Wellness retreats

From cleanses to silent meditation and spaces for ritual, wellness retreats are all the rage. What is the inspiration behind this approach to health, and what are the benefits of taking this particular kind of break?

Time away should always be good for the soul – a chance to relax and recharge. There are now a growing number of spaces designed specifically with wellness in mind. Imagine a trip where your wellbeing is the top priority. Add a beautiful setting, special rituals, time to meditate, practice yoga, or simply be still in nature, and you have a retreat that will allow you to focus on yourself, even if just for a few blissful days.



Wellness retreats are growing in popularity in many places around the world, and says Claudia Rauber, founder of Phakalane, a centre in Hout Bay, “it seems that humanity is realising that the way we have been living is compromising our being. There is a greater urgency to do something about it, be more proactive and also heal before there is an illness, which is the body shouting at us that something is not in balance”.

Phakalane offers cleansing retreats several times a year, which involve the consuming and making of fresh, organic juices and teas, as well as the practice of self-care rituals (like mouth oil pulling, dry body brushing, body oiling and cold showers), daily steaming rituals and rituals especially designed to help one find balance.

“It seems that humanity is realising that the way we have been living is compromising our being…”

Claudia explains that the rituals are based in African cosmology and “the cleanses ask each being to take responsibility for their own healing.” She goes on to say that people often choose individually designed retreats to mark specific moments in their life – a marriage, separation, an important life change, a birth, or death. The inspiration behind the centre, says Claudia, is to “support the journey of becoming who we truly are, and that often takes releasing and letting go of layers of experiences. In this place, visitors can come to rest, to stop, to hear, to feel, to release what no longer serves them.” The idea is that the physical body can be used as a vehicle for this release through practices of cleansing and fasting.


Bushmanskloof-Spa-GazeboWith the growing demand for spaces that allow people to rest and recover from daily stresses, more and more spas have extended their offering to incorporate treatments with a healing element. Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat in the Cederberg Mountains near Clanwilliam offers three different wellness programmes to de-stress, detox and revitalise. The programmes, says spa manager Nikki Bouic, “are as unique as each individual we treat. The Spa at Bushmans Kloof is a peaceful sanctuary where one can surrender to the ancient mystical powers of the African landscape.”

The idea behind the wellness retreat is to give guests the feeling that their senses have been rejuvenated, their spirits replenished and that they achieve deep inner peace and harmony. “We are dedicated to restore balance through the spa wellness programmes we offer,” says Nikki. She goes on to say that “research has shown that the wellness industry is growing twice as fast as any other sector. We believe that people are now more conscious about their health and wellbeing.

They engage more in activities like meditation, detoxing, yoga and going away for retreats as a result of this.” Some physical benefits of the programmes, says Nikki, include increased energy levels, better sleeping patterns, enhanced breathing techniques and reduced muscular pain in the neck, shoulders and back.


With busy schedules and lifestyles that tend to be filled with to-do lists, there’s often little time left for quiet time and reflection. In McGregor, a sanctuary called Temenos (meaning “sacred space”) offers healing therapies and workshops in a tranquil garden setting.

Although the retreat does not subscribe to any specific spiritual path, it embraces a universal spirituality and comprises several spaces especially created to deepen a sense of stillness such as a labyrinth, a forested spiral, and a garden library stocked with health and healing books.

Image: Temenos on Facebook

Visitors are invited to join early morning walks, yoga and daily meditation sessions. There is also a wide range of healing therapies available including massage, aromatherapy, reflexology, tension and trauma stress release, and Reiki.

Temenos was established by Billy Kennedy 17 years ago when he transformed a run-down farmhouse on a barren stretch of veld into the beautiful sanctuary it is today. At its centre is a small chapel known as ‘The Little Way’ which is very popular for weddings, while The Well, the meditation room, is the ideal setting for regaining a sense of peace and tranquillity.

The garden teems with birdlife and there are nature reserves within walking distance. “Guests choose to stay at Temenos for many reasons”, says Billy, “but especially if one needs to rest and restore oneself. Most guests return time and time again to unwind in the stillness and simply be”.