without ‘selling’ it.
After a decade of visiting the farm, they have layer-upon-layer, seeded and rooted the most earthy luxury experience in South Africa, spanning sublime gardens, a new spa, a wine cellar experience and museum, a scent room, farm shop, butcher, deli, garden restaurant and the sublime Babel restaurant. Feed the donkeys using the farm’s own carrots or collect the eggs from the hen house. All of this is somehow delivered with a class that feels aligned with English or French Country magnificence.
Never one to rest on their laurel, Babylonstoren has consistently developed and innovated in this sensory and well-being space. Launched in November 2022, the new spa is a breathing space for a discerning spa visitor who has been there and done that. Here guests are largely left to navigate the space independently and soak it up in privacy.
There is most definitely grandeur too, don’t get me wrong, the craftsmanship of the wooden ceiling, skylights and beam, large indoor-outdoor pool, circular glass vitality pools, sauna, steam room, and a new authentic hammam and traditional Rasul chamber. The ambience within the salt room is unparalleled, literally glowing with raw Himalayan salt, delivering therapeutic properties which include lifting mood and reducing fatigue. Tapping the cold-water trend to invigorate the bloodstream, the main pool plays host to two mosaic alcoves that pulse cold water, jumping the body to a healthy start, contrasted by the cosy fireplace inset between the alcoves to add that touch of cosiness in winter.
Stepping outside, you weave your way along wooden paths and bamboo hedges between the pool and treatment rooms, where you find the new hammam and Rasul treatment room.
The hammam offers a unique interpretation of the ancient Arabian public baths that have offered both physical and spiritual rejuvenation for centuries. The space’s vaulted vibrant blue mosaic ceiling is a nod to this fabled tradition, while the scale has been reimagined to accommodate two guests at a time, offering total privacy and calm, essential for relaxation. Within its heated marble walls, guests can experience an uninterrupted, hour-long, private water ritual, beginning with a scrub before a choice of either dynamic stretch and massage, or a traditional soap treatment for two.
The new Rasul (or mud chamber) brings a centuries-old holistic wellness experience to Babylonstoren, combining the health-enhancing properties of heat, steam and mud for radical skin nourishment. The Rasul draws inspiration from Babylonstoren’s own gardens, with the curved walls tiled in mosaics in calming botanical green tones.The signature Rasul ritual consists of a four-step process, starting with exfoliating and cleansing the skin, then purifying and detoxifying the body with a clay wrap, harvested from a local freshwater lake and rich in natural minerals. Essential oils, extracted from indigenous healing African botanicals, like Aloe ferox, geranium and Kalahari melon, have been blended with the clay to encourage the release of toxins and impurities. After the clay has been applied, guests relax in the steam room, allowing the heat and clay to perform their healing magic. Finally, the skin is cleansed and buffed, leaving the body smooth and supple, and the mind and spirit relaxed and soothed.
Both outside and in, a stay at the farm is not complete without tasting the produce. At the spa, you can order a healthy lunch or fresh farm juice from the Greenhouse Restaurant, but for breakfast and dinner, Babel is food in its purest form. ‘Farm to table’, unfortunately, became a cliche around the world; the oversight was that the food came from farms far away and have been deep-frozen to preserve as much integrity as possible. In this instance, the distance from ‘farm to table’ could barely be any closer.
Within the restaurant, there is a wonderful design contrast at play. The simplicity of the open space, white walls and the industrial ceiling are met by the softest of Irish linens, which drape the table, and an open working kitchen sparking animation and creativity into the environment. This is the height of understanding minimalism and luxury, authenticity and organic produce. It’s the real deal, a celebration of the earth, of nature, of harvesting what is immediately available to us. The quality of the products is non-negotiable, again a collision of abundance and simplicity in the same breath, but there’s one key difference here. What you experience at the farm, at your table, or in your wine glass, tirelessly evolves through the ever-changing tapestry and botanical diversity of the garden. It means you can never get tired of Babylonstoren. Nature dictates the pace and evolution.
I was left with a few questions after my stay. When we take a break, do the healing and deep rest occur on the inside and emanate outwards into our appearance, or does our environment soak into our pores to re-align our rhythm and re-ignite our senses, connecting us back to our best selves? Can you have less and more in the same breath?
As you inhale your surroundings at Babylonstoren, the answer finds its way to you, whatever that may be.