Africa’s tourism industry is ideally placed to
benefit from the current interest in wellness travel. That is according to the WTM
Global Trends Report 2016.
The report mentions that the idea of “wellness in
the wilderness” resonates with travelers seeking unique and authentic
experiences, resulting in a demand for spiritual travel with an adventure
is so diverse, so raw, so full of natural beauty and so open to the elements;
it’s the perfect place to ground yourself and revive all your senses,” said Hannah Strand of Wildlife Explorer.
Tour operators across Africa and the U.S. say
that wellness is still a mostly untapped opportunity for Africa. However, they
also mention there are already some exceptional wellness experiences on offer:
in Namibia: Natalie
Faggianelli, vice president of sales at Bayside Travel, a
Virtuoso agency, said that wellness travel has become an important part of a
client’s experience as a result of the frantic pace of people’s lives. “People
need a place to relax, rejuvenate and heal their minds and bodies,” she said.
to Faggianelli, stargazing in the Namibian desert is one wellness experience
that can truly bring a sense of calm and reflection to a
person. “It is an experience that includes the body, mind and soul,” she said. Recognized
as a “dark sky reserve,” the NamibRand Nature Reserve offers views of
the galaxy like few other places in the world.
Healthy and conscious eating on North Island, Seychelles: “Wilderness
Safaris has recognized that the concept of wellness has developed beyond
traditional spas to more holistic experiences where conservation and ecotourism
are center,” said Tarryn Gibson, the company’s communication manager.
for example, is a pristine natural environment that speaks to the conscious
wellness traveler. The island offers a strong emphasis on healthy and conscious
eating. The dining experience at North Island is deeply connected to the spirit
of the island where the food philosophy is to serve fresh, seasonal produce.
North Island’s chef custom designs daily menus incorporating harvest from the on-site
organic vegetable garden and aligning the menu with guest’s dietary
Wildlife experiences throughout Africa: According to Jim Holden, president of Holden
Safaris, safaris have always been about wellness. He said: “Wellness starts
with jettisoning all our first-world gadgets and being reacquainted with all
our senses of smell, hearing, seeing, tasting and feeling. One of the joys of
being a safari guide is observing clients visibly start to relax and unwind as
the safari progresses. At first they can’t spot an elephant hidden in the bush
only 10 yards from them; and then they start to learn to look again. And so on
with smell, hearing and taste. And often the first sign of feeling is when they
burst into tears for no apparent reason other than they ‘feel’ some strange
connection to Africa.”
Extraordinary Journeys' Marcia Gordon explained that the most important thing that Africa offers is the
encouragement to unplug and get attuned to nature. She said: “To wake up to the
sounds of birdsong and sleep when it gets dark and pretty much throw watches
and schedules and multitasking away is instant renewal. The whole experience of
being outside most of the day and slowing down (to watch a particular animal or
wait for a bird to appear) is almost as good as a retreat.”
Uninterrupted beaches in Mozambique: Mozambique is
still one of the few places in the world where travelers will find long
stretches of uninterrupted beaches, according to Natalie Tenzer-Silva, director
of Dana Tours. “Where else in the world will you find an isolated beach
completely to yourself?”
Travelers can reconnect with their bodies
and souls as well as with nature on any of Mozambique’s tropical islands.
They can dive amongst hundreds of species of tropical fish and extraordinary
coral reefs. In some cases, spa treatments can take place on the beach.
Walking yoga safaris in Zambia: Throughout Africa,
operators and suppliers have picked up on the wellness trend and are offering
unique wellness experiences, said Henk Graaff, managing director for SW Africa. He
explained that some lodges in South Africa now offer yoga safaris, enabling
travelers to meditate in the most beautiful wildlife surroundings.
A truly unique experience is the Africa yoga
walking safari, where travelers walk, practice yoga and meditate in Africa’s
most remote and untouched wilderness areas, such as the Luangwa Valley in
Zambia. Said Graaff: “The act of being on foot in the wilderness is yogic by
nature. Travelers are able to truly slow down and synchronize to rhythms of the
Holden agreed, saying: “In much the same way as
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, a walking safari is a stroll through the
Luangwa Valley’s pristine flora and fauna. After a few days on a walking safari,
strolling from bush camp to bush camp, one’s soul is refreshed, the mind purged
of all its worries and the body relaxed. No modern spa has such healing
Cultural encounters in Tanzania: Mefi Pishori Alapat of Journey to
Africa explained that increasingly travelers have been requesting what she
calls “human connection wellness.” She explains travelers want to interact one-on-one
with the local population and get an authentic insight into a different world.
Alapat explained that visits with Maasai tribes
to see how jewelry is made are very popular as are visits to the last hunter-gatherer
tribe, the Hadzabes in the remote Lake Eyasi region. She said: “These tribe
members chose to keep their ancient ways of life in this modern world though
wide cracks are forming in their lifestyle. One 16-year old client told me he
wishes people would not force change on them as what we perceive as 'backward'
is actually a happier, earth-based lifestyle, and we could all learn from them.
That is the type of response that is rewarding.”
Spa treatments in unique locations: Africa lends
itself to superb wellness experiences because of the proximity to nature, with
many lodges offering massages in exceptionally beautiful and secluded places,
said Jonty Medcalf, head of sales for Go2Africa. He explained that at the
Twelve Apostles Hotel in Cape Town, South
Africa, travelers can enjoy a massage in the outdoor gazebo overlooking the
For Arnelle Kendall, vice
president of public relations for the Travel Corporation, Bushmans
Kloof Wilderness Reserve Wellness Retreat,
located in the Cederberg Mountains, is the place to be. The retreat recently
won a Crystal Award for Africa in the 2016 Wellness Travel Awards.