The Khomani Cultural Landscape is a Heritage site that is significant as it is the only indigenous San reserve in the world. This one-of-a-kind heritage site is situated in an extremely dry and harsh environment of the Kalahari desert. At first glance, it might look desolate and empty but it is a living testament to the special way of life and connection that the Khomani culture San have with their land.
It is a safe haven for the Khomani san, to live as they have for more than 100,000 years, a space free from the constriction of the modern way of life. A visit to the Khomani cultural landscape and Heritage Site is a chance to support and show respect to South Africa’s oldest people, and their quite unique way of life.
Why Is the Khomani Cultural Landscape A Heritage Site?
Before the Nguni people traveled South and the coming of Boer settlers and farmers, Southern Africa was one open space. ( the Nguni Is an umbrella term for the Bantu ethnic groups in South Africa, Swaziland, and Lesotho. Currently, the languages that are Nguni include Zulu, Swazi, Xhosa, and Ndebele ).
After the colonial powers came, the demarcation of borders soon followed, and the curtailing of the Indigenous people’s way of life.
The Khomani San people are considered the first people of the Kalahari region, and until recently were considered extinct.
But we found out that the Khomani San still holds true to their hunter-gatherer way of life in a place that is dry, hot, full of sand dunes, sparse sporadic vegetation, and extremely harsh to life. The Khomani San have adapted to not only live in these harsh conditions but thrive in them!
The Kalahari region of Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa have been inscribed onto the world heritage list as a way of safeguarding these people’s way of life.
The Khomani Cultural Landscape was inscribed onto the world heritage list on July 8th, 2017, and it was set up to protect and preserve the culture and way of life of the Khomani San.
Who are The Khomani People/clearing up some confusion?
There might be confusion when you think about the Khomani San; are they KhoiKhoi, are they San, or why are they called Khomani? Well, let’s delve into who the Khomani people are.
The Khomani San, as their name suggests, come from original San groups such as the Ngu, Xam, Khatea, Auniband, and others whose names have been lost to time.
The Khomani, just like other San communities are well known for the clicks in their language and are the original inhabitants of Southern Africa, having lived there for more than 100,000 years before other groups moved into the area.
The first group that came into contact with the community was the Khoikhoi, who were pastoralists.
When the KhoiKhoi moved into the area about 2000 years ago, they found people similar in appearance to them but differing in their way of life, and they gave these people the word, ‘San’ meaning people different from us. Later on, these two cultures merged and became known as the ‘Khoisan’.
The Khomani’s unique way of life way hasn’t fared too well since the advent of colonialism in South Africa. The Khomani and other San had been pushed to the periphery of South African society and had nearly become extinct, (an extremely sad fact).
Today, the majority of the group speaks Afrikaans and Khoekhoegowap, and only a few are able to speak their ancient San language of Nlu.
Currently, there are about 1096 members of the Khomani san alive. These original inhabitants of South Africa have left a lasting mark on other South African cultures, such as the distinct clicks of their language that are now part of the Xhosa and Zulu languages.
Size and Location of the Khomani San Culture.
The Khomani Cultural Landscape is located in the Northern part of South Africa at the borders with Botswana and Namibia and covers an area of 9591 km² (3703 mi²). It forms part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and wholly encompasses the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park.
To get to the heritage site, you’ll head to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. The park spans the countries of Botswana and South Africa.
The nearest major town is Johannesburg, which has the nearest international airport, O.R. Tambo International Airport.
Kgalagadi is located about 904 km ( 584 mi) from Johannesburg and there are two options for reaching the park.
- First, is using a charter flight from Johannesburg to Upington Airport. Upington is the closest town to Kgalagadi at a distance of 250 km (124 mi).
From Upington, you can use the road for a drive that takes about 2½ hours.
- Alternatively, you can rent a vehicle from Johannesburg and start your adventures from there until you reach the heritage site.
To enter the park, you can either use the Twee Rivieren Gate in the South, (which is the main gate), or from the Namibian side, the Mata-Mata gate.
About 280 species of birds have been documented within the heritage site, but the resident species number at about 92.
The area has an unusually high number of raptor species despite its dry and sparse conditions.
The Cape Vulture => video!
Some of the raptor species that can be spotted here include;
- lappet-faced vulture,
- white-backed vulture,
- cape vulture,
- white-headed vulture,
- bateleur eagle,
- Tawny eagle,
- Martial eagle,
- Lanner Falcon, and 6 different species of owls.
Other bird species include;
- black-eared sparrow lark,
- Stark’s Lark,
- Sparrow Lark,
- Ludwig’s Bustard,
- Kori Bustard,
- Marabou Stork,
- Black Stork,
- Abdim’s Stork,
- Gabar Goshawk,
- Burchell’s Sandgrouse,
- and Namaqua Sandgrouse.
The introduction of artificial water points that hold water permanently has led to an increase in the presence of some waterfowl species.
Because of the harsh and dry conditions in the heritage site, any wetlands create an oasis of life that presents the perfect viewing site for tourists.
Animals are usually concentrated in the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob riverbeds.
Some of the large herbivores present include red hartebeest, eland, Springbok and blue wildebeest.
The seasonal movements of these large herbivores attract quite a large number of predator species such as the black-maned lion, spotted hyena, brown hyena, leopard, cheetah, and the African wild dog.
Other animals that can be found in the area include, pangolins, honey badger, aardvark, and aardwolf.
The plant life in the Kgalagadi is predominantly Kalahari bushveld and is characterized by scattered shrubs and grasses such as the grey camel thorn, dune Bushman grass, and gha grass.
The climate of these people’s area
The heritage site lies in the Southern Kalahari region and the temperature can range from 4⁰C to 32⁰C ( 39.2 to 89.6 ⁰F), but extremes in temperature have been recorded to as low as -11⁰C (12.2⁰F), and as high as 45⁰C (113⁰F).
The climate can be regarded as dry and semi-arid, being hot and dry for most part of the year. There is a summer in this dry and hot region, characterized by higher temperatures and a short but extreme rain.
Summer runs from November to April, while Winter runs from May to August. The rain that falls in the area is rare, erratic, and doesn’t exceed about 100 mm (4 in) annually. The rain falls during heavy thunderstorms and is regional, falling in a small area which may lead to flash floods.
Best Time To Visit.
The best time to visit based on the weather is during the winter months, from April to October. The rainy season starts in March and ends in April, after which there is a burst of life across the terrain for only a short period.
During these months, the temperatures aren’t as scorching as during the day, but night times can get a little bit chilly.
The Khomani Cultural Heritage Site and the Kalahari region as a whole receive upwards of 22,000 visitors annually and are served by a range of accommodation options. These lodges and campsites are in one way run by the local Khomani San Community, and the proceedings help in the conservation of the heritage site.
Witdraai Bush Lodge
This rustic facility is located on the Witdraai farm and has been designed to immerse visitors in the lives of the local Khomani. There are options to camp or rest in grass huts, and it is serviced by an ablution block with toilets and simple showers.
At Witdraai, you can enjoy the evening dancing to traditional San songs, folklore, and stories from community elders. There is also a kitchen on which you can prepare your own food, or have food prepared at a fee and prior arrangements.
Erin Traditional Farm
This is a tented camp located in the camp known as Erin. The camp has 6 tents that can sleep up to 12 people. The camp overlooks a watering hole, which gives visitors the perfect vantage point to marvel at the abundant wildlife within this hostile dry, and harsh environment. The establishment has a communal kitchen and braai area, and two with ablution blocks with options for a hot shower.
The !Xaus lodge can even be considered a luxury tent and is wholly owned by the Khomani San and Mier communities.
The lodge is located about 60 km (37.28 mi) Northwest of Twee Rivieren, and is 30 km (18.64 mi) within the desert. It consists of a central lodge, surrounded by 12 individual chalets. Each chalet has its own deck overlooking a waterhole and a vast salt pan. The central lodge has a welcome center, a lounge, a library, and a dining area.
Accommodation options in Twee Rivieren.
Other accommodation options can be found in Twee Rivieren which is the entrance to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier park, and the heritage site. Some of these accommodations include Twee Rivieren Rest Camp, Nossob Tented Camp, Kalahari Tented Camp, and Mata-Mata Tented Camp.
Activities at the Khomani cultural landscape
The activities that visitors to the heritage center undertake, help them have an understanding of how the Khomani San live their life, and how they are in harmony with their surroundings.
Tracking and trails
One highlight of visiting the indigenous Khomani San is undertaking trails and walks in the company of expert guides and trackers. Both guides and trackers have a wealth of knowledge on the plants, landscape and animals of the Kalahari. Trails can be tailor-made to your specific needs, such as to include plant life, animals, or a heritage trail.
This living museum of the Khomani San gives visitors an insight into the daily lives of these people. This open-air museum provides guests the chance to learn the traditional and original way of life of the San Bushmen. Some of the things visitors can do is partake in activities such as traditional games, arrow making and shooting, and craft making.
Hunting has been part of the Khomani San people’s way of life for thousands of years. This important skill is slowly dying out due to the introduction of new laws curtailing the hunting of animals and the demarcation of wild lands. Visitors will be able to appreciate how and why the San hunted, not for pleasure or sport but to feed and nurture the community.
During the evening, take part in one of the most important parts of San culture story telling. This is the way in which the old pass on their knowledge to the younger generation, a way to keep the memory of the tribe alive in the current generation.
Traditional San song and dance
Other than stories, dances and songs are also an integral part of the Khomani san culture. Take part, or witness the Khomani San take part in their dances, and learn the purposes behind them.
Aunt Koera’s Farm Kitchen.
This farm kitchen is situated on Erin’s farm near Andriesvale and gives visitors a chance to sample authentic Kalahari cuisine.
FAQs on the Khomani culture.
What do the Khomani San eat?
The San are optimistic hunters eating anything that is available both vegetables and animals. Animals range from snakes (both venomous and non-venomous), hyenas, tortoises, zebra, antelope, fish, insects, wild hares, giraffes, lions, wild honey and eggs.
What is the oldest tribe in Africa?
The San have been living in South Africa for at least 30,000 years and are believed by some to not only be the oldest tribe in Africa but also the in the world.
What did the San people drink?
The San are masters of living and thriving in a dry desert-like condition. They are able to find water from natural sources in the desert and use containers like ostrich shells.
My Final Conclusion.
I hope that you found this article on the Khomani cultural landscape interesting and informative, but if you have any more questions,please feel free to ask them down below in the comment section!
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