As we sat drinking our tea and enjoying the company of visitors who traveled half way across the planet to find themselves in Hygiene, Colorado, we discussed the excitement of experiencing something new and different when traveling. For our guests from Fiji and South Africa, it was the snow that covered the ground and capped the mountain peaks just outside our office windows that excited them. To see the beauty of home through their eyes rejuvenated our appreciation for a landscape that we see every day—an appropriate moment to share with guests who truly understand the power of travel as a way to connect and learn.
Richard and Stuart—originally from England and Scotland—came from Matava Eco Lodge on Fiji's island of Kadavu while Warren and Jan—both natives to South Africa—represented Sabi Sabi in the Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve of South Africa. As distant and different as these two properties are, they share a similar message of environmental ethics, connecting with the locals, and slowing the pace to truly experience the destination. Both Matava and Sabi Sabi have begun new cultural travel tours that not only give guests the opportunity to meet and interact with the local village but offer activities that allow a slower pace to absorb the beauty of the surrounding environment.
Matava's sea kayaking adventure begins with a guided kayak trip from the resort to one of the island villages, pausing along the way for some snorkeling and packed lunch on a secluded sandy beach. Sea kayaking is a perfect way to explore the road-less island, and with no motor the kayakers can fill their ears with the sounds of waves slapping the shores and birds in the trees. Upon arrival at the village, visitors present their “sevu sevu,” a gift of a bundle of Kava root and receive a traditional welcome from the village chief and elders. An afternoon exploring the hills with a local guide introduces sights of historic interest as well as hidden waterfalls to cool off before heading to the village for dinner and kava ceremony for storytelling from the village elders. Spending the night with a local family solidifies the bond as an extended member of the community, and after a good night's sleep and hearty breakfast guests return to Matava with memories to last a lifetime.
Sabi Sabi's community visit introduces visitors to the local Shangaan culture and the home of most of Sabi Sabi's staff. Elders and residents have opened their village to the tour, and welcome visitors for an authentic view on Shangaan life. The tour includes a visit to the pre-school, the sangoma (herbalist), Swa-Vana care center, and a finale under the Marula tree outside the Induna's (Chief's) house for a performance by their choir and drummers. A long walking safari complements this activity perfectly and can be organized so that guests get to stay in two of Sabi Sabi's distinctive lodges that further tell the history of safari and community in the Sabi Sands. To connect with the community, to touch the grasses between your fingers, to hear the sounds of the bush with no motor is to truly utilize all of your senses in your travels and there will be no doubt that you were there.
To learn more about travel to South Africa and Fiji or cultural travels to many of our other destinations, please contact us us or visit our website. We have endless stories to share and unique adventures to create.