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Top Five Picks for Community-Based Tourism Accommodation in Sub-equatorial Africa

  • WHL Group
  • 24 May 2010

Nothing beats the experience of staying with locals and supporting their local communities. The WHL Group puts forward here five of its favourite community-based accommodation initiatives in Africa.

Buhoma Community Rest Camp of South Western Uganda

Looking for a Jane Goodall moment and to try a hand at gorilla tracking? Set on the edge of Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest – the only place in the world where chimpanzees and gorillas coexist – is the Buhoma Community Rest Camp. This locally run campsite is part of the Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA), created to support the local people and improve their lives through community-based tourism.

A traditional safari tent accommodation overlooks the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of Uganda

A traditional safari tent accommodation overlooks the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of Uganda

Overnighters can choose to stay in a traditional banda (thatch-roofed bungalow) or a furnished safari tent and enjoy views of the forest canopy from the on-site restaurant. During the day, travellers are encouraged to take a village walk on which they can meet local artisans, healers and coffee farmers, as well as visit the local hospital, a pygmy tribe and a homestead where Waragi (Ugandan gin) is made and banana beer brewed. Proceeds from the camp go toward local initiatives.

Shewula Mountain Camp of Swaziland

This is experiential travel at its best. In the stunningly remote Lumbombo Mountain range of Swaziland, Chief Mbandzamane Sifundza II and the Shewula community welcome travellers to their village and a chance to discover the rural lifestyle of a Swazi community. Walking trails in the area are a great way to interact with the friendly community and absorb the pristine scenery of the region, all while learning about Swazi culture and the Shewula Mountain Camp‘s pioneering, homegrown model for sustainable tourism.

Shewula Mountain Camp sits on a plateau of the Lubombo Mountains with views out to large parts of central and northern Swaziland

Shewula Mountain Camp sits on a plateau of the Lubombo Mountains with views out to large parts of central and northern Swaziland

Given the success of the mountain camp, many more community projects have been launched, including an orphanage, community resource centre and environmental ventures such as solar and wind power testing. The lodging – primarily in authentic thatch-roofed huts, although family and private accommodations are available – and three hearty meals a day are all 100% local, sourced from materials and produce immediately available.

Liziwes Bed & Breakfast in Cape Town, South Africa

As a long but growing list of travellers has already discovered, little rivals the cultural experience of staying overnight in a township of Cape Town, South Africa. Our choice, one among several, is Liziwes Bed & Breakfast.

Liziwe Ngcolcoto prepares carrots in a potjie pot, a traditional South African style of cooking

Liziwe Ngcolcoto prepares carrots in a potjie pot, a traditional South African style of cooking

What was once little more than a shack in the same location, the current cheerful and welcoming structure has a heart-warming story. Liziwes’ husband worked for 25 years at Sappi Kraft (a paper and packaging company), from which he received donations of bricks over the years. With these, one brick at a time, he and Liziwes worked hard together to build what is today an internationally recognized accommodation right in the heart of a Gugulethu township. There’s also a restaurant, where visitors can savour the delicious local cuisine, learn about township culture and have a laugh with Liziwes and her family. Travellers can also experience everyday township life on walking tours that can be arranged by the guesthouse.

Malealea Lodge and Pony Trek Centre of Lesotho

Immerse yourself in Basotho culture. With unique accommodation options ranging from rustic rondavels, Basotho huts or forest huts to a comfortable stay in a farmhouse, the Jones family welcomes visitors to Malealea Lodge, set in the midst of the spectacular lands of western Lesotho. Pony trekking is a must-do while staying here, a chance for travellers to see the ‘real Africa’. As ponies are the traditional form of transport in the region, animals hired from local owners and led by Basotho guides are a fine form of community tourism, especially on trips into nearby rural communities, where travellers can learn about remote village traditions and even stay overnight in rented Basotho huts.

The Jones family’s knowledge of and commitment to the local community is fathomless – they have dedicated themselves completely to development projects, including building schools, HIV/AIDS awareness, and environmental protection – and they encourage travellers to get directly involved.

Damaraland Camp of Etosha, Namibia

Considered one of the most successful community-tourism projects in Namibia, Damaraland Camp is situated in the Huab River Valley. Once desolate and devoid of animals (killed by poachers), the region now teems with wildlife due to the efforts of the Torra Conservancy and Wilderness Safaris. Visitors are invited to stay in one of the ten thatched chalets run by the local community amidst beautiful plains surrounded by the Brandberg Mountains.

Travellers can see the desert-adapted elephants around the Huab River Valley near the Damaraland Camp of Etosha, Namibia

Travellers can see the desert-adapted elephants around the Huab River Valley near the Damaraland Camp of Etosha, Namibia

During the day, travellers enjoy drives to see the desert-adapted elephants and other wildlife in the region; in the evening, they gather in the open-roofed communal area and bomas around the campfire. Awarded the 2005 WTTC Tourism for Tomorrow Conservation Award, the camp aims to continue enriching the lives of the community and alleviate poverty by training and employing locals.

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WHL Group

WHL Group is the largest local-travel company in the world, a global network of companies that help travellers find unique ways to experience a destination through local tourism professionals. WHL Group companies empower local partners who have practice in experiential and mindful travel and a local's knack for identifying, explaining and sustaining the distinctive qualities of a place. Visit the WHL Group website.
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adventure travel, animal conservation, ecotours, food & drink, Lesotho, local knowledge, Namibia, responsible travel news, South Africa, Swaziland, top five, Uganda, WHL Group newsletter, women,

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