Photo: Nicholas Watt
Wild Luxury has introduced guided forest bathing at Sydney eco retreat Crane Lodge to encourage guests to immerse in the ancient forest surrounding the Palm Beach property and enjoy the healing properties of nature during their stay.
From the Japanese term ‘shinrin-yoku’, which translates to ‘absorbing the forest atmosphere’, forest bathing is based on the principle that spending time in nature can be deeply healing, with studies showing that nature therapy can benefit both mental and physical health.
To help guests tap into this enriching and restorative experience, Mayumi Kataoka from Forest Minds, a Certified Forest Therapy Guide with Japan Forest Therapy Society and International Nature and Forest Therapy Alliance, is offering guided forest bathing at Crane Lodge.
“Crane Lodge is surrounded by a beautiful, natural environment including thriving Australian fauna and flora and amazing, giant rocks covered in centuries-old lichen. One of the goals of a forest bathing experience is to make people feel at one with nature and remind them that we are a part of nature, and this bond between people and nature is already so strong at Crane Lodge. Watching and listening to the sounds of birds, the gentle movements of tree branches, and sunlight glistening through the tree canopy instantly calms the mind and that’s something we all need more of these days,” Mayumi said.
“Forest bathing is a great way to become more aware of nature and discover what it means to each individual and how vital it is that we appreciate and care for this precious resource. It is such a simple but profound concept - nature provides everything that we need to live, and forest bathing helps us understand the importance of our environment. The more we care about nature, the more we care about ourselves.”
The one-hour forest bathing experience at Crane Lodge includes a slow, meandering walk among the lodge’s leafy gardens and forest concluding with a Japanese tea ceremony.
Photo: Nicholas Watt
Crane Lodge Forest Bathing trail
Commencing on the deck of the lodge, guests are guided past a cedar hot tub to a massive boulder covered with epipetric Elkhorn ferns that forms the backdrop for a heated mineral pool, which has been designed to resemble a natural swimming hole.
After an introduction to shinrin-yoku, guests are guided on a discovery walk across the grassy backyard which is protected by a natural wall of towering palms and boulders, home to resident water dragons, and into the shade of a sprawling Port Jackson fig to ‘meet a tree’.
Following the path down the side of the lodge, guests are encouraged to tune their senses into nature and sink deeper into relaxation on a palm-fringed yoga deck with glorious views over the treetops.
Taking a path that gently winds down the front garden, guests are enveloped by lilly pillies and blueberry ashes mingling with Burrawang palms, grevilleas and westringia, in the shade of the towering ancient forest and lodge, which looks like a luxurious ‘tree house’ suspended high above in the canopy.
A seat invites guests to pause and listen to the soothing sounds of nature in an exercise called “tuning the senses”, before continuing on past a lichen-covered rock face and fragrant lemon myrtle trees.
A picturesque ride in an inclinator takes guests 30 metres above street level through the spotted gum forest and back to the lodge for a tea ceremony in the fire pit area, where Mayumi prepares traditional Japanese tea and snacks among ancient rocks underneath the fig tree, replete with a stunning view out to Avalon Beach.
How forest bathing can heal
Improves Mood – research has shown that forest bathing can be beneficial to our mental health, and reduce anxiety and depression, even for days after the experience
Improves Sleep – being in nature relaxes the body and mind, which can promote a more peaceful and nourishing sleep
Improves Focus – interacting with nature through a forest bath can help boost concentration and foster better self-awareness
Restoring native forest at Crane Lodge
Home to a lush garden flowing over more than 1800 square metres, Crane Lodge, a five-bedroom luxury eco-retreat on Sydney’s Barrenjoey Peninsula, is nestled amongst an array of endemic and endangered native plants including 22 towering Pittwater spotted gums which are the remnants of an ancient forest that covered the peninsula before colonisation.
After feeling a deep connection to the land, owner Kim Ellis enlisted the services of renowned landscape architect Matt Cantwell of Secret Gardens to restore the native forest, working to the local council’s strict biodiversity rulings as well as the NSW’s Biodiversity Conservation Act, which dictated that 80 per cent of new plantings must be endangered native species and 90 per cent must be endemic to the region. This meant the replanting had to focus on 45 key plant species which had largely been removed from the area.
In January 2020, as COVID set in, Matt and his team cleared the land of weeds before adding 3000 plants to the property over a period of 10 months. The result is a unique blend of tropical plants and Australian bush interspersed with striking boulders covered in lichens that are hundreds of years old, the perfect environment for forest bathing.
“The land has a very ancient feeling - I immediately felt this deep connection to it and this sense of it being a sanctuary. I want Crane Lodge guests to feel like they are being nurtured by nature and with up to 15 adults and children able to stay on the property at one time, I also want them to be able to find their own special place to read a book or hang out in a hammock, so there was a sense of personal relaxation aided by the restorative properties of nature,” Kim said.
Experience forest bathing at Crane Lodge as part of a special two-night wellness package. Priced from $7425* for up to eight guests ($928 per person), the package includes exclusive use of Crane Lodge for two nights, a forest bathing experience with Mayumi Katoaka from Forest Minds, one private chef three-course lunch or dinner, a private yoga class, a bottle of sparkling wine on arrival and late check-out at midday.
*Subject to availability, not available during peak periods
About Wild Luxury’s lodges:
Crane Lodge, Palm Beach
Nestled among endangered spotted gums high above Pittwater on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Crane Lodge is a luxurious 'tree house' that blends natural beauty with bespoke design. The exclusive-use lodge delivers an escape of the highest standard, from its stunning interiors featuring striking artwork and superb design to its lush, landscaped gardens which offer a forest bathing experience that immerses guests in the tranquility of nature. The lodge features five large bedrooms, spacious indoor and outdoor living areas, a heated swimming ’rock pool', cedar hot tub and a fire pit with views across the treetops.
Calabash Bay Lodge, Hawkesbury River
Flanked by National Parks and surrounded by ancient sandstone, Calabash Bay Lodge is only accessible by water offering the ultimate wild luxury experience on the Hawkesbury River. All four bedrooms and living areas look out to the riverfront and there is ample space to relax and recharge by the bioethanol fireplace, in the luxurious daybed or in one of the hanging chairs. Calabash guests can opt to stay in and soak up the surroundings with an optional on-site chef, masseuse or yoga teacher, or explore the river using the lodge’s boat, kayaks or stand-up paddle boards.
Photo: Michael Wee