While a braai or shisanyama in the backyard has become one of the major ways we celebrate Heritage Day, why not venture out and explore something new this year? Our country is filled with wonderful neighbourhoods and places where you can savour and sample Proudly South African flavours, and learn more about the people and cultures that make up our Rainbow Nation. It’s what Heritage Month is about, after all.
Cradle of Humankind
A mere hour outside Johannesburg and Pretoria lies the rolling grassland and rocky grounds of the Cradle of Humankind; where just over three million years ago, hominin (early ancestors of humans) lived – in fact, Homo Naledi (a previously-unknown species of extinct hominin) was discovered right here in 2015
More so, this World Heritage Site is one of the few mind-blowing places in the country where you can learn more about our history as humans and South Africans:
- The Sterkfontein Caves, the world’s oldest and still operational paleontological dig where you can find 15 spectacular fossil sites;
- The Maropeng Visitor Centre’s world-class exhibition showcases the development of humans and our ancestors over the last few million years;
- The Lesedi Cultural Village is where you can visit five traditional homesteads inhabited by Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Basotho and Ndebele tribes who live according to the tribal traditions of their ancestors. A meal at Nyama Choma Restaurant (where you can sample traditional African food) also comes highly recommended.
Lastly, while you’re in the area, don’t forgo a visit to the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve – our wonderful wildlife is as Proudly South African as pap and wors!
- Undoubtedly South Africa’s most famous township-turned-city, Soweto (an abbreviation of South Western Township) is steeped in Proudly South African history and culture:
- Discover Vilakazi Street where Nobel Peace Prize winners Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu once lived;
- Visit the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum for a fresh reminder of the 1976 uprising that changed our country’s history forever;
- Stop by Walter Sisulu Square where the Freedom Charter was drafted (which later became the cornerstone of South Africa’s modern-day constitution);
- Bungee jump from the iconic Orlando cooling towers (yes, really!); this non-operating power station was built shortly after World War II and served Johannesburg for more than 50 years until 1998;
- Try a Kota (Soweto’s version of a bunny chow or Gatsby) from Ntsitsi’s Fun Food Stall or go for a traditional shisanyama at Chaf Pozi.
There are many options to see Soweto – from guided walking tours and sightseeing buses to, even, biking your way through the city.
These cobbled stoned streets, lined with bright, colourful homes are as renowned worldwide for being Proudly South African. A former township that was once known as the Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap dates back to the 1760s and is one of the oldest residential areas in Cape Town! It’s a must-visit for it’s rich cultural and historical references to the Malay community in Cape Town:
- Walk past the Auwal Masjid Mosque, which was established in 1794 and, today, is South Africa’s first and oldest mosque;
- Visit the Bo-Kaap museum. It dates back to 1760s and is found in the oldest house in the area (still in its original form). It also features contributions made by early Muslim settlers who were skilled tailors, carpenters and shoemakers;
- Buy curry spices from The Atlas Spice Trading Centre. This purveyor of fine spices, rice and rare products from, mostly, India (where many Cape Malay settlers are originally from) is where many of the locals buy their spices;
- Eat at Biesmiellah Restaurant – you will find the best Cape Malay foods including Breyani and samosas right here!
If there’s one way to truly experience authentic South African culture and history, then it’s in a vibrant township. The great thing about the LaGuGu Tour is that it offers tourists and locals excursions in two of Cape Town’s oldest and liveliest townships: Langa and Gugulethu. What we really love is that locals from Langa and Gugs lead the tours:
- The Langa Township Heritage Museum, a former ‘Dompas’ Office, is where you can hear real life stories of defiance and triumph against the Apartheid government;
- Check out the Gugulethu Seven Memorial – it pays homage to seven young men who died in 1986 in their fight against the Apartheid government;
- Sip on umqombothi (traditional beer), taste a smiley (sheep’s head) and feast on delicious beef shisanyama at Mzoli’s.
The LaGuGu tour leaves from Cape Town city centre, and visitors are transported in true local-is-lekker style via a minibus taxi.
This one is for the real historians who are keen to learn more about the battles that forged our unique heritage: northwest of Durban, between the towns of Ulundi, Ladysmith, Dundee, Vryheid and Newcastle, you can find the unspoilt, rolling and glorious battlefields of wars that were waged between the British, Boer and Zulu armies during the 1800s and 1900s:
- Prioritise Fugitives Drift, where you can access the untouched sites of the famous Anglo-Zulu battles at Rorke’s Drift and Isandlwana;
- Visit the Talana Museum where you can see the traditional Zulu village of Kwakunje – and make sure you stay for a customary Zulu meal and dance;
- See the Spion Kop Battlefield site, where you can explore one of the deadliest sites in the Anglo-Boer war;
- Go for a game drive through Ithala Game Reserve today – this land once belonged to King Shaka Zulu, and hundreds of years later it’s still home to some of South Africa’s most famous wildlife and birds.
- A self-drive through the battlefields is an option, but a guided tour comes highly recommended – a simple Google search should deliver many options.
It might be known as one of the most artsy, crafty and creative areas in South Africa, but the 80km of road, lined with luscious greenery, is also home to some of South Africa’s most profound historical sites:
- Nelson Mandela’s Capture Site – where Madiba was captured in 1962 and, subsequently, was sent to jail on Robben Island – can be found just outside of Howick. The area features a unique sculpture of Nelson Mandela and a museum that documents his long walk to freedom.
- The Zulu Mpophomeni Tourism Experience which is a non-profit organisation that gives tourists a cultural taste of life in the Mpophomeni Township and, by doing so, empowers people from the area through employment.
- Stop by the Howick Falls – local legend has it that there’s a giant serpent-like creature, known as Inkanyamba, who lives in the deep waters.
Are there any specific places you want to visit to celebrate Heritage Day? We’d love to know more about them –leave a comment below.