Farm stays in Africa
How to find agriturism opportunities—the chance to stay on a working farm—in Africa
Farm stays in...
GeneralThe concept behind agritourism (or rural tourism, or farm stays, or dude ranches, or farmhouse B&Bs, or whatever you want to call it) is simple: you spend the night as a guest on a working farm. From there, though, the concept flies off in many directions.
Sometimes you just hole up for the night in a B&B converted from a farmhouse, or in a guest hut in a tribal village of small-scale farmers.
Sometimes you actually stick around to do volunteer work for a few days (a week, two months, a year), as with the worldwide WWOOF network.
Sometimes, just renting a cottage in a rural area where sheep wander past your window is enough to count.
Ideally, the property's owners live on-site and are farmers who derive the bulk of their income from agriculture, using this newfangled form of tourism merely to help make ends meet.
In some countries, the practice of agritourism is highly regulated; in most, it’s a wild west of opportunities, and you have to pick carefully to avoid spending the night in a barn atop a pile of hay (unless that's what you want—I've done it in Europe, and it's great).
Some local tourist offices provide lists of local farm stays.
If you want to find and book a few before you leave, here are the best online resources for finding farm stays all across Africa. Not all sites are available in English, but the pertinent details are usually pretty easy to figure out:
Agrisport (www.agrisport.com) - It's very much a homemade site, and far from the best organized around, but it's loaded with links once you drill down. These are not only to specific guest farms and dude ranches, but to other outdoors and agritourism links as well, all grouped by country or state. One annoying factor: you have to open a site in a new window to see what its actual url is (otherwise every page is masked as "agrisport.com").
Agritourism World (www.agritourismworld.com) - Ladies and gentlemen, behold: a list of thousands of farm stays around the world... in alphabetical order by name. Not even sure why I bother including this sits, since the results are nearly random—a farm B&B in rural Pennsylvania wedged between one in Italy and another in Belize. How useful is that? Still, if you just want to roll the virtual dice when it comes to location, you'll find plenty of agriturismi here.
Become a farmhand; sleep for free - If you really want to get your hands dirty, sign up to become a temporary farmhand through one of two volunteer organizations: WWOOF (www.wwoof.org) and Helpx (www.helpx.net)...
Earthfoot (www.earthfoot.org) - Under "Homestays" you'll find a handful of listings for Ghana.
Accueil Paysan (www.accueil-paysan.com) - It's a bit hidden on this French site for a guidebook devoted to countryside accommodations, but there is a page (I deep-linked to it above) showcasing half a dozen Moroccan farm stays. Prices are around $20–$30 per person for room and breakfast, plus another $8–$12 for meals (shared bunks are often available for $8–$12 per person).
Organic Places to Stay (www.organicholidays.co.uk) - Lists at least one farm B&B/homestays on a working organic farm in Morocco.
Senegal Tourism Office (www.senegal-tourism.com) - The national tourism authority will set you up in a small hut in a rural Senegalese village for about $40 per day for room and full board (it's under "Accommodations: Special Activities").
Earthfoot (www.earthfoot.org) - Under "Homestays" you'll find a handful of listings for Senegal.
Farmstay.co.za (www.farmstay.co.za) - Lists an impressive 316 lodges across South Africa—in some areas, these properties lean more toward game lodges than farm stays, but all are at least rural experiences. Rates range around $40–$80 for simple farmhouse B&Bs—but once you get into upscale, safari lodge-stype operations, $100–$300 per double is not unusual.
Organic Places to Stay (www.organicholidays.co.uk) - Lists several farm B&Bs or homestays on working organic farms in South Africa.
Earthfoot (www.earthfoot.org) - Under "Homestays" you'll find a handful of listings for Swaziland.
Earthfoot (www.earthfoot.org) - Under "Homestays" you'll find a handful of listings for Tanzania.
Earthfoot (www.earthfoot.org) - Under "Homestays" you'll find a handful of listings for Zimbabwe.
Double rooms at an African agritourism operation run anywhere from $8 to $300, but simple farm stays are usually around $10 to $80—and that often includes meals
Prices are highest in South Africa ($40–$80 for simple B&Bs, though $100–$300 is not unusual for upscale, safari lodge-stype operations), reasonable in Morocco ($20–$30 per person for room and breakfast, another $8–$12 for meals—with shared bunks available for $8–$12), and much, much lower in sub-Saharan Africa (on the order of $10–$25 per person per day, including all meals).
I've stayed at loads of agriturismi: vineyards and dairy farms, barns amid olive groves and frescoed villas next to horse stables. Each stay has offered me a different experience of farm life for a fraction the cost of a hotel.
Many agriturisms require a two- or three-night minimum stay (for some, a week).
Roughly half accept credit cards.
Sometimes you get four-star luxury and satellite TV. Sometimes you’re a straw's-width from sleeping in a stall.
Most, though, are just what you'd expect from a farmhouse B&B: simple comforts, solid country furnishings, and rural tranquility—barnyard noises excepted.
The hosts tend to be a sight friendlier than your average hotel desk clerk. Some invite guests to dine with them, family-style, in the farmhouse. One shepherd let me stir a bubbling pot of sheep's milk to help it on its way to becoming pecorino cheese. Vineyard owners love to crack open bottles of their best to guide you through the finer points of wine tasting.