Pure intentions at Plettenberg Bay’s Secret Sunrise

“What are your intentions this morning?”

The soothing voice floats through the wireless headphones wrapped around my head and into my ears, where it confronts my still-slightly-skeptical thoughts head on. It’s 7am on a Saturday morning and I’m standing on Hobie Beach in Plettenberg Bay, facing the ocean and the rising sun with my eyes closed. We’re about to begin the Secret Sunrise. Without my sense of sight, I can more keenly feel the velvet soft sand between my toes, its cold wetness causing my feet to tingle a tad. The sounds of the waves crashing on the shore can be heard above that voice emanating from the headphones, which appears to come from nowhere, but belongs to one of the Secret Sunrise guides standing at the back of the group.

“Okay, Emma,” I think. “Concentrate on your breathing and on your reason for standing here. You chose to haul your ass out of bed before 6am to watch the sun rise over the ocean – basically your favourite thing ever ever ever, besides sunset by the river – and to take part in a guided dance session, so just breathe and feel the sand and listen to the waves and do the thing”. These are the things I had to repeat to stop myself from running back across the beach in search of cover behind the nearest rock on Hobie Beach.

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A little sneak of burnt orange sunrise, seen from Hobie Beach.
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Hobie Beach is a little stretch of stand right next to Plett’s Central Beach, and it’s named for the hobie cats that are usually parked along the shore. It’s also one of the best places from which to watch the sun rise in Plett.
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I can’t get enough of a good ocean sunrise – it was so refreshing just being on the beach at this time.

But, in truth, the reason I showed up (as well as convinced my mom to come along for back up, and got her excited about the whole thing even though I was low-key nervous and didn’t know what to expect) was that I wanted to take part in something different, to let loose and have a beachside boogie. And doing that with my mom, who (unlike me, though I hate to admit it) isn’t particularly worried about potentially making a fool of herself, seemed like a grand idea. So that would be my intention: Let go of your inhibitions and just enjoy the morning of dance and music and meditation and silliness and whatever else it might bring, without taking myself too seriously.

And once you decide to let loose, well, that’s when the magic happens.

Secret Sunrise is an organised group event that could be described as a silent disco or a meditative dance session or just a boogie, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that it’s a whole lot of fun and it’s accessible to everyone, irrespective of age or dance/yoga/meditation experience. Each person was given a set of wireless headphones. The music filters through these and the guides talk you through each song – which range in genre from what my mom would call “yogi-music” (basically tunes that ease you into a meditative mindset), local pop, classical tracks to cool down to, traditional Irish music that could only inspire a bit of River dancing and splashing amidst the waves, and everything else in between.

Once we’d set our intentions, we were encouraged to “angry dance” (I was literally laughing the whole time), and let out all those frustrations from any previously frustrating engagement; to twist our feet and kick up our heels to some jazzy beats like we’d just stepped off the set of The Great Gatsby; to close our eyes and be mindful of our surroundings without having to look at them; to partner up with someone we don’t know, and link arms or hug them or tell them that they’re awesome. Have you ever been persuaded to spontaneously act like a stinky fart (yeah, for reals) and run around the beach getting all up in other people’s personal space (which is obviously the only way to behave if one is told to act like a fart)? I have, and it was brilliant. I watched with glee as my mom morphed from hardcore motorcyclist aboard her imaginary Harley Davidson, racing up and down the beach sand and skirting other dancers/motorcyclists, to majestic eagle soaring along the beach with her arms stretched out.

It’s really amazing to see what happens to others – and to yourself – once you decide to leave your inhibitions at home. Everyone had a smile on their face, even if they felt a little silly, and my cheeks were aching from all that laughter. The general feeling was that everyone had fully embraced the spirit of the event. It was magical not only to watch the burnt orange sun peak from behind the clouds hanging ever so menacingly over the ocean, but also to connect with like-minded strangers and share the joy of free movement. To do so on the beach – and the beach in one of my favourite destinations, Plett – was even more of a treat.

As the Secret Sunrise session drew to a close, we were encouraged once again to face the ocean and close our eyes, to think about the intentions we had set ourselves and to be mindful about how different we felt compared to the start. I was feeling stress-free and calm (a different person from the anxious, slightly skeptical, still vaguely tired, giggly Emma of 7am), but simultaneously energised and excited for a great day ahead. When you start your day with pure, positive intentions and a mind set for enjoying the moment and being free, you set yourself up for a meaningful day. All that wild dancing along the beach sand also amounted to a full-body sweat-session and we all know how I feel about kickstarting a day with some exercise (i.e. very strongly in favour of it). I’m currently in Plettenberg Bay for the long weekend (it’s Human Rights day on Tuesday in South Africa so Monday is off too, wooooo!), where I’m happily avoiding the stress of city life back in Cape Town for at least a little bit, and I couldn’t think of a better way to relocate the zen than by taking part in a Secret Sunrise session.

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“Hands up if you’re having the best time everrrrr!”
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Looking out over that peaceful, endlessly fascinating expanse we call the ocean, and thinking about our intentions for the morning.
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Getting knee-deep in the action this past Saturday morning.

I had so much fun my toes are wriggling with excitement right this very moment just writing about the morning’s adventure. I’m so ready for the next one – are you?

If all of this sounds terrifying and like something you would never ever do, that’s all the reason you need to take part. Keep an eye out on the Secret Sunrise Facebook pages (in South Africa, Secret Sunrise is currently based in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, and at Saturday morning’s event it was mentioned that there would be more events taking place at various towns along the Garden Route through the course of this year) for their next events. And, maybe I’ll see you there.

Until then, follow me on Instagram for more of my daily adventures in Plett and beyond. xx

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A weekend away with family and a Secret Sunrise is all I need to feel rested and rejuvenated again.
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Shout out to my mom for being such a good sport and coming along to these events (doesn’t she make a majestic eagle?).
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