The women of Baleni have been making salt from the mineral-rich waters of a sacred well for many, many generations. The knowledge is passed down from mother to daughter and the techniques have remained the same for hundreds of years.
Before entering the site, the women sit down by an ancient ledwood tree to appease the ancestors with greetings and gifts. They announce their presence, ask for a good harvest and offer some snuff or traditional beer at the base of the tree. The harvesting takes place during the dry season, when salty mud can be scraped off the dry riverbed. This is mixed with water and river sand, and passed several times through a filter built with sticks and twigs, mud and river sand. The result is a salty water that is put on a large pan over a fire to evaporate until only Baleni's white gold remains.
It is a fascinating experience to visit the saltmakers of Baleni. This is cultural heritage in an authentic and unique setting! It is also a way of preserving the art of saltmaking, as many young women have shunned it for years and rather looked for work in the cities and towns. But with the additional income that tourism is now bringing, the interest in these ancient practices is being revived.
The best way to experience the magic of Baleni is to stay at Baleni Cultural Camp - a community camp run by Transfrontier Parks Destinations. Accommodation is provided in comfortable ensuite rondavels, and you can choose between self-catering or a catered stay. From the camp, your guide will take you on a walk through the forest, past the sacred well (which, if the spirits are in a good mood, you may get to visit) and to the salt harvesting site. You will learn not only about these ancient traditions, but also about the myths and legends of the area and about the natural environment.
A night Baleni Cultural Camp starts from R620 pppn (self-catering) and R1,430 (fully catered - all meals and two activities)