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9 top South African spiritual retreats
From a post-dinner silence to “whale communication," these spiritual getaways run from monastic to mellow
Compared with the collective wisdom of these South African mellow centers, what you know about relaxation couldn't fit into an herbal tea cup.
Get ready to humble.
1. Emoyeni Retreat Center, Magaliesberg
Offering an austere but peaceful-sounding program, Emoyeni is set high on the northern slopes of the Magaliesberg Mountains, 100 kilometers from Johannesburg.
Run on Buddhist principles, Emoyeni (“place of spirit” in Zulu) seeks to foster mindfulness and what it calls “loving kindness” among its guests.
A typical day starts at 7.30 a.m. with a light breakfast followed by meditations and other “mindful” activities (cooking and gardening) throughout the day.
There’s a light supper in the evening and then Noble Silence (no speaking) till the following morning.
All meals are vegetarian, the accommodation is basic and there are no TV, games or swimming pool -- the lack of distractions meant encourage a spirit of introspection.
The main building has beds for 14 guests, and tents are also available.
From $40 per person, per night.
Emoyeni Retreat Center, P.O. Box 190 Mooinooi; + 27 0 14 574 3662
2. Blue Butterfly Retreat, Welbedacht Nature Reserve
In the middle of the 400-acre Welbedacht Nature Reserve, Blue Butterfly adds chanting meditation, massage and yoga to the more conventional mix of hiking, swimming and wildlife tours.
There’s a natural labyrinth to explore and you’re advised to set aside time simply to sit on the porch and soak up the incredible views -- they're pretty meditative, too.
Accommodation includes spacious loft bedrooms and self-catering cottages.
Two-night retreats, including facilities, food and accommodation, from $145 per person.
The Blue Butterfly Retreat, Welbedacht Nature Reserve, P.O. Box 372, Tulbagh; + 27 0 83 952 5448
3. Bodhi Khaya Retreat, Gansbaai
Yoga overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, meditation in the wilderness, improve your sex life or delve deeper into the secrets of your dreams.
These are offerings at the Bodhi Khaya Retreat in the Western Cape coastal town of Gansbaai.
Other optimistic-sounding courses and activities are Five Steps to Golden Success (how to realize your dreams, in other words), Open the Heart and Still the Mind and Great Sex, Great Love, Great Death.
There’s even a “whale communication” workshop -- and plenty of whales in the ocean nearby, although whether they’re there because you called them or not presumably remains a moot point.
Bodhi Khaya’s name, a blend of Sanskrit and indigenous African, means “Home of Awareness.”
Accommodation ranges from rooms in the restored 1820s farmhouse to self-catering cottages.
From $30 per person per night.
Bodhi Khaya Retreat, P.O. Box 1001, Gansbaai 7220, Western Cape, South Africa; +27 0 28 388 0156
4. Satori Farm Eco Retreat, Natal
Set high in the Natal Midlands, Satori Farm is a beautiful place surrounded by mountains, with fresh water streams and a river.
Forging a connection with nature is one of the goals at Satori Farm.
The retreat offers yoga, reiki and Pilates classes, plus meditation and massage.
There are art and drumming workshops and plenty of down-to-earth activities such as helping to prepare meals and bake bread.
From $30 per person, per night for accommodation only and $50 for full board.
Satori Farm Eco Retreat, Impendle/Dargle Road, Natal Midlands; + 27 0 82 551 7402
5. Nalanda Ayurvedic Center, Greyton
Located in the tiny Cape village of Greyton, Nalanda specializes in short courses derived from the traditional Indian Aryurvedic healing system.
At the core of Ayurveda is the idea that we all have a different constitutional type -- a dosha.
To stay healthy, physically and spiritually, means nurturing your dosha in a particular way.
Practitioners at Nalanda first identify your dosha and then teach you to cultivate it through courses such as Conscious Eating, the Art of Living and Ayurveda Detox.
Individual yoga sessions are another specialty.
From $50 per person for a one-day Ayurveda Wellness Retreat.
Nalanda Ayurvedic Center, Greyton, Western Cape; + 27 028 254 9027
6. Little Samadhi Karoo Retreat, Little Karoo
This small yoga retreat high on a hill overlooks the village of Barrydale in Little Karoo.
The vibe is homey and relaxed -- as if you were staying at a friend’s house. Bedrooms are clean, cozy and understated.
Beauty treatments sit alongside daily yoga classes, massage and meditation -- hinting at the low-key theme.
From $45 per person, per night.
Little Samadhi Karoo Retreat, Barrydale, Little Karoo; +27 0 28 572 1002
7. Bijlia Cana Wellness Retreat, Prince Albert
In a village at the foot of the spectacular Swartberg Mountain, you’ll find this wellness retreat in a Tuscan-style house with a pretty courtyard and gardens.
Retreats range from two to six days and include daily holistic treatments include shiatsu and reiki, reflexology and crystal therapy to balance “electromagnetic energy.”
One of the most popular retreats is the marathon, six-day Gateway course run by Valentine Lange, a reiki and meditation teacher.
Using creative visualization and walking, drumming and art therapy, the retreat aims to explode the hidden emotional and spiritual blocks preventing you from realizing your goals.
Sounds like hard work: when you’re not transforming yourself you can go walking and swimming or ambling in the countryside.
Prices start from $26 per person, per day.
Bijlia Cana Wellness Retreat, P.O. Box 195, Prince Albert, 6930; + 27 0 23 541 1872
8. Gaia -- Healing Holidays, Montague
Appealing to the hardier variety of spiritual tourist, accommodation here consists of spacious, self-catered teepees.
Each is equipped with a shower, solar cooker, lanterns, deluxe mattresses on a wooden floor and sandstone fire pots outside.
The main lodge hosts sessions devoted to esoteric pursuits such as crystal healing, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and Thai yoga massage.
Horseback riding, hiking and golf provide a rest from all that personal transformation.
From $40 per person, per night.
Gaia -- Healing Holidays, Montague, Western Cape; +27 21 910 1780
9. Hearth and Soul Eco Farm, near Stanford
Set in a valley halfway between the villages of Stanford and Napier in the Overberg region, this farm and retreat is so remote it doesn’t even have a postal address.
That seclusion is part of the spiritual prescription here -- other ingredients are yoga, walking, reading and meditation.
There are 10 bedrooms (with en suite bathrooms), communal dining areas, a large conference room and a “hearth” room for socializing.
From $20 per person per night.
Hearth and Soul Eco Farm, near Stanford (full directions on website): + 27 021 813 9700