Zimbabwe’s hospitality & culture are legendary and sadly something many visitors miss experiencing. Adventure activities and wildlife watching are complimented greatly by meeting the country’s people and experiencing their culture.
There are opportunities to give back to those less fortunate in Zimbabwe. A humbling and eye-opening experience that gives you the opportunity to make a real difference while also encouraging a feeling of appreciation in those of us who have the time and money available to go on holiday. Whether you pay for an experience such as a village visit, choose to make a donation to a charity or simply spend time in one of Zimbabwe’s craft or food markets ensure you are also taking the time to stop and talk to Zimbabweans and find out about their lives, you won’t regret it.
- Cultural tourism in Zimbabwe is generally a very inexpensive option with costs often simply covering the expenses
- The proceeds from Cultural Tourism have a direct positive effect on the communities visited.
- These activities are fantastic learning experiences for both young and old making them a great option for families. During any of these, your children will likely get to meet and interact with local children while learning about their culture.
Some options on offer in Victoria Falls include:
A rural village tour: You get to visit rural homes, watch fields being tended and possibly get the chance to help in some of the day-to-day chores. Guests are able to gain an insight into Zimbabwean rural life and to see how vastly different it is from life in town- most rural Zimbabweans still practise subsistence farming, few have access to electricity or running water and life is at a far slower pace.
A township tour: The majority of people in Victoria Falls live in the Chinotimba township, which has a population of approximately 60 000 people. During this tour, guests will have an opportunity to observe township-life – from the oldest houses to the taverns, the local market and churches. During a visit to the Chinotimba Primary School clients are introduced to the school headmaster – he or someone assigned, will take the guests on a tour of the school.
A home hosted meal: The concept is a simple one; your host cooks and shares a traditional meal with you, at his or her place… I did this and you can read about my experience on a home hosted dinner here. It was a delightful evening and an experience I would recommend to anyone visiting Zimbabwe. The experience is so genuine. You have an interaction that is deceptively simple, yet somehow meaningful; the sharing of a meal.
The ‘Pay it forward Experience’ This is an experience where guests can really give back to the community, and enjoy a fun, challenging exploration of the markets and town of Victoria Falls. You choose an organization you would like to support from a list and are then given a “wish list” from the chosen charity. You then go on a mission to source the items before delivering them to your chosen charity and meeting the people benefiting from your donation.
* On these experiences guests are welcome to bring along second-hand clothing and footwear, stationery such as exercise books, crayons, pens, pencils, rulers, sharpeners, erasers etc as a donation should they wish to. These items can be invaluable in rural or disadvantaged schools and communities.
Victoria Falls Home Hosted Dinner
As someone with a passion for culture, travel and food I love the idea of a home hosted dinner. The concept is a simple one; your host cooks and shares a traditional meal with you, at his or her place.
In Victoria Falls this means that you are welcomed into a typical Zimbabwean house in ‘Chinotimba’. Chinotimba is a high-density suburb of Victoria Falls and away from the general main town and fancy hotels. It is where most of the population of Victoria Falls lives and is also known as Chinotimba Township.
I had the chance to attend a home hosted dinner recently (You can also go for lunch). The cost of the meal includes your return transfers and I was picked up first. We collected the other guests from the beautiful and manicured Victoria Falls Hotel. The other attendees were two American couples. As we moved in the bus away from elegant lawns and colonial architecture into Chinotimba the sounds and smells coming through the windows which we had opened became more intense. It was as if we were watching Mother Africa peel off layers of adornments to reveal her heart.
In Chinotimba the streets are uneven and crowded; crowded with women dressed in colourful ‘chitenge’ fabric wrappers and firewood precariously balanced upon their heads; crowded with children playing and laughing; crowded with old men chatting in the street. Whereas at night the streets in the centre of town were quiet Chinotimba was full of life. There was a sense of palpable excitement in the bus.
We pulled up at a small European style house in close proximity to its neighbours. Our host Tshipo made her way down the front steps. She was dressed in a traditional ‘wrapper’ made from local fabric around her waist and had another as a head-dress. She welcomed us warmly, clasping our hands in both of hers as she greeted us. Her yard was swept clean and rather than an ornamental garden it housed rows of vegetables (Tshipo proudly told us that this is typical here where most households grow and use vegetables). Children of varying ages shyly peeked at us and darted forward to touch a hand or ask questions. After we had all been introduced our host showed us into her living room.
From early on the interaction was very human; everyone wanted to know about each other ‘Where are you from?’, ‘Are these all your kids?’ Once we got to know each other we were seated. Tshipo had prepared the meal prior to our arrival and there were multiple covered dishes. Tshipo opened them one by one and explained the different dishes as she served them.
There was sadza (polenta or maize meal) the staple of all of Southern Africa, kale with a peanut (similar to satay) sauce, kale sautéed with onion and tomato, Kapenta (small, dried and salted fish), beef stew, chicken stew and a side of Mopane Worms (dried caterpillars) for those who were adventurous. The table burst into laughter when a guest enquired about the tiny kapenta fish ‘How do you find a hook small enough to catch them?!’ and Tshipo responded ‘We use a net’.
As we ate we talked loudly and excitedly, the guests and host shared images of their grandchildren… We learned that everyone had far more things in common than different. And after dinner, the children who had eaten in the kitchen with their grandmother crowded around to meet us. An American lady started singing songs her children had liked to one of the little girls and the next thing we knew we had a sing-a-long. The little children were really excited to sing for us so we got to hear a few Ndebele songs before Tshipo sternly reminded them of bedtime on a school night and ushered them off.
After a cup of tea or coffee with our host it was time to return to our hotels and we said a warm farewell to Tshipo. It was a delightful evening and an experience I would recommend to anyone visiting Zimbabwe. The experience is so genuine. You have an interaction that is deceptively simple, yet somehow meaningful; the sharing of a meal. If you’re lucky you’ll make a friend as we all did exchanging email addresses and swapping photos.
Home Hosted Dinners and Lunches are offered by Wild Horizons
A great experience for children or teens who will enjoy meeting other children and learn about other cultures.
Expect an authentic home cooked meal- there will be options you are familiar with that are commonly eaten in Zimbabwe such as beef stew as well as some local dishes that may be new to you. You do not have to try these if you are wary but it is great fun if you do.
Text and Images by Sarah Kerr
Last night – the 4th of June – I had the pleasure of experiencing the Home-Hosted Meals that are available in Victoria Falls for tourists and locals alike. There is a small handful of families and hosts/hostesses that open their homes up to visitors who are looking for an authentic and personal traditional dining experience in one of the two high-density suburbs in Victoria Falls – Chinotimba or Mkhosana.
These families then prepare a traditional spread and treat their visitors to a warm welcoming home cooked meal of sadza (a traditional maize meal similar to polenta), chicken or beef stew, kail (a variety of spinach), carrots, green beans, kapenta (whitebait fish), and last but not least, a traditional favourite dried Mopani worms – known as macimbi in the local Ndebele language.
There are a handful of these dinners that occur every Wednesday evening across the two townships, and what I found most interesting is the conversation that was shared between the visitors (who are just absolutely fascinated by the traditional cuisine) and the hosts/hostesses – who gladly share, teach and explain the traditional township customs to the visitors – who on this occasion all happened to be from the USA.
One of the comments which I could not help but giggle at was one that went along the lines of “Goodness! – I can’t believe how well behaved your kids are!”
Some of the families hosting the dinners have up to around 8 children and grandchildren living with them and indeed their behaviour was something to behold when compared to Western-world standards! It was an evening full of questions, answers, laughter and chit-chat, all of the guests seemed to thoroughly enjoy their traditional meals, and some of them were even brave enough to try out a dried Mopani worm or two!
Some may express concern about the safety aspect of having Westerners wonder through these parts of town – to them I simply say “try it and see!”. All of the visitors who I spoke to were taken hugely by surprise at how relaxed, welcoming and happy the vibe is, unlike other parts of the world. Crime is very minimal in Victoria Falls, probably because of the nature of the people, who seem to have a really laid-back, loving, humorous and friendly approach to life.
A Home-Hosted Dinner (or lunch, they also do lunches) is truly a must-do activity if you are keen to really immerse yourself into local customs, cuisine and culture. The vibe of these suburbs in the early evening really is a unique experience – the sights, sounds and smells of fires, evening church bands, urban chatter and of course the beautiful night-views over Livingstone which can be glimpsed at certain high points in the townships really do make for a fulfilling cultural experience. A huge thanks go out to the welcoming host families for opening up their homes in the name of cross-cultural education, experience, fun and food!