This June is the first out of the last three where South Africans have the freedom to move around freely and visit their favourite destinations, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it would make sense to enjoy their freedoms responsibly as much as possible. June is also Youth Month and in the South African context, it’s closely linked to the fight for freedom, as a result of the famous June 16 uprising that happened in Soweto in 1976, so why wouldn’t young people celebrate Youth Month and their freedom by travelling after being grounded by the pandemic? And why be conventional when township tourism has so much to offer?
These are questions that a variety of township and semi-urban activities can answer if you look into them in detail for your June travel plans.
Freedom has been a concept the youth of Mzansi have had great passion and desire for, with some from the generations that came a few decades ago, having literally died for the ideal. This is a sentiment that is highlighted by Head of Marketing and Communications at online booking platform Jurni, Tshepo Matlou. He challenges travellers to fully explore their freedom of movement and says, “COVID-19 has caused distress financially, mentally and emotionally. People are still dealing with the emotional side effects of the virus. South Africa has a lot of unique destinations that are untapped and are waiting to be explored. Now is the time to enjoy these offerings as we embark on a journey of self-healing and recovery from the trauma of having our movement restricted.”
Matlou also says that data collected by the online booking platform shows growth in the demand of daytime activities. “The tourism sector is seeing a growth in the demand for day experiences, meaning people now want to go to destinations and enjoy day-time activities without having to stay in the area overnight. This is the best time to start travelling.”
Beside the June 16 commemorative music concerts that will take place across the country, here are fun and challenging travel activities for the young at heart to do in townships this June:
Hiking as a healthy lifestyle choice
“Hiking is now a popular activity among travellers in the country. The reason is the newly recovered freedom of movement – people are wanting open spaces. The travel sector is starting to see a large number of first time-hikers signing up and trying new destinations. Travellers get the health benefits of doing outdoor activities, which is commendable”, says Matlou.
The Thabaphaswa Hiking Trails just outside of Mokopane in Limpopo is an example of an offering of hiking experiences that can last a couple of days, should you wish to test yourself for that long. The destination also offers a series of mountain biking and 4X4 trails for those who are keen for breathtaking scenery, biodiversity and bird watching.
The joy of backpacking
One of the best ways to experience multiple destinations in one outing is to forget your inhibitions and live out of a backpack for a few days.
‘Backpacking’ is when you travel carrying your belongings for the whole trip in a backpack, while sleeping at a hostel type of setting and exploring different activities in the surrounding area. So the difference between this activity and hiking is that this involves a car, normally not yours, transporting you from one place to another.
According to international backpacking review blog, brokebackpacker.com, “South Africa has a great “backpackers” culture that caters to budget travellers. In South Africa, hostels are called backpackers. Most of these backpacker hostels have campsites, as well as dorm rooms and private rooms to cater to every budget. In particular, Cape Town has some of the best hostels in South Africa.”
This is something you can do this June in almost any township where you can book stays in B&B or hostel setting, where you’d cook your own quick meals or braai, and explore the daytime and nighttime activities in that area. To give an estimate of the costs, a backpacker in Orlando West, Soweto charges R585 per person for a single stay, while another one in Ermelo, Mpumalanga charges R400. (For editorial purposes; the names of the establishments are Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers and Ermelo Backpackers)
Some hostel settings, where you pay overnight, have areas where you can pitch a tent for the full experience.
Youth Month football bonanzas
For diski lovers, this is a very exciting time of the year, with the top-tier DSTV Premiership having been wrapped up by Mamelodi Sundown in emphatic form a couple of weeks ago.
Professional and semi-professional football players usually grace township teams with either their playtime or presence, depending on prominence and contracts they are tied down to. When these players go to these tournaments, it’s normally a thing to adore, with a lot of fanfare and skill on display, known as kasi flavour.
One of the big tournaments this June is the Midway Cup Top 32, which will be played at Vuwani Grounds in Chiawelo, Soweto over the next few weekends. The competition includes the likes of now-famed Mathaithai FC, due to their Nedbank Cup exploits, Mambas FC, Limpopo Masters, Soweto All Nations, among others,
Last winter, these grounds near the South-Western tip of Soweto featured the likes of skilled former Orlando Pirates trio – Sifiso ‘Nsunda’ Myeni, Khethokwakhe Masuku and Rooi Mahamutsa – as well as former Bafana and Sundowns defender Siyabonga Zulu, before some returned to the professional ranks.
Bungee jumping, zipline and big swing challenge for the brave
You can try bungee jumping at the Orlando Towers in Soweto, or if you’re into the great outdoor and biodiversity, you can try the big swing and zipline at the Graskop Gorge in Mpumalanga, which is near Hazyview and Bushbuckridge, for your adrenaline rush fix. The fun times are back, and the freedom to travel is here. Go out and explore the townships this June – they have a lot to offer travellers with a desire to challenge themselves.