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A Guest Experience at the Thornybush Community – A Cultural Tour

21 Jun 2023 | By Author Thornybush | Uncategorised

A guest shares her experience as she visited Nourish Eco Village and tells us why this is such an impactful activity to add to your next stay at Thornybush.

Preparing for the Cultural Tour

We decided we wanted to spend a day at the nearby village and learn more about how other people in this part of the world lived. We read about the Nourish Cultural Tour on the Thornybush website and thought it would be a fabulous add-on to our safari vacation. We had no idea that our curiosity about South African cultures would result in a life-changing experience that you cannot put a monetary value on – it was such a memorable experience for me, this is how our day unfolded.

Nourish Eco Village

After breakfast at Thornybush Game Lodge, our shuttle picked us up and took us to the Nourish Eco Village site. We were greeted by our tour guide Martin at this special little haven; which is a non-profit organization that benefits the local community. We enjoyed the tour of the little curated village, meeting smiling faces, seeing the volunteers from all over the world, learning about the various daily programs that happen like clockwork, and the rescued animals and resident donkeys! What a true eco-village, as you really see all the sustainability and DIY projects that make this village operate. I particularly loved the SEDIWA Hub, an enterprise spot for the local community to learn and expose their products to guests.

Into the Local Village

After the Nourish site tour, we took it to the real village, a place the locals call home. We walked the dusty streets of Segagula, a little section of Acornhoek, which forms part of the greater Bushbushridge region. The tour leader told us many stories of how he grew up in the village, and how the humble little town shaped him as a man. What was most interesting is how he recollected moments playing soccer in the streets with his friends, he showed us the school he attended, and we even walked past some of his family homes. Randomly, we were greeted by passersby and friendly homeowners that smiled and greeted us in their native language of Sepulana, which is a mix of Shangaan and Sepedi. 

An old woman tending to her garden was eager to engage us in her gardening, what a splendour! She showed us how to treat her little garden which is also her source of food for her home. Organic spinach and tomato are staple foods in that community. It was also the avocado season which was great because we picked ripe avos from her tree inside her yard. This walk was fascinating because we learned so much about the true cultures in the village and enjoyed playing with stray dogs of the community which pulled at my heartstrings.

Meeting the traditional weavers

We finally got to the Gogo (South African word for granny) (I forgot her name) who is a local traditional weaver. We enjoyed a lesson on how to weave the old-school way, and better yet, we were told stories about how the older women of the village still enjoyed this craft and the money it can bring to one’s home. It also reminded me of the importance of supporting the local craftsmen and women, and how some people rely on the support of tourists for income. This special craft made me think about my own grandmother and how she love sewing, it really brought it home for me. You cannot help but realize how much we all have in common; we all have passions and hopes that our skills can make us a generous living.

A lesson from the Sangoma

Shortly after the weaving exercise, it was time for us to hit the road again – on foot. Our next stop was at the home of the local traditional healer called the “Sangoma”, I’ve seen this on tv before, but never did I think we would experience this!

This old man has been a traditional healer for more than 40 years, he has helped to heal, predict and assist with people’s personal issues and careers with the help of his ancestors and his profound knowledge of herbs and plants. This extraordinary ability is a “calling”, they say he was called by his ancestors to do this type of work and he has diligently done so for most of his life. The experience was phenomenal as we watched him use these special pieces of animal bones and little strange artefacts that make up his set of collections which are used to communicate with his ancestors.

We sat under a tree, on a traditional mat and engaged one by one with the sangoma as he looked deep into our souls and gave us a reading which was translated by our tour guide. It was a special moment for us all as it felt so personal and divine, this moment was a spectacular feeling, one which I’ll definitely take home in my spirit.

A traditional meal

During our time with the sangoma, our last stop we were invited to eat with the locals. We were served a hearty meal that was specially prepared for us to experience the ingredients and flavours of the Shangaan people.

It was interesting to know that the food was prepared outside in a special 3-foot pot and made with fire. They served us Mopani worms which is a protein-rich food that keeps them healthy and full. The worms were made with a tomato soup-like mixture (disguising the fact that we were, in fact eating worms!) which made the food tasty. I will admit, they are an acquired taste. We also ate ox-head, which was super delicious and strange, but the flavours were all in there, served with the common starch called “Pap”. Pap is a staple food in most traditional meals and is a South African favourite! We also ate Morogo, a type of spinach that grows in most of their backyard gardens, which is prepared traditionally and best served hot. Indulging in all these local flavours really brought one down to earth, we definitely experience Africa!

Looking back on a life-changing experience

Our time at the Sangoma’s home came to an end, and leaving his warm and loving home was sad for us, as I never imagined that we would be so lovingly welcomed into a stranger’s home.

We made our way back to Nourish Eco Village back on foot which at this point felt like a good cardio workout, and I was glad I wore my running shoes. A little tip: the summer temperatures go as high as 40 degrees Celsius which I did not anticipate, so sunscreen is a must!

I had a lot to think about on my walk back, I embraced the culture and tried not to feel too bad about the poor conditions that this beautiful part of the country still experiences. It was great to know that people still practice their cultural heritage and also invite us to be a part of it.

It was a humbling experience, to say the least, as a tourist it made my stay at Thornybush a little bit more meaningful. It was great to have experienced this tour because we need to see how others live and remove ourselves from the comforts of our bubbles. I am glad that we supported a business that cares about its surroundings.

Although we always wish more could be done, perhaps it’s up to us to do the rest. I would recommend that everyone adds a meaningful experience to their leisure vacations, and I am thankful that I was privileged to do so.

Words: Mrs J Morgan

Are you interested in going on a cultural tour at Thornybush? Chat with your reservation specialist at and book your spot.