A few years back, the mention of the word yoga wouldn’t get people talking. The new fitness craze is now growing, attracting hoteliers selling yoga holidays.
Fatuma’s Tower in Lamu is one of the hotels drawing yoga lovers. In addition to sunset dhow rides and incredible sea food, the 18th century medieval-styled house tucked away in a village, surrounded by beautiful flowering trees and housing birds is where tourists check in to meditate and stretch as they listen to chirping sounds in the background of a light sea breeze.
Kenya is becoming one of the popular yoga destinations in Africa, coming third after South Africa and Morocco. India, Morocco and Zanzibar have been attracting thousands of foreign tourists seeking peace through mediation as they stretch besides the ocean.
In Kenya, safari tours and beach holidays are now being arranged locally for enthusiasts who want to enjoy private yoga retreats.
Lamu yoga festival attracts many people who go on holiday to do hatha, pranayama and meditation yoga. Yoga followers can also go for Safari-themed retreats in Masai Mara and the expansive Mount Kenya region.
Kelly Alomba, the vice chair of Lamu yoga festival, says it attracts both local and international yoga enthusiasts with 240 yogis participating in this year’s event that was held in March.
“Next March, we expect bigger numbers of about 350 participants from around the globe with 25 instructors,” he says.
Lamu Island is a perfect retreat where one gets to stretch and do breathing exercises in pristine and unpolluted environment with no traffic.
Other wellness centres located on the island include Banana House where tourists can enjoy the sweeping view of Shela from the comfort of their rooms, take turtle hatching trips, do yoga and get pampered in the spa.
Villas Diani in the coast is also a one-stop shop for lovers of yoga with an open air fitness centre and a trainer. Kinondo Kwetu on Diani Beach also offers a wellness sessions for guests who want to practice yoga.
Kelly says most of the yoga retreats are organised in partnership by the various fitness studios for both local and foreign tourists with one that was held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in June and another planned for April next year in Rome, Italy.
Acacia Studios in Nairobi is one of those that arrange yoga safaris around the country every year, giving one an opportunity to travel as well as practice yoga in a serene environment.
This November, the studio house is planning a four-day safari retreat to the Maasai Mara with three sessions of yoga every day.
These trips range from Sh120,000 to Sh160,000 per person full-board and include game drives and transport to and from Maasai Mara. The travel yogi is one of the websites that organises yoga retreats internationally with Kenya, South Africa, Morocco, Zanzibar and Egypt in their list of destinations.
Nanyuki and Naivasha are also famous for yoga as the areas offer relaxing environment with little noise and air pollution.
Although most of the retreat centres are small, secluded getaways tucked in various cities, boutique hotels and safari camps are also taking up the challenge, including yoga in their activities list.
Tribe Hotel, Serena Hotel, Nyali International Beach Hotel & Spa and others have included yoga into the list of their spa services.
“At first yoga was viewed as a religious cult in Kenya but the introduction of the retreats has helped demystify this notion,” says Kelly.