Community Engagement on Safari

Community Engagement on Safari

Gone are the days when Safari was only for the elite in Britains colonial population. Now the dark continent is accessible to all on all budgets. And its no longer about hunting or simply wildlife spotting. To an increasing extent, travelers seek ways of connecting to people, to find out how other cultures live, what they eat, how their houses are, and what jobs they do. Of course, travelers who come to Africa want to see wildlife, but dare to meet people through safari and you improve the experience and give more life to the trip. Although community-based tourism is relatively new in Africa, there are some great experiences that you can include in your safari to break up the game stations.

One of the easiest and most overlooked ways to get to know a culture is to talk with your guide. Many fly in and out of the game reserves and do not have time to interact with a guide on the ground (they can talk to their driver on a game drive). Traveling instead of flying gives you more opportunity to see more of the country and ask your guide many questions. In addition, you can choose a travel agency using local guides in some places on your itinerary, which means that your tourist dollar is spread more and you gain the expertise of someone living in that area. Examples are:

In Kenya by the lakes of Naivasha and Baringo there are local guides who can take you on a boat or on a walk.

MCF Panairobi offers hiking tours with street children in Nairobi CBD.

In Cape Town and Johannesburg you can do township tours.

In Okavango Delta in Botswana you can take a mokoro (dugout canoe trip) trip with local poles.

You will benefit from the experience of someone who has grown up in that area and they will have access to some tourist dollars. If you travel with a travel company, ask them if they use local guides.

Homestay or just a meal with a family gives you the perfect opportunity to see the real life of your destination. If youre not comfortable driving yourself on a family, you can ask your drivers manual to take you to a local restaurant instead of the tourist restaurants. If you go for a meal with a family, there is sometimes a possibility of cooking before the meal and you eat everything you produce. Mwenya Uganda, a community organization that hosts such an experience as a day trip from Kampala.

Hometowns are not for everyone, but there are some places that provide a good balance between having your own privacy while you are part of society. Maji Moto near Maasai Mara in Kenya is an example: you have your own cabin near Maasai Village, your meals are prepared by Maasai and you participate in city life during the day.

Visiting community-based organizations become a popular offer by many tour companies. You can spend a day teaching English in a school, teaching students in a library, playing with children in a nursery or planting trees. Or you can simply visit the projects to see the positive development work that happens in the communities. If you want to bring donations, visit Pack for a purpose and search for your accommodation and / or tour operator. There you will find a list of deliveries you can donate to the projects that your tour operator / resident supports. Investments in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania are a daily experience where your fee becomes a micro lending for an entrepreneur you choose by todays day when you visit several small businesses and learn to understand your daily life.

There are many tribes throughout the African continent that have a representation in the form of a cultural city or a living museum. In Kenya there are several Maasai villages around Maasai Mara, Samburu villages around Samburu National Reserve, an El Molo town on Turkana Lake and a kikuyu cultural center at Githunguri. In Namibia there is a Damara living museum near Twyfelfontein and a Himba town near Kamanjab. In Tanzania you can visit the bushes near Lake Eyasi and in Botswana there are also opportunities to see the San Bushmen around Ghanzi.

Festivals are a great way to experience local culture if you can travel well. The Lake Turkana Cultural Museum in northern Kenya takes place every May and brings together fourteen ethnic groups in a whirlwind of singing and dancing. Star of Lake in Malawi and the Rift Valley Festival in Kenya are two simultaneous music festivals that take place in August or September each year. There are plenty of festivals usually available on the internet or by asking your tour operator.

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