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Calabash Tours is one of those small companies that started as an entrepreneurial dream, which became a reality through dedication, vision and commitment. Started in 1997 by local Port Elizabeth couple, Paul and Thandi Miedema, the company has grown from strength to strength.
Originally the company consisted of a 7 roomed guest house and a cultural tour company. In 2005 the decision was made to sell the Calabash Lodge, so as to effectively grow and develop Calabash Tours into a market leader in Cultural tourism. A tourism that has an inclusive approach to our diverse people, a tourism that is meaningful to the disadvantaged people of Port Elizabeth, and a Tourism that serves to inform visitors about the dynamism of our new democracy.
Hence the name- Calabash Tours. In African culture the Calabash is a useful object, used in the making of music, drinking of Umqomboti (African Beer), carrying of water, storage of seeds etc. As a company we wanted to reflect usefulness to both the communities we serve, as well as the clients we serve. This has been the balancing act we have walked in the last number of years.
Today Calabash Tours has hosted thousands of visitors to Port Elizabeth’s township areas, developed a core of quality staff from the communities, created innumerable opportuinities for Township residents to participate in the tourism industry, and affected hundreds of poor peoples lives. This is Pro Poor Tourism in action.
Today the company is owned and driven by a collective of core individuals, each uniquely dedicated to the vision of doing good profitable business, while meeting our social responsibility of making tourism everyone’s business.
Paul Miedema: Born in PE, passionate about PE, and especially its social, cultural and political history. A social science graduate from the local university, Paul is a driving force behind the Calabash project.
Paul says “ I had experiences of the townships during the Apartheid years, and as a white South African have learnt more about life in the townships as opposed to any school or university. In 1990 I had the opportunity to participate in The March for Hope, a protest March of White people to the townships. We were about 1000 white people, and were met in the townships by more than 100 000 township residents lining the streets to welcome us. I knew then, and still maintain, there is an energy and spirit in the townships that is life changing. I just want to share that with as many people as possible.”
Thandi Miedema: Born in Jhb, but now a passionate PE local. Thandi is also a driver in the vision of Calabash, and has been instrumental in the smooth running of Calabash Tours. Says Thandi: “ As a young South African it is very pleasing to see that our way of doing business is having a positive impact on the poor people of the city. These people are the legacy of our past, and have given us so much in Ubuntu (Humanity), it is a privilege to be able to give something back.”
Nelson Sebezela: Born and raised in Kwazakhele Township, Port Elizabeth. Nelson is a remarkable young man who has been studying towards his law degree while working with Calabash Tours. From a typical township family, Nelson has been instrumental in developing the tourist experience in the township. An excellent guide, Nelson says “This is a wonderful company to be part of. Not only do we get to explain and expose our culture, we also assist the people from our townships”
Nombongo "Bongie" Fesi: Hails from East London, Mdantsane which is the second largest township in South Africa. Bongie became a member of the Calabash family in 2006 as an Office Administrator. She now works as an Operations Manager and posseses good managerial qualities. She is responsible for the smooth running of the day to day operations.
Asanda Booi: Born and Bred in Port Elizabeth. Started working for Calabash Tours in November 2008. Asanda is responsible for most general clerical tasks, and now she is training as a Tour Guide.
Xolani Makhalima: Born in Port Elizabeth. He joined Calabash Tours in January 2009 as a driver. In this position Xolani drives for the tourists, and He is also responsible for driving for volunteers to and from their project sites. Xolani is also currently training as a tour guide.
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