For some time, the South African Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism has expressed concern about the lack of benefit by the communities living beside SA’s national parks. Open Africa, with its expertise in community-based tourism development, was approached to assist with the formulation of a strategy to enable communities to share in the wealth created by the parks adjacent to them.
Historically, impoverished communities (many forcibly removed from their traditional homes without compensation) have been bypassed by the increasing flows of tourism traffic to the national parks. The challenge for all players is to establish a link between the local communities and the established tourism trade, so as to draw these communities into the mainstream of tourism and enable them to improve their general wellbeing.
Demonstrating insight and entrepreneurship, communities around Pilansberg decided to partner with Open Africa through the Letsatsing Platinum Tourism Route to, firstly, develop the tourism potential of their region in a continuous network of Afrikatourism attractions and, secondly, leverage existing tourism business from Gauteng to Sun City and the Pilanesberg National Park, to boost under-developed areas such as Soulspoort, Ledig, Mabeskraal and Mogwase.
This makes for a happy combination of existing well-developed and sophisticated establishments with opportunities for tourists to visit untapped areas and learn about the local people, their history, culture and customs. Most importantly, the intention is that visitors must be able to have fun and enjoy themselves in the company of the locals.
The Anglo-Boer War’s influence on the North West province:
On October 12, 1899, Boer forces under the command of General De la Rey attacked the British garrison and railway siding at Kraaipan, south-west of today’s Mafikeng in what is now North West province, thereby signalling the start of the Anglo-Boer War. The Boers then encircled the town and began a blockade that lasted until May 17, 1900 and became known around the globe as the Siege of Mafikeng.
It is no exaggeration to say that the war directly or indirectly affected the life of every person in South Africa, but none more so than the Batswana and Bakgatla peoples, who suffered the trauma of displacement as a result of the conflict. These people still reside in the Pilanesberg area today.
Interesting experiences on the route:
This township offers many tourism experiences – all memorable and unique. Visit one of the many convivial shebeens (taverns) to enjoy a drink and mingle with the locals. Some of these welcoming establishments provide braai (barbecue) facilities, so visitors can prepare their own meals while imbibing the Batswana culture and customs. For adventurous palates, some shebeens serve umqomboti, traditional African beer, by arrangement.
Spending a night in the township is an unforgettable experience that you will want to return to and recommend to your friends. There are very good stay-overs in Mogwase township – certainly well within the standards of the more established lodges – offering professional yet friendly service at a fraction of the price. Another compelling advantage of township accommodation is the opportunity to meet people in their homes and thereby experience how they really live.
Soulspoort and Mabeskraal:
These villages have strong arts and crafts traditions, and visitors often have the opportunity of watching the crafters and artists expertly fashion beautiful wares from clay, wood or other traditional materials. An added advantage is that items can be bought directly from their creators.
Be sure to visit The Fantasy Garden in Ledig, on the way to Sun City. This is a garden based on a variety of themes and unique creations.
Ostrich Farm Show:
In the performing arts arena, it is possible to view presentations by a variety of cultural dance groups by prior arrangement. In more energetic vein, the Ostrich Farm Show should be one of the highlights of any visit.
Seat of an ancient African kingdom, Sun City is another must for visitors to the area. It offers too many attractions to mention here, though the Palace of the Lost City, the Entertainment Centre (with glossy casino and phalanxes of slot machines), two internationally renowned golf courses and the adrenalin-charged Valley of Waves are some of the highlights.
Pilanesberg National Park:
A visit to the region would be incomplete without the Pilanesberg.
- North West Province is a malaria-free area;
- Kwa-Maritane, Bakubung and Thshukudu Bush Lodges are all located close to the entrance gates to the Pilanesberg National Park; and
- There are daily flights to Pilanesberg International Airport, one of the main gateways to the route.