Behind the Scenes of South Africa: The Expedition Project
By Roger Wynne-Dyke
Driving Change, The Expedition Project (Photo by Roger Wynne-Dyke)
If you go to Egypt you go to the pyramids, if you go to USA you go to New York, if you go to England you go to London, of you go to France you go to Paris, if you go to Italy you go to Rome, and if you go to South Africa you, without doubt, you will get told to go to Cape Town and Kruger National Park, and if you have the time, the Garden Route. Is there more to Egypt, USA, England, France and Italy and so on? Of course there is. So is there more to South Africa than Table Mountain and the Big 5? Hell yeah!
Isn’t it so often the case when travelling to a new country that you venture to only the ‘heard about’ or ‘commonly spoken’ places, the known tourist destinations, and then after a successful holiday you may return to the same places yet again because you know it will be money well spent and you are guaranteed a good time.
In South African terms, locals will discover a good place to spend their three weeks of holiday per year and they will visit that place for years in a row, and even worse they will aim to travel there in one day (sometimes a 6 – 8 hour drive or more) so that they can set up camp and relax for as long as possible. Now, although that is understandable for big families who want as little stress and upheaval on their time off, it also limits tourism to other places. If you do this, there is nothing wrong with that, it is just time to experiment, not just within your own country but everywhere.
So in terms of South African tourism, locals have identified a handful of places they will travel each year as a family, and for international tourists, well they will frequent on average three places in South Africa during their average ten-day holiday. This is also common for most tourism destinations. Three places, that is it, and these will be viewed as ‘South Africa’, or whatever country you are visiting, by foreign eyes. But is this the real South Africa? This may be the South Africa we want to show the rest of the world, but don’t be fooled. Are the capital cities and the most frequented places necessarily the best?
As part of a new initiative, myself, Roger Wynne-Dyke, and volunteer Maddy Savitt, have been travelling to the lesser known parts of South Africa to see if there is more than meets the eye, if there is beauty outside of Cape Town, animals outside of Kruger and contrasts outside of the Garden Route. We were sure we would find an easy yes to that answer but what we really found was a whole new country, a country full of smiles, cultures, smells, flavours, tastes and so much genuine hospitality.
Smiling Children in Steinkopf, South Africa (Photo by Roger Wynne-Dyke)
There is also more to South Africa than a troubled past, a freedom struggle and Apartheid. We wanted to chat to South Africans as we travelled, but not about Apartheid, we wanted to focus on the present and the future. For us history is available for us to learn from not to dwell on and South Africa has an amazing opportunity to start from scratch, almost literally and create a new country with an amazingly progressive constitution. We had heard that the government has been using the past as a marketing campaign and an escape clause, but we wanted to find out what the people really think and feel. And from there what they wanted to do with their future and what they had in mind for tourism and community improvement in their towns.
So in 2011 we identified 200 of the smaller towns along the perimeter of the country to visit with the 365 days of 2012, leaving the one leap year day for a day off. This was the start, the first of several years of South African re-discovery. Hopefully it would be a re-awakening for us, for the country and for any future tourists to South Africa.
The Expedition Project Route (Photo by Roger Wynne-Dyke)
We started by posing a few questions before we left to incorporate in a nationwide survey:
1. What do the people of South Africa think about their country?
2. Is sustainable eco-tourism alive?
3. Is it worth venturing to some of the unknown places you can’t pronounce?
4. What community and conservation projects can we find?
We are now six months into our 2012 journey and we would like to look back on the project so far and share with you our experiences, our discoveries and our ideas.
For more on what we have found and discovered, where we have been and where we are going, visit www.theexpeditionproject.com. Also, stay tuned for the next article in this series from The Expedition Project on Your Travel Choice.
About the Author: Roger Wynne-Dyke
Roger launched out from his nurturing home to see the world as a starry-eyed nineteen year-old. His travels taught him many things, but it was in returning to his African homeland that he learnt his identity and vocation. He has done more than see the world – he has observed it. And what he discovered is the vastness of life and the wealth of beauty we pass by unwittingly every day. His future vision is global once more, but in a different way. This time around, his aim is to light a fire that will spread across the world as a force for positive and lasting change.