Our Vision For Community-Based Tourism

Rural immersion - visitor, Gogo and traditional hut

Genuine community-based tourism empowers communities to discover elements of their cultures and lifestyle that are valuable to share with guests. These can be ways of life which local people have long taken for granted as uninteresting or inferior, for example the languages spoken, the food eaten, the homes lived in or the way a sense of neighbourliness is built.

These are the gems that more and more responsible and adventurous tourists around the world are seeking to encounter in their travels. And the precious memories of these authentic interactions with a home community remain with travellers far longer than the memory of a museum visited or an animal seen. In fact, these experiences often become very meaningful and life-changing, precisely because they are mutual exchanges where the person visiting and the person being visited can truly connect and learn from and with one another.

In contrast, conventional tourism often provides a more limited view of a country; a perspective that hotels, game parks, cultural villages and tour guides “design” to “present” to tourists. This can easily become a contrived view of the country that keeps the visitor and the visited separate.


For Phaphama, genuine community-based tourism means that local people are central to it, taking responsibility and benefitting from all aspects of the visit; setting it up, carrying it out, ensuring the safety and comfort of the guest and even following up with the traveller who has now become a friend. And in the process of generating income, communities that have traditionally been marginalized regain a sense of dignity and pride, while visitors go home with a new enriched way of looking at life.

In our full- or half-day tours you will get to meet and talk with local people. You will share a meal with them, prepared and hosted by the families in the neighbourhood. And you will be able to hear from the perspective of local people what life is like in a country that has come through a remarkable transition, and that still has immense human development challenges.

Your tour guide will facilitate this meeting so that it caters to your area of interest and becomes a genuine two-way exchange of minds and hearts. In the process, you will learn a few words of an African language and receive an African name, which you can use throughout your stay in our country to help you integrate with South Africans.

Phaphama’s community tourism is relationship-tourism at its most authentic; one that will answer some of the questions you have long had about South Africa, and one that will raise many more questions for you to grapple with as you return home.


Phaphama Initiatives conducts Africa language courses, known as TALK courses. In a TALK course, every language learner is paired up with a mother-tongue speaker of the target language. Also, as part of this training, every group of learners spends one day visiting the home of one of their language helpers, usually in Soweto. The trip to the helper’s home is always in an ordinary taxi. During this day, learners practise the language they have learnt by walking in the streets and talking to the community, they buy food from the hawkers and cook an African meal, which they then enjoy together. They sing, dance, play language games and share in culture discussions with one another.

phap workshop

Participants in a recent Phaphama workshop

Over the years, the request for these “mini-immersions” spread to other people, even those who were not enrolled on a TALK African language course. Today, TALK Tourism is a thriving initiative that combines Phaphama’s other work to enrich visitors’ experiences in South Africa. During the World Cup in June 2010, Phaphama hosted overseas and local soccer fans in a very successful tourism initiative: so successful that the Minister for Tourism, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, appointed Phaphama as one destination in his Sho’t Left Roadshow of Soweto in August 2010.


TALK has arranged meaningful, personal, cross-cultural encounters for South Africans and visitors from abroad from the following sectors:

  • The anti-apartheid movement in the U.S.A. and the Netherlands
  • Religious groups from Riverside Church, New York
  • Students from Michigan State University, the University of Delaware and the Eastern Mennonite University, among others
  • Dutch, British, French, Italian, German, Chinese, American and other visitors
  • People involved in development work all over the world
  • The South African corporate sector
  • The South African local public.

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