Road test: The life-changing holiday

Holly Enriquez
Thursday, December 15, 2011
The Flying Fox at Camp Eden
Health & Wellbeing producer Holly Enriquez road-tested the transformative health retreat experience at Queensland's Camp Eden

Yup, that's me above, plunging off the edge of a platform to conquer Australia's largest flying fox. And that's not the only time I was taken out of my comfort zone during my week-long stay at Camp Eden Health Retreat — I dived off platforms, gritted my teeth through training sessions, went through caffeine withdrawals and asked myself the tough questions of life — and I would recommend the experience to anyone.

When deciding on where to spend my one-and-only holiday this year, I tossed around common destination options: Cairns, Fiji and Bali among them. But then when I reflected on the year I'd had (a pretty challenging one) I realised that I needed something a little different than a relax-by-the-beach holiday to de-stress, refocus and let go. And Camp Eden had caught my eye.

The website claims "Camp Eden Health Retreat is a place of inspiration and was created to restore your natural energy, re-discover balance and harmony, enhance your inner beauty and achieve a real sense of well-being.

"… the perfect place to jump-start your goals and we specialise in weight management; stress management; detox; personal development; changing habits; holistic body therapies & massage and spa beauty treatments." I booked it in.

Camp Eden Health Retreat is situated in the Hinterland's Currumbin Valley, 30 minutes' drive from Gold Coast airport (pick-ups from the airport are available). The backdrop of the expansive retreat grounds is Mt Cougall and a tropical rainforest. Not a bad way to spend a week really.

On day one I was welcomed by the charming Camp Eden staff and greeted by some equally-frazzled guests. The question I was asked by most of the guests (and a question I asked myself) was, "so, why are you here?" And indeed, everyone there was at Camp Eden for a reason: they wanted to quit smoking , they'd conquered disease, they were facing a challenging period during their life, or like me, the stress of work and too little "me time" had worn them down to breaking point. We were all ready to make a change.

A day at Camp Eden
A typical day at the retreat started at 5.45am. We were greeted by a knock on the door by a very chipper staffer, Frank (who has the most infectious laugh I have ever heard) and then make our way down to the gentle stretch class and Qi Gong. Then before breakfast at 8am, we all took a walk on either a challenging, medium or easy trek.

Then a day of activities, interspersed with gorgeous spa treatments, laid ahead. What I really liked about Camp Eden was that nothing was compulsory. You could do as little or as much as you like — you could jam-pack your holiday with activities, workouts and information sessions — or you could relax by the pool and spa with a book and wander down to the dining area for your meals.

And the activities list on offer was extensive: yoga, cardio classes, mountain biking, Zumba, kayaking, bush walking, cooking demonstrations, meditation and of course, the outdoor adventure activities. These included the "Flying Fox", "Power Pole" and "Braveheart".

I'm not going to lie. The "Power Pole" was one of the most terrifying things I have ever done — not being a big fan of heights. It involved getting attached to a safety harness (which was held from below by three strong men) and climbing straight up a pole which was seven metres off the ground. You then had to stand on top of a small platform, inch your way forward slowly, while the platform wobbles about below you and then launch yourself off and grab onto a trapeze bar which was positioned at different distances away from the pole, depending how brave you were feeling.

After you'd dangled for a few seconds, you were instructed to let go (eeek!) and were then lowered to the ground. Even though the first time I climbed the pole I was shaking and my heart was in my chest, I ended up doing it three times! My fellow stayers all cheered and patted me on the back afterwards and felt pretty darn invincible for a while after that.

The personal journey
Each evening we all had the option of participating in the personal development "Eden Program" which was conducted by motivational speaker and life coach Barry. During these sessions we looked at areas of our life that we were currently unhappy with and set goals for ourselves that we were going to achieve in the future. We also exchanged our details with a small group of other guests so we could keep each other motivated in the following weeks to make sure we were implementing our changes.

I made some realistic goals for myself, including meditating on a daily basis, learning how to cook myself delicious organic meals like the ones I had been eating at Camp Eden, committing to five exercise session per week and giving up my evil nemeses — white wine, diet coke and sugar.

But time spent at Camp Eden wasn't all launching myself off ledges, working up a sweat and inner reflection; I also spent a good amount of time in the spa and salt-water pool and soaking in the bathtub in my room, which overlooked the rainforest.

And of course I had some oh-so-indulgent treatments, including a naturopathic consultation, a reflexology/counselling session (fabulous) and the retreat's most popular massage: Ka Huna Bodywork, an "ancient Hawaiian bodywork that balances nourishes and heals the body and mind with gentle, deep tissue massage, joint rotations, stretches and dynamic energy with breath and music." A very slippery and indulgent experience!

I also treated myself to the pampering "Camp Eden Signature Body Treatment" — stay tuned for my review!

By day three I had already let go of all the tension I had been holding onto and had started to feel energised and happy. Happier than I can remember feeling in a good while. Seven jam-packed days flew by and suddenly it was time for the final day weigh in and measure. Though I had been eating loads of delicious foods, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I'd lost 1kg and 4cm off my waist! Hello skinny jeans.

I said sad farewells to the new friends I'd made (who had all been transformed into shiny happy people too) and left Camp Eden, returning to the real world with a renewed sense of wellbeing and some tools to help me tackle some of the challenges in my life.

On my return to Sydney a friend commented, "Oh my god Holly, I've never seen you this bouncy!" and my personal favourite was from another friend: "wow, your bum has shrunk!"

Holly did a seven-night getaway. Packages start from $2750 single for five nights.

Visit for more info.

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