If you’re looking for something to do in the Cape Town surrounds that is about as far from the touristy hub of Camps Bay as it’s possible to get, the !Khwa ttu San cultural centre is the place for you.
Located up the R27 West Coast Road (70km North-West of Cape Town), !Khwa ttu is a San Education and Culture Centre. It’s also a fantastic day trip, full of the kind of fascinating information that ensures you’re absorbing knowledge without being aware of it – it’s that interesting.
The centre was started to provide a space for descendants of the original San people (the first indigenous people of Southern Africa) to share their knowledge, traditions and customs with the rest of the world, and the walking tours through the veld are led by San guides, who tell stories about history, traditional knowledge, skills, languages, customs and where the San find themselves today.
There is also a great restaurant, with delicious lunches, dinners and teas offered throughout the day, and the venue is available to hire for weddings and conferences. The marriage point is apparently a large flat stone looking out over the vast expanse of rolling veld and the not-too-distant ocean, and sunset weddings are proving very popular because of the spectacular photo opportunities they offer.
Our day at the !Khwa ttu centre was a special storytelling event, and a day I’ll remember for a long time. We arrived at the centre full of anticipation – I’d seen the sign welcoming visitors to !Khwa ttu many times, but had never ventured up the long, winding dirt road before. We spent an hour or so looking at the craft shop (full of San-made items) and lounging on the grassy area sipping drinks and looking out at those views, before heading out on our walking tour.
It was, in a word, fascinating. They’ve set up a garden full of indigenous plants with various uses (medicine of all kinds, beauty ‘products’ and magic – one plant apparently has the ability to make the person who eats it fall in love with you!) and the tour winds amongst this vegetation, letting visitors read up about them, listen to the guide, take photos and get a closer look at all the various plants. Before the garden there’s a photographic display of the San people through the years, and some background on where they find themselves these days, and the opportunity to ask a San descendant questions about anything to do with San culture is truly extraordinary.
We were lucky enough to spend an hour or two around a campfire being told stories as the sun slowly dipped into the horizon, sipping on gluhwein and being swept up in the magic of a storyteller, a fire, an evening full of stars.
While you’re in Cape Town, be sure to take some time for this most unusual – and authentic – of tourist attractions. You can find out more on their website: www.khwattu.org. Let me know what you think!