Welcome to My Village: African Tribal Village Visits
Welcome to My Village: Locally-based, community-Supported African Tribal Village Visits
By Lauryn Axelrod
Sure, we’ve all heard of the "tribal visit;" the one where so-called "Native Villagers" dress up in costumes and show off "traditional" arts that have long since been replaced by Walkmans and Nikes.
But what if you want an authentic, local tribal experience? What if experiencing how villagers really live their daily lives is your goal? What if you want to help support tribal culture, not denigrate it?
The answer lies in a handful of unique, locally-based and community-supported tribal village visits around Africa.
- Just outside of Accra, Ghana, travelers have the unique opportunity to enjoy walking tours of Ga, Twi and Akan villages in the company of native, local guides, Joseph Adjei, Abigail Kotey and Ebenezer Mensah. Over the course of a weekend, several days or even longer, travelers visit farms and other local industries, learn about traditional herbs, medicine and cooking from villagers, study tribal languages, histories and culture, and take part in storytelling, dancing and drumming.
- In Kenya, you can forgo the "wild animals" and take an 11-day and night "safari" through Giriama villages around the gorgeous coastal village of Watamu, surrounded by game parks and marine reserves. Led by a tribal member, Nelson Bashora, and his family, you will visit local schools, live in local homes, eat local food, and take part in the rituals and cycles of daily life, as well as bird watch in nearby game reserves and swim with manta rays off the beach.
- In the hills of Swaziland, travelers have the opportunity to experience community life at the Liphupho Lami ("My Dream") Holiday Camp on the Community Farm of Kapahunga in the company of local host, Mxolisi Mdluli. Visit markets, nearby villages and scenic sights, participate in daily life and even teach English in the local school!
- In the Zaka Valley of Zimbabwe, you can live in the rural home of Sekiwa Madanhire and his family as their guest, eating traditional foods, helping with daily harvesting, cooking and animal care, hiking nearby areas, joining local parties with dancing and drumming, and socializing with other members of your hosts extended family and friends.
- In the Kalahari Desert of Namibia, a special government-granted program offers travelers the opportunity to stay at a !Kung-owned lodge in the Intu Afrika Kalahari Game Reserve, visit a !Kung village or be guided through the desert by a !Kung guide! See More Top Picks for Sustainable and Responsible Travel in Africa for more information.
- In Zambia, the Kunda villagers of the Luangwa Valley have created the Kawaza Village Tourism Project, where travelers can live with the villagers, learn about their daily lives, participate in evening storytelling and dancing, and the proceeds all go directly to the villagers! See The Kawaza Village Project for more information.
- The Tanzanian Cultural Tourism Office offers 15 different tours throughout Tanzania led by specially trained local guides and groups from the communities themselves. You might join locals in a carpentry project or a hike into the nearby mountains, participate in the day’s fishing or learn about local spices and help cook the communal meal! Accommodations include village homestays, locally-owned guesthouses or camping nearby. In each case, you’ll be able to see the specific effects of the income generated from these visits. In some instances, you’ll see a school building, and in others, it might be energy-saving stoves or a cattle dip for flea and tick control.
In addition to the obvious benefit of getting close to the local village tribal life and people, these community-supported, locally-based village tours are amazingly affordable: most cost less than US$25 per day including food, accommodations and any applicable fees. One Ghana village trip leader even invites travelers to stay for a whole month for only US$350!
And while many of these programs offer set itineraries, they are led by individuals, not big tour companies, so all are flexible to the needs and interests of individual travelers or small groups. Just ask!
In a world in which traditional village life is rapidly disappearing only to be replaced by a Disney-fied version for tourist cameras, these opportunities are the closest travelers can get to the real thing.
And the best part is that the few dollars you spend really do help support the villages and villagers who extend their generosity and culture to you.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The majority of the locally-based village visits mentioned here are offered by EarthFoot hosts. Their information can be found below and in the GoNOMAD TOURS LISTINGS under "Local Guides and Outfitters." For more information about EarthFoot, visit earthfoot.org
Intu Afrika Kalahari Game Reserve
Kawaza Village Tourism Project
PO Box 15, Mfuwe, Zambia
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