EARTHBOX: An Immersive Underground Experience at Lourensford

EARTHBOX: An Immersive Underground Experience at Lourensford

Take a sensory journey into Mother Earth…

It’s a slightly mad idea, and one which Marina Busse, founder and director of The Dream Commission, says she would have struggled to pull off in other parts of the world. In Europe, she says, this experience might have been deemed too outrageous, too experimental, possibly raised alarm bells for being too “out there”, potentially risky.

EARTHBOX is, after all, a gigantic underground chamber, built not of brick and mortar but fashioned from ancient earth itself. Once you enter, you are six metres below the surface, with none of the familiar distractions, nor points of reference. It’s quite an extraordinary sensation.

Organic sanctuary

Earthbox: Lourensford Estate

A field on Lourensford Estate in Somerset West was chosen to create this one-of-a-kind global first experience. It required a specific type of soil, Malmesbury shale, and also needed to be somewhere beautiful – a fact you’re made aware of as you meander along the landscaped paths to reach EARTHBOX’s curved entrance, with the magnificent Helderberg Mountains looming up ahead. Tip: remove your shoes and feel the ancient earth beneath your feet.

Earthbox Underground

The space is slightly damp, permanently cool and smells precisely the way clean earth is meant to smell. You can walk around, sit (either on the ground or on the seats provided), or simply stand and stare as you contemplate the fact that what’s around you is a geological record going back to a time long before humanity existed. It’s like being in a womb or sanctuary, the effect of “disappearing” heightened by the acoustic and thermal insulation you experience once you’re inside.

Deep connections

Earthbox Connections

Some folks say it’s a magical place in which to meditate, or just be with their own thoughts and feelings. It is breathtakingly quiet down there, and every so often there is absolute darkness;. Some emerge saying they feel like they’ve undergone a metaphoric rebirth. If that sounds a bit too esoteric, there’s also the way in which the chamber’s walls are gently illuminated by beams of light that are timed to change and shift like visual poetry.

Marina says Earthbox falls at “the intersection of an attraction, an art installation, and an experience”. It can also be an adventure, or a space in which your imagination can take flight. Inside the cavelike interior, you’re asked to maintain silence and it’s a cellphone-free space, so your attention can be given entirely to the experience, without distractions or interference.

Audio tours

Earthbox Audio Tours

There are two audio tours to help deepen your experience. One is about 16 minutes and deals with the geology of the excavated space; the other is a 25-minute guided meditation that is as comforting as it is instructive, its soothing words reminding you to be present, to imbibe the sensations, to take everything in and revel in the miracle of being alive on Earth.

For kids

Earthbox Kids

A special audio tour has been created especially for children (5 to 12 years). Called “Discover the Earth”, it takes youngsters back in time to learn more about the earth-shaking processes that shaped our world.

While the experience is not usually for children under 5, EARTHBOX has introduced a daily family hour, when little ones are welcome to explore. They can stomp in the splash pool, wander the grassy berms, meander the gentle paths and explore the underground chamber to their heart’s content. Remind them to whisper like you would do in a library.

Curated experiences

Earthbox Yoga

You can also plan a visit around one of the many activities held in the space. Body and Mind Sessions (yoga, Pilates and Nia) are offered in partnership with Life Retreat Studios every morning at 8am (booking on Webtickets is essential).

Earthbox Music Concerts

Also on the programme are Sunday Sessions, music concerts held on the last Sunday of the month in partnership with Drum Gin. The concerts take place in the chamber with time in the gardens before and after to enjoy the setting and a refreshing Drum Gin cocktail.

The Chef Series, also held monthly, sees celebrity chefs (such as Vusi Ndlovu) create once-off culinary experiences in the underground chamber.

Earthbox Experience

Good to know

  • Tickets are available online only and advance booking is recommended.
  • All events and classes must be booked via Webtickets.
  • A five-minute shuttle transfers you from the Lourensford parking area to the entrance pavilion.
  • Wear comfortable shoes or enter the chamber barefoot (there is a pond in which to wash your feet when you’re done).
  • You should allow 60 – 90 minutes for your visit, which includes about 20 minutes in the chamber. Don’t rush, take the time to slow down and connect with the space.
  • Not suitable for children five years and younger (except during family hour).
  • The EARTHBOX shop offers a collection of locally produced art, memorabilia and even handcrafted pinch pots made from the ancient clay taken from the excavated chamber. It accepts only cashless payments.

Opening times Daily, 9am – 5pm (last entry 4.15pm)
Body and Mind Sessions: Daily, 8am (see schedule on Webtickets)
Cost Adults: From R150
Children: R100 (6 – 12 years); Free (5 and younger)
Audio tours: R50
Parking: R20
Body and Mind Sessions: From R160
Sunday Sessions: From R150
Chef Series: From R3 500
When Chef Series: 15 March, 6.30pm (Chef Shaun Scrooby from VUUR)
Sunday Sessions: 31 March, 3pm – 6pm (Thandeka Dladla
Where Lourensford Wine Estate, Lourensford Road, Somerset West, Cape Town
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The Inside Guide has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, we do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, cost, time, and location.

Time of publication: 08 January 2024

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One Response to “EARTHBOX: An Immersive Underground Experience at Lourensford”

  1. Mary Hindle

    Want to join