Zulu Men in Traditional Garb

Zulu Men in Traditional Garb. Image by Georgio at fr.wikipedia

There are many places in the world where ethno tourism is popular and South Africa ranks among one of the top choices. Interestingly, South Africa is a country of opposites where modern buildings are being built in the cities while native huts are the form of abode in some of the provinces. Moreover, the country also plays host to world renowned game reserves like the Kruger National Park.

Herein is the difference the developing countries like South Africa offer compared to visiting the more cosmopolitan cities around the globe. In fact, aside from South Africa there are very few other countries with ethnic groups still living in the kind of communities of decades ago.

Ethno Tourism

South Africa is world famous for the variety of its tourist activities: there is sports tourism, business tourism, eco-tourism, traditional tourism and more. Some visitors to the country fall in love with the place, and search for property for sale in Camps Bay and other international property hotspots. An under appreciated element within the tourism sector, however, is Ethno tourism. Ethno tourism is different from eco-tourism which explores the natural wonders of the world. With ethno tourism, one is brought to places where indigenous groups live without many of the trappings of modern-day conveniences. You travel deep into areas that are not developed which may mean rough roads and no air-conditioning. While in the village, you get rare opportunities to interact with the people and discover how simple life can be yet how rewarding.

There are certain issues about ethno tourism that are being addressed today: the possibility of visitors bringing new bacteria or viruses to the community that they will not be able to fight off; and the destruction of the community caused by outside influence. The destruction of the community can come in simple forms as introducing new words to the community or damaging their way of life through commercialism.

Blouberg, Limpopo Province

Blouberg in Limpopo Province is one place in South Africa where ethno tourism thrives. Careful to manage the two major issues mentioned earlier, the authorities are very cautious about protecting the ethnic communities. These communities continue to thrive even with the introduction of visitors to their area. There are around 100 villages all close to each other and situated on the foot of the Blouberg Mountains.

Most of the ethnic groups belong to the Batlokwa, Bahananwa, and Vha Vhenda minority groups. They have been living in the area since the 19th century and live in undeveloped areas. Many national events have come and gone and the villagers are mostly unaffected. Income is low and there are no jobs. In spite of these, they strongly resist change and fervently value their way of life.

Instead of promoting self-pity among the groups, one will be dazzled by their rich history and care for their environment. This is the forgotten South Africa which is now being recognized as a valuable segment of the society. There are many lessons that can be learned from these communities who live in peace. Going on an ethno tour to Blouberg is an enriching experience that will educate one about a sustainable life that may appear fraught with poverty yet isn’t.

One can learn different activities that are the source of strength and livelihood for the communities. These would be brick making, agriculture, crafts, rock climbing, social awareness and neighbourly concern. It’s unlike any experience you will ever have but you will definitely walk away richer for having stayed in one of these villages. Ethno-tourism provides an exposure to a way of life that most people will only get to see if they buy movies documenting these communities…so appreciate the experience if you’re one of the lucky few to undergo it.