A unique way of speaking - often via short, clicking sounds. A traditional way of life in keeping with customs made over 20,000 years ago. A relaxed, closely knit family culture.

The oldest inhabitants of southern Africa. And the direct descendants of the earliest Homo sapiens species, the original ancestors of all who can trace their roots to Africa. These are the fascinating bushmen of the Kalahari Desert -- and if you’ve ever seen the classic 1980s movie The Gods Must Be Crazy, the story of the bushman may be a bit familiar. But there is so very much more to discover.

The Kalahari Desert spans over 350,000 square miles – and while water is plentiful during the rainy season, this can quickly dry up after a matter of merely a few weeks. At these times, water is scarce and sinks deep into the sands. Rivers and water holes dry up. For nine months. Most of the 320 species of mammals and birds wander or fly off. The vast and arid desert is inhospitable. For anyone but the legendary bushman of the Kalahari Desert.

These bushmen have been figuring out how to live here for over 20,000 years. The oldest inhabitants of southern Africa, the bushmen have no trouble finding water, amassing it from various sources. They carefully layer plant leaves to collect dewdrops the next morning. They dig into the ground with careful precision, knowing where to find the water source.

And they live off a healthier diet than many Westerners. Where one can find water, one can always find food. Roughly three-quarters of their diet consists of plants – a variety of roots, bulbs, tubers, nuts and berries. Meat from the hunt amounts to about 20-30 percent of their food intake. Antelope in particular are their most highly prized delicacy (when they can be found). But at various points, Kalahari lions, cheetahs, leopards, hyenas, giraffes, wild dogs, rhinos, elephants, buffalo, wildebeest and many more can be found. The hunter takes his prey with poisoned arrows and apologises to the animal for the kill, holding its life sacred as another one of God’s creatures.

Rituals are important to the bushmen and they’ve striven to maintain their way of life in much the same ways their ancestors did. Changes have mainly come by a few notable government-restricted sanctions -- and not a desire to adapt to our modern plugged-in society.

Bushmen are a semi-nomadic people and so when their food and water reservoirs are too scarce, they pack up and leave. No one truly ‘owns’ something in their society and they are able to move about freely – keeping shelters in caves or temporary wooden structures, built from local easily sourced materials such as grass-thatched roofs and branches. Moving about so much, the bushmen have left quite a wealth of cave paintings. And researchers and archaeologists have documented over 20,000 individual rock paintings, preserved in more than 500 caves.

The bushmen are a fascinating people indeed and AmaWaterways is proud to invite a local expert for a memorable evening, discussing their daily life.

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