THE BRENTON HAVEN STORY
“It’s like a butterfly isn’t it?” says Philip Vermeulen as he gazes out across the wide blue yonder towards Antarctica. To the right, massive rolling walls of surf crush down onto the shore all along the 7 km spray of sand to Buffalo Bay. To the left the cascading hills of fynbos that happen to be the exclusive worldwide home of the endangered Brenton Blue butterfly.
It is quite frankly, one of the most spectacular stretches of coast on earth. But Philip is not only creating a quaint analogy between the gobsmacking vista and nature’s unfolding in a lepidopterist microcosm. He waves his hand across the broad wooden deck behind him which will soon host all people who have been pining for the old Brenton Hotel for the past decade or more – as well as everyone else who wishes to enjoy a sun-downer or cocktail in one of the globe’s most captivating settings.
“Local people must feel like this is home to them again,” he says passionately. The Brenton Hotel’s demise some 10 years ago left the Garden Route with a yawning social gap. It was more than merely a nice place to overnight. It was a home away from home for the people of Brenton, Knysna and the rest of the Eden district. It is this essence that Brenton Haven is intent on recapturing. The handsome edifice rearing up from the precipice overlooking Brenton Beach is but the cherry on a much juicier cake. “A building without a personality, is just a piece of concrete” he explains ducking under construction scaffolding into what is soon to be a luxury suite. Brenton, he rightly points out, has lost a bit of its social soul with the demise of the old hotel, a problem Brenton Haven intends to address according to Philip, by recreating a social backbone for the community, by readjusting the district’s collective social IQ. “If people want to watch the rugby, enjoy a potjie, or just meet for drinks, they can do it here. We must know that Minnie likes her white wine and fish grilled just so. It has to be that place where everyone knows your name.”
“We, at Brenton Haven, is a collective of enthusiasts and dreamers with enough energy and passion to make Brenton Haven, in a nutshell, a very exclusive inclusive haven” he says. The fact that Brentonians have been licking their lips for a facility of this sort for over a decade now of course counts in Brenton Haven’s favour. And naturally, the view. In a sense, the place thus sells itself. Philip and Nols Meyer, a friend and colleague of nearly forty years, and their other business partners have to merely colour in the between the lines. Ironically the sought after piece of Eden which has been standing dormant for so many years fell into their laps by default. “It happened in a very roundabout way,” he says stepping onto the wide stairwell that swoops down into the foyer and out into the Indian Ocean beyond. “So we had the choice – are we going to build Rome or not?” So they did.
Through the cacophony of hammering and drilling, Philip leads the way past the swimming pool and adjacent gym to the nine premium suites – all state of the art one, or two-room, designer apartments with the dramatic view across Brenton Beach to Buffalo Bay. The fitness-complex, Brenton Active, is well equipped and despite the dust and building debris, it’s not all that difficult to imagine members and guests swimming, doing aqua aerobics and spinning their way to fitness and well-being. The twenty six beach homes in turn, are all perfectly appointed homes-away-from-home, complete with marble and polished solid wood finishes and tiled floors. Each also has a mesmerising ocean view and is a mere two minute trot down to the beach.
“You can see that all the houses and suites have names” Philip explains. “We want Brenton Haven to have a unique and personal identity and because we care about the Brenton Blue’s survival – they all have butterfly names.”