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AAsk 10 different South Africans what would make a travel experience feel genuine and authentic to them, and you may well get 10 different answers. For some, it will be culinary exploration through cultures, perhaps an adventure safari in the bush, while for others it may be a connection with nature in a landscape they’ve never ventured into before.
Think shark-cage diving, zip-lining or white-water rafting, South Africa is filled with adventures you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Some prefer to visit historical and heritage sites, from a visit to the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town to the Cradle of Humankind. The castle was opened in 1679 and it’s the oldest surviving building in South Africa and has been the centre of civilian, political and military life at the Cape and the nation since. The Cradle, so named because it was the earliest area in which evidence of our ape-like ancestors were discovered, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. These experiences are unique to this country and will open your eyes to new historical data and findings.
OOf course, an “authentic” experience can be a highly subjective one and open to many different interpretations. Siphesihle Penny Ndlela of Soul Traveller, a travel company that prides itself on authentic South African experiences, said local trips can be as exciting as an international holiday. Such experiences include a visit to Johannesburg’s bustling districts that include Maboneng and Braamfontein or exploring Cape Town’s District Six or Bo-Kaap region. What you'll love about the place is the multi-cultural cosmopolitan vibe and diverse offerings.
AA seasoned globetrotter herself, Ndlela turned her own love for authentic travel into a business to encourage local travel. “The fascinating thing is that travellers from overseas often arrive in our country with a well-researched idea of the things they want to experience, particularly authentic ones. They want to meet local people, eat local cuisine and see authentic historical places.
The themes which Ndlela offers on her Soul Traveller routes coincide with the colours of the South African flag: “Green and gold represent sporting events, red is urban culture and local cuisine, white is all about heritage, green connects travellers with the natural wonders of our amazing country, black is all about adventure, blue is for those who want to experience our beaches and yellow is a soul experience where you really get to grips with a local experience within a few hours.”
Also enticing South Africans to explore their own country creates important ambassadors for the travel industry in the country. “We want South Africans to connect with their own collective history and heritage. It’s part of who we are," she says.
Go on – explore South Africa and captivate the unique experience one can only have in this beautiful country!
Home to glorious stretches of beaches, mountainous terrains, jaw-dropping rock formations, a rich catalogue of plant and wildlife which includes the Big 7 (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, buffalo, Southern Right whales and Great White sharks), South Africa’s Eastern Cape province is also the birth place of the late global icon and humanitarian - Nelson Mandela. The acclaimed leader, whose birthday is celebrated globally through acts of kindness on 18 July, was born and raised amongst this province’s lush valleys and winding rivers.
The Valley of a Thousand Hills between Durban and Pietermaritzburg is the gateway to the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, rich in history, culture, scenic beauty, outdoor adventures and tourist attractions.
The Upper Karoo Route from Victoria West to Calvinia via Carnarvon offers the beautiful landscape of Northern Cape (strewn with daisies in spring), rare wildlife and a thriving, hospitable culture.
Visitors to South Africa should make sure they try Xhosa cuisine, whether in its Eastern Cape heartland or anywhere else that offers umngqusho, amasi, ikhowa and other delicacies.
Cultural villages and museums in South Africa are great places to learn more about Xhosa traditions and how these express the culture and beliefs of this ancient Eastern Cape people.
Take a tour of Soweto, Johannesburg’s vibrant city-within-a-city – apart from learning the history of the struggle against apartheid, you can immerse yourself in a modern urban vibe with lots to do.
Soweto Bicycle Tours let you explore South Africa’s most famous township’s streets with a qualified guide, taking in historical sites like the former homes of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Tutu.
South African urban architectural design tours introduce visitors to the eclectic array of styles and influences behind the country’s most iconic buildings.