Wednesday, November 22, 2017

St. Lucia - round two - Emdoneni, Boat Tour & Khula Village

On October 25th, Deb, Brett and I left Hluhluwe Game Reserve and headed towards St. Lucia. Of course on route we had to stop at the Emdoneni Cat Project, one of my favourite places. When we left Hluhluwe it was about 28 degrees Celsius. When we arrived at Emdoneni it was a whopping 43 degrees C. As soon as we got to Saint Lucia in the early afternoon it was a lovely 32 degrees. The climate at Emdoneni that day was smothering. All of us, the cats included, were having trouble with the heat, but despite the extreme weather it was a beautiful day and a lovely visit with the cats.

This cheetah is feeling a bit hot. 

As I explained in my previous blog post about Emdoneni, this cheetah grew up in a home with children, and therefore is trained to be ok around humans, but because of this he can also not be released into the wild, instead he is used to diversify cheetah DNA in a breeding program. Here he is giving the guide a good lick. 

Deb and Brett and the cheetah. 

Good yawn.

Cute cheetah.

It's still very hot out... now leave me be. 

South African wild cat, the red hairs behind their ears are one indicator for their breed. 

Bar-One the cranky caracal. He was named after a local chocolate bar because he stole it out of a visiting child's hands right through the fence. He was especially cranky because of the heat and walked around the enclosure and around everyone's legs growling and hissing.

Cuddly serval cat.

Deb giving him a good face rub.

Nothing more refreshing than some water on this very hot day.

After Emdoneni we headed to Saint Lucia, checked into an Airbnb, had a shower/dip in the pool to cool off and headed from there to the boat tour to see the hippos. 

Fish Eagle in flight. 

Yawning hippos are the best hippos. 

Baby hippo yawning in the background.

I like to call this a hippo pile-up. 

There was quite a thunderstorm rolling through and we got off the water just in time for possibly the loudest thunder/lightening strike I have ever heard in my life.

Monkey business at the Airbnb in Saint Lucia. 

Before check out that morning at the Airbnb we watched the monkeys go to town in the yard. Turns out monkey babies are just as wriggly and always trying to get away as human babies ;). 

Khula village tour

Next, we did a 3-4 hour guided tour around Khula village, just outside of Saint Lucia. This was a really great experience. It wasn't a tourist experience, but instead it was a tour through an actual modern day Zulu village. We visited the local school, we were invited into the homestead of a Zulu woman who raised her children on her own through the income of her weaving. We visited the village sangoma (healer), who had her sangoma-in-training there in her place and the experience was finished off with a group of local boys demonstrating some of the traditional dances and then teaching them to whoever wanted to learn.

First stop was the school. Each class has around 70 students in it.

We visited some of the youngest in their class room and got high fives all around.
The visit was timed so we arrived just before recess and the kids said their prayers and got to go outside to play pretty quickly after our arrival.

There are seven stations set up around the room teaching different subjects. Here is the math station in the corner, one station about imagination and the last station is for just play. Each week they try to focus on different theme, so when it's a week about birds then the station with the books will feature books about birds, etc.. The students move from station to station in smaller groups throughout the day which allows the teacher to spend more time with each specific group.

Early years in school are meant to be taught in Zulu only, but this teacher tries to teach lots of English to the students at the same time. They have problems otherwise if their parents can afford to send them to private school later on.

Our guide playing games with the kids outside.

Some singing and dancing.

Then the kids descended on the visitors, Deb and Brett played with them for about half an hour.

Much laughter.

Many photos later, this kid behind me already knows all about photobombing.

Everyone we visited during the tour gets a percentage of the fee, for the school this means being able to help the lowest income families purchase the required school uniforms.

After the school we walked through the village and learned much about the new clinic in town, the various religious practices and then we visited this family homestead. The guide explained to us what the different buildings mean.

Washroom, and behind that boards is the outdoor shower.

Outdoor kitchen area.

This older style zulu hut is meant to speak to the ancestors, and otherwise used for storage.

The homestead is the home of a woman whose husband died before they got married. She has supported her family with weaving and presumably with the income from the tours. She sleeps in this round hut with 9 other family members, including grandchildren on two mattresses on the floor.

They showed us how she weaves these colourful place mats. She wraps dried grass stalks with recycled chips bag material, then they get woven together into mats. It takes her about ten minutes to complete one mat. It would have taken everyone who tried it an hour, minimum, to complete one mat.

Here she showed us how to wrap the grass in the recycled material and then had everyone around try it as well.

Came by this beauty during our village walk.

Next stop was the home of the sangoma, but the sangoma was away on sangoma business so her trainee filled in for her during our visit. The sangomas are the healers of the Zulu, similar to what in North America you may call a medicine man or woman. At Khula village the sangomas and the nurses at the clinics work together and have learned from each other at what point does a patient need a sangoma and when is it better to visit the clinic.

The day was finished with some of the local boys giving a traditional dance performance, followed by a lesson to teach volunteers how to dance their dances.

To read up about our past adventures in Saint Lucia, click here

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