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juliejj May 4th, 2004 07:38 AM

Swaziland, Zululand help needed
Further to my previous posting, we have a week between Swaziland and Durban. Along with wildlife viewing, we would like to stay somewhere my 2 kids (ages 12 & 14) will be able to meet some of the local village kids their same age, perhaps visit their school or homes. Can anyone recommend where to stay?

Judy_in_Calgary May 4th, 2004 09:15 AM

>>>>>>Along with wildlife viewing, we would like to stay somewhere my 2 kids (ages 12 & 14) will be able to meet some of the local village kids their same age, perhaps visit their school or homes. Can anyone recommend where to stay?<<<<<<

A Google search brought up this website in Swaziland, "Swazi Life at Kaphunga Farm's Liphupho Lami Holiday Camp." I've never heard of it before but, from what I've seen of its website, it appeals to me personally.

The person who operates the visits to the community farm is a Swazi man by the name of Mxolisi Mdluli.

You have the option of a day trip (which would not involve sleeping there) or an overnight trip (which would involve sleeping in a traditional Swazi hut and spending 2 days at the community farm).

This appears, from the website, to be a genuine farming community in which Swazi people actually live and work. (It seems they earn a living by, amongst other things, selling the produce from their community farm.)

I get the impression that visitors come in small groups. It does not appear to be the sort of "traditional village" that exists so that big guided tour buses can drop in to watch local people supposedly practising their traditional crafts like basket weaving and so on. The phoney "traditional villages" that are set up for drop-in visits by tour buses don't appeal to me at all.

Under normal circumstances guests have an opportunity to meet with kids in the local school. However, if I recall correctly, you'll be going in December and, depending on your arrival date, school may not be in session. I don't know when Swaziland's summer school holidays (vacation) will be, but I think they are fairly closely aligned with those in Johannesburg. I would expect the last day of school to be around December 10, 2004, and school would resume some time around January 17, 2005. However, if the kids aren't in school, you'll no doubt have an opportunity to meet them in the community.

The community farm is located in a part of Swaziland that has very attractive, hilly scenery.

I don't know if you have prior experience of the Third World. If this will be your first exposure to a situation like this, I would urge you and your kids to try your utmost to behave humbly. In my experience, it's very difficult to avoid inadvertently treading on local people's toes through one's unconscious arrogance, but one can at least try.

It's difficult for us in the First World to realize what a vast difference there is between our lifestyle and that of poor people. Children in the Third World carry enormous responsibilities from very early ages. Six year old children do chores like walking long distances to fetch water, gathering firewood, cooking, caring for infant siblings, etc.

Because of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, many households in Swaziland are headed by young children. When I looked into this issue a couple of years ago, life expectancy in Swaziland had dropped from 63 years to 33 years because of AIDS.

When I was growing up in Swaziland (and that was several decades before the situation had deteriorated owing to AIDS), middle class kids like me used to look forward to school holidays. That was was when our families would visit games reserves and go to the ocean. But many poor Swazi children used to dread school holidays, because they then wouldn't get the school lunches that made a substantial contribution to their overall nutrition.

Sorry about the big lecture, but my heart goes out to the local people, and I hate the thought of their feelings being hurt by rich strangers behaving like a bull in a china shop. (You may not think you're rich, and you may consider yourself to be a budget traveller, but the very fact that you can rely on 3 meals a day makes you rich by Swaziland standards.)

With all that said, here is Kaphunga Farm's website:

The website mentions an optional guided hike in Malolotja Nature Reserve, which gives me the impression it must be located somewhere near the western border of Swaziland, between Mbabane and Piggs Peak. The scenery there is very pleasant, as I've already mentioned. Good places to stay in order to access this place would be Mbabane or Piggs Peak. You could even stay some distance east of Mbabane, at Ezulwini, where there is a cluster of hotels. Anyway, that is a detail you can work out later.

If you exercise the option to visit Kaphunga Farm, I suggest you forget about visiting Hlane Royal National Park in the north-east part of Swaziland. With your fairly tight time frame, you would be better off to then proceed straight to a KwaZulu-Natal game reserve, e.g., Hluhluwe-Umfolozi.

When I do a Google search for KWAZULU-NATAL + "TRADITIONAL VILLAGE" (as I previously did for Swaziland), I come up with DumaZulu Traditional Village at Mtubatuba. Apparently you can stay there, and your accommodations will include a private bathroom, hair dryer, air conditioner, alarm clock, radio, ceiling fan and telephone. I'm sorry, but that doesn't sound authentic to me. It sounds like exactly the sort of place where the local people are putting on an act (weaving baskets or whatever) just to give tourists a photo opportunity.

It's entirely possible that Zululand offers a more authentic village experience that I don' know about.

Be that as it may, I think it would work out quite well for you to observe a traditional farm / hamlet in Swaziland and visit a game reserve in KwaZulu-Natal.

juliejj May 5th, 2004 01:43 PM

Judy- Thanks so much for the info., and esp. tracking down that website for the Kaphunga farm! I had read about it in the Lonely Planet book, but had no website. It sounds like what we are looking for.
We have travelled with our kids thru central america, the Dominican repub.,and Tobago, so they have seen poor villages. In fact in a small town in Belize, my son befriended a boy his age and was rode on the back of his bike to play at his house. In tobago, my daughter met a friend and was invited back to her house to meet her family. In Panama we met people who invited us to their homes, where we played the drums together. The worst povery our kids have seen was probably in the D.R. The worst my husband and I have witnessed was in Peru.
I would like to bring some felt markers, and pens with us to Swaziland to give to the kids, or is this not a good idea?

rubytwo May 5th, 2004 02:00 PM

We stayed at a private game reserve "Mykaha" when we were there a year ago. They don't have the big five (no lions or cats), but Stonecamp had a very laid back attitude..there are only two or three when you see game you are not surrounded by 10 vehicles and 3000 cameras clicking. We found the staff friendly and fun to talk to. It is not a posh place, but one feels like it is "real" and not Disneyfied. I echo the comment about Third World can spend more on one meal than many people there make in a month..The HIV/AIDS rate is now 40% of the population...there are many children who are orphans....very sad in a county which is beautiful in a mystic way as Swazi. The drive from Mbaband to Piggs Peak is exquisitely beautiful...Also worth while to visit Coral Stephen's weaving shop near Piggs' Peak...they do everything from carding the wool, dying and loom weaving..neat experience for children.

Judy_in_Calgary May 5th, 2004 02:22 PM

>>>>>>I would like to bring some felt markers, and pens with us to Swaziland to give to the kids, or is this not a good idea?<<<<<<

Hi Julie, I think that's a great idea. The Kaphunga Farm website says that donations are not necessary but, if visitors want to make them, it's best to do so through the guide. I agree with that advice. The guide would give the items to the local school, and then the staff would decide on the most effective way to distribute them.

Perhaps an even better gift would be a book that you asked the guide to give to the school. I say this for a couple of reasons. (1) Pens get used up in a relatively short time, but a book can be used by many children, even by those who go through the school in subsequent years. (2) African society is more communally and less individually based than western society. A gift that was presented to the community, as opposed to individual children, would be well received, I think.

If I'm not mistaken, you're from Canada. So a book about Canada, which is aimed at young readers, might be appropriate. Something like "The Big Book of Canada : Exploring the Provinces and Territories" by Christopher Moore.

Just a thought.

It's neat that you've been to other Third World countries, and that your kids have had meaningful experiences there.

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