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Shik Shacking and Empowering: A Sociably Sleepover with a Purpose

Shik Shacking and Empowering: A Sociably Sleepover with a Purpose

Shik Shacking and Empowering: A Sociably Sleepover with a Purpose

Shik Shacking and Empowering: A Sociably Sleepover with a Purpose

Dear Lowvelders,

Shhh! Sociably has been naughty. We defied the Lowveld border. We ventured all the way along the Panorama route to the very outskirts of Mpumalanga, right on the Limpopo border.  No regrets though, I’m bursting to tell you all about April’s Sociably Sleepover!

For this occasion, my Sociably spouse and I dragged our kids along for an adventure that they won’t forget! And the dramatic landscapes of the Panorama route set the perfect stage for a truly unique experience at Shik Shack, the backpacker accommodation within the heart of somewhere ever better – Nourish Eco Village.

Before I delve into the incredible things happening at Nourish, let’s quickly touch base on the unique accommodation options at Shik Shack. True to the spirit of South Africa, Shik Shack offers a range of rustic yet comfortable dwellings. Imagine colorful rondavels (the traditional round huts) – each a vibrant representation of iconic South African brands like Marmite and Chappies. For those seeking a more adventurous stay, safari tents and bush huts are also available. Despite the simplicity of these accommodation options, all of these units are equipped with electricity and essential amenities, guaranteeing a restful sleep after a day of exploration.

Beyond the unique accommodation, guests have access to a clean ablution block and a refreshing swimming pool. Budget-conscious travelers can utilize the communal kitchen and family room, while a cash bar and on-site restaurant cater to those seeking post-adventure relaxation and socializing.  A coffee shop provides that morning caffeine boost, and a gift shop offers a chance to take home a piece of the village spirit with locally-made crafts.

Something else that truly sets Shik Shack apart is the warmth of its community. The staff and volunteers are the heart and soul of the place, welcoming guests with open arms. We were hosted for dinner and spent the evening getting to know the resident Shik Shack team that seems more like a family than co-workers. The lounge area is equipped with a pool table and a wide variety of board games to keep you entertained well into the night.

Now, let’s delve into the heartbeat of this feature, Nourish Eco Village:

Founded in 2011, Nourish Eco Village takes a holistic approach to conservation, tackling the root causes that can lead to wildlife crime, like poaching. They have recognized that poverty, low education, food insecurity, and unemployment create a situation where communities might be more susceptible to exploiting wildlife resources. Nourish works hand-in-hand with the people of Sigagule village, empowering them through education, food security projects, and job creation. Over the past decade, they’ve refined a sustainable blueprint that prioritizes community needs and fosters a long-term connection with the natural world. Nourish believes that by strengthening communities, they ultimately strengthen wildlife conservation efforts and reduce the pressure that can lead to poaching.

The principle is to create an environment in which children are nurtured in a vibrant space where recycled materials are transformed into educational tools.  The focus is on self-sustainability, environmental awareness, basic literacy and math skills.  Beyond the classroom, aftercare programs provide a safe space for children to learn life skills and explore their creativity. 

Upon arrival, we met with our village guide, Martin, who took us on an informative tour through Nourish Eco Village. It quickly became clear that “eco-friendly” isn’t just a buzzword here. It’s a philosophy empowering the people of Sigagule village. We started at the impressive vegetable gardens, built entirely from recycled and repurposed materials and serving as learning ground for the children that come here. Martin described how the children participate in learning about growing food, from planting seeds to understanding the importance of self-sufficiency. As we continued, a treasure trove of community projects were revealed:

The computer center, a haven for digital exploration, offers the children basic computer skills and essential math – vital tools for navigating the modern world.

The Wildflower Centre offers a haven for young women. Here, workshops address vital topics like menstrual health and life skills, empowering them to become leaders within their families and the community. 

A sewing center provides a valuable space to learn vocational skills such as sewing and clothing repair, and perhaps most important to the women of this community, the creation of washable & reusable menstruation pads.  This initiative not only equips them with income-generating skills but also addresses a critical need to manage their menstrual health with dignity and confidence. This ripple effect ultimately contributes to their overall well-being and strengthens the community as a whole. Items made in the sewing center are sold at the gift shop, including the menstruation pads and my personal favorite as a yoga teacher, yoga mat bags! Which brings me to the next part of this tour…

Yoga classes for the Nourish kids, led by local yoga teacher, Cali. And obviously, I jumped at the opportunity to join in on the fun. The class was a beautiful blend of physical and mental growth. Seeing the children’s joy as they stretched and breathed new life into their bodies in unison was a truly wholesome experience.

The kids of Nourish are an energetic bunch. Their smiles were like sunshine, and even though there was sometimes a language barrier, their witty and playful energy made me laugh every time. After witnessing the life-changing work of Nourish Eco Village, I can see that these children are on a path paved with endless opportunity.

The following day had another experience instore for us. When morning came, we embarked with Martin on a tour through Sigagule Village. Our purpose was to experience the environment and culture of this community firsthand.

Stepping into the village where the children of Nourish Eco Village reside offered a glimpse into their daily lives. Here, we witnessed the creation of traditional mats and traditional peanut butter made from peanuts grown by the community, even trying our hand at these two skills ourselves. This hands-on experience was a stark contrast to the digital world my own children are accustomed to, offering them a valuable lesson in cultural appreciation.

Next up was an encounter with a traditional healer or medicine man. His insightful demeanor shone through as Martin translated the story of his calling and the process of passing this knowledge on to his grandchildren. This provided a deeper understanding into the practices. We learnt that his collection of bones originates from a wide variety of animals and is passed down from one generation to the next. The community and the Kruger National Park also work hand-in-hand whereby the park gets into contact with the community when a deceased animal is found to enquire if any traditional healers need bones.

Our last experience was the taste of a true traditional meal. We were especially entertained by our children during this experience, as we watched them take the first bite of each dish. Strangest on the list were the fried Mopani worms. Honestly, the idea was more off-putting than the actual taste. While not exactly a delicacy, they weren’t bad. In all seriousness, if I was starving, I wouldn’t hesitate to eat them again. This was an interesting sensory experience and a fun one to have!

Leaving Shik Shak and Nourish Eco Village, we carried with us a profound sense of cultural enrichment and a deep appreciation for the work they do. The drive back along the Panorama Route felt different; the majestic scenery infused with a newfound meaning after witnessing the dedication to community upliftment at Nourish.

This wasn’t just a weekend getaway; it was a journey into the heart of a community, a chance to learn, connect, and return home feeling humbled and forever grateful for the experience.

If you would like to know more about Shik Shack and Nourish Eco Village, you can visit their website here: