By Kym Staton
10th Dec, 2016
After descending into a hidden valley, crossing a smooth flowing river and climbing a staircase between lush green trees, I eventually found myself in the gardens of Govinda Valley, with a water drop shaped wind chime resonating in the light breeze that flowed gently between the trees. I’d only been here three minutes and already felt a palpable sense of quietude and calmness. I was greeted with a beaming smile by a lady who introduced herself as Aki, who invited me up to the dining room and offered me tea.
Ghandi said: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’. The sanskrit word ‘Seva’ means a service which is performed without any expectation of result or award for performing it. Such services can be performed to benefit other human beings or society. When the Govinda Valley Retreat Centre was established in 2006 the essential vision was to serve. To provide a peaceful, nurturing and nourishing facility to all, regardless of their chosen path of spiritual practice, and a comfortable environment for people of Sydney and beyond to conduct retreats, seminars and conferences. The retreat has hosted hundreds of vibrant and successful groups and events in that time, and established a solid reputation for delicious healthy food, refreshingly helpful and personalised service, excellent facilities and a unique location offering access to ocean and bush.
I was soon greeted by the cheerful and warm Radha – the retreats’ bookings manager – who guided me through the facilities and grounds. The setting of this wonderful establishment is nothing short of sublime. Nestled in a peaceful valley between majestic mountains and amongst the pristine wilderness of Otford Valley, its bordered by a flowing creek and the beautiful Royal National Park and south pacific ocean lies beyond its eastern mountain. The property is surrounded and embraced by nature.
The location is very practical, just one hour from Sydneys’ CBD or thirty minutes from wollongong by car, and only five minutes walk from Otford train station. There are a myriad of gorgeous spots to explore in the local area, such as the dazzling Bald Hill lookout, and popular surf beach Stanwell Park just a few minutes away by car.
Heading into the building, I was blown-away by the vibe of their event spaces, which comprise of a large ground-floor 135m2 hall (which can fit up to 250 seated guests or 75 yoga mats), a smaller 65m2 hall (sixty seats or 20 yoga mats). These spaces are really gorgeous and inviting, bright, airy and naturally lit with big windows and leafy views. There is a large dining hall that seats 72 people inside and thirty on the balcony. There is also a therapy room which is ideal for one-to-one consultations and treatments such as massage or counselling.
It was glorious to stroll through the grounds and check out the facilities, down pathways lined with gumtrees and resplendent with bottle brush flowers in full bloom. The expansive thirty acre property has a volleyball court, half basketball court, bonfire areas, verandas with seating and spacious grassy areas that are great for meditation or outdoor activities. It even has an outdoor wood-fire pizza oven – nothing like the taste of fresh crispy pizza!
Radha showed me the range of accommodation options which include six twin-share ensuites and ten quad-share dorm rooms. The total combined total accommodation capacity of the centre is fifty people, plus there is space for campers and an additional option to allow more people to attend events. If a retreat planner attracts forty or more people they can have exclusive use of the property.
The team are clearly experts at hosting retreats and providing personalised services to meet the needs of yoga practitioners, speakers and event planners to plan and run their dream retreat. Their team of enthusiastic volunteers and staff will take care of all the cooking leaving the practitioner to do what they do best. The support for your event can be as little as accommodation and meals, or as much as arranging practitioners to enhance your events where Govinda Valley’s team can book in a therapists or teachers from their extensive local contacts which allows you to add things like massage, yoga, meditation or cooking lessons to your retreat program.
As we concluded the tour, although I’d only been at the centre for an hour, I noticed the Otford Valley – with its nest-like setting amongst hills and mountains had a unique, calming and comforting effect on me. As if reading my mind, a short time later Radha explained that traditionally the Otford Valley area was used as a birthing and healing centre by the Aboriginal natives. I was also told that the centre often gets visited by deer, parrots, kookaburra and kangaroos. Perhaps its the frequent sounds of joyful kirtans, mantra chanting or drumming that attracts them.. or the fact that only vegetarian food is served at the centre, making it seem like an inherently safe place to visit..
I enjoyed my visit and tour and can conclude that GV is truly a magical place. Its a place where spirituality, physical fitness, learning, networking and personal growth is supported by a special peace and serenity. Its a place to reconnect to the nature and life within you and around your. A place to find peace of mind, contentment and discover inner wellness. The volunteers and staff who run this wonderful facility are very evidently putting the art of seva into practice on a daily basis through their passion and commitment, and are working hard to make Govinda Valley Retreat Centre a joyful and spirited place of heart and kindness, and a hub of healing and growth!
Check out this promo video tour!