Sitting with Lara Delafield, Wellness Consultant for the Great Plains Conservation’s beautiful camps and lodges across Africa, I watch the words fall from her lips like petals from a wildflower in the wind. Petals so beautiful and intricate and complex that I gaze at each one, rapt by their individual and united beauty. Listening to her words as she talks about what wellness means to her, something in me changes.
Our discussion about the philosophy of Zarafa Camp and Duba Plains Camp in Botswana, Mpala Jena Camp in Zimbabwe, and Mara Plains Camp and ol Donyo Lodge in Kenya, leads us into the woods, the wild woods, and I feel as though I am sitting on my deck watching the curious waterbuck and peculiar topi, the wildebeest herds and hippo pods, the swimming elephants and tree-climbing leopards.
Our discussion turns quickly to ourselves, because Lara’s words are universal. They apply as much to a guest in a lodge in the Okavango as to two women in a city coffee shop or a Maasai herder walking across the open plains.
“Create from the unknown. Sit in nature in peace. Feel the expressions of energy in motion, the “just is”. Move the energy through your body and out,” Lara says. “Wellness is about your ability to regulate yourself and create happiness for yourself. The healthiest people know who they are, what they need and where they need to be to tend to their energy. They move toward certain ambiances, exercises, and practices. Self-discipline, nature, belief in something higher, anything that positively affects your state of being, that is wellness.”
At the lodges and camps in Africa, Lara and the Great Plains Conservation have focused on the healing power of nature particularly, using what she calls, “nature therapy, ecological intelligence, energy medicine.”
“Emotions and stress cause so many illnesses. Mental health is a big problem in the wold, more so than obesity. People want to find quick fixes. The way we are living, with comparative social media, only adds to the anxiety of life. At the lodges, we try to expand people’s awareness about other ways of living. We focus on going back to nature.”
“Being in that untouched environment has such a huge positive impact on people. It’s a return to their roots, with people (guides, therapists we call wellness concierges, and managers) who are grounded and wise. Nature is uncomplicated and beautiful. It has seasons like us and it doesn’t analyse them.”
“And there is the contribution element that adds to the sense of wellness people feel out in the bush. When travellers visit with local communities, and see how much joy people living with so little have, witness people living in the now, in the moment, excited by simple things, it changes them, opens their eyes. When people give back and support community and conservation projects like the ones the Great Plains Conservation runs, it uplifts them.”
The petals keep falling all around me, and I feel my own spirit lifting. I feel that sense of all being right with the world. Lara continues, “I believe in the biology of belief. If you believe that only medicine will cure you then only medicine will cure you. If you can believe in other possibilities, like that you are responsible for yourself, things happen in response to what you feel, who you are, what you attract. I was taught, ‘If it is to be, it’s up to me’. My dad used to tell me that.”
Whether in the Selinda, the Maasai Mara or the Chyulu Hills, the Great Plains Conservation has set up different ways to help bring people back to themselves, to nature, to life.
“Sometimes you have to comfortably push people out of their comfort zone, because you don’t know what you don’t know… Within the camps, we try to take people back to themselves and connect them with their families, sitting all together, taking away WIFI in central areas, taking people back to real connection, back to what fundamentally matters. We help people to feel a part of something, we help them to simplify things and not overanalyse.”
And then there are the spa treatments… using natural ingredients and treatments that go deeper.
“We aim to help people process their past and emotions with treatments like the renewal treatment,” Lara says, “shedding the old and creating the new, with exfoliations and body brushing. People are often quite moved by it. What we’re trying to do on another level is help people let go of things holding them back, to feel and be better and move forward and take something back home with them. People need support. People are looking for relief. We help awaken the senses, because people’s senses are dulled through life.”
“Sometimes we purposefully dull them ourselves,” I add.
Empowering the housekeepers and concierges for overall wellbeing is another tenant to the philosophy at Great Plains Conservation.
“We work with the concierges in energy and self-worth training, because when you meet someone and touch someone, you have a huge impact on them. We make them aware of global wellness, but also ask them what wellness means to them. Between us, we share ideas of our different cultures and wellness wisdom and we grow. In our treatments, we bring in the wisdom of the local terrain and the healing properties of plants, and the strength and beauty of the local people.”
“Everything is consciously done at Great Plains,” Lara adds. “We use sustainable products, vegan products and natural elements in the spa, reducing any negative impact on the environment. The food is natural and wholesome, with gluten-free and sugar-free options. Zarafa Camp even has a raw food chef. In this environment, you see people’s joy coming back, because they’re not getting flustered with everyday busyness and things. Life should be abundant and joyful.”
Lara has been through a journey of her own, starting with completing a psychology degree, working at other lodges in camp management, travelling overseas, working in corporate set-ups, and then going into personal training, NLP coaching and reflexology and starting the first woman’s gym in Durban, South Africa. Her current work focusing on inspiring people and using nature as a tool. Nature is what inspires her, along with people who have gone through adversity and persevered and achieved.”
Spending time with her, spending time in the healing hands of a Great Plains Conservation wellness concierge in the heart of the Zambezi National Park or Kenyan plains or remote Botswanan wilderness, I am inspired. I feel that abundance and joy of life. I feel my senses restored and my feet ready to seek out more dusty paths and fireside gatherings with new friends. “If it is to be, it’s up to me,” I remind myself. A chant for a new life.