Going truly local in Melkhoutfontein
It is said of Melkhoutfontein, as you reach for a welcoming outstretched hand, that the smile still reaches the eyes here. Walking about the community, many muse that this project must surely be the model for hope and ’ a better life for his people’, Nelson Mandela and those who shared his vision, had hoped for. Visitors find a real chance of it here. Inspite of the challenges, there is commitment and resolve.
Dreamcatcher’s ‘Wastelend – Graced Land visitor experience contributes to the creation of new entrepreneurs, the transformation and growth of the tourism sector to include new experiences and new business people. It also contributes significantly to improving the environment and enables meaningful intra-cultural engagement.
At the heart of the project it is our intention to break and add to the current mould of the tourist experience of what is South Africa. This is an innovative expansion of a mutually inclusive experience which links visitors to the local people where they live.The local ecology, culture and art, heritage and the history of the community of Melkhoutfontein are all part of what defines them.
The Wasteland – Graced Land experience therefore enables harmonious interdependency of people, lifestyle and nature on each other to work together to facilitate sustainable living. Welcome to Melkhoutfontein!
So what can visitors expect?
Welcome! Wasteland – Graced Land, Melkhoutfontein, is a local, connected, informative, actively engaged and as fun as it gets, experience in South Africa. What is more, the experience is offered, run and wholly owned by local, trained welcoming, professional home grown enterprises. Melkhoutfontein is a unique “ Go truly Local’ destination in South Africa where encounters between people, history and nature can be enjoyed by everyone.
As visitors leave their vehicle, they cross the divide from spectator to engager, finding themselves in the company of special people living in an extraordinary place. Connected and in synch with the moment, life-world’s merge in a harmonious and fun engagement “fest”. Sharing mutuality, visitors experience that people here are really listening as they engage in activities and activities face to face. Because it matters in Melkhoutfontein.
As discerning global citizens visitors have the chance to impact positively to contribute to realising the UN Sustainable Development Goals in fun filled interactive adventures at local level. Visitors are exchanging their spectator seat to participation in an informative, enabling local experience. Enjoying enlightening encounters with a community, now known to be descendants of the KhoeKhoen, the ‘forgotten first people’ of the Southern Cape, they engage and share information as they make a difference together.
The Wasteland – Graced Land experience is therefore a chance to be part of the ‘survival team. With a brush of a skilled or unskilled hand (everyone welcome), visitors paint alongside the locals learning about their ancient history and humanities’; help to clear the area from rubbish which is then used to make crafts; clear areas for planting botanical specie or help develop a bird atlas to count how many specie have returned or identify botanical specie which have returned spontaneously where invader vegetation has been removed.
Activities include taking part in The Awakening. Recreating history with the locals, on a project called PaintUp with Kamamma, where you are actively involved in creating the world’s largest walking history book and a better quality life for the people of Melkhoutfontein. A walk in the St. Augustine’s church grounds reminds of an area steeped in history. The first church to be built in the area. Built from Calcrete stone indigenous to the area, the church is situated on ancient local burial grounds and where too the remains of British Anglo Boer war casualties lie. Queen Victoria honoured the compassion of the people of Melkhoutfontein by granting the community the land on which the church and a botanical garden are situated.
At lunch or dinner time, where wholesome, healthy food is enjoyed, picking vegetables and herbs from a 100% organically grown home garden for your meal is part of the experience. CookUp local traditional food with the famous Kamammas (local women). Visitors, now totally at home, are not surprized to be reminded of their youth, as giggling local children hug their knees.
At sunset retire to the Homestay with Kamamma, proudly run and owned by a local, well-trained accommodation host. The Kamammas offer a comfortable room, fresh cooked food, and a ten star welcome!
The people of Melkhoutfontein experienced everything that could be metered out to a community to facilitate its demise through impeded growth. Yet as visitors join the locals, they feel and see that here, hope is the last to die and that they are truly connecting with the country. Experiencing it in a different, participative manner.
Since our founding, almost 30 years ago, Dreamcatcher has been committed to work in partnerships focused on transcending the status quo to deliberately develop impactful projects with sustainable outcomes, to stimulate tourism, and a new order of involved sustainable tourist enterprises and to faciliate a sustainable environment in local communities. We specifically work in a mutually inclusive approach, with individuals and communities living in harsh socio-economic circumstances close to natural environments to develop the local economic circumstances. In this regard innovated projects must work for people IN nature as we view them interconnected and mutually affecting each other.
Enabling the power of women to effect sustainable change in their communities as entrepreneurs, we have deliberately and innovatively developed Melkhoutfontein as a destination. Working as a team and drawing on its unique culture, ancient history and surrounding environment, the result is a unique uplifting, authentically local experience in the community, run by the locals.
- The site of the ‘La Bloemen’ Botanical Garden, the St. Augustine’s Church grounds and the Arts, Craft and Humanity Centre is situated on approx. 5 hectares of land, on the peripheral of the community of Melkhoutfontein. Melkhoutfontein is situated between 2 waste sites and has historically been the dumping ground of the area for decades. Today this is a changing environment.
- The aim of the community, working side by side with Dreamcatcher and visitor, is to develop the area into a top eco-nature tourist destination by restoring nature, re-awakening the historical roots which offers gripping knowledge and insight into understanding all of humanity.
- Wasteland – Graced Land is creating work and proud local tourism enterprises, particularly focusing on women and youth. They are contributing to the local economy.
- Geographically situated in the Hessequa region in South Africa, Melkhoutfontein lies within The Gouritz Biosphere Cluster Reserve, a UN declared biodiversity region. It is also in one of the top 4 tourist destinations in South Africa, namely the Garden Route, in the Western Cape.
- The indigenous fynbos, for which this specific area is famous, was decimated here by the import and planting of the invader specie Acacia Cyclops to stabilize the dunes for building purposes in neighbouring resort town of Stilbaai and other surrounding regions on the south coast.
- The research, planning and development phase of Wasteland – Graced Land project took 10 years to develop in conjunction with the community.
- It is an integrated development plan and each phase adds value and feeds into the total project, with an inherent range of diverse job and micro-business development opportunities built into the project. Health and wellness is also addressed.
- Enables sustained work, manufacturing and enterprise development amongst women and youth. The community is using recycling and the invader wood specie to produce unique crafts. Using what there is in their community as a resource to develop micro-businesses, provides a sustainable solution to facilitate income and contributes to restoring the environment.
- The project also includes a visit to the development site of the Centre for Arts, Crafts and Humanity ivisitor centre.
What is included in the experience
- Meet, greet, Walkabout and Talkabout with local guide services with Boetie or Sisi (brother or sister) the community of Melkhoutfontein
- Lunch and dinner (day excursion) (groups of up to 24 can be accommodated but contact for further information if larger as then the groups are split to ensure a high quality experience)
- CookUp with Kamamma, herb tasting
- PaintUp with Kamamma
- Entrance and planting of indigenous Fynbos plants on the botanical garden contributing to the restoration of the environment
- Visiting the ancient shell middens and fish traps
- Try your hand a identifying bird and botanical specie on site
- Help out to clear areas of waste/recycling to used for crafting
- Overnight accommodation on bed and breakfast basis (overnight excursion highly recommended). Groups of up to 18 people can be accommodated.
- Visiting St. Augustine’s Church Grounds
- Viewing the ancient artefacts left by the Khoekhoen, descendants of the people of Melkhoutfontein
- When the current development of a Centre for Arts, Crafts and Humanities is completed, entrance to the interpretation and craft producing centre.
Where the project is
Melkhoutfontein, Hessequa, is situated close to the N.2 one of the major visitor travel routes linking Cape Town with the Garden Route and Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. It’s also situated close to where the Blombos cave was discovered in 1991 sharing significant insight into the expression of humanity through art and artefacts found in the cave.
The people of Melkhoutfontein through DNA testing, have been found to be descendants of the Hessequa KhoeKhoen, the first nation living in the South West Cape. The KhoeKhoen were the first people with whom Jan van Riebeeck engaged and bartered for cattle and food sending expeditions out shortly after landing at the Cape in 1652.