Africa Travel: A New Kind of Road Trip Across South Africa
By Eleanor Harte
A new road trip across South Africa allows visitors to see the sights and do some good in the process. If you’ve always wanted to swim in Kosi Bay or learn to cook dinner with a Zulu tribe, and you like making an impact, this could be the trip for you.
Volunteer trips that don’t include any sightseeing weren’t for Lottie Reeves. But neither was ignoring the opportunity to deeply help people. That’s why she decided to combine the two to form her new volunteer road trips in South Africa.
She wanted to combine her love of travel with her love of helping others and pass on that same experience to visitors.
Volunteers in Uganda
Global Handprints, the organization Reeves founded in 2010, began as a way for Reeves to place volunteers in a Ugandan children’s home, health center and school, without having to go through a larger organization.
The mission was to enable volunteers to have a more independent experience than they might with larger abroad programs.
She did this for four years, and after an international move, she is re-launching Global Handprints with brand new Volunteer Road Trips.
The two-week trips take visitors on an off-roading trip to sites in South Africa, where Reeves, who is from London, currently resides.
She plans to bring back the Uganda placements as soon as she can get back to the country again. “I don’t like to send people to places I haven’t been recently,” she explained. She is also developing a teaching program in South Africa, which will allow qualified teachers to learn from teachers in South Africa in a skills sharing project.
‘Amazing Diversity of landscape here’
Reeves described South Africa as an amazing place to visit. “It’s a good place to come to as a first-timer to Africa,” she said, speaking of the diversity of the geographical landscape, which includes mountains, coastal beaches, and deserts.
There is a wide variety of animals, from elephants to hippos to lions to giraffes. “There’s something for everyone,” summarized Reeves.
Groups meet in Durban, a city on the east coast of South Africa, on a Saturday to begin the trip. Global Handprints offers two trips, one called Zululand and the other called Amapondoland.
Each offers its own activities and expeditions, as well as unique community volunteer projects. Groups travel off the road so they can see the areas they wouldn’t see if they were on a highway, and they travel every three or four days to a new destination.
At the end of the trips, the visitors have gotten to travel and felt like they’ve made a difference in the process.
Durban to Kosi Bay
On the Zululand trip, visitors travel up the coast from Durban to Kosi Bay and back, ending in Durban again. Along the way, they go scuba diving and snorkeling, participate in cultural activities, and assist with community development projects.
The Amapondoland trip is more land-based and it’s more about the people than the activities, Reeves said. This means that it involves more time spent on cultural activities than the Zulu trip, which has a more active itinerary.
However, it has just as many community development activities as the Zulu trip. Both trips have an equal mix of service and sightseeing. Visitors spend no more than four nights in any one place, and frequently it’s two or three nights.
“People don’t like to move every day, because that gets very tiring,” said Reeves. “This is a good balance between that and getting to see things in different areas.”
Overnight, participants stay in backpacking hostels, and their food is cooked for them at the hostels or they eat in restaurants.
The food is generally suitable for all diets or sometimes can be substituted to suit strict diets. However, Reeves acknowledged that this isn’t always the case, especially in more rural areas. There are stops at grocery shops where people can get snacks if they want to.
Unique, helpful projects
Reeves has personally been to all of these projects herself and takes pride in having selected suitable small, grassroots projects that benefit the local residents.
In fact, people in the community started every project she chose, not outside organizations that came in and began the projects. She said this gives the community members pride for the projects.
This is because the projects are working toward goals they themselves want to see accomplished, rather than having people come in and tell them what they need.
Reeves chose “three or four unique projects for each trip.” These include helping at a local clinic that treats stray horses and tending to a community garden.
Visitors tend to stay at the projects for a number of days so their work has more of an effect. Reeves said that this way, the visitors can get the hang of things in time to actually make a difference and community members can see that the visitors are there to help, not only sightsee.
“We drove the routes that the trips take, and along the way, we stopped into local places and asked if they knew anyone who might need our help,” said Reeves of finding the projects.
“Sometimes they would, and then often they’d say they knew of a person farther along our journey would also need our help and they would give us that person’s name. So it was very word of mouth.” Global Handprints trips are for anyone who wants to go. Each trip can hold four or five people, and participants can be of any age. They are for people with an open mind who are excited about the adventure and doing something good.
“Our trips enable someone to do good work and see the world too,” said Reeves.
Global Handprints trips include all food and drinks, activities, lodging and in-country transportation. A trip is $1,940 per person for two weeks. To register, visit the Global Handprints website, where you’ll find a booking button.
Eleanor Harte is a journalist and writer based in Boston, MA. She’s fortunate to have studied abroad in Paris and to have visited Ireland, Belgium, Scotland, the Czech Republic, and a few other countries, but she has many remaining on her list! She’s always looking for the next adventure.