Whether you are visiting South Africa or have lived here all your life, there are certain experiences that need to be had in order to appreciate the full flavour of South Africa-ness. Not only is this country jaw-droppingly beautiful, but it has rich contemporary and historical cultural diversity (it’s not just something they say in the tourist brochures, promise!). If you want a taste of the real South Africa, act on these travel ideas ASAP!
Take a Township Tour
From a historical and political perspective, South African townships obviously hold significance as a lingering Apartheid relic and evidence of the economic gap between rich and poor. However, in spite of the poverty, SA’s townships are also bubbling cauldrons of South African attitude. In the townships the streets are packed, people braai meat on the roadside, kwaito music emanates from the barber and spaza shops and splashes of colour punctuate the scenery.
Kruger Park Safari
If you are coming all the way to the tip of Africa, it would be ridiculous for you not to get a taste of our most famous piece of natural heritage. The Kruger National Park is our oldest and most famous big five reserve, but by no means the only one! You can see some big game in Addo Elephant Park in the Eastern Cape, Hluhluwe-Umfolozi in Kwazulu Natal and numerous other private and public game reserves around the country.
Check out San Rock Art
The Khoi-San people were some of the original inhabitants of Southern Africa. A hunter-gatherer tribe, they had (and still have) a rich spiritual connection to the land and animals. With no alphabet to express their lore in writing, the San resorted to rock painting and etching. There are many ancient rock art sites dotted around South Africa which are worth seeing, but do not touch them! They are predominantly found in the Western Cape (the Cederberg is a good place to start) and South Africa’s interior.
Ride in a Taxi
One of South Africa’s main public transport systems is the minibus taxi. Often old and in suspect condition, riding in a taxi, apart from being a convenient way to get around, will give you insight into how the average South African lives. Eaves drop on conversations and observe the interactions. If in Cape Town you will be exposed to the notorious taxi gauchi – the person who hangs out of the taxi door or window bellowing the destination, ushering commuters onto the bus and handling the money. ‘Mowbray cab!’, ‘Wynberg Wynberg’ and ‘Caype Tiown’ (spelt phonetically) are all cries you will become familiar with if you spend any time on the street in Cape Town.
Eat a Traditional Meal
Pap and wors, samp and beans and chakalaka are but three of the tasty varieties out there for you to try. Pap is a maize porridge which serves as the starch component for many a meal while wors refers to a South African sausage and chakalaka is chilli-tomato sauce. The three things go exceptionally well together!Or you could just try good old braai meat.
Expose yourself to South African Creativity
From Kwaito music and dancing to more traditional theatre and art, there is a wealth of creative currency emerging from South Africa. Keep your eyes peeled for art exhibitions, graffiti, live music performances and theatre as well as informal creative endeavours like an interesting outfit or a talented busker.
Visit the Transkei
Rolling green hills which end at the sea, thatched roof rondavel (round) mud huts and young men painted and blanketed as part of their initiation ceremony are just some of things which define the Eastern Cape’s Transkei and Wild Coast. It is the traditional home of the isiXhosa tribe and remains underdeveloped (again thanks to Apartheid), lending it an adventurous element combined with breath-taking scenery. Read a first-hand account of a Transkei journey here.
Go to the District 6 Museum
The District 6 Museum is situated in, you guessed it, District 6, a traditionally ‘coloured’ suburb of Cape Town and site of one of the Apartheid government’s infamous forced removals. This well-curated and fascinating museum does a lot to break the stereotype of stuffy, boring museums while simultaneously drawing attention to an often ignored sector of South African society.
In a complex place like South Africa there is no way that you will understand (or even know about) every aspect of the culture and history in just 8 activities, but these travel ideas will help you make an inroad into the real South Africa.
So, where would you like to start? Sleeping-OUT’s online accommodation directory has a range of accommodation options all over South Africa. Browse accommodation now.