Did you know?
Lookout Hill is a great place to start your tour of Khayelitsha.
There's only one township in South Africa that can boast its own golf course and a Bizet operatic adaptation: Khayelitsha, near Cape Town.
And when you're motoring down Baden Powell Drive (the R310) in Cape Town and you come into view of a great sea of shacks on the right, just slow down for a minute and feel the throb of one of South Africa's most vibrant townships.
It would, however, be a safer and far more rewarding experience to sign on for a formal township tour of Khayelitsha ('new home' in isiXhosa), for a taste of day-to-day community life and an encounter with some of the country's hardiest, most colourful characters.
Built in the early 1980s on the Cape Flats about 20 minutes' drive from the Cape Town city bowl, Khayelitsha is a bustling mix of township 'box houses' and makeshift shacklands that regularly fall prey to wildfires and flooding, as the notorious Cape storms lash the coastline.
The township - which houses more than 500 000 people - came sharply into world focus in the mid-2000s when U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha, based on Bizet's opera Carmen, was filmed here.
U-Carmen won the prestigious Golden Bear for Best Film award at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival and shone later at the Cannes Film Festival. This innovative, passionate isiXhosa interpretation of the famous opera had Khayelitsha's sprawl for a backdrop. Even the star of the show, Pauline Malefane, was a 'home girl' from Khayelitsha.
It's best to move around in small tour groups, for mobility through the narrow streets of Khayelitsha. It's also better for residents, who might find large packs of visitors a little intimidating. The many accredited Khayelitsha guides available will show you the various community projects and, if you request it, will organise a dinner visit and an overnight stop in a recommended bed and breakfast establishment.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Recommended guides: Cape Town Tourism
Tel: +27 (0) 21 487 6800