Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Cultural Explorer: South Africa

~ I’ve never been to South Africa, but with interest in the country building as the Fifa World Cup Soccer competition gets closer and closer (11 June-11 July, 2010), now might be the perfect time to think about travelling there and seeing if South Africa has more to offer than soccer and safari’s.

For those who seek meaning, connection, and want to make a difference as they travel, a San Francisco-based cultural and philanthropic tour company, is offering a one-of-a-kind Zulu ‘empowerment’ volunteer tour into Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa.

This three-week trip in September 2010 (September 4-25), organised by The Cultural Explorer, gives volunteer travellers the rare opportunity to immerse themselves in the vibrant Zulu culture while participating in a variety of service-oriented projects. Travellers will be encouraged to design a project based on their own interests and skills: for example, volunteers might want to refurbish a school or to tutor students in math, science, English and art. Other volunteers might choose to work with children an orphanage or teach in a creche (day care centre). And still others might want to teach marketable skills to Zulu women and young people or assist rural businesswomen with marketing ideas.

Volunteer travellers will stay in a lovely hotel in the small rural town of Eshowe. There will be excursions daily into the numerous nearby Zulu villages -- with opportunities to observe traditional and contemporary life, attend a Zulu wedding, birthday, or healing celebration. Volunteers will visit with the local sangomas (traditional healers), the only white sangoma in South Africa, and attend meetings with Zulu educators. Travellers will also enjoy lively dinners with local activists, politicians, and entrepreneurs who are invested in making positive change within the Zulu community.

Volunteer travellers will also spend a weekend on a safari in the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Game Reserve, the oldest game park in South Africa, looking for the Big Five: lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo. Also planned is side trip into the city of Durban and a chance to visit the beaches along the Indian Ocean.

The Zulu Empowerment trip starts in Johannesburg, South Africa's largest city, with an in-depth history lesson and an excursion to the Apartheid museum, Origins Centre, the thriving township of Soweto, and downtown Johannesburg. Travellers will be treated to authentic South African foods and music. The volunteer portion of the trip will be based in Kwa-Zulu Natal, about 7 hours south of Johannesburg, an area known for it's large Zulu population and diverse terrain.

Pat Walker, founder of The Cultural Explorer, has spent several years cultivating contacts within the Zulu communities in Natal. Her company offers both group and individual trips, and specialises in authentic cultural, volunteer, and philanthropic travel experiences.

Travellers will meet with her personal contacts and colleagues. "This is a one-of-a-kind volunteer trip," she says. “We have teamed up with a local family-run organisation that has been working in this area for several years. We find and their projects to be authentic and they really do make a big difference in the lives of the Zulu community. We are pleased to make this volunteer trip available to adventurous travellers who want to go beyond the ordinary travel experience."

About the Zulu:
The Zulu are the largest South African ethnic group of an estimated 10–11 million people who live mainly in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Their language, Zulu, is a Bantu language. The Zulu Kingdom played a major role in South African history during the 19th and 20th centuries and the Zulu were known as fierce and determined warriors. Under apartheid, Zulu people were classed as third-class citizens and suffered from state-sanctioned discrimination. They remain today the most numerous ethnic group in South Africa, and now have equal rights along with all other citizens. The current president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, is a Zulu.

Speaking of South Africa. Recently, I became aware of some amazing footage currently online via YouTube. Titled, Battle at Kruger the video shows a pride of lions attacking a young buffalo at Kruger National Park. What is really incredible is the fight the young creature puts up to survive and the even more amazing footage of the buffalo herd fighting off the lions in an attempt to save the calf. Warning: Not for the faint hearted!

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