Profiles on Kurisa Moya have focused on them operating off the grid since opening in 2000 when they started up the lodge in earnest. I spoke to Lisa Martus, co-custodian of this magical piece of wilderness in Limpopo, on what she would like to highlight about their most recent efforts in sustainable tourism.
“I think what I would like to highlight in recent years, is that we’ve really been looking at how to transform a visitor’s experience and expectations of an Eco-lodge. We are really trying to make them think about ways to economize and be more sustainable in their own context.”
This translates through in their experience driven activities and programs. From the village experience (where it is really about following the rhythms of daily life) to a visit to the traditional healer, the Sangoma (someone who is actually consulted by local people), Lisa and her team are not ‘putting something up for tourism’.
“I think it’s about transforming the visitors’ experience to really understand the connections between ourselves and everything else,” she says.
Kurisa Moya will soon also form part of a much bigger conservancy. The conservation area will run all the way down the Koedoes River Valley and all the way around the back, so to include Woodbush, Grootbos and then down to the bottom of Moketse.
This will be 300,000 ha in total, but eventually, they hope to reach 60,000 ha of pure wilderness. The area already has an 80% biodiversity scorecard – so it would be a national reserve. Kurisa Moya will be running walking, hiking and bicycling trails through this area – a great expansion for Kurisa Moya.
Lisa enthusiastically talks about their research programmes. The Birds and Trees program, which is an educational program, run by David and Paul and the other bird guides, and the Cape Parrot Educational and Monitoring Program.
“The educational programs for the for the Cape Parrot is in run schools of areas where Cape Parrots are found, they are a listed red data species, near endangered, so David goes out and plays games with the kids and really makes that makes them understand the importance of the Cape Parrot.”
And the same with the Birds and Trees program, it is a greening program, but it is looking at conservation issues that would be of interest to school goers and using their position as guides in the area, to really make an impact on young learners.
“I think that we can tell sustainable tourism stories in South Africa more successfully by actually allowing the visitor to write their own story for themselves. You know, there is a lot said by influencers and bloggers and so on, but I think more and more travelers want to have stories that they are telling themselves. I think that it is how we connect with others that really becomes an authentic travelers’ story.”
I tend to agree. These authentic immersive experiences, although that term is over-used, really do have at its basis real connection. Lisa believes real human stories, real nature-based conservation stories, something with heart, is what we should be telling. “I also think that’s it is becoming more and more visual. Stories should not be put together by someone who has a vested interest in the outcome.”
“Nowadays it’s just expectation of visitors that is a great challenge. Is there going to be Wi-Fi and is there going to be electricity and a plug points and so on? We also continuously need to try and find innovative solutions to your energy usage and to recycling.”
Trying to keep up with the pressures of the outside world in an off-grid community and continuing to set new benchmarks, is something that we all definitely underestimate. Hats off to Lisa and her team.
Images and words by Daréll Lourens
Digital Filmmaker – Photographer – Travel Writer
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