Being in nature involves a good deal more than a travel experience. How about deepening your connection to the natural world at these evocative spots?

A spiritual awakening

Mapungubwe National Park

To say there’s something mystical and magical about Mapungubwe is an understatement. One of the park’s most spiritual spots, Mapungubwe Hill, is not only a sacred place, but also a gateway to exploring the concepts of time, society and living in balance with nature, as well as your personal journey on our green planet. In this timeless landscape of towering baobabs it soon becomes clear that nature is the golden thread binding us all together through the centuries. The park’s rich and gripping history proves we are irrefutably deeply connected, spiritually and emotionally, to our natural heritage. – Arnold Ras

Make it happen: Book your guided tour of Mapungubwe Hill by sending an email to [email protected] or calling +27 (0)15 534 7923/4/5.

A yoga retreat

De Hoop Nature Reserve

You may think that yoga is a physical practice. And you would be right. There are many, and sometimes life-changing, physical benefits to doing asana (the physical aspect of yoga.) But that is simply a small fraction of how a consistent yoga practice will enrich your life. . Even if you walk into your first yoga class as I did, with a purely physical goal in mind, with time the true essence of the practice will start to creep up on you. Without noticing you will suddenly find yourself feeling a resonance with “that hippy crap” or that “spiritual rubbish.” . Because it has not been preached to you by someone standing behind a pulpit, dictating to you how to live, pray, behave. You have FELT it. While your physical eyes and ears were sleeping, your soul saw and heard the truth, and from there it was integrated into your physical being, and settled into your very bones, until one day the penny dropped. . This might be a profound, eye-opening, mind-blowing single moment of epiphany for you; or, more likely, it will be a slow but steady integration into your life, like a dripping tap slowly but steadily filling a bowl to overflowing, bringing a deep and abiding inner peace. . Yoga has calmed my inner storms, saved me from despair, and brought me back to myself through many hardships and heartbreaks. It has taught me to step back, observe and only then react. It has taught me the value of listening with my soul, not just my ego. . So, go try your first yoga class. I dare you . 📷 More incredible photography by @migalvanas

A post shared by Raine (@raine.bodypoetry) on

There is something undeniably appropriate about being in tree pose amongst ancient milkwoods, or eagle pose while fish eagles call. “In yoga, many poses relate to trees or animals and the root of the practice is about finding nature inside of yourself,” explains Iyengar yoga instructor Marianne Wiid from My Yoga Space. In Iyengar yoga, the focus is on sequencing and holding poses. Yesterday afternoon, on the beach at Koppie Alleen, you watched whales while standing on your head. As you practise your asanas today, there are thousands of waterbirds on the vlei and eland and bontebok all around the Opstal area. “We have such a beautiful rhythm at De Hoop, starting early and soaking up the serene environment. The reserve has that open space that opens up the mind and your whole being.” – Dianne Tipping-Woods

Make it happen: Visit De Hoop Collection for rates and bookings.

Transformative travel has become a global trend. A deeper bond with wild places may change your life. – Dianne Tipping-Woods

A massage in the forest

Garden Route National Park

There are very few environments where we can have all our senses stimulated so pleasantly. Forest guide and massage therapist Meagan Vermaas, who has been guiding and offering forest massages since 2011, works with the incredible sensory environment of the forest to relax the body and mind. “There is a Japanese term, shinrin-yoku, which means forest bathing. It is a recognised relaxation and stress management activity in Japan,” she explains. It’s a beautiful feeling to lie in the embrace of the Knysna forest as the light filters through the canopy of trees while strong hands massage away your tensions. As you relax, sounds are distorted, the air feels different and everything seems balanced, connected and alive, including you. – DTW

Make it happen: Stay at Diepwalle Forest camping decks in your own or a hired tent or unwind at the four-star Harkerville Forest Treetop Chalet. Book on the SANParks website or call SANParks Central Reservations on +27 (0)12 428 9111. Forest Massage offers single or double massage appointments in the comfort of your holiday accommodation.

Meditate in the mountains

uKhahlamba-Drakensberg World Heritage site

You may well wonder if the place has become a part of you, or if you have become part of it. Mornings in the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg can feel like a precious gift you have given yourself. “‘It feels like my life has just begun again’ is something I hear regularly at the end of our retreats in the Kamberg Valley of the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg,” says Buddhist monk Kelsang Jampel. A student of meditation since 2006, Jampel says: “The experience is about learning to understand your life as a place of virtually limitless possibilities.” Jampel adds that being in a place with lots of space, like the “beautiful, quiet, peaceful and perfect” Drakensberg, can be transformative, “because we can draw on the park’s stillness and sense of limitlessness to tap into our own potential for stillness and limitlessness.” – DTW

Make it happen: To book a chalet at Kamberg Nature Reserve, visit Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s website. Want to find out more about meditation retreats?