Midway between the Blyde River Canyon and the southern Kruger National Park, the residents of the traditional villages of Shangana invite visitors to share in the way of life of the Shangaan people. The picturesque villages are set in the shade of ancient trees in a reserve of forest and grassland, and are open every day.
A bustling African market village forms the centre of Shangana, where local craftspeople make and trade their craft. From here, trained guides lead guests down to villages on daytime tours, midday tours with lunch, and the famed Evening Festival in the Chief's Kraal.
This picturesque market has been described by many visitors as the most beautiful in Africa. It is open from 9am to 5pm, and entrance is free.
The market is a gathering place for craftspeople from all over the region, and has a variety of traditional handcrafted art unmatched in the area. The Marula Market has been an important catalyst for enabling local crafters to make a living and create small businesses for themselves.
Crafts include clay and stone pieces,carvings, statues and pots. The oven in the centre by the fire is used for firing the clay work made at the market.
DAY TOURS - Duration: 1 hour
During the day, small groups are led from the Marula Market, down through the bush and past fields, where the trained guide takes visitors through a typical Shangaan lifestyle, including food collection, traditional farming, a tour of a village, the different facets of the Shangaan way of life, including their history and customs, initiation ceremonies, the practice of polygamy, the outfits and weapons of masocho (warriors), the construction of homes, ornate beadwork clothing, and the preparation of food. After saying good bye to the family, the guests visit the mystical kraal of the Sangoma (traditional healer). The Sangoma explains different mutis (medicines) and may throw his bones on request. He is a registered member of the Traditional Healers' Association, so the advice he gives is serious!
LUNCH TOURS - Duration: 1 1/2 hours
Over lunchtime, tours can be arranged which follow the same format as the daytime tours,but a full traditional meal is served in the village with the family. The wives of the chief wash the hands of the guests, and then the pots of food are brought from the fire and served. For larger groups, the families from surrounding villages perform their famed Shangaan muchongolo dancing.
EVENING FESTIVAL - Duration: 3 hours
As the sun sets over the mountains, guests are led by a guide through the bush towards the great Kraal of Chief Soshangana. As they approach, the beating of drums grows louder and warriors usher them through a passage of stone towers and flaming torches. This is the great Kraal of Chief Soshangana who, with his family host the Evening Festival. Choirs, actors and dancers gather to tell the story of the Shangaan people. It is a spectacular and moving experience, which shows the enormous talent of the people from this region. During the show, traditional beer is passed around and great wooden trays with local delicacies are passed around.
Halfway through the show, the wives of the chief invite guests to divide into small groups to share a traditional feast in their houses with them. After this, guests return for the second half, which tells the more modern story of the Shangaans, and at the end guests are led out through a tunnel of singing choristers, back into their more familiar world.