Self-care has often been neglected in our fast-paced reality, but has quickly become a must-do – and is something that is steering travel plans in a different direction. “People are seeking respite from their hectic lives and a chance to disconnect from technology; and retreats have been designed to offer just that – the opportunity for self-care, introspection and personal growth,” shares Charles Matu, sales and marketing manager at Finch Hattons Luxury Tented Camp. “They provide a space to recharge and prioritise wellbeing.”
“Furthermore, the growing awareness of sustainable and mindful living has led to an increased demand for retreats that align with these values. As individuals become more conscious of their impact on the planet, they are drawn to experiences that allow them to reconnect with nature and adopt a more holistic lifestyle,” he adds.
According to Nadine de Freitas, executive director of The South African Spa Association, Africa is a popular destination for wellness tourism, offering a diverse range of experiences that promote health and wellbeing. “With its breath-taking landscapes, rich cultural heritage and abundant wildlife, the country provides a unique setting for rejuvenation and wellness. From luxurious spas and wellness retreats nestled in serene natural surroundings to yoga and meditation retreats, the sector continues to thrive, attracting travellers seeking relaxation, rejuvenation and a holistic approach to their wellbeing,” says Nadine.
THE SILENT RETREAT
Temenos Retreat, McGregor, Cape Town
People visit Temenos Retreat for many different reasons – to sit quietly and contemplate, to reflect and heal or simply to rest. Although silent retreats are not for everyone, should you choose to embark on such a journey, Temenos gives you the option to either ‘go solo’ and partake in optional yoga, guided meditations and sessions with the resident retreat directors on your own, or join a more structured group where you’ll have the quiet support of fellow travellers. The latter option includes three simple vegetarian meals, two meditation sessions a day and scheduled time with the retreat director.
As you enter Temenos Retreat, you’ll see a simple bench with a stone on it. Guests who come to embrace stillness leave notes under the stone if they need anything from the staff. In this way, they honour their intention to remain silent.
The aim of a silent retreat is to provide the stillness and solitude which allows you to reflect inwardly in a calm and constructive manner. “Distraction and verbal communication are removed to quieten outer and inner noise,” says Temenos owner Billy Kennedy. “Although this is usually the greatest challenge of this type of retreat, complete silence inevitably brings awareness of what one might be pushing away or not facing in one’s life – those blocks that hinder our inner growth and wellbeing.”
“For this reason, it is helpful to engage with a retreat director or experienced soul companion while on retreat. It is not only psychological or spiritual insights that one may gain from these experiences, but also the deepening awareness of opening oneself to the present moment and to the appreciation of one’s thoughts, feelings and body sensations as they arise,” he adds.
For guest Karen Ellithorne, attending a silent retreat was a life-changing experience. “I thought it would be more difficult to retreat into complete silence, but I really enjoyed the quietening down and centering of self that I was able to achieve. Being detached from the outside world allowed me to focus on myself and created the clarity I needed to decide what I really wanted from life.”
THE EXPERIENCE RETREAT
Bliss & Stars, Cederberg, Cape Town
Positioned in a remote valley on the banks of the Doring River in the Cederberg, Bliss & Stars is a serene place to enjoy the soul-nourishing luxury of stillness, space, fresh air, unparallelled views and star-infused skies. The retreat combines the benefits of mindfulness, breathwork, nature-based activities, astronomy and food to promote overall wellbeing, relaxation and introspection.
Owners Daria Rasmussen and Heine Wieben have shaped the vision and values of their transformational retreats from their own personal journeys, combining ancient Buddhist teaching and the modern understanding of the human mind, science, nature and astronomy to create an experience that is beyond conventional.
In addition to creating a deeper connection with nature and providing the opportunity for guests to connect with like-minded people, each themed retreat has been developed as a unique experience in itself. Their Couples Retreat allows couples to reconnect and develop a deeper intimacy, the Silent Retreats focus on stillness and reflection while the Rest & Thrive Retreat rejuvenates the mind and body through immersive mindfulness practices.
If you are looking to discover a deeper connection to the universe and embark on a journey to personal growth, microdosing medicinal mushrooms on the Bloom Retreat is highly recommended. Alternatively, if you’re looking to renew your sense of joy for food, book the Eat & Thrive Cooking Retreat where chef Aphelele shares his vegetarian and plant-based culinary skills. There is even a retreat specifically to support woman – the Softening Women’s Retreat – helping guests balance their mind, relearn to breath and to be kind to themselves.
Not to be missed is their Star Bathing Retreat. Bliss & Stars boasts optimal conditions for stargazing with the naked eye and through their state-of-the-art telescopes. This is the place where you can marvel at the night sky, connect with the vastness of the universe and gain a sense of stellar serenity.
“Bliss & Stars is a luxurious and decadent Afro-Scandi experience where my senses were awakened to the beauty and magnificence of the cosmos,” says guest Nishani Singh. “I went for a Star Bathing Retreat and left with an entirely new perspective on life, awakening the power and beauty that lies within. Daria and Heine have carefully curated a holistic programme that will change your life in ways that one can only experience in person to fully understand. I felt like royalty.”
THE HEALTH AND WELLBEING RETREAT
Hoogland Health Hydro, Hennops River Valley, Pretoria
If you’re looking for an integrative approach to overall wellbeing, Hoogland Health Hydro has a team of expert medical doctors and psychologists, as well as a biokineticist, homeopath, chiropractor, nutritionist, life coach, lifestyle health consultant and even a microbiologist, who all work together to help improve both your physical and mental health. Massage therapists, personal trainers, food experts and conservation guides are also on hand to support your personal journey to better health and vitality.
Retreats can be planned for two days, but can be extended for two months or more, depending on your needs and health issues. First-time visitors are advised to book a minimum of four days in order to fully benefit from the retreat, and many Hoogland Health Hydro guests return on a regular basis to support their long-term health and well-being.
At the Hydro, medically supervised water-fasting retreats are recommended to help support the natural healing of the body by eliminating waste, repairing damage and growing healthy tissue. Therapeutic water-fasting – which involves drinking only water for a period of time – can treat lifestyle diseases, sub-acute psychiatric disorders, certain auto-immune disorders, certain digestive disorders and more. It is known to cleanse debris from the cells through a process called autophagy and encourage the breakdown of abnormal tissue. “Besides the physical healing we see when people are attending fasting retreats, we experience a shift in their relationship with food and bodies – especially during their first fast. There is a greater appreciation for nutrient-rich foods and more admiration for, and trust in their own bodies,” says CEO Anette Kruger.
Hoogland Hydro’s water is pure, unpolluted mineral water. During the fast, you are advised to only drink water when thirsty, as this maintains the body’s homeostasis and does not negatively impact electrolyte levels. Low endurance exercise is recommended to improve results along with the hydrotherapy cycle, which is an essential component to your visit to the Hydro – exercise, massage, heat, cold and rest.
THE HEALING BUSH RETREAT
Ukuthula House, Mjejane Private Game Reserve, Kruger National Park
Located in the Ukuthula House five-star safari resort on the banks of the Crocodile River, this wellness retreat is about de-stressing and reconnecting with yourself while surrounded by the wild and natural splendour of the African bush.
Whether spotting a leopard drinking from the banks of the river while practicing yogalates or hearing the roar of lions while enjoying a guided sunset meditation, visitors talk fondly about their experience and how it allowed them to truly immerse their being with the magic of the land.
These tailored retreats go beyond being a mere bush escape by focussing on healing, personal growth and a deep awakening of self. Yoga and Pilates classes bring a closer connection to the body and breath, while cacao ceremonies, which take place under an ancient baobab tree in the middle of the bush, open the heart and invite much-needed space and quiet contemplation.
“Calming breath work, movement, guided meditations and sound therapy help build self-awareness, relieve anxiety and set the tone for us to create a retreat of gratitude and inner peace,” says retreat facilitator Linda Green. “This is not a one-module-fits-all, but rather a personalised experience for each individual to process their needs with absolute intention.”
The focus at Ukuthula House is on promoting a healthy mind, active body and peaceful soul. This is achieved by peeling away the stress of day-to-day life and creating an environment where you can reconnect with your authentic self and walk away with a strong sense of mental and physical renewal, having broken old habits, routines and thought patterns to create a new conscious way of being.
THE TRANSFORMATIVE TRAVEL RETREAT
Finch Hattons, Tsavo West National Park, Kenya
Escape across the borders into Kenya where, nestled in the heart of Kenya’s pristine wilderness, you will find Finch Hattons Luxury Tented Camp. This world-class facility offers transformational retreat experiences where guests can reconnect with nature, themselves and the local culture.
Curated itineraries combine the thrill of adventure with the tranquillity of a luxury camp, allowing you to explore the African wilderness, encounter diverse wildlife and learn from the local Maasai tribes. It’s through these immersive experiences that guests will gain a deeper appreciation for nature, a sense of self-discovery and a new perspective of life.
Retreat packages are customised and can include a range of activities to support physical and mental wellbeing, such as guided nature walks, yoga sessions overlooking the cloud forest, and specialised spa treatments. Game drives in the Tsavo West National Park are a not-to-be-missed experience as you get to witness some of the most captivating wildlife sightings.
The camps’ luxury tents blend seamlessly with the environment, keeping in line with the ethos to prioritise eco-friendly practices, support local communities and preserve the biodiversity of the Tsavo.
A WEEKEND OF MINDFULNESS
If you’re looking for a short escape to help clear the mind and refocus, these retreats should be at the top of your list
Future Found Sanctuary by Newmark, Hout Bay, Cape Town
This sanctuary’s muti-dimensional approach to wellbeing is regenerative – it focuses on nourishing and healing the inner and outer ecosystems for a more balanced and harmonious way of being with yourself, others and the environment. The intention is not to be an escape from life, but rather help guests slow down and learn healthier ways of living.
Everything at the sanctuary is designed according to the Wheel of Whole-Being, honouring time to rise, realign, reflect and rest while being guided by nature, and a focus on sleep, nourishment, movement, mindfulness, and healing arts. Being inspired by the sacred hoop of indigenous living systems, this Wheel represents the dimensions of nature on a macro and microcosmic level, helping guests connect to the five senses, five elements and five rhythms for a deeper sense of awareness and healing.
Wellbeing guru, Romy, personally crafts itineraries for guests based on their intentions and needs and has designed this experience from her studies in yoga, meditation, mindfulness and her learnings from indigenous tribes for the past 10 years.
Elixirs, teas, amenities, fragrances, experiences, rituals, food and beverages are all made on-site to align with nature’s rhythms in support of whole-living, and there is a rich food philosophy rooted in regenerative practices, African culture and storied service.
House of Insight, False Bay, Western Cape
Surf therapy is now being recognised as an effective way to help treat stress, anxiety and PTSD. With this in mind, House of Insight has created retreats that offer surfing, mindfulness, meditation and yoga to support mental wellness. Situated along the coast of Simonstown, the retreats are hosted in beautiful seaside villas located near one of the most magnificent surf spots in the southern hemisphere.
Yoga and Pilates sessions are held on the deck with 180-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean. The morning classes are dynamic and energising to kick off the day, while afternoon sessions focus on mental healing. Mindfulness workshops facilitated by a qualified psychiatrist are an important part of the overall experience, providing the support and guidance needed to help improve your mental health and wellbeing.