Travelling in Zambia | Cultural Tourism

Mukuni Craft Village. Victoria Falls. Lee BergerMukuni Craft Village. Victoria Falls

When most people book a safari they do so to get into the bush and see wildlife. Often it's only when they get to their destination and chat to their driver or the barman that they begin to wonder where and how the local people live. One such guest was an American woman staying at a Robin Pope Safaris camp in Zambia's Luangwa Valley.

Out of curiosity she approached Jo Pope and asked if there was any chance of visiting the local village. Jo, ever the fixer, arranged a trip for a couple of days later. The guest was delighted, while the local people were amazed that anyone should be interested in their village.But then some of the elders met Jo to see if proper village visits, maybe with an overnight stay, would be a possibility. They came up with a general proposal that there might be potential in building special guest huts, a long drop toilet and African bathrooms for visitors. The rainy season arrived, the camps in the Valley shut down and staff went on leave. At the end of the rains, Jo came back to find the huts already built and the villagers waiting to welcome their first guests.Staying in the village is an outstanding experience. Unlike more westernised "show" villages elsewhere in Africa, the people of Kawaza have sanitised things very little for their village stays. The accommodation, for instance, is Europeanised only to the extent that toilet paper is provided in the basic but ultra-clean longdrop, while in the mud huts there are mattresses on the beds and mosquito nets to protect the occupants. I was able to experience an everyday working village and, by living alongside the villagers, I could do so without any self-consciousness or feelings of voyeurism.This is partly because the invitation comes from the villagers themselves, but also the very act of staying the night leads to a general acceptance into village life that is normally absent when just having a quick look. Once the last tribal dancing foot has stamped in the darkness, there is a significant difference between being whisked away in a safari truck to a night of unequalled luxury and sleeping in a hut just like the rest of the residents.Guests staying overnight are allotted a guide. Mine was Constantino, who took me round the village and encouraged me to try such things as pounding mealies and consulting the healer. Filling meals of nshima (maize porridge), eaten by hand and dipped into a bland relish of rape or okra and peanuts, are served to guests in an open summer hut.
I also visited the school, which is currently the greatest beneficiary from these visits. After the food, cleaning, laundry and guiding have been paid for, profits currently swell the school funds, buying the most basic of items such as classroom doors.Normally I find peering into people's homes acutely embarrassing, but Kawaza was different. There was a warm welcome everywhere and a disarming openness about the village people which made me glad I had made the effort.Contributing Writer: Michael Woods
Photo: Prof. Lee Berger
African Safaris Guide to South and East Africa
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