Welcome to Strong Heart Retreats and Nature guiding

Hi. I’m John Roff, nature guide, retreat leader, nature therapist and craftsman.

 Through Strong Heart Retreats and Nature guiding, I offer:

Guided retreat and nature experiences

Guided nature walks and retreat experiences for groups and individuals of all ages in a wide range of natural environments.

Nature therapy

Time out in nature, structured to intentionally de-stress and relax.

We can offer these experiences at a venue of your choice, and are available to run custom events for couples, teachers, families, churches, scouts and other groups.

What is a retreat?
Intentionally stepping aside from everyday life to be still, listen, learn and be restored. Time out to be quiet and reflect on your life, and talk with a guide or advisor if needed. Our retreats may include risk, exploration, spirituality, silence, solitude, reflection, journaling, sharing and serving.
Please note that our retreats are for people of any or no faith.

“You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can’t get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you’re doing, but what you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.”
Alan Alda

Upcoming Events in 2019

Retreats for the year:

Previous events

Tea Retreat at The Upper Millstone – most relaxing and restorative.

Men’s retreats

Wild places have a way of reflecting our inner spaces. They are almost always restorative and deeply healing. In many spiritual traditions, men encounter enlightenment and God outside the city, in the wild places. Transformational experiences happen in these situations.

Contact me to talk about a men’s retreat.

“Nature is the only thing that men inherently respect; they know it is bigger and more powerful than they are. Inside the natural world, men are more likely to open up, weep, surrender, forgive, discover themselves, and know ecstatic joy. Out in nature is where a lot of men do their real praying.”
Richard Rohr

“He frequently withdrew to the wilderness to pray.”
The gospel of Luke

Be bold – retreat!

Where we work

Since retreats require an intentional withdrawal from busy work and life routines, most of them are run in nature reserves, gardens, and parks. Sometimes we will use a suitable indoor venue such as a coffee shop or home living room.

Some places we work 
Cumberland Nature Reserve
Karkloof forests and private nature reserves
Pietermaritzburg Botanical Garden
Durban Botanical Gardens
Makaranga garden lodge
Hilton College private nature reserve 
Umgeni Valley nature reserve
Any other natural areas which have the right sense of place.

Our Story

My name is John Roff. I’m married to Jo, we have 4 children, and live in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.
Since 1989 I have been a nature guide and environmental educator, sharing the beauty and wonder of the natural world with thousands of people.

During this time, I have seen a man weep from simply being in open grassland,
I have seen a woman overcome fear through encountering a snake in a forest,
I have seen children and adults discover who they are through  exploring wild places, 
and I have seen many, many people changed and healed through experiences in nature.

Jo and I have started Strong Heart Retreats because we want as many people as possible to experience personal restoration through retreats and guided experiences in nature.

‘Finding meaning, beauty, and strength in nature is something that has become second nature to me, thanks to many a walk in the bush with John. As a result, a 5-minute walk in a garden is all it takes to get me back on track when I’m feeling overwhelmed.’
Daniel Dix

More about John:

As a boy growing up in rural Zimbabwe, I was always happiest outdoors, exploring and learning as much about the bush as I could. That led to a career in nature guiding and environmental education, and I have been privileged to share hundreds of natural places with thousands of people in the last 30 years.

I am a person of faith. I pray, I follow Jesus Christ, and have found freedom, hope, direction, and purpose in this deepening relationship. I have an ecumenical church background and have experienced depth, richness, and insight in many church denominations and expressions. I describe myself as a Christian mystic.

I am a published poet, musician, craftsman, educator and life-long learner.

I am a qualified and registered Nature Guide for KwaZulu-Natal.

I really enjoy exploration, knives, jewellery-making, poetry, music, playing a range of musical instruments, writing  (especially with fountain pens), tea, and I have a particular delight in spiders, insects, orchids, bushveld, trees, forests, and geology.

Striving and falling. Trying and failing. Courage and fear. All these have been part of my journey. I’ve found that a fulfilling life is less about striving for perfection, and more about living authentically. I’m able to do that much better when I’m outdoors in wild and rugged places. I hope you’ll join me.


John Roff 083 6622306




We live in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. 

Why the name?

We believe that human hearts find their ultimate strength in union with the great Heart that holds all things together in love. Ultimately, our hope is that all people will experience and delight in that great Strength.