For my twenty-seventh birthday I was gifted a stay at Mana Retreat Centre, a mind-body-spirtual retreat in the Coromandel. I've been fortunate to venture to a few health retreats now, and while the common thread is wellness, they're each so different. Mana's vibe was down-to-earth, wholesome and grounded - the surroundings were green and spacious, the food was insanely good, and the staff would greet you warmly - like a friend!
Where is it? Hidden up a long snaking driveway, Mana Retreat is nestled within the Coromandel Ranges, about a two hour drive from Auckland, New Zealand's largest city. The surrounding rolling hills and bush are densely draped in emerald greenery, and from the retreats endless vantage points you can see the ocean waters of the Coromandel peninsula afar.
Built into the land are simple wooden lodges and huts for guests, as well as an extensive veggie garden, fruit trees, idyllic hammocks dotted between trees, a sauna, a meditation and yoga deck, kitchen and dining quarters, and the octagonal room where yoga classes, workshops and retreats are hosted. Spiralling off the property are numerous walking tracks that take you through bush, up mountains, to waterfalls, and down deep into the valley.
Mana Retreat offers a WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) work exchange program, where they host an abudance of travellers from around the world in exchange for work at the retreat, whether contributing to the function of the centre or organic gardens, assisting guests or helping in the kitchen. Their volunteer team was very multi-culutral - you hear many accents!
Vegetarian food wizards
Mana Retreat serve vegetarian cuisine only, and by golly it was some of the best vegetarian food I've had. The chefs were seriously on point.
Their meals really celebrate fresh produce, much of which is grown in the Mana gardens. They serve local and seasonal food, and aim to use organic wherever possible. They make much of their own muesli and sauces, and preserve when seasonal produce is abundant.
The main meal of the day was lunch, with the logic of this is when we're most active, with a lighter soup and salad then in the evening. Given we were on the later end of Autumn, warming dishes were on the menu and so we enjoyed soups, curries and dahls. There was always a sweet treat at the end of the day - something wholesome and delicious. I loved the hot drinks station, which ran 24/7 - there was knobs of ginger, fresh lemon, fennel seeds, cocoa powder and an assortment of tea, whether freshly brewed or dried, for you to enjoy to your hearts content.
A typical day
Each morning began just after 7am with group meditation or tai chi session. Afterwards you'd float into the breakfast room with other retreaters to share the morning meal - even my introverted self loved meal times, to catch up and share the experience with others on retreat.
Following this would be a group activity, such as a guided walk. All was optional - you could go adventuring yourself, or pop into their library with a book to whittle away the morning.
Lunch was just after 1pm, and then more quiet time - I headed up the mountain on a few occasions (the highest mountain can see all the way to Auckland city! It also has a massive crystal dug into the earth at the tip, because well, why not *arms shrugging emoji*), explored the garden, got a massage - but spent most of the time in the library with a book, where I read Harry Potter for the 14th million time. Before dinner was an optional yoga class, and then the day would wind up early - followed by a deep sleep!
Situated above Mana Retreat Centre is the Tara Sanctuary, a non-denomiational (meaning not restricted to any specific or particularly religious denomination) space to encourage joy, contemplation, peace and inspiration.
The tranquil spot is accessible via a short but steep twenty minute walk through native bush. The walk itself is magical - the quicker trek is via the 'goddess path', which is dotted with goddess statues sitting in trees or on the forest floor, at different turns. Walking the path felt like moving meditation - you can't help but be in the moment and feel hyperaware of your surroundings.
The Sanctuary, a silent space overlooking the ocean, has been designed based off sacred geometry, with beautiful coloured stained glass windows and bells that chime producing the most incredible acoustics. The place definitely transcends a feeling of awe - a must visit if you're staying at Mana Retreat!
To summarise - Mana retreat is a gem of a place. I like that it's far more affordable than other retreats, as they can pretty expensive.
If you're curious, but nervous, about doing a retreat alone, I encourage you to take the plunge! I think retreats are most rewarding done alone - it encourages you to go with the flow, and the people you meet are incredible - you bond quickly. The amount of deep and meaningful chats you have with, what are really, complete strangers, is almost comical - must be something in the air at retreats. Ultimately, you're all there for different reasons, you're all on different journeys, but there's a vuneralbity and openess within the space. Thanks Mana Retreat!