Written by Pille Mitt

Yoga Retreat in Exotic South Africa 2023

Yoga, Hiking, and Adventure: My First Retreat in South Africa

In February 2023, I embarked on an extraordinary journey to South Africa, leading my first hiking and yoga retreat in that exciting country. South Africa is a truly fascinating and magnificent country packed with incredible wildlife, the most breathtaking landscapes, and complex history. Known for its beaches, mountains, and savannas, it's a trendy place for tourists. South Africa has been called “A world in one country”. It offers cosmopolitan cities, a rainbow nation of richly diverse cultures, spectacular scenery, and of course the Big Five safari experience. It is the only country in the world to contain an entire floral kingdom. It is home to more kinds of mammals than North and South America combined; or Europe and Asia together. South African grasslands have approximately 30 species per square kilometer, greater than the biodiversity of rainforests.

Organizing this retreat was a dream come true for me, and I couldn't wait to share the beauty of South Africa's landscapes with a group of ten women from various corners of the world – Norway, the USA, Switzerland, the UK, Estonia, and Lebanon. With the assistance of a local travel company, Amatungulu Tours, we set out on an unforgettable adventure filled with yoga, hiking, relaxation, and exploration. Our tour guide, Jakes, possesses an unparalleled depth of knowledge about South African nature, history, and every aspect of the region, enriching our journey with his expertise and passion.

Our yoga retreat started at Cape Town International Airport in South Africa. Some of us arrived in Cape Town a few days before the retreat began, and we decided to embark on a memorable hike up Lion's Head Mountain. As the sun dipped below the horizon on one side, we were treated to the mesmerizing sight of the full moon rising on the other, casting a magical glow over the landscape.

In my opinion, the Lion’s Head hike is one of the top things to do in Cape Town, offering unparalleled views of the city and its surroundings. Situated within the Table Mountain National Park, Lion’s Head reaches a peak of 669 meters above sea level. It was a special experience for me as my daughter Maria and some of her friends were also in South Africa at the same time, allowing us to share quality time on this hike. Additionally, Cape Town offers incredible opportunities for paragliding, and we couldn't resist seizing the chance to take to the skies and soak in the breathtaking vistas from above.

Exploring Cape Town and Hiking Table Mountain

Cape Town is one of three capital cities in South Africa. This seaside city is beautiful and picturesque with a great backdrop of the famous Table Mountain National Park. South Africa’s top tourist destination has many beautiful coastlines and beaches nearby, many whale-watching tours, amazing scenery, and a walkable waterfront area with tons of great restaurants, shopping, and more.

Cape Town, the “Mother City”, or the world’s most fabulous city, is the oldest city in South Africa and has a cultural heritage spanning more than 300 years.

Our journey started with an awe-inspiring hike up Table Mountain, one of South Africa's most iconic landmarks. As we ascended, the beauty of the surrounding landscape took our breath away. The iconic Table Mountain in Cape Town is believed to be one of the oldest mountains in the world, at 260 million years old. Not only that, it is one of the world’s 7 New Natural Wonders and is also one of the planet’s 12 main energy centers, radiating magnetic, electric, and spiritual energy.

Hiking up to Table Mountain was an invigorating experience, though the moderate trail presented its challenges, particularly exacerbated by the scorching heat. Despite the demanding conditions, our determination fueled our ascent, and reaching the summit filled us with a profound sense of accomplishment. Pausing to catch our breath and capture breathtaking photos of the panoramic vistas, we marveled at the majestic beauty that surrounded us. It was sunny, so we decided to ride the gondola back down to cool off, and we still saw the scenery from above.

After descending, we visited Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, a UNESCO-listed site dedicated to preserving the country's unique flora. At Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, we enjoyed a lovely stroll surrounded by stunning plant life. Jakes shared fascinating information about the different plants and the importance of preserving nature. It was a peaceful and educational experience, connecting us even more deeply with the natural world around us. The day concluded with a delightful wine-tasting experience at Groot Constantia Wine Farm, where we indulged in exquisite wines and savored a delicious dinner with sweeping views of Muizenberg.

Penguins, Relaxing, and Diaz Beach Yoga

On our second day, we ventured along the False Bay coastline to Boulders Beach, home to a charming colony of African Penguins. Witnessing these delightful creatures in their natural habitat was a truly unforgettable experience. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and rejuvenating, indulging in beach yoga sessions and savoring delicious cuisine at one of the local restaurants.

Wine Tasting, Cape Point, Spa, and Yoga

Our journey continued with a visit to Cape Point, where we immersed ourselves in the breathtaking beauty of the Table Mountain National Park. After a refreshing yoga and meditation session on Dias Beach, we indulged in wine and chocolate tasting at Spier Wine Farm.

The highlight of the day was our stay at The Caledon Hotel and Spa, where we immersed ourselves in relaxation and pampering, enjoying mineral-rich hot springs and a range of spa treatments. The spa hotel is situated around an hour’s drive away from Cape Town and offers guests mineral-rich hot springs and a spa with three restaurants, a gym, and children’s activities offered to all guests. The wellness center is equipped with comfortable seating, natural hot springs, a lap pool, a steam room, a sauna, a frigidarium (the distinctive brown color of the water is due to the rich mineral content known as chalybeate), a Swiss shower, elegant Victorian Bath House (erected 1897), and outdoor Jacuzzi, as well as a great Zen Garden. A full range of spa treatments including massages, body wraps, facials, and beauty therapies are on offer as an option

Exploring the Garden Route and Cango Caves

We embarked on a scenic drive to Knysna via the Cango Caves, marveling at the natural beauty of the Garden Route along the way. The Garden Route is a stretch of the southeastern coast of South Africa that extends from Witsand in the Western Cape to the border of Tsitsikamma Storms River in the Eastern Cape. The name comes from the verdant and ecologically diverse vegetation encountered here and the numerous estuaries and lakes dotted along the coast. After exploring the caves, we enjoyed a rejuvenating beach walk at Buffalo Bay before settling in at the Peace of Eden Nature Lodge and Vegan Retreat, where we immersed ourselves in nature, yoga, and meditation.

Adventure in Knysna

Our fifth day was brimming with excitement as we explored Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. While some of us chose the exhilarating Dolphin Encounters boat ride, others embarked on a thrilling zip line adventure with the Tsitsikamma Woodcutters Journey or a Canopy Tour.

Return to Cape Town

After enjoying morning yoga and a delicious vegan breakfast at the Peace of Eden Nature Lodge, we embarked on our journey back to Cape Town, stopping at charming farm stalls.

Safari Experience at Aquila Private Game Reserve

One of the highlights of our retreat was undoubtedly our visit to the Aquila Private Game Reserve, where we embarked on a thrilling game drive in search of Africa's most iconic wildlife – the Big Five. Witnessing these majestic animals in their natural habitat was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that left us in awe of the beauty and diversity of South Africa's wildlife.

The “Big Five” is a term that is used to refer to the 5 African animals that early big game hunters considered the most difficult and dangerous animals to hunt on foot in Africa. These animals include the African elephant, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo, and rhinoceros.

 Farwell and Departure: Returning Home After an Unforgettable Yoga Retreat

As we reminisced about our journey, we couldn't overlook the delectable culinary delights that South Africa had to offer. From savoring traditional dishes bursting with flavor to indulging in gourmet meals prepared with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, our taste buds were treated to a symphony of tastes and textures that tantalized the senses. Whether it was sampling hearty barbecues under the African sky or sipping on rich, velvety wines from the renowned vineyards of Stellenbosch, each meal was a celebration of South Africa's rich culinary heritage. The diverse influences of African, Dutch, Indian, and Malay cuisines created a vibrant tapestry of flavors that delighted our palates and left us craving for more.

As the sun set on our final day in South Africa, we reflected on the incredible journey we had embarked upon together, from the breathtaking vistas atop Table Mountain to the serene moments of yoga amidst nature's beauty. Each experience had left an indelible mark on our hearts and minds, filling our time together with laughter, adventure, and profound connections, forging bonds that would last a lifetime.

As we bid farewell to the vibrant landscapes and warm hospitality of South Africa, we carried with us memories that would continue to inspire and uplift us long after our journey had come to an end. Though our paths may diverge, the spirit of our yoga retreat will forever unite us in a shared sense of gratitude, wonder, and the enduring power of exploration.

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Article written by Pille Mitt
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