Tintswalo Atlantic was razed to the ground in March 2015 following a wildfire that blazed its way across the Cape Peninsula. Just three days shy of their eight-month rebuild deadline Tintswalo Atlantic re-opened to the public. This story shows what can be done when a team pulls together, writes Kirsty Coetzee.
On March 2nd, 2015, a wildfire that had blazed its way across the Cape Peninsula, was forced down the mountainside by strong winds, where it engulfed the Tintswalo Atlantic hotel and razed it to the ground. Tintswalo Lodges CFO, Gaye Corbett, recalls receiving a phone call in the early hours of that morning: “I don’t know if you’ve ever had one of those middle-of-the-night phone calls, but it isn’t a great experience. A million scenarios flashed through my head all at once.”
There was little time for grief or remorse – the Tintswalo Lodge owners raced into action almost immediately. Tintswalo CEO, Warwick Goosen, caught the first flight to Cape Town to assess the damage on site, and to offer support to the Tintswalo Atlantic team and the surrounding community. Back in Johannesburg, co-owners, Lisa Goosen, and Gaye and Ernest Corbett, went to work with the reservations team to begin the arduous task of moving all future bookings to alternative hotels, before joining Warwick on site.
As the dust settled, the Tintswalo Lodges owners and Tintswalo Atlantic team brushed away their tears and rolled up their sleeves. It was quickly decided with determination and resolve that not only would they rebuild the hotel, but it would be completed within eight months and it would be better than before! Doubtful bystanders collectively rolled their eyes, declaring that a hotel could never be built that fast.
Little could the sceptics possibly fathom the passion that fuels the Tintswalo army! Joining forces with builder, Keith Rudd, who constructed the original Tintswalo Atlantic, and with Caroline Wright, Gaye Corbett’s personal friend and interior decorator, and so many other contributing suppliers and community members, the formidable team set out to recreate paradise… and what a recreation they have achieved!
Launched on October 28th, just three days shy of their eight-month deadline, Tintswalo Atlantic re-opened to the public.
Addressing media and special guests at the first of four official launch parties, Gaye Corbett gave an account of the hurdles and triumphs of the past several months, saying, “The greatest challenge initially was just getting over the shock of losing the lodge. We had to get to grips with the fact that it was all gone and to somehow see the rebuild as an exciting challenge and not a complete loss, which is what it felt like after the fire. We realised that the only time you can truly and totally lose something is if you feel you can never recreate it again. When we had decided to go ahead, we put a deadline in place: and knew we’d stick to it. Once we had our building team in place, it was easy. Before we knew it, the job was done and now the lodge is back in all its glory!”
When asked if there were any alterations made to the design and layout of the hotel, Tintswalo owners admit that the fire has allowed them to correct small construction mistakes. And while the loss of the 300-year-old milkwood trees that had graced the lodge’s decks will be felt for years to come, this also offered the opportunity to carefully select where to plant new younger trees. As a result, the hotel decks feel more spacious, and can better accommodate functions and al fresco dining.
As to the décor, Tintswalo Atlantic has retained its authentic spirit of charm and light and beauty; only it truly is better than it was before. Sourcing fabrics, artworks, small items, furniture and doors – literally from across the globe – has been a colossal task, admirably accomplished within an extremely limited timeframe.
Commenting on her personal highlight of the relaunch, Gaye expressed the satisfaction that she feels, knowing that the new hotel reflects and complements the unique beauty of its natural surroundings: “The eyes of the world were on us after the fire and when guests walk through the door now, the looks on their faces tell us that we have produced something that lives up to what we set out to achieve – a place of peace and beauty.”
It’s said that a person’s true character comes to light when placed under extreme pressure. One could also say that this applies to an organization, which can be clearly seen by the way in which the Tintswalo staff, managers and owners have faced the odds with an enviable tenacity and an unbreakable attitude.