There are several ways to visit a Ju|’hoansi community as an independent traveller. A major consideration is language. Within the Nyae-Nyae Conservancy, only three communities currently have English-speaking guides: at Doupos and Mountain Pos, around 8km and 12km south of Tsumkwe, respectively, as well as at the Little Hunter’s Living Museum in ||Xa||oba, 23km north of Tsumkwe. The conservancy office can give you directions. In addition, the living museum near Grashoek, off the C44 by the veterinary fence, was the first such set-up to be established in Namibia, in 2004, and so is used to receiving visitors. The living museums both have set prices for activities, given on their website, such as N$150 for a bushwalk, or N$200 for a whole four or more hours of mixed activities, which will generally be carried out in traditional animal skin clothing. Activities can include tracking, learning about medicinal plants, setting snares, hunting, making ostrich-shell jewellery, preparing food, storytelling and dancing. You’ll get the most out of your visit by being willing to join in and by learning at least a couple of phrases in Ju|’hoan from your hosts. Each museum has a “demonstration village” with the kind of “beehive” grass-covered wooden domed huts the San constructed when they practised a nomadic lifestyle, though if you stay a night or two, you may also be invited to their modern settlement. Be prepared for jeans and T-shirts, and makeshift shelters from sheets of plastic, as well as clay bricks, or breezeblocks and empty Coca-Cola bottles. Each of the living museums has a few nicely located campsites with well-maintained long-drop toilets, a tap, bucket showers and a fireplace. For both these places, you need no prior reservation.

Alternatively, you can stay at Nhoma Camp, where the lodge owners have lived and worked among the N||hoq’ma community for many years, and the experience is organized much more around the rhythm of the Ju|’Hoansi’s daily activities, rather than tourists picking and choosing what to do from a menu. There is no demonstration village and residents wear their normal everyday clothes.

In addition, several villages in the Nyae-Nyae conservancy have established community campsites – a couple under giant baobabs – though some have absolutely no facilities, not even a latrine. On arrival, you should ask permission to camp from one of the community elders. Traditionally the Ju|’Hoansi’s non-hierarchical social structure does not entail a headman, though pressure from outsiders wanting to negotiate with leaders has, over time, pushed some into these leadership positions. Establish what the camping rate is in advance (usually N$60–80/person). Note that wild camping is forbidden. Many of these settlements (which may only consist of around 20–25 people) with campsites are also beginning to invite tourists to join in foraging, hunting, cooking or craft-making activities. Women do the foraging, whereas men hunt. There may not, however, be anyone in the village who speaks English, so unless you have some Afrikaans, which some of the older Ju|’hoansi can speak, you’ll be reduced to sign language, though you could make enquires about engaging an interpreter at the conservancy office in Tsumkwe in advance. The conservancy has given the villages general guidelines about payment, which generally relates to fees for groups: N$1000 for a day’s activities, N$750 for a half-day.

When camping at a community site, make sure you take all rubbish away with you. You should also bring sufficient water, and preferably firewood, with you, as they may not be available, or cook on gas. Where there is a tap, be sparing with the water, and if wood is not available for purchase, you should not collect it from their precious supply. Alcohol is another sensitive issue; be discreet if you’re having a beer and do not drink in the presence of your hosts, as alcohol dependency is a problem in many Ju|’hoansi communities. All services and activities currently need to be paid for in cash; that said, bringing some food to share with your hosts, such as nuts, dried or fresh fruit, is welcome. Sweets are not helpful, given the lack of dental care available, though you’ll find sugar, tea and tobacco are common purchases in the general store. Excessive tipping is also ill-advised as it disturbs the economic equilibrium within and among communities, creating jealousies and raising expectations that subsequent visitors may not be able to fulfil. Photography is another delicate topic; if you want to take photographs, make sure you ask about the etiquette before you bring out your camera.

A visit to almost any community almost always concludes with an invitation to purchase some crafts; these usually have labels with fair, set prices; haggling is not customary. Choose from exquisitely made ostrich-shell necklaces and bracelets, as well as bows, quivers and arrows, small leather pouches decorated with more shells and, best of all, love bows – these miniature blunt arrows are traditionally fired at a young woman’s buttocks by an aspiring suitor, and she indicates her response either by picking up the arrow and clasping it to her bosom, or letting it lie in the dust.

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