Although spiritual tourism is a relatively new concept in South Africa, this is not the case in other countries. Although it is not a simple matter to provide a precise definition of the genre, it is perhaps best to regard it as the process of undertaking a journey in order to gain some form of personal enlightenment. Often, as in countries such as Israel and India, the quest is for religious enlightenment and is reflected in visits to places considered holy by those of various faiths. In such cases, the object of interest may be a mountain, a temple or perhaps a statue of a saint.
Spiritual Tourism is Rapidly Gaining Popularity in South Africa
Spiritual tourism in South Africa, however, is perhaps centred less upon a traveller’s religious beliefs than on a desire to seek out and to learn more of his or her roots. Nevertheless, in its own context, this type of journey could also be seen as a form of pilgrimage, but one in which the primary goal is to commune with one’s past, rather than with a deity.
Africa is ancient, as seen in its vast areas of desert and the erosion that, over millions of years, has worn many of its towering mountains till their peaks have become flattened like Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain. Religious shrines are not the main destinations for spiritual tourism in South Africa, but instead the hills and the valleys that have preserved the bones and the artefacts that once belonged to the ancestors of all mankind.
One such destination is the Makgabeng Plateau. It lies in the shadow of the magnificent Blouberg Mountain Range and in the heart of Limpopo. The plateau is famed not just for its abundant wildlife and varied flora, but also for its rock art. Here the long-departed San and Khoikhoi tribes that once thrived in this area have left an indelible record of their lives and their customs in the ancient rock. More recently, the Northern Sotho people have added to the pictorial records that have become a magnet for spiritual tourism in South Africa.
In addition to the works left by the Bushman tribes who may have inhabited the areas for as much as 120 thousand years, the local Bahananwa people have left their own records. The most noticeable of these are white and yellow finger paintings that depict the capture and forced removal by rail of their chief by the ZAR government in 1894. These paintings are believed to be the first example of the use of art in southern Africa as the means for its indigenous peoples to express protest against their oppression. The Makgabeng Plateau is unique among spiritual tourism destinations in South Africa in that it is the only rock art location where the works of the San, the Khoikhoi and the Bahananwa peoples are to be found in a single site.
Whether to view these ancient records to experience the natural beauty of the plateau and mountain range or to marvel at the region’s wildlife, you will need a base from which to explore. At Makgabeng Farm Lodge, we offer the choice of luxury accommodation, fine dining and all the comforts of home, while our Rock Art Camp is perfect for lovers of nature and spiritual tourism in South Africa.