Hoogland Health Hydro – 10 good reasons to visit

Recharging and restoring – essential for any hands-on guesthouse owner

Running a guesthouse is a great business. I meet interesting people; I have no traffic issues getting to work and back; and I’m mistress of  own destiny.  But the down side is that it is relentless. While the rest of the team work 5 days a week, as owner/manager, I am on call 24/7 all year round. (Liz at Lancaster has never closed since it started in 1994). The only time I get a break is if I leave the guesthouse, so an escape every now and then is essential for my well-being!!  Fortunately the rest of the team and my locum, John, enable me to do this. So at the end of winter, after many months of too much bread, cheese and red wine, I took myself off to one of my favourite places: the Hoogland Health Hydro.    

This is the life – the sweeping lawn at Hoogland

From family farm to guesthouse to hydro: the history of Hoogland  

In 1967 the Kruger family who lived in Pretoria, bought a dilapidated  guesthouse on a 398 hectare property in the nearby Schurveberg Mountains. They demolished the existing buildings and in 1972 built the existing building as a home for the Kruger family and a few rooms for guests. The extended 5 storey building in its present incarnation as a health hydro, dates to the late 70s/early 80s.  For more on the history of Hoogland see their website.

Alloe View
Looking down at the main Hydro building nestled in the valley. There are many kms of cleared trails which are used for the nature walks. Be warned those hill climbs are steep! But hopefully your will be rewarded with sightings of zebra, eland and hartebeest.  Source: Hoogland Hydro

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So what are 10 excellent reasons to take a break at Hoogland?

  1. Proximity and convenience: Hoogland is a mere hour and a quarter from Joburg. Simply pack comfy clothes, swim-wear, hiking/walking shoes and a PILE of books and set off in the car. And if you don’t want to drive, you can take the Gautrain to Pretoria and ask to be collected by the Hydro.
  2. Hoogland Hydro Therapy Cycle
    Hydro Therapy Cycle

    The hydro therapy cycle: Part of Hoogland’s philosophy is what they call the hydro therapy cycle. Exercise (‘the single most important healthy habit to cultivate and nurture’) is the first stage of the cycle. Massage helps circulation and assists the body in getting rid of waste. Heat activates sweat glands which also gets rid of toxins. Cold constricts the blood vessels in the skin directing blood back to the organs.  And rest restores the body ready for the next cycle! Hoogland offers a wide range of options for the various stages of the hydro therapy cycle:  

    • Exercise – Dynamic phase During the day there are many structured options to choose from, whether it’s one of the nature walks (one at 7.30 and one at 4.30), a stretch or yoga class; aqua aerobics; aerobics in the gym. Or something that you do on your own- a walk in the gardens or in one of the labyrinths, swimming in the indoor pool, or using the gym. No excuses!
      View from the gym at Hoogland Hydro
    • Massage – Tonic phase. Again lots of options – the jet pool, a Jacuzzi, or a massage from a therapist. These massage treatments are charged extra.
    • Heat – Pyrophase. If you can take heat on your face the steam room or sauna is for you, if not try the steam cabinet which looks a little like some medieval torture contraption!
    • Cold – Criophase . In the cold weather a very quick cold shower is all I can manage, but in summer the outside infinity pool is glorious.
      Forever and beyond -the infinity pool
    • Rest – homeostasis phase. The best …. Rest. If you don’t fall asleep immediately you can simply chill outside watching the wildebeest and monkeys on the lawn, or doze off in your lazy-boy in your room, or put your nose into one of the books from the pile you brought!
  3. Water fast: Hoogland is one of the only health hydros in South Africa (if not the only one) where you can kickstart your detox with a water fast. I have felt the benefits of simply giving my body a break – resulting in elevated energy levels and a greater sense of well-being.  There’s masses of bottled water available all over the building, as Hoogland has its own borehole water which links directly to its bottling plant. 
  4. Medical supervision: There’s a resident doctor plus an in-house laboratory for same-day blood test results. A nurse is on duty daily to take blood pressure and do a weigh-in if required. An there’s a wide choice of health and well-being consultants (who are often trained in more than one discipline): physiotherapist; biokineticist; chiropractor; psychologist; or homeopath.
  5. Hoogland Health Hydro Programme
    Example of a day’s ‘programme’

    Activities galore: When you arrive you are given your own little booklet which gives you the various daily options for the time you will spend at the hydro. The daily activities and talks are completely optional and at NO extra charge. The different beauty treatments and massage therapies carry additional charges and these can add significantly to your basic package.  As can the options of consulting non-medically trained people such as a life-coach, hypnotherapist or even a traditional healer.
  6. Lack of regimentation: One of the best things about Hoogland is that you are left to yourself. You can do everything or nothing depending on how you and your body feels. If you’ve got lots of energy, do it all! If you’ve got lots of money do it all! But if you have neither you can have a full, relaxing, restorative time doing ‘your own thing’. 
  7. Delicious food: Even if you haven’t been fasting the food is amazing. It’s super-healthy, appetizingly presented and really really tasty. You can help yourself to a delicious fresh fruit buffet any time from 7.30 am onwards. And meals are served on a buffet basis through-out the day from 8 am to 7.30 pm.
    Delicious Salad Nicoise
    Rocket, feta and roasted pear salad
  8. Very pleasant staff: It’s a tribute to Hoogland that many of the staff have been with them for decades. Johanna in the steam section moved with the family when it was still a farm in the early 1970s.  Hoogland also has a project, the Iketla African Spa, where local women are trained to give hand, foot and head massages. All proceeds of the Iketla treatments go towards the therapist and the Thaba Community Project which provides assistance to local orphaned children through the supply of school clothes, shoes and stationery. 
  9. Value for money: There is a whole range of packages which are all itemized and described on their website. Given that so much is included for free, it is a really reasonable option of getting away from it all.  
  10. Peace and quiet: The north-facing rooms get fabulous winter sun and there are loads of courtyards, small intimate spaces and attractive little nooks, both inside and outside. The ground floor rooms open out onto the garden and the entire building faces north onto a huge lawn which the wildebeest and the baboons and monkeys love to come and visit.  
    In winter the baboons chase the monkeys because of food shortage but in summer they get on famously. This little chap had something of interest right outside my bedroom.
    View from a bedroom

Managing expectations 

As I arrive, sign in at the gate and drive along the narrow cement road, I feel a wave of contentment pass over me. For me Hoogland is a very special place. But do not have high expectations of contemporary stylishness, state-of-the-art infrastructure or luxurious decor. And don’t compare the gym to Virgin Active or the aerobic classes for that matter. Staff often double up roles and functions and the Hoogland buildings and infrastructure are now some 40 years old. The bathrooms are very old-fashioned, the decor is very ’70s, there might be grouting that needs redoing, tiles that are chipped, carpets that are tired.  BUT it is clean, unpretentious, excellent value for money, and the IDEAL place to  reset, restart and recalibrate body, mind and emotions which can get stressed in a fast-paced 21st Century urban environment.  People go for many different reasons: for weight loss; to detox; to give up smoking; to deal with a shock, trauma or grief; to stabilize sleep patterns; for post-operative healing; to re-establish healthy eating and lifestyle patterns; to get fit; to deal with chronic illness; and just for general R&R.  It is the ideal place to simply relax and switch off. 

With no rain and strong winds,  runaway veld fires in late winter are a huge danger. Here’s the aftermath of a massive fire which jumped firebreaks and reeked havoc. It nearly destroyed the entire farm this August. (The actual buildings would never be threatened but grazing for wildebeest, zebra, eland and hartebeest would have been decimated).
Zebra on the hill crest during an early morning walk.

Thank you all at Hoogland.  After time spent at the Hydro, I am ready to face the world again! Until next time! 


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4 thoughts on “Hoogland Health Hydro – 10 good reasons to visit

  1. thank you Liz for this article and introducing me to an unpretentious but beautiful place of rest and restoration, close to home in Johannesburg.
    Something I would like to try.

  2. Wonderful Liz. I wholeheartedly agree with you. Everything about Hoogland is real and truly about wellbeing. It is certainly one of my favourite places to wind down and find peace. I also love their advice on proper nutrition; easy while you’re there because the food is fabulous. Another great thing that Hoogland offers is activities and talks in the evening; that is if you’re not to exhausted by too much pampering, reading or relaxing. Not forgetting the nature trails which leave guests exhausted but energised, I beleive since I prefer sitting in the jacuzzis or steambaths. I never even think about a cigarette or a glass of wine when I’m there!

  3. HI,
    are you open at the moment? And if so what are your treatments and packages. I live in Cape Town And read about your facility in the Mary Ann shearer news letter about assisted fasts.
    I am 63 and battle not only to lose weight but it is climbing and climbing i weight 90kg at the moment – something must be reset in my system.
    Please could you letg me know the different pacakages you run and the costs .
    much love
    \Denise Boltmann

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