Body and soul pampered by nature
by Sven-Eric Kanzler
The body is enveloped in warm water. Jets take turns to massage the back, legs and feet. Soft music is floating through the room.
And the gaze wanders dreamily out of the window, where the African bush savannah expands beyond the horizon…
This underwater massage with a view is offered at Gocheganas Wellness Village, about 30 km south-east of Windhoek in the heart of the Gocheganas Nature Reserve.
Even before arriving, sensations of wellbeing start to take hold. From the entrance to the farm-turned-private-nature-reserve, the road winds around trees and bushes, over hills and through dry riverbeds.
The reserve was not named by chance. In the Khoekhoegowab language Gocheganas means “Place of camel-thorn trees, rich in ‘candelabra’ acacias”.
Suddenly three giraffes appear next to the track and look at us curiously. Wildebeest and springbok are grazing further away on the plain.
A hill rises from this plain, with the Wellness Village on top – quite inconspicuously, though, as thatched roofs and natural stone blend into the environment.
One last steep bit and you’ve arrived. You feel sheltered right away. On top of the ridge a total of 16 chalets with views over the plain below are grouped right and left of the driveway, which ends in front of a restaurant with a high thatched roof and a gallery with a library and seating for reading.
A window front as tall as a man offers views of the magnificent scenery. If you prefer, you can have your coffee or tea in the shade on the terrace outside and with binoculars scan the plain for game.
There is also the air-conditioned bar with panoramic views of almost 360 degrees. A few steps further, at the very edge of the ridge is a small amphitheatre, just the place for star-gazing or spending the evening around a campfire.
The Wellness Village was planned with great love and care, with a wealth of ideas and great attention to detail. Ingo and Sabine Stritter, the “architects” of the village, as well as their parents, Annemarie and Udo Stritter, are smiling at me, visibly pleased about my speechless enthusiasm.
“The layout of the village takes the shape of a human body, with the buildings marking energy points,” Ingo explains. “In this way architecture has been combined with our concept of wellness.” His wife, Sabine, shows me around.
Three round buildings – all built from natural stone and thatched – house the treatment rooms with massage bath, shower bath and several chaise longues. Their names are also taken from nature: mica, feldspar and quartz are the minerals contained in the granites of the area.
The healing properties of rock are emphasised in the centre’s main building as well: the heated indoor pool, complete with fruit buffet and juice bar, is lined with imposing pillars which carry an arched granite dome – a temple of wellness.
The indoor pool, like the one outside, is filled with spring water and offers splendid views.
The “granite bath” is a real gem. Ingo Stritter calls it “adventure sauna”, and rightfully so. Again, natural stone has been used for a cave-like atmosphere that creates a primeval sense of being sheltered. Daylight filters into the grotto through a small opening covered with a glass dome.
Part of the adventure consists of a huge swivel with which hot stones can be swung from the stove into the water basin, which looks like a well. “This is Ingo’s very special design, and he is rather proud of it,” Sabine Stritter says with a twinkle in her eye. “There is no other contraption like this anywhere.”
The main building also houses a gym, of course.
Exercising equipment is placed in such a way that the African scenery can be enjoyed even while working out.
On the trainer bike, for example, you seem to be heading straight into nature. Sabine Stritter’s office is next to the gym. The trained physiotherapist advises guests, if they wish, and devises tailor-made programmes for them. A wide range of treatments is available: physiotherapeutic and osteopathic, as well as aromatherapy and personality training.
When it comes to massages alone, the choice is between reflexology and Swedish massage, lymph drainage, hot Stone massage, connective tissue and Indian head massage, as well as craniosacral therapy. Face, hands and body are pampered with internationally known products of the Rosa Graf and ThalassO ranges. (The latter, by the way, are partly produced in Lüderitz.) Sabine Stritter is assisted by four to six trained health and skin-care therapists.
Guests are pampered not only on the outside, but also on the inside: Gocheganas’ kitchen dishes up the most mouth-watering meals. “Lots of vegetables, lots of fruit, prepared in a healthy way – and above all, fresh” as Ingo Stritter, hotelier and a passionate chef, sums it up.
The salads are composed with the same inventiveness and attention to detail that is characteristic of the entire village. “But we don’t tell guests what to eat,” says Ingo. “If they want a steak, they’ll get it.”
After lunch it is time for a little nap. The chalets, with wooden floors and a cleverly designed bathroom (with a view, of course) are just as welcoming as everything else in Gocheganas. A guided tour through the nature re-serve is scheduled for the afternoon.
About 6 000 ha in size, the reserve is home to approximately 1 600 larger animals. The 20 game species include kudu, springbok, steenbok, klipspringer, Hartmann’s mountain and Burchell’s zebra, blue and black wildebeest, eland, giraffe, gemsbok, red hartebeest, jackal, cheetah and leopard.
Gocheganas is particularly proud of its white rhino.
Visitors are also fascinated by the rich variety of plants and birds. Apart from hiking tours there are game drives, also offered after dinner to give you a chance to experience the creatures of the night.
Above all, make an appointment for the ultimate massage experience: out of doors, in the lap of nature, with the bush savannah in front of you, the chirping of birds and the scent of acacias around you, feeling a soft breeze in your hair – and the skilful hands of the masseuse on your skin…
This article appeared in the April ‘04 edition of Travel News Namibia.
Photos courtesy of http://www.gocheganas.com/e_gallery.html