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For this edition of our Sunday Lunch series, writer Doris Lam sits down with Jasmine Nunns, founder of Kembali, the Hong Kong initiative that offers restorative nature-based rewilding experiences, such as guided forest bathing walks, rites of passage programmes and nature-based coaching. Jasmine and Doris met at The Hawk & Aster, Pacific Place’s new classic French brasserie with a coffee programme by Elephant Grounds and its own green initiatives.
Jasmine Nunns, founder of Kembali, at Hawk & Aster

Meeting Jasmine Nunns in the busy Pacific Place mall felt a little strange. After researching my interviewee and Kembali, her nature-based therapy company, I pictured someone completely untouched by Hong Kong’s hustle and bustle, constantly surrounded by trees and water streams, running wild on Hong Kong mountains.

Instead, when I met her at The Hawk & Aster, she looked almost like any other Hongkonger. Together, we devoured their signature fish sandwich, tater tots with a side of caviar, and I even introduced the beauty of beef tartare to her that afternoon. As I listened to her stories, however, I realised my image of Jasmine wasn’t that far off. 

The Hawk & Aster’s menu is inspired by classic brasserie cuisine with a fresh touch

‘I can spend hours and hours and days and days just sitting in solitude in a natural space,’ she says. ‘I can be at home spending days and weeks and months on end weaving baskets from plants that I forage for. I have rituals, ceremonies and prayers that bring me into connection with the natural world. It’s about designing my life in a way where I can be really intentional with my time. Sometimes coming into town feels really exciting, and sometimes I prefer to stay home on Lamma.’

Raised between Hong Kong and Singapore, Jasmine grew up in a village in Tai Po and spent her childhood roaming around in nature. Her connection with the earth grew from there, which led her to start Kembali in 2017. Today, she finds solace in the quiet parts of Lamma Island and works as a nature and forest therapy guide full-time, leading activities such as forest therapy walks, bonfire circles, wild camping weekends and bushcraft classes.

Jasmine reaches for Avruga Smoked Caviar with Dill Sour Cream and Tater Tots

While nature therapy is still a relatively new concept in Hong Kong, researchers have proven time and again the benefits of spending time in nature. From bringing a restorative state of relaxation, lowering stress and blood pressure, to reducing anxiety and enhancing immune system function, the benefits are endless.

‘I felt even at a very, very young age that the earth was breathing,’ says Jasmine. ‘I felt like every time a volcano erupted, it was like it was clearing its throat. And so there was this aliveness that came from the planet, the Earth as a whole.’ It was this fascination for Earth’s aliveness that led her to study geography in university, followed by permaculture and other therapeutic certifications including wilderness first aid, transformational coaching and mindfulness. 

Prior to founding Kembali, Jasmine’s work was still centred around the earth, but instead of nature therapy, she focused on educating students and organisations on global environmental issues. However, she soon discovered that people struggled to resonate with her words because of their disconnect with the earth. ‘I was speaking to students on what was happening to the oceans, or the rainforests on the other side of the world, and there was this sense of like, “But I don't live there, so why should I care?”’

Slowly, the idea for Kembali began to form in Jasmine’s mind. Hoping to inspire others to feel the same love for the planet, she wanted to bring people back to nature. This was how the name Kembali was chosen, meaning ‘to return’ or ‘come back to’ in Bahasa. ‘I wanted to share my love for nature with other people. I was already going out and having ceremonial fires, or building shelters, camping overnight by myself. I was naturally creating these rituals of reverence between myself and the land. And I just thought, well, what would happen if I invited people along?’ she says about the beginning of Kembali.

Jasmine Nunns (left) with writer Doris Lam

Through Kembali, Jasmine offered something that seemed foreign to most Hongkongers. In a city filled with eye-catching skyscrapers and entertainment, many of us have become desensitised to the nature surrounding us. Interest in Kembali grew, and Jasmine decided to shift all her attention to her company after working on it part-time for around a year.

Beyond hosting activities and events, she wants to inspire people to feel a genuine appreciation for Mother Earth. ‘I feel like much of the conversation that's happening around our connection with nature is all about what is it that we can get from nature — how do we benefit, you know, physically, emotionally and mentally? But the conversation I'm interested in having is how this can be reciprocal.’

The answer, according to one of Jasmine’s teachers, is simple: to celebrate. To appreciate. To find gratitude for the nature around us. And there’s so much to be thankful for, whether it’s the air that we breathe, the mountains we hike, the glistening beaches we swim in, or the trees that we find shelter under. And Jasmine believes this idea is starting to take hold. ‘There’s a sense of reciprocity that's happening,’ she says. ‘It’s a two-way conversation.’