Southern Africa 360 joined a recent 4-day educational to the Limpopo province. The educational was arranged by SATSA together with Limpopo Tourism and the aim was to introduce some Tourism SMEs, who had recently received training and mentorship for their tourism businesses, to South African tour operators.
One of the initiatives that we visited was a Tourism Homestay – TAHS-SA (Traditional African Homestays South Africa) at the rural village of Makushu-Mosholombi. The aim of the project is to expand the tourism offering and experience in the Limpopo province, promoting rural tourism in a more remote area of South Africa. The community would like visitors to stay, live, eat and share with them, becoming a part of the village rather than feeling like outsiders.
Tourists learn about the culture, heritage and history of the village; participating in the activities, traditions and lifestyles of the local people. The community is encouraged to pull together and harness their existing skills to create something tangible for visitors to touch, feel and experience. In turn by supporting such a project visitors contribute to the upliftment of the community, as skills and living standards are enhanced through training and fund generation.
We arrived in Makushu close to sunset and were warmly welcomed by our guides at the “Royal Household” – family home of the late village chief and where his daughter, the Princess, lives. Here each guest was paired with a trained guide (or rather Nkhonani, which means friend in Venda, the local language). The role of the Nkhonani is to act as interpreter and to introduce their guest to the ways of the community and to facilitate day-to-day activities and interactions.
Our guides took each of us and our luggage to our separate homes for the night, mine was just up the road from the Royal House, but others had a bit of a trek as their homes were in the neighboring village of Mosholombi! Freddy, my Nkhonani, showed me to my room, showed me how everything worked and even assisted me to make up my bed from the lovely clean linen that was in the room.
Each guest receives a homestay kit (clean blanket/clean sheet/clean pillow case and pillow/towel/face cloth/wet wipes/coffee/tea/cremora/sugar/mug/snack bar/bucket(can also be used as a bath). There was a key for my door, Freddy said we did not need to lock as the village is totally safe – I felt a bit nervous of this as living in the city we constantly lock everything!
We then made our way back to the others at the Royal House where there was a big feast being cooked up for us in pots outside over open fires. Most of the House Mothers were busy with the cooking so we only briefly got to meet each of ours. One noticeable aspect of the village and area and the number of baobab trees, they grow all over and every second house has a beautiful baobab tree in the yard!
The evening was really fun and entertaining, firstly some of the young girls demonstrated a few of their traditional dances to us. Dance is used to get a message across, for example if a woman is unhappy about something her husband is doing, but cannot bring it up with him in conversation, she makes her point through dance. In a similar way any community issues that need to be brought to attention can also be done so through dance.
We then moved to sit around the fire where we listened to stories and folklore and took part in riddles, or as they called it “quizzes”! We also ate around the fire, delicious food with some local delicacies such as mopani worms and chicken feet on offer! After a long day of travelling and an early morning all of us TOs were pretty tired and ready for bed, so our guides escorted us with our House Moms back to our rooms.
My home did not have a toilet so I had to visit the neighbor – toilets in the village are known as long-drops, or pit latrines, holes dug deep into the ground, enclosed in a small room made from metal sheeting or bricks for privacy. There are no baths or showers, but the house mothers do provide a large bucket with nice warm water (heated in most cases over the fire) for washing in the evening and morning.
Despite the unfamiliar sounds of the village – barking dogs and distant music, I slept comfortably and soundly. The place starts to come alive again as early as 4am when all the roosters of the village call out to each other – the alarm clocks of Makushu!
Everyone met up again as a group and we had a sunrise walk through both villages to the Khoro – the official community meeting place with the chief, under a massive and very beautiful baobab tree. However, when there are visitors this is also where the “Gogos” (grannies) sell their crafts – mostly beadwork. This sadly brought our visit to an end and we had to get back onto the road and on our way to our next site inspection and visit. However this experience was certainly the highlight of the week and the one that we all could not, and still cannot, stop talking about! TAHS-SA has a saying on their Facebook page which is very apt –
A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.
I have also realised that any experience that takes a person slightly out of their usual comfort zone really makes the most memorable and treasured experience, something that I will certainly keep in mind when planning future trips for clients.
While we did only a very short overnight visit to the homestay, when offering the experience to tourists it is only available as 2 and 3 night packages. In the words of the Director of the project Cameron Murray,
Our aim is promote social cohesion between all cultures and offering a 2 or 3 night package, gives our guests the opportunity to immerse themselves completely in the Venda culture. It allows them to get to know the layout of the village (and what happens in the village on a day-day basis), connect with their guides and homestay mothers/families and really and truly leave gaining an authentic South African experience.
For those spending longer here, these are some of the other activities they will take part in:
- Explore the village route – crèche, Drop-inn Centre, Old Age Centre, Primary School and Cemetery
- Traditional beer tasting
- Mountain hike
- Traditional floor making
- Beading session
- Dancing lessons
- Donkey cart rides (traditional means of transport)
- Sundowners at the look-out point
- Nzhelele nature Reserve Hike
- Day tours to Lake Funduzi, potholes, hot springs and Dzata Museum
The people of Makushu originated from the rich heritage and bloodline of the descendants of famous Mapungubwe. Mapungubwe is an ancient village, now a World Heritage site, known for the first trade in Africa and also a sacred area that the well-known Mapungubwe Golden Rhino was discovered dating back to 650AD. Today the villagers in Makushu are made up of mostly Venda tradition, although you do also find other cultures living in the village harmoniously.
Makushu is situated on the D3671 road next to the Nzhelele Dam and is in close proximity to many of the iconic tourist attractions and places of interest in Northern Limpopo. Some of the well-known attractions include Lake Fundudzi and Mapungubwe World Heritage site. Makushu is a mere 40 minute drive from Makhado (Louis Trichardt) and the Beitbridge Border post (Zimbabwe) and Pont Drift border Post (Botswana). It is also a short drive to the Pafuri and Punda Maria Gate (103km), the World Renowned Kruger National Park.
Please contact us if you would like some more information, as well as some sample packages showing how this experience can be incorporated into a package.