Seeing the African wilderness through the eyes of the original inhabitants is a priceless experience. It is one more rewarding than the activities with the Bushmen of the Kalahari - but it could have been so very different.
There was a time when this vast piece of land in Botswana, one of the largest parks in the world, was set aside for the Bushmen people to continue their traditional way of life. However over the years that ideal has been cast aside and the Bushmen people have been condemned to live in settlements, without any claim to their once vast land.
Their beliefs and relationship to the world are on the verge of being lost forever, swallowed up by the callous and shallow advance of modern life, but today small pockets of this fascinating culture survive in parts of Southern Africa near the Makgadikgadi Pans in the Kalahari.
The Bushman ideal is that all things on earth are provided by the creator to be used in moderation. This nearly caused their demise at the hands of the settlers of the 19th century. According to the Bushmen's beliefs, nothing on Earth can be owned, and the cattle and sheep brought in by the settlers were considered to be of the creator, and as such could be hunted for meat. Of course this was not taken well by the settlers, and the Bushmen were looked upon as stock thieves and vermin to be shot on sight.
The Bushmen were hunted mercilessly by the settlers, and only survived by fleeing into the barren interior of the Kalahari Desert. In fact it was only in the 20th century that the Bushmen were removed from the list of vermin on the South African statute books.
The original ideals behind the Central Kalahari Game Reserve in Botswana have been lost over time, with mining and farming concerns vying for a piece, resulting in the Bushmen being removed to villages set up on the edge of the reserve. These are havens for alcoholism and disease, and life in these villages is quickly bringing an end to an ancient culture.
In recent years however, there has been a lifeline for these maligned peoples, with many tourist facilities providing Bushmen interaction as a popular activity, and providing an outlet for the continuation of the ancient ways.
Tracking animals and learning some of the survival techniques of the Bushmen is truly one of the most rewarding activities in Africa, and although far removed from their original way of life, these activities help in a small way to preserve a vanishing culture and provide dignity for a people that have been persecuted for a belief in the values of the Earth.
Although not part of the proclaimed Central Kalahari Game Reserve, the Makgadikgadi Pans nonetheless play a huge role in the history and beliefs of the Bushmen peoples, in some quarters they are even thought to be the birthplace of mankind - and it is here where some of the most amazing activities with the Bushmen can be experienced.
Lodges in the Makgadikgadi Pans area provide guests the opportunity to be part of an amazing culture by using Bushmen guides to enrich the overall safari experience through walks and lectures.