Safaris focus on the wildlife and many travellers don’t see a local village. We feel that to visit Africa and learn nothing of its culture is to miss out on part of the experience.
We concentrate on some of the most famous tribal cultures and have suggested a few itinerary ideas, most of which include a visit to the local communities in question. Remember, however, we can tailor-make any itinerary to suit your exact needs.
Maasai, Kenya and Tanzania
The Maasai, with their warriors standing guard over cattle grazing amongst wildebeest and zebra, live on the expansive plains encompassing both Kenya and Tanzania.
From your safari camp you can visit one of the Maasai villages, allowing you to learn about their culture and traditions, or you can visit a traditional boma and watch them herd their cattle or make their traditional beaded jewellery. Some camps also offer guided walks with the Maasai, which offers a good opportunity to enjoy the unspoiled wilderness, watch wildlife and spend more time with these friendly people.
Finally, in these areas money is scarce and so sustainable tourism projects like this inject funds into vital clinics and water supplies.
Semi-nomadic pastoralists, the Himba trek from one watering area to another. The women are noted for their beauty and the dramatic colour of their skin, created by rubbing their bodies with red ochre and fat to protect them from the harsh desert climate.
Spending time in a village is a unique and humbling experience, giving you the chance to learn about the architecture of their houses, the structure of their community, survival in an unforgiving landscape and how to create beautiful and intricate jewellery from iron and shell beads.
The Himba inhabit Namibia’s remote north western Kunene Region and it is possible to visit their communities from camps in Namibia’s Skeleton Coast National Park as well as Kaokoveld.
A stay at Kawaza is a fascinating experience since nothing is artificial or set up for tourists; you simply go and stay and spend time in the village learning about daily life.
As part of your stay, you will meet the village headman, visit the local traditional healer, walk among the fields learning about the farming and spend time with the women cooking and collecting water. You might thatch a roof or sit in the shade and talk to the elders; how much you participate is up to you. It’s a wonderful initiative that provides a unique insight to Kunda culture.
Because of its proximity to the South Luangwa National Park you can easily combine a one- or two-night stay at Kawaza with a longer safari in the park.
Kenya is home to the Samburu, who for centuries have lived a traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle herding their cattle to areas of water and grazing.
The Samburu are closely related to the Maasai but are from Northern Kenya, whereas the Masai are generally found in the southern parts of the country. The tribe name means “butterfly”, referring to their beauty and they traditionally adorn themselves with colourful beaded headdresses and bracelets.
Some lodges also offer camel-trekking trips, accompanied by the Samburu, which is a lovely alternative to a game-drive.
San Bushmen, Botswana
The San Bushman communities have survived on the Makgadikgadi pans and in areas of western Botswana for centuries.
This seemingly desolate and unforgiving landscape of vast salt pans stretches for miles, with not a drop of water in sight. You wonder if it could ever be possible to live in this arid area but they have lived here for generations and spending a day with them provides insight into their unique culture.
Not only do they show you how to make animal traps, but also how to find roots and tubers and even make tobacco from zebra dung. Dressed in loincloths, they swing their bows and arrows over their shoulders and lead the way. Following, you can’t fail to wonder at their incredible knowledge of the land.
Xhosa, South Africa
The Xhosa people are distributed across the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, stretching from East London up to the KwaZulu-Natal border.
It’s an area of lush tropical forest hugging river valleys whose estuaries spill into lagoons behind white sandy beaches. There are ample opportunities for fishing, swimming, birdwatching and watersports but one of the most memorable experiences to take away is that of learning about the local Xhosa culture.
Speaking the second most common home language (after Zulu), the Xhosa were originally herders and farmers, but today they are involved in a wide range of activities and livelihoods.
Zulu, South Africa
KwaZulu-Natal has seen two of the most famous conflicts in British military history: the Boer and Zulu wars but it was the latter which brought the Zulu culture to worldwide attention.
In this region is Shakaland, a cultural village which has the largest kraal in Zululand, and is also the site of the legendary Zulu chief’s birthplace overlooking the uMhlatusi River. Here, Zulu traditions and culture are kept alive, with demonstrations of Zulu craft, building skills, pottery, brewing, dancing and music.