Shakaland – Unforgettable Zulu Experience in South Africa

Zulu children at the main lodge in Shakaland, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

“Whomp, whap whap, Whomp, whap whap WHOMP!” The beat grew louder, and the tempo increased. Unamplified, the sound of the Zulu drums boomed, vibrating the very seat I sat in and echoing through the lodge. It was here, deep in Zulu countryside in South Africa, where I witnessed the most impressive and awe-inspiring show I have ever experienced.

The show was only one piece of a form of audience immersion that they put on here in Shakaland, north of Durban in the South African province of KwaZulu Natal. I had heard of the place before but, to be honest, had dismissed it as some type of Disneyland experience, most definitely not for me. But, after a few glowing recommendations I decided to head up there with my South Africa friend Veronique Palmer in October of 2010 to see what all of the fuss was about. What I saw blew my socks off…

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Climbing Kilimanjaro on the Marangu Route

Close-up of Kibo Peak during Sunrise on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Kilimanjaro.  All you really need to do is say the word and it is instantly recognized worldwide.  This stratovolcano, rising from the African savanna, is famous not only as the highest point in Africa, as one of the Seven Summits, and as the world’s highest free-standing mountain, but also as a formidable hiking challenge.  The highest point on Kilimanjaro stands at a whopping 19,341 feet (5,895 m) above mean sea level!  To climb such a massive mountain would indeed be quite the feat, and several colleagues of mine and I had discussed a trip there at some point to attempt this challenge.

Our opportunity arrived as part of a speaking tour I am involved with called ‘Sharing the Point’ that was sponsored by a phenomenal company called Colligo.  The goal of this tour is to take a Microsoft technology I speak on called SharePoint into areas of the world where it has not had much of a presence.  The first two tours took me and the team to Asia in 2011 and then later to South America and Antarctica, a trip I documented here in post on Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Santiago, and, of course, Antarctica.

So, as we thought through the itinerary of our trip, we pondered…”How do we beat the challenge of heading to Antarctica?”  Quite simply…hike from near the base of a massive dormant volcano up to an altitude where there is less than half of the oxygen at sea level – a challenge indeed!

On this particular tour, called STP Africa, my colleagues and good friends Joel Oleson, Paul Swider, Mark Miller, and Eric Harlan joined me for the climb, with John Anderson supporting us from the base camp and serving as the official blogger for the event.  Little did we realize what kind of physical and mental challenge we were about to undertake.

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