Wellness Tourism in Africa for Holidays Beyond the Spa

The Rise of Wellness Travel in Africa 

The nature of travel is changing, evolving, and this time it’s the wellness industry that is moving beyond the spa to offer revitalized holiday experiences in nature. The new era of wellness travel moves beyond the spa into niche feel-good holidays. Africa offers unique wellness tourism destinations and experiences in nature. The buzzwords ‘wellness tourism’ permeate travel sites and holiday packages. At the same time, hotels and lodges gear up for revamped wellness facilities including unique spa experiences, state-of-the-art gyms, outdoor yoga classes and fitness challenges second to none. 

man getting a massage on the mountain side with views of the river and bush in Kruger National Park
Surrounded by wilderness and birdsong, at one with nature, you can choose from a menu of African-signature massages and be pampered to your hearts-content.

There is a noticeable rise in wellness travel, also dubbed wellness tourism, sports travel, endorphin travel, and nature pilgrimages. From the outdated spa movement to the updated outdoors movement, travellers are seeking rewilding holidays, yoga and meditation retreats, healing, detox and nutrition escapes and active hikes, challenges and races in the great outdoors of exotic destinations.  

Millennials Lead a New Obsession for Wellness Travel

In fact, there is a definite obsession emerging for travel with a wellness focus. Some say that the desire for healing and feel-good holidays is becoming an unnatural or unhealthy syndrome. But the fact is that people want their health back, and they want long-term health and they are going to seek it. Therefore, it follows that the travel industry jumps on board to offer exclusive retreats and wellness programmes to suit diverse needs and age groups. 

Millennials are driving trends these days and since Covid, they want to be healthy and spend their money on travel to destinations where they can experience fitness, health and well-being. They also desire connection with other cultures, volunteering for good causes and offering their time for conservation or community projects in the trends of climate change and sustainable travel. It goes to show that eco-travel and wellness tourism go hand in hand for people and the planet.

Holistic Health Therapies Can Fix ‘Permanxiety’

It is a global fact that the world has entered a phase of ‘permanxiety’ or permanent anxiety as there is so much to worry about no matter where people live. Most employees get leave once a year which they want to use wisely to rejuvenate mind and body. Many of them aim to learn something new and to benefit holistically so that they can return to work refreshed and ready for more stress and mayhem (ahem). 

Blue Zebra Island Lodge Lake Malawi National Park
Re-balance your mind, body & soul when going on a holiday organized by us. We will tailor-make a package to your exact needs.

Some people choose a serene spiritual retreat to recharge their batteries, forest bathing, rewilding and doing yoga on a bamboo deck somewhere glorious like a yacht on the ocean or a Balinese forest or a Swiss mountain top. Others want to get out there on a fitness challenge in harsh climatic conditions and run a rough trail, hike to the top of an undiscovered mountain, ice climb a new waterfall, go caving, skydiving or base jumping. Then again, some adventure holidaymakers are feeling the urge to give back and be active in unique community-driven and cultural education ways or volunteering for conservation. 

Wellness Tourism and Volunteering Holidays

Unique escapes can take explorers to Africa or South America to get involved in rhino tracking and collaring, monitoring African wild dogs, saving the whales and diving with dolphins. Others include patrolling national park fences to apprehend poachers, saving animals caught in snares, and feeding wild animals in captivity. Gorilla trekking is another thrilling way to learn more about endangered species and their vulnerable habitats. In addition, many community projects await foreign participation in South Africa, from schools and colleges to sports development programmes and feeding schemes.

Endorphin Wellness Holidays Beyond the Spa

The obsession to make the most of time and to get a kick out of instant gratification is seeing the boost in the endorphin tourism movement. This is the active set who want to pit themselves against others in a bid to relax by sweating and pushing their bodies and minds to the extreme. Thrilling adventures mean shunning traditional beach holidays, snorkeling excursions and gentle forest walks. 

Group of friends snorkeling off a boat in Lake Malawi
Did you know? Lake Malawi offers some of the best freshwater snorkeling and diving in the world.

Now there is a need to hike for days, run trails for days, and explore beautiful scenery while on the move. These fitness holidays incorporate special programmes for customised nutrition and exercise plans, healing and alternative lifestyles based on mindful cultures – this is not a ‘new normal’ but a ‘no normal’ according to those in the travel trend now. These obsessed fitness freaks measure everything they do on special gadgets and dress in branded sports gear every day. Add to this cycling holidays, surfing breaks, kite surfing thrills and fishing forays, and tailor-made wellness retreats are informed by the personalities and needs of that person. It was Maslow who defined the hierarchy of basic human needs in this order:

  • Physiological needs are air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing, and reproduction.
  • Safety needs are personal security, employment, resources, health, and property.
  • Love and belonging needs are friendship, intimacy, family, and a sense of connection.
  • Esteem needs are respect, self-esteem, status, recognition, strength, and freedom.
  • Self-actualisation needs are the desire to become the most that one can be. 

Pilgrimages are Spiritual Walking Wellness Holidays

Pilgrimages are part of the wellness tourism movement but they offer a spiritual dimension and a sense of gentleness instead of hectic go, go, go.  Many walkers love the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James, an extensive network of ancient pilgrim routes, with a very popular route, the Camino Francés, stretching from the city of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port at the base of the French Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. The Camino was historically a religious pilgrimage to the tomb of St. James and today many people (about 25%) still walk for religious or spiritual reasons.

A waiter serving drinks to a guest in the pool
Relax and have your favorite drink or cocktail in the pool!

Some travelers want to concentrate on eating or not eating (detoxing)- and doing yoga or Pilates at the same time. Nutrition and healing therapies such as Ayurvedic medicine and indigenous plant medicine retreats or foraging breaks in forests and on coasts add to this. Meditation assists these travelers to look within and find meaning in their busy lives.

Apparently, the wellness tourism industry worldwide is worth some $450 billion and is growing so fast that it will soon reach $1 trillion by 2030! Society’s obsession with the concept of being well and seeking well-being is presently a $3.7 trillion industry and it’s not stopping there! 

Defining Wellness Tourism as a Billion-Dollar Industry 

Defining wellness tourism is like this: combine the word ‘wellness’ and its entire industry with the word ‘tourism’ and its entire industry to form an even more massive and influential trend for the future! The African continent stands to benefit enormously from this new beyond-the-spa trend in travel. As eco-lodges respond to responsible tourism, wellness retreats can respond to the need for travelers to have quality time out in nature, in silence and in an uncrowded space. 

Many of these destinations can also educate visitors to continue their programmes when they get back home, at recommended organizations or health or medical facilities. The ripple effect of this wellness and health trend is far-reaching and mind-boggling. Wellness is that phase beyond ill health when a patient wants to stay better and maintain a healthy lifestyle, reduce stress, prevent disease and enhance mental and physical well-being. 

A woman having a bath at the spa with the ocean right behind her in the Maldives
What better way to relax than a bath right by the ocean, with views out of this world.

People worldwide fear terminal illnesses and chronic diseases. These are not relenting with the increase in intense weather patterns and climate changes, natural disasters and more. It’s therefore natural that travellers seek out safe retreats to get away from all of this uncertainty and anxiety and escape their technology-driven lifestyles. Most people seem to lead lives separate from nature and silence, constantly bombarded with their devices, their addictions and their ongoing consumerist existences. 

Weird and Quaint Wellness Therapies Added to the Cart 

The quainter the better, the weirder the better and the more removed from normal life the better – have you ever heard of ‘sylvotherapy’ (aka forest bathing), boot camps, chakra refuges and laughter yoga before? These are the therapies people want to try. Keep moving, even if it’s herding goats on a mountain pass, running a marathon while meditating or scavenging for mushrooms in a forest. 

“In the Wimberly Allison Tom & Goo (WATG) paper “Resort Wellness; Beyond the Spa”, this selection of trends and areas of growth within the wellbeing industry are analysed, and the hotel industry in particular is placed under the microscope. The paper also explores the expansion of wellness from a niche industry, offered primarily on a spa treatment menu, to a global economy which is intertwined with sustainability and embraced by developers and architects, who seek to bring the outside in.”

There is a definite link between physical fitness and general health and remember that a healthy mind causes a healthy body and a healthy body causes a healthy mind. The new era of wellness travel moves beyond the spa into niche feel-good holidays. Africa offers unique wellness tourism destinations and experiences in nature. Wellness holidays are a niche market and we have found it too!

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