22 Nov

Songs of the Manyeleti

I’m standing among a group of singers and dancers outside the Manyeleti Game Reserve; as they perform one of their favourite songs for us. Their beautiful, rich African voices drift over the nearby houses, and though I can’t understand the words, I can feel their meaning seep into my skin.

A trip to Tintswalo Safari Lodge is not complete without spending time with the wonderful people who call this place home. The voices of these people have been echoing across this land for generations, and the stories in the words and the heart in the melody is what makes Africa so magical, nuanced, beautiful.

Community days trips from Safari Lodge are always memorable for guests.

There are no people living permanently within the Manyeleti or Kruger National Park, so it is refreshing to head out into the community and see how the people live alongside one of Africa’s largest reserves. During our trip, we visited one of the local schools to see the challenges of educating pupils out here. The lack of resources can be a shock, but it’s important to see what is being done, and what still needs to be done to help.

We arrived at one of the schools and the teacher was talking about Mandela’s legacy. The headmaster joined us and promptly asked the kids to sing the National Anthem for us. It was a touching moment, and we left with hope and pride that these kids are receiving good messages from great heros, and hopefully they will grow up to be great people who might make a difference in their own way.

Conservation education is also important to the Safari Lodge team. The team organises trips to bring the kids into the reserve to experience game drives, showing them wildlife, trees, insects and the beauty of the bush. It is important to teach the kids about the conservation and tourism industry, and learn about the rhino poaching crisis. The hope is that these projects will influence the way the kids engage with wildlife and tourism in the future. This is integral to managing a lodge in Africa!

Part of what makes community trips special is that you are guided by your tracker. Most of the trackers come from the nearby communities, and they love to take guests to their villages and show them where they live, and where they grew up. Some trackers take guests to their home, or their old school, or just to special places in the villages that mean a lot to them. At the end of it, it’s a wonderful way to form a bond with your tracker and the people of the area.

At the end of the our trip, we joined one of the local choirs at an open field. The women were all dressed in matching colourful outfits, singing and dancing as we arrived. They proceeded to perform five or six songs of such power and beauty that I was moved to tears. All the trackers got involved in the songs, and soon not a single person was seated as we all joined in the celebrations as the sun dipped down over the houses.

It’s moments like these that change your perspective of Africa. The perceived problems and challenges that the people face in poorer communities are less evident when you see how happy and jovial they can be; and you are forced to wonder why you can’t be like that more in your own life.

And so, the voices and the melodies change you a little bit, as you feel closer to the soul of the country as you head back into the reserve; and eventually back home.