A morning spent in the Port Elizabeth townships and settlements of Zwide, KwaZakhele and Ramaphosa puts you in the midst of a bustling street market, where sidewalk barbers, wire artists and hooting taxis hold sway. And rest assured – your touring company is an expert crew with a social conscience.

Did you know?

Around 70% of Port Elizabeth's residents live in townships.

On a midweek Port Elizabeth township tour you'll find places like Zwide, KwaZakhele and Korsten humming with activity. A troop of streetwise goats look left and right before crossing. A few mothers stand gossiping at a tap collecting water while their children play.

Further along on your township tour, you'll find a market. On sale, everything from fruit and clothes to beaded cell phone holders and doilies. Under an awning, a hairdresser shaves all the hair off his customer's head - they call it the chiskop look.

There's nothing quite like Port Elizabeth township tours - they are so full of life.

Then you'll come to the Ramaphosa informal settlement, a maze of close-set shanty houses. The poverty is unavoidable. But in the very centre is a joyous pre-school and nutrition scheme, funded by a trust set up by the tour company that is hosting you. Here volunteers chat while they cut up vegetables and prepare nutritious porridge for hungry youngsters.

Your guide on this township tour knows everyone around here. This is where he grew up, and he easily guides you through the experience, candidly answering all questions. Later you find that the tour company has given him a share in the business.

Last stop is a primary school. The children, all shiny-faced, array themselves in a group and sing the most delightful hymns. You cannot help notice that there are no bookshelves, no posters and no reference books.

Maybe this is something you'd like to help them with, and you talk to your guide. Whether you do or not, you know that your mere presence here today on this township tour in the Eastern Cape has helped uplift a community with a fascinating history, and has immeasurably deepened your experience of South Africa.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Calabash Tours
Tel: +27 (0) 41 585 6162
Email: tours@calabashtours.co.za

How to get here

Port Elizabeth has a domestic airport. Buses stop here, as do trains.

Best time to visit

Pleasant all year round, but bear in mind this is known as the Windy City.

Around the area

Beaches, national parks, natural and cultural attractions, casinos – Port Elizabeth has it all.

Get around

Calabash Tours have their own vehicles and will pick you up from your hotel or guesthouse.

What will it cost

The Real City Tour of Port Elizabeth which includes the surrounding townships costs R430 pp; The Shebeen Tour in the evening costs R430 pp.

Length of stay

A tour can take a full day, a half day or a few hours, depending on the tour chosen. Best to stay on a few nights in Port Elizabeth.

What to pack

You'll regret it if you don't take a camera.

Where to stay

Check the listed Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism website for the many accommodation options available to you.

What to eat

On the Shebeen Tour, you will dine on traditional Xhosa fare which is wholesome and delicious.

What's happening

Check the listed Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism website for details of local events during your stay.

Best buys

There is an art centre at the Ramaphosa informal settlement that sells beautiful wire art.