Nestled within the embrace of nature and history, Sanctuary Mandela offers more than just a stay. The hotel is a seamless blend of opulence and soul which is a testament to the life and legacy of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. My recent visit to this haven was an immersive experience filled with warmth and the soul-stirring rhythms of jazz. From the moment we arrived, we were enveloped in an atmosphere of tranquillity, heritage and mindfulness.

Our journey began with a warm welcome that made us feel like we were coming home, and set the tone for an extraordinary stay. The meticulous design of Sanctuary Mandela reflects a blend of heritage and functionality. The deliberate contrast between the original house and new design, with exposed brick and steel beams, symbolises the transition from the old to the new – much like Mandela’s role in shaping post-apartheid South Africa.

The nine spacious rooms at Sanctuary Mandela are a tribute to Mandela’s extraordinary life, each dedicated to a specific chapter of his journey. From childhood to presidency, the rooms offer a unique and immersive experience where every detail is thoughtfully curated.

We settled into our beautiful Deluxe Studio – Accused No. 1, a room that echoed Mandela’s multifaceted life, from activist to prisoner and ultimately statesman. The attention to detail was evident, with subtle nods to Madiba’s life.

The evening unveiled a culinary experience at Insights Restaurant – a tribute to Mandela’s love for food that boasts a menu crafted by Mandela’s personal chef, Xoliswa Ndoyiya. The 36-seater contemporary dining space invites guests to dine like Madiba, offering a taste of his favorite dishes. Xoliswa, who served Madiba for over 20 years, brings authenticity to each dish, connecting guests to the rich culinary heritage of Mandela’s kitchen.

Each dish was a culinary masterpiece, paying homage to Ukutya Kwasekhaya – home food. The Umhluzi, a chicken broth served with steamed dim sums topped with chicken crackling, tantalised our taste buds and set the stage for what was to come. The Braised Short Rib, slow-cooked in red wine, paired with samp and sugar beans and topped with sautéed baby carrots, was a true symphony of flavours. For a final sweet note, we opted for the Dark Chocolate Malva dessert, infused with chocolate and served with charred marshmallows and hazelnut ice cream, which was the perfect sugary conclusion.

The following day was a picturesquely sunny Sunday. We were treated to a Sunday Jazz Lunch, which added a musical dimension to our experience. The trio of Sphelelo Lelo Mazibuko on drums, Lindi Ngonelo on piano, and Chantal Willi-Peters on double-bass were the perfect soulful backdrop as we enjoyed another gastronomic journey.

The Ostrich Carpaccio, with thinly sliced seared ostrich fillet rubbed in coriander seed, was a delightful beginning. Next came the Catch of the Day, a line-caught fish served with baby potatoes and a lemon butter sauce, which demonstrated the chef’s commitment to fresh, local ingredients. The Crème Brûlée, infused with Frangelico and served with white wine and poached pears, was a sweet note to end a deliciously jazzy afternoon.

In the heart of Madiba’s heritage, Sanctuary Mandela offers more than a luxurious stay – a space for healing, reflection and thought-provoking experiences. Surrounded by lush gardens and perfectly-curated exhibits, every corner of this boutique hotel pays homage to the contemplative spirit of Nelson Mandela. If you seek a refuge where luxury and culture converge, Sanctuary Mandela is a destination that promises an unforgettable sojourn. Whether you’re indulging in a gourmet meal, immersing yourself in music, or simply enjoying the comfort of your suite, Sanctuary Mandela promises a unique and unforgettable experience that transcends the ordinary.