Wellness adventurers needn't look further than Biophilia Festival, a three-day retreat into yoga, meditation, mindfulness, music, dance, art and wellbeing. Held at Ben Lomond Station, a 33,000 acre high country farm, festival-goers can delve into self-enlightenment amidst spectacular backdrops, and alongside over 40 educators who are ready to help them tap into their true human potential. Here, we chat with Damian Chaparro, the man behind this radically inclusive new-age gathering.
Tell us a little about the story behind Biophilia, how did it start?
In 2016, with my 40th on the horizon, I thought it would be fun to bring people together in nature and share some of my favourite things, including Acro Yoga, dance, and music. We put the word out on Facebook and were blown away when roughly 100 people, friends as well as strangers, turned up at Lake Sylvan for the first Biophilia Festival. Offers soon poured in to help organise a follow-up event, where we got almost 300 participants, and this March will be our third festival.
Why did you choose Ben Lomond Station, Queenstown as the setting for this festival?
The Department of Conservation were very generous to let us use the Lake Sylvan campground our first year—like I said, we weren't expecting 100 people to turn up—so we were lucky it was a pretty quiet time of year. Last year, we went on a hunt for a beautiful spot close to Queenstown where we could invite a few more people and we came across Ben Lomond Station. John and Ginny Foster, the local landowners, offered us a stunning site near Moke Lake and it was perfect. They were also open to creating a more permanent home for the festival and have been working with us to see it continue to grow, so we couldn’t be happier with our location tucked away in the mountains by a gorgeous little lake only a 20-minute drive from Queenstown.
What makes Biophilia different?
Our mission is to bring people together for a radically inclusive wellness adventure fueled by individual generosity. For the first two years, attendance was by donation and although we’ve decided to sell tickets this year to make planning a bit easier, the spirit of gifting and giving back will always be a key element for us. At its heart, the festival is a celebration and an opportunity to connect, which believe it or not, is enhanced by our no drugs and alcohol policy.
Why do you think so many people are embracing alcohol/drug-free festivals?
When people hear “celebration” or “festival”, one of the first things they think of is alcohol because that’s our cultural norm here in New Zealand. In fact, last year we had a few people ask how we could be “alcohol-free” when we weren’t selling tickets—they thought we were providing free alcohol! The idea of not being able to rely on liquid courage to enjoy yourself can be challenging for some, but we encourage people to get out of their comfort zones and to practice being present. It’s quite invigorating actually and no one seemed to mind at all. You just completely lose yourself in the music while you’re dancing under the stars and not only will you be able to remember the entire night because you were sober, but you might even find yourself rolling out of your sleeping bag a few hours later for a sunrise meditation session because you’re not hungover. It’s all optional, of course, sleep ins are allowed.
You’ve got over 40 educators at the festival, that’s amazing. How did you choose the lineup?
This is the strongest lineup we’ve had. Even though we have more than 80 sessions planned this year, we hated having to turn away a lot of great educators who applied simply because we couldn’t squeeze any more hours out of those three days. We have curated as many different experiences as we could so we have a diverse range of workshops and talks on art, mindfulness, yoga, music, dance, performance, education, sustainability, connection with nature and much more. SITE Trampoline are setting up a parkour park (obstacle course) this year and we’re also setting up a slackline park again. There will be plenty for everyone, whether you’ve never been to a yoga class in your life and are at the beginning of your wellness journey, or you’re looking for some more advanced practices and new ideas to take back to your students. I really can’t wait.
Who are some of the educators you’re most excited about?
We are very lucky to have so many incredible locally-based teachers for a town the size of Queenstown and we’re thrilled to be able to showcase so many of their talents. We also have educators from far and wide, such as The Organic Mechanic from Auckland and I’m hoping to be able to take my “co-creator” hat off more this year and drop into a few more sessions as a participant, especially led by our visiting educators.
What about the performers?
We’ve got a pretty diverse mix musically as well, from DJs to acoustic. There’s something really primal about gathering around a fire as a tribe to share stories and music.
Tell us about some of the experiences a person can expect?
We’ll have four stages/areas going throughout each day for festival goers to drop into whatever they’re in the mood for. “Inhale” is where we’ll be holding yoga, dance and some talks. “Exhale” is for movement, kids’ classes and music. “Heal” will have meditation workshops and talks as well as taster sessions by our healers. Then “Play” is where you’ll find the Parkour set up and Slackline part. Come with an open mind and an open heart and you’ll love it!
Where do you see the festival heading in the next few years?
We’ve been doubling in size each year and I’d love to see us continue to grow and create an amazing event that people look forward to each year. So far so good!
Date: March 16-18, 2018
Location: Ben Lomond Station, Queenstown, New Zealand
What to bring: Come as you are, bring all that you need and leave no trace
Tickets available here