The West Coast may be famous for its long sandy beaches, wild flowers, white-washed cottages and seafood buffets, but just beyond the dunes and off the R27, lies a cultural gem waiting to be discovered. !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre offers a one-of-a-kind experience and TravelGround recently had the opportunity to explore this stop on the West Coast Way Culture Route ─ we can’t wait to show you why you’ll need to spend at least a weekend here!

The Concept Behind !Khwa ttu

The !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre aims to empower young San of Southern Africa by providing training for the modern workforce and by educating tourists about their San culture and heritage. !Khwa ttu’s vision and mission is ‘to become a leading, sustainable Centre celebrating San Culture – past, present & future’ and ‘to empower the San in utilising this Centre to reclaim and share their heritage, in their own way.’ As tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in Southern Africa, !Khwa ttu is the perfect centre to get San communities involved in modern development. This is responsible tourism at its best!

Things to do at !Khwa ttu

The centre combines adventure, relaxation and education to offer a diverse cultural experience that breathes new life into the phrase ‘San Spirit Shared’. It offers various activities of the cultural, culinary and adventure variety.

Educate Yourself on a Guided Tour

!Khwa ttu’s guided tours are conducted by San tour guides on foot, a bicycle or an open vehicle and they offer fascinating insight into the culture, heritage, knowledge, skills and contemporary life of the San. This is the best way to truly experience a part of San heritage and customs firsthand and to interact with !Khwa ttu’s experts in the field. The tours take place on a daily basis at 10:00 and 14:00, last one hour and cost R195 per person.

Instead of a traditional tour, we were presented with a map challenge consisting of five tasks related to San culture. During the challenge we had to use a bow and arrow, find traditional tea ingredients, learn and master the San-language’s clicks, translate a San story and finally use our tracking skills during a game of dominoes ─ what a fun way to step into the San’s shoes for an hour or two! Contact them beforehand if you’d like to arrange a similar experience during your visit. Alternatively you can also book a Treasure Hunt for team building or as a group activity at R220 per person which will take about 1.5 to 2 hours. Bookings are essential.

Explore the Farm on a Mountain Bike or a Hike

!Khwa ttu’s hiking and mountain bike trails are ideal for the whole family and offer picturesque views across Grootwater Farm, the R27 and the beach beyond.

There are two well-marked mountain biking routes suitable for all levels of experience and you are welcome to hire mountain bikes from !Khwa ttu for the day. Look out for the beacons along the way to ensure you don’t stray too far off the trail.

The hiking trails offer you the opportunity to view game and explore the unique flora growing on the farm. These trails are also perfect for adventurous trail runners!

Wine and Dine at the Restaurant

Dining at !Khwa ttu’s farmhouse-style restaurant in the centre of the premises is a homely and proudly local affair. They serve wholesome meals prepared with local ingredients that include some of !Khwa ttu’s own free range, reared game and herbs from the garden. This is all topped off with a selection of the best wines from the area.

Specials are available on most days and Sunday lunches often include a traditional dish. The á la carte menu changes seasonally, from lighter platters and salads during the summer months, to hearty soups and slow-cooked main dishes in winter. Either way, your tastebuds won’t be disappointed!

During our visit we were treated to a mouth-watering platter consisting of fine cheeses and charcuterie from Darling, a variety of preserves and various other side dishes, all complimented by some of the most distinctive wines from the Swartland region. For dessert we were spoiled with a slice of orange cake and a delicious cup of coffee ─ both highly recommended!

Opening hours: Monday to Sunday from 08:30 to 16:30. Light meals are served from 11:30, daily, and last orders should be made by 15:30.

Tickle your Tastebuds with a Tea Tasting Garden Tour

Lunchtime isn’t the only time you’ll be able to taste some of !Khwa ttu’s homegrown produce ─ book a tea tasting and garden tour at R120 per person and you’ll receive a guided tour through the herb garden, get to taste any herb or spice you see, and finally taste five different home-brewed wellness teas: rooibos, buchu, wild wormwood, cancerbush and even wild dagga!

These teas are served with mint, pelargonium or honey if you have a sweet tooth. If you like any of the flavours, you can also buy a packet of tea to take home as a souvenir.

The tour is led by one of !Khwa ttu’s experienced tour guides and you’ll be entertained with stories, anecdotes and fascinating facts about the culinary and medicinal properties of every herb, spice and leaf while you’re sipping your shot of tea ─ another great way to literally get a taste of San customs!

Support Local Artists at the Gallery and Shop

!Khwa ttu offers the San artists of Southern Africa a platform for their creative outlet and support fair trade practices in the process. If you want to buy a souvenir, support local San artists or you’re just interested in local art, crafts, photography and books about San culture, stop by the gift shop and gallery at the reception next to the restaurant.

Artworks include clothwork, paintings, wooden carvings, sketches, jewellery made from ostrich eggshells and a variety of handmade textiles made into homeware and accessories like aprons, oven mits, bags and placemats. This is a great way to take a piece of San culture home with you and to support local San talents! They make excellent gifts, especially for international visitors who would like to have a memento of their visit.

Host an Event at !Khwa ttu

Even if you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion, !Khwa ttu will be able to help you out! Besides the restaurant that can seat up to 50 people and the conference room seating up to 40 people, there is a spectacular open air boma with views stretching all the way to Yzerfontein‘s famous Sixteen Mile Beach.

This is the perfect venue for a rustic wedding, birthday celebrations, conference, team-building, or simply to enjoy sundowners with friends or family. It offers privacy, a bar, lots of seating, and even a bush toilet on a koppie next to the boma. Come celebrate a special occasion with friends and family or come raise a glass to the panoramic views after a long day of exploring the centre and its surroundings.

!Khwa ttu Heritage Centre Project

Visit !Khwa ttu after Heritage Day, 24 September 2018 and you’ll be in for a pleasant surprise! On this day an exciting and innovative new initiative will be launched that will offer an experience unlike any other already offered on the premises ─ an audio and visual surround experience and digital archive that will place you in the centre of a typical San community and offer almost 3D-like insight into their culture, traditions and lifestyle. 

!Khwa ttu Heritage Centre, a unique opportunity for the San to tell their story, and the story of humankind, in their own words.

We were fortunate enough to get a sneak peek of this latest project, and we’re already convinced it will be a must-see. Keep an eye on their website and social media pages for updates!

Stay on the premises

A visit to !Khwa ttu won’t be complete without a proper weekend-long stay on the premises! The accommodation consists of two luxury Guest House Units, the Bush House and the Bush Camp with five tented stands.

The Guest House Units

The Guest House Units feature a bedroom, a well-equipped kitchen and a lounge with an indoor fireplace. Both lead out to a veranda and a communal fire pit with panoramic views over the farm. Click here to find out more about the Guest House Units.

The Bush House

The Bush House is mostly solar and gas powered and has a central open-plan living area with a well-equipped kitchen for self-catering purposes. There are two bedrooms, en-suite bathrooms (semi outdoor), a braai area and a lovely veranda with sweeping views over the large garden. Click here to find out more.

The Bush Camp

The Bush Camp has five tented stands with access to communal ablution facilities, a central kitchen and a boma with a fireplace. The tents each sleeps two guests on two single beds and has a small lounge and undercover deck with a table. The whole camp is solar powered. Click here to find out more.

Breakfast and other delectable farm-style meals can be arranged at an extra cost. Guests staying in the accommodation on the premises even get to visit the chicken pen to collect their own eggs for breakfast!

If, for some reason, you can’t manage to book a spot at !Khwa ttu’s own accommodation, check out these stays in Yzerfontein and Darling if you want to drive through for a day trip.

To describe a diverse and fascinating experience like !Khwa ttu in a single blog post is no easy feat, so do yourself a favour and go experience it all for yourself ─ book a weekend or even a whole week on the West Coast and discover this distinctive part of Southern Africa at first hand!

Feature image: Pieter Wolhüter
All other images also by Pieter Wolhüter, unless credited