Turn off Midrand's bustling Allandale Road, and you'll find yourself in a whole new world. It's tranquil, almost countrified, and the ideal venue for a wellness centre. Indeed, it's here that Ayanda Khumalo and her business partner, Tsegofatso Mokgalte, have decided to establish their urban oasis, Ayanda Wellness Centre.
Its peaceful location is just the start of the journey to relaxation at Ayanda Wellness Centre, or AWC, as Ayanda affectionately calls it. Inside, a light, spacious reception area sets the tone for a spa experience that is sophisticated, yet has a distinctly warm atmosphere.
Ayanda explains that she has tried to create the kind of place that strikes a chord, so that even when you're at home, you might think, "Hmm - I wish I was relaxing at Ayanda's right now." And indeed, with its earthy accents, the spa - once a residential house - has an undeniably homey feel to it.
Décor aside, the spa's best asset is, undoubtedly, Ayanda herself. Having honed her skills as manager of one of Sandton's top spas, she has a welcoming air that's almost as soothing as her touch.
She's also decidedly driven: realizing that spa treatments are something of a novelty amongst the black community, she's on a mission to educate spa visitors about the benefits - both physical and emotional - of treatments. It's something she feels passionate about, having cultivated a deep interest in health and beauty, and believing there's nothing more rewarding than the smile of a client who's loved every second of their pampering.
A few seconds into my massage, I realize that Ayanda must receive many such smiles. I've opted for AWC's signature massage, which combines Swedish, hot stone, deep tissue and kahuna massage techniques with a body scrub or dry body brushing for a circulation boosting treat that literally melts stress away.
The massage is one of several on the menu: in line with her goal of making spa treatments as accessible as possible, Ayanda has included a range of massages, facials, manicures, pedicures and body treatments to suit every pocket. She's chosen Algologie and Sans Souci products, which deliver professional results without breaking the bank.
Ayanda has also put together a range of packages combining the best of the best, and which turn pampering into a real occasion, whether you're a hassled executive, an "average joe" or a bride-to-be.
This is an important focus for Ayanda, as she envisages AWC becoming a favourite chill spot for friends and couples - the perfect venue for a girl's day out, a kitchen tea, or simply a day's companionable indulgence. Fresh, healthy meals prepared in AWC's own kitchen ensure that guests have all they need to turn a visit into a real event.
After my massage, I'm treated to a "Classical magnifico" pedicure that leaves my feet looking movie star gorgeous. It's a great follow-up to the massage, made all the more enjoyable by Ayanda's sparkling personality and unique spa philosophy. I'm struck again by her attentiveness and her keen eye for detail: she remembers small things, like my preference for brightly coloured toenails, and isn't afraid to put forward her own ideas about how my feet should look!
Ayanda has big plans for AWC - although the spa is brand new, having opened its doors on 1 December, it's already attracted a lot of attention thanks to her emphasis on excellent service. She's keen to capitalize on that by introducing people to new ideas: for example, one of her plans is to establish an onsite beauty museum, crammed with facts and trivia about the development of the beauty industry - part of her focus on educating her clientele about the whys and wherefores of spa treatments.
My morning has left me feeling so relaxed that I wouldn't be surprised if my spine has grown several centimeters longer. Ayanda's magic hands have woven their spell, my feet look fab, and I'm ready to face the world refreshed and rejuvenated.
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