As South Africans celebrate Heritage Day (and National Braai Day) on 24 September 2016, it’s a good opportunity to reflect on this diverse country and plan your next heritage holiday or visit to a heritage site. Here are some of our favourites:
1. Follow the Brandy Route: Head off along Route 62 in the Klein Karoo and explore our incredible brandy heritage as you visit brandy homes, meet the brandy-makers, and taste some of the finest brandies in the country. Special brandy and food pairings are a highlight, as is the hospitality and immense natural beauty along the way (and a few quirky spots like the legendary Ronnie’s Sex Shop).
2. Visit Maropeng: The Cradle of Humankind recently made the news with the groundbreaking discovery of homo naledi. The Maropeng Visitors Centre is definitely worth a visit if you’re passing through Gauteng or happen to live there. This interactive centre offers a great outing for the family and you get to meet Harry the Hominid personally.
3. The artists of Venda: Limpopo has an interesting heritage to boast about, from the historic finds at Mapungubwe (a Unesco World Heritage Site) and tales of Queen Modjadji, to the cycad forests, the sacred Lake Fundudzi and the incredible creations of the Venda artists. Take a self-drive journey to visit the various galleries and artists and head home with a boot-full of treasures.
4. iSimangaliso Wetland Park: Celebrate the natural heritage of the Elephant Coast with a visit to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. This park has amazing biodiversity, and the town of St Lucia is also pretty interesting (with hippos roaming the streets at night from time to time). Take an evening safari with Sakhile Dube, “the chameleon whisperer” (Shaka Barker tours) while you’re there and learn about the heritage of the Bhangazi people and the mystical tales that are part of their culture.
5. Soweto: If you’re visiting Johannesburg, make sure you stop over in Soweto and learn about the history of this township. Take a stroll down Vilakazi Street and visit the Mandela House Museum, followed by a feast of local food at Sakhumzi’s restaurant. A visit to the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum is also an absolute must on any visit to Soweto.
6. Follow in the footsteps of Gandhi and Mandela: Both Mandela and Gandhi’s lives are inextricably linked in the history of South Africa and now visitors and tourists can follow in their footsteps. SA Tourism has identified historical sights and attractions to visit and further explore their stories. Follow the life and times of Ghandi from the Phoenix Settlement in KwaZulu-Natal to Satyaghara House in Johannesburg. Follow Mandela’s Journey from the rural Eastern Cape to Soweto, Robben Island and beyond.
But wait, there’s so much more! With the wildlife heritage of the Kruger National Park, the Basotho heritage of the Free State, the Nama and San cultures in the Northern Cape, the Zulu way of life in KwaZulu-Natal, the natural heritage of the ukhalamba Drakensberg World Heritage site, the ancient mountains of the Cederberg, the wine and food culture of the Western Cape wine routes… there’s so much to be celebrated in this vast and diverse country. So here’s to planning those heritage holidays and happy National Braai Day.