So What Really Does Set A Guest House Apart?
When I wrote some weeks ago about Jauckie Viljoen’s Back Road Safaris (A New Way of Touring), I complained about the blandness, the sameness of so many of the guest houses I’ve seen… And, of course, this lead to the inevitable challenge: ‘OK, genius, so what DOES set a guest house apart? So let me draw your attention to a place I’ve recently enjoyed.
Jambo Guest House in Green Point, Cape Town.
Barry and Mina Thomas have filled their unusual guest house with an eclectic collection of art – much of which is local (and for sale) – and there are piles of books and collections of things wherever you look. And all the bedrooms are decorated individually (I’d call the one we had ‘Cape Regal’ – two huge beds, an oaken wardrobe, comfortable couch, one of those wonderful showers that massage you brutally…). And upstairs they have this pub where, they, told us, they often hold poetry evenings and the like. And it was in this comfortable Edwardian-style room that I met an author from Botswana – Bontekanye Botumile ( Bonty) – and we hatched an idea for a cross-border, cross-cultural publishing collaboration involving one of my children’s stories and lots of her brains. Watch this space. Jambo is a surprisingly quiet and serene place just metres off Main Road and right across the way from the new Green Point stadium. For us (we were there for the Cape Town Book Fair) it was close enough to the International Convention Centre to offer a pleasant walk to work in the mornings – although we did indulge in taxis to bring us home at the end of the day.
What made Jambo different?
Note my use of the word home: it felt more like staying at home than like staying in the 5-star guest house it is – and whilst that might not appeal to everyone, it appeals to me. But that’s just the point, isn’t it? Barry and Mina Thomas at Jambo haven’t tried to be all things to all men. Instead (because being all things to all men almost always fails) they’ve used their talents to create their own personal spaces. And those, I think, are the two words that answer my question… what sets a guest house apart is whether or not it has its own sense of personal space. I’m pretty sure it’s that simple.
– Letter from Martin Hatchuel – Journalist, Tourism Writer and Blog Author of ‘This Tourism Week’
This amazing guest house is set in a tropical walled garden in the heart of urban Cape Town. The owners will pick you up from the airport, arrange car hire, suggest trips and outings, make dinner reservations for you, and open the guest house bar on demand (!)
They have painstakingly designed and decorated each room on a different theme; e.g. the African room, the Green Room etc. We liked the place so much, we went back later to stay another couple of nights. It’s fantastic!
– Sally Lowe, BBC Travel Website
London, United Kingdom
We stayed for 6 nights which was not long enough. Thank you Barry and Mina for making us so welcome, for your top tips of what to see and do and for your hospitality. Your home is unique, a true gem. Just a short walk to the waterfront which has everything to offer. We hope to return in the future.
Lymington, United Kingdom
We stayed for 7 nights at Jambo and didn’t want to leave. The hospitality shown by Barry and Mina was so warm and welcoming and every day they helped us plan to make the best of our time. We saw all the highlights of Cape Town and more, and tried all the restaurants they suggested. Hussar Grill was so good we went twice. Everything is within an easy walk of their house. The highlight for us was Barry’s Bar complete with live singing which we enjoyed every night after a busy day exploring. Thank you Barry and Mina for the wonderful experience. Carol, Alan, Julie and John from the UK.
We stayed with Barry and Mina for a little under two weeks. It was an absolute treat: our hosts were very accommodating, going as far as to organise our trips, get an Uber for us or book a table at a restaurant. At our arrival there, Barry went through a list of places to go in Cape Town, be it to eat or to visit, and gave us advice on what would be the best way to get there. The house was perfectly located and had a really peculiar charm that you wouldn’t find in many other places. We highly recommend this guest house and would definitely return there on our next trip.
Boston, United States
We were running late and didn’t check in till after 9:00. Mina and Barry were gracious when we arrived showing us to our lovely rooms and then settling to their quaint bar room upstairs for a night cap. We could only stay one night. Would have loved to have stayed longer. Their guest house is full of such interesting artifacts. You can tell an artist lives here. The next morning we awoke to a delicious breakfast with so many choices. Thank you Barry and Mina!
Sehr nette Inhaber, die immer einen Tipp für Aktivitäten hatten. Auch kümmerten sie sich intensiv, wenn man eine Ausflug oder einen Fahrer oder ähnliches buchen wollte. Wir haben den Aufenthalt sehr genossen und uns sehr wohl gefühlt. Bei unserem nächsten Aufenthalt in Kapstadt werden wir wieder dort übernachten!!
Cape Town, South Africa
We only stayed for one night but it was great value for money. Barry and Mina are a lovely couple, always there to help and Barry’s English style pub is great. We all had an enjoyable stay.
Très bien situé. Le centre ville, waterfront, ainsi que resto et commerce accessibles. Les hôtes sont charmants, pleins de bons conseils, toujours disponibles. Le jardin, est magnifique, et la maison pleine de charme. Si vous voulez un coin tranquille, original, n’hésitez pas.
Warm and friendly, even though I arrive at nearly 1am! Barry and Mina are friendly and fabulous! Their home is comfortable and eclectic all at the same time. I am so glad I found them and look forward to sharing their info with others. Breakfast of warm fresh bread, cold cuts, fruit, and drinks get guests started on their day ahead.
Lyn & Keith Chapman
Felbridge Surry, United Kingdom
Our definition of Cape Town’s “Big Five”: A view from Table Mountain, a trip to Robben Island, the drive to Cape Point, tea at the Mount Nelson, and an extended stay at Mina and Barry’s, where the welcome is as warm as the weather.
Johannesburg, South Africa
I would just like to thank Barry and Mina for making our stay absolutely wonderful! From the delicious breakfasts, to the charming rooms (the Bay Room is very cosy and romantic), to Barry’s wonderfully quirky singing – we loved every minute of our stay at Jambo. Thanks so much to everyone who made our trip to Cape Town memorable!
I stayed at Jambo Guest House in March 2019. At first, my reason for choosing this guesthouse was because of its convenient location – ie a very short walk to Cape Town Stadium, right next-door to many restaurants in the area, etc – but in the future I will choose the guesthouse for the hospitality of the two hosts, Barry and Mina.
Minneapolis, United States
We were a group of four women, and were SO well taken care of by Barry and Mina! Their guest house is in a quiet residential neighborhood and is very nicely equipped. They put out a feast for breakfast each morning. We especially enjoyed “Barry’s bar” each evening – such a wonderful personalized pub with outstanding service and conversation on the highest levels. I highly recommend Jambo – and must add that the location can’t be beat.
I was delighted to have spent nearly a week at Jambo Guesthouse. The house itself is lovely, the rooms all of unique design. The location was excellent and I felt safe walking all all times of the day. Most of all, I enjoyed the warmth and friendliness of the hosts, Barry and Mina. Both were a great source of information, conversation and humour. I highly recommend.
One of the best choices for Cape Town. A very quaint guesthouse managed by a lovely couple who have been lovingly running this guesthouse for many years. Lots of attention to detail, lovely breakfast – you will feel like a member of the family. Includes also a lovely garden and a lounge with a stocked bar.
We rarely put 10/10 but this Guest House is exceptional & definitely the mark is justified. Location, rooms, breakfast, and especially the owners. Helpful, friendly and helping a lot. Very pleased to meet you!
We have just enjoyed 8 nights at Jambo, excellently situated for “The Waterfront” and Mouille Point. Our room was spacious and had everything required, rooms are individually themed. Our hosts Barry and Mina were most helpful in organising tours and full of deep knowledge and advice on where to eat and things to do. Breakfast simple and adquate, fresh fruit, especially mango excellent. There is a bar upstairs where, when it suited, we enjoyed chats (plus wine, Amarula and Bourbon) with out hosts and other guests we had said “Hi” to at breakfast. Most welcoming and we look forward to staying here again.
The guesthouse is the longtime house of a graceful couple who have very interesting stories to tell about their multicultural adventures. Every part of the house is uniquely decorated with an artistic taste, which offers a very different experience than impersonal hotel spaces. You can see Mina’s paintings around the walls. the garden is an absolute joy to spend time in. I stayed in the Garden Room and the Bay Room, both of which I fell in love with. Breakfast, particularily the pastries, are delicious. The bar also offers a unique experience, especially if Barry plays the guitar and sings… Barry and Mina took the time to give the detailed touristic information we needed from a local perspective. They are also kind and warm, so you do feel the personal connection with the hosts. It was a joy to stay in this hotel.
Cape Town, South Africa
Jambo is a wonderful little Cape Town bed & breakfast. Barry and Mina are extremely helpful, and the most friendly people you will ever meet. They were definitely one of the highlights of my stay. The others would be the superb contemporary accommodation and the scrumptious breakfasts. Jambo is possibly the best Green Point accommodation I have ever stayed at. Thank you to Barry, Mina and the rest of the staff for a terrific holiday!
Kempton Park, South Africa
We had a fantastic experience staying at Jambo! Barry and Mina were fantastic hosts and the place is beautiful. Should you be stopping over in Green Point, please make this your number one choice of guest house, not only because it is within walking distance of the waterfront and the stadium, but because it feels like home away from home. You won’t be dissappointed!
Une expérience inoubliable, un endroit à part où se mèlent art, poésie et bohème. On a l’impression que le temps s’arrête un moment. Un accueil chaleureux et une localisation idéale en font une étape obligatoire dans votre découverte du Cap!
Tel Aviv, Israel
We really enjoyed the hospitality in this guest house. Great location and a good place to stay.