By: Matthew Koehorst

Perched atop a knoll between two deep valleys filled with magical indigenous forests and flowing streams sits Khoinana, an 18 hectare piece of land named in honour of the early people who used to belong – body, mind and soul – to this part of the world.

Khoinana, located on the western border of the Tsitsikamma National Park just 25 kilometres east of Plettenberg Bay, is home to the Wild Spirit Backpackers, and has provided a haven for travellers from around the world for the past 68 years.

house_2The setting is spectacular, overlooking deep, forested valleys with Outeniqua Yellowwoods spreading their ancient arms above the canopy. It is a few kilometres inland from Nature’s Valley, where a placid lagoon to the east and Salt River cove to the west meets the oft pounding sea of the Indian Ocean at one of South Africa’s most beautiful beaches.

At the centre of the Wild Spirit Backpackers and Lodge is community, and the meeting place of this community is surely the old log cabin with a roaring fire, massive deck and comfortable couches fit for conversations and musical events that can extend late into the night. It was in this lounge, sitting by the fire, surrounded by loving cats and dogs, that I met Jenny Lawrence, owner and custodian of Khoinana for the past 33 years.house_4

We got to talking and Jenny told me of how she is often drawn into conversation with her guests as they contemplate the future of our planet and the challenges it faces. They speak of climate change, their disillusionment, information overloading and their sense of helplessness in the face of it all. In response, Jenny feels that “it is time to evaluate

how we can deepen our inner lives, rebuild community in a broad way and find ways to renew our commitment to a set of values that will ensure a sustainable life for all”.

Towards this end, from May next year, Khoinana will be hosting a series of retreat-workshops that will aim to engage and empower participants in their own spiritual, artistic, or intellectual journeys. The workshops, run by a collection of talented and inspired facilitators, will focus on returning house_3agency, intentionality and wisdom to individuals. They in turn will become part of an international community of inspired thinkers and doers who move beyond devastating inertia into a dynamic process of action, connectivity and positive engagement with world issues.

Above and beyond offering these workshops and retreats, Khoinana is gradually moving towards renewable energy, experimenting with a variety of ways to minimise their ecological footprint. The lodge is a must visit for anyone passing along the beautiful garden route, from young travellers looking for a base from which to launch adventures, to couples hoping for a peaceful escape, while still being able to socialise with likeminded travellers on occasion.

For more information on the amazing Wild Spirit Lodge, visit

For information on upcoming retreats and workshops from next year, which promise to be a treat for the soul, body and mind, email Jenny Lawrence directly at