PHOTOS Micky Hoyle PRODUCTION Sumien Brink WORDS Malibongwe Tyilo
The MannaBay Hotel in Cape Town puts a glam spin on our country’s cultural, natural and artistic heritage.
The drive up from Cape Town’s City Bowl towards the top of Oranjezicht offers a gradual architectural revelation – from apartment blocks in Gardens, through homes that get ever more palatial, to the sky-high sandstone of Table Mountain. But at the edge of the craggy national park is a sliver of urban heaven, with panoramic views and a beatific mountainous backyard, where the buzz of the city seems far away enough but is in fact, just five minutes down the road.
It is here that hospitality entrepreneur David Ryan established the MannaBay boutique hotel that, as its name suggests, is a slice of divine nourishment. “Having had the privilege of travelling Africa and the globe extensively, I was conscious of creating an experience that was completely different,” says David, founder and managing director of Rhino Africa Safaris.
The hotel was inspired by the Mother City and “the immense joy we get from introducing our beautiful hometown to our international guests,” David says of the eight-bedroom luxury hideaway. He wanted to create “a feast for the senses” that was still beautiful and homely. Besides establishing the hotel in an actual house, his strategy was to work directly with local artists on custom decor and furniture for the eco-friendly canvas that architect Marius van Lonkhuyzen built.
Take, for the example, the Orchid and Pom Pom rooms, both florally inspired. Not only does the Orchid Room’s theme come through in the purple-hued wallpaper and botanical artworks but also in the armchair and footstool set inspired by Arne Jacobsen’s famous Egg chair, which evokes the bloom’s form. The Pom Pom Room is a celebration of indigenous flora with the theme carrying all the way to its private courtyard, which has its own plunge pool surrounded by wild plants.
“I had immense fun decorating each of the eight rooms,” says David. “Whether it was the slightly indulgent Versailles Suite or the Explorer Room, inspired by the intrepid Bartholomeu Dias, each room has a unique connection to the city and its cultures while maintaining an international flair.”
The Versailles Room takes its inspiration from the French palace but in a South African context that evokes the Huguenots of our own country’s history. Its walls boast the fantastical pastiche style of local artist Karin Miller’s work.
What keeps the heritage references from getting stuffy is MannaBay’s celebration of South African art. David worked directly with Christopher Møller to curate the permanent collection, which includes the likes of Christiaan Diedericks, Abigail Heyneke, Gregg Brill and Maya Marshak. Gregg and Maya are also responsible for the incredible installation of swallows that dominates the triple-volume reception. Further supporting local artists, a small gallery in the main lounge displays work for sale, with proceeds going to a local charity.
“As an added twist,” David’s eyes sparkle, “you will notice that a lot of the pieces feature characters that work for Rhino Africa and MannaBay!” Because for David, besides the comfortable bed, good coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, and well-appointed spaces and views, what distinguishes accommodation from luxury accommodation is the people. “We ensured that as much love and effort went into compiling our team as it did into creating the beautiful spaces.”
Perhaps this is a clue to what manna is – what religious texts refer to as spiritual and physical nourishment of divine origin. MannaBay, nestled between the city and the magnificent rock that overlooks it, is bound to make a believer of anyone… If not a believer in Cape Town, then at least a believer in how divine luxurious accommodation can be.
For more information about MannaBay Hotel, visit mannabay.com.