The San Bushmen have walked the sands of the Kalahari for at least 70,000 years. Their rock art and stone tools are amongst the oldest known in the world. And somehow, despite all odds, the San have survived, with many of their traditions intact, to the present day. When you visit Botswana with Africa Exclusive, you have the privileged opportunity to meet and learn from them firsthand.
There are around 55,000 San people in Botswana today. Their ancestors were the first human inhabitants of Botswana and South Africa, and their sophisticated skills as hunter gatherers enabled them not only to survive but to thrive. Groups continue to forage for food and know exactly where the seasonal waterholes in the desert will be. Leisure time, and particularly childhood play, are highly valued, and so a great deal of time is spent in conversation, joking, making music and dancing. Perhaps it is this balance in life which accounts for the community’s longevity.
You cannot meaningfully learn about the San from books or documentaries: you need to spend time amongst them. It is for this reason that we feel giving our guests the chance to interact with the community is so important: their way of life is quite unlike anything you will have experienced anywhere else before. Year round at Jack’s Camp, the local Zu/’hoasi Bushmen will take you out onto the pans on a guided walk. You will start to see the desert landscape through their eyes, recognising its nuances and learning how to live in such arid climes.
At Deception Valley, the opportunities to interact are more intense, as San Bushmen guides and trackers lead many of the lodge’s activities. You might start your day with a bush walk, led by two Naru speakers, learning about medicinal and poisonous plants. They will show you how they fashion bows, arrows, and other tools, then demonstrate their prowess as hunters. You can help them build a fire, then quench your thirst in a traditional way. During a game drive, it is the Bushmen trackers who will use their eagle eyes to spot tracks and advise your guide which way to go. You’ll quickly learn from them which signs to look out for; from paw prints to poo, snatches of fur or feathers to broken twigs, and which animals and birds have made them. This is indigenous knowledge which has been amassed and passed down for millennia; you are the latest beneficiary.