Madiba loved tourism with all of his heart and thought about tourism being a sector that had the potential to improve people’s lives. In his memoirs he wrote of the freedom he felt exploring nature and swimming in streams as a boy growing up in Qunu. At times, the beauty of South Africa’s natural landscape and his interactions with South Africans from diverse cultures would provide a respite from the struggles of colonial oppression.
Here are five ways to travel around South Africa with Madiba in mind:
Stay in townships for the real experience
Madiba got a lot of his inspiration from township culture and lifestyle, and connected with SA’s townships by participating in local activities, including boxing and long-distance running.
His legacy is an inspiration for many who wish to walk in his footsteps, eat what he ate and socialise where he did. For Mabiba inspired travel, you have to stay in the townships for an authentic experience, similar to how he would have lived on the famous Vilakazi Street Orlando West, Soweto. It’s the only street in the world to have been home to two Nobel Laureates – Madiba and the late Desmond Tutu.
Head of Communications and Marketing at online booking platform Jurni, Tshepo Matlou says, “Madiba’s legacy and his love for his then community has turned Vilakazi Street into a thriving business area, including successful restaurants and accommodations. The lifestyle element in the area is fantastic because people from all over want to experience the township that inspired Mandela and Tutu. But this is only one example of what the townships have to offer. Authenticity is a value that you can expect to experience when you book stays in townships across Mzansi because each one has its own unique story to tell.”
While traditional South African food or ukutja kwethu kwasekhaya (home food) was Madiba’s favourite, the former president had an adventurous palate. Local dishes like samp and beans (umngqusho), chicken and dombolo are said to be what he enjoyed the most. And when he was feeling adventurous, he asked for amasi malva pudding, rice pudding or fish cakes and poached eggs. Consider embarking on a local food tour or seeking out restaurants that specialise in these foods.
Insights Restaurant at the Sanctuary Mandela – Nelson Mandela’s former presidential home turned into a boutique hotel – serves delicious dishes cooked by his former personal chef Xoliswa Ndoyiya. She creates Madiba’s favourite dishes for the public, from the very house she cooked for him for 20 years. These dishes include Umsila Wenkomo (Oxtail), Prawn Curry, Kingklip Chowder and Peri-Peri Chicken.
Across South Africa there are various places that capture the spirit of Mandela. In Sandton the large bronze ‘Dancing Madiba’ statue lights up the Nelson Mandela Square. In Howick, Durban, the iconic Mandela Capture installation is photographed by tourists from around the world.
“International travellers often want to experience something Mandela-related,” notes Sandra Kneubuhler, District Director for Radisson Hotel Group in South Africa. “And South Africa is rich in art and architectural discoveries. At our hotels, we often recommend that visitors take a street art tour through the streets of Maboneng, visit Vilakazi Street in Soweto, and use the morning for strolling through the many art galleries scattered within Cape Town’s CBD or take a trip to Robben Island, which can be seen from the ocean-side Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront. There is no shortage of ways to celebrate Mandela and to walk in his footsteps around South Africa.”
South Africa is home to some of the most celebrated safaris in the world. The Kruger National is Africa’s second-oldest game reserve. Affectionately known as ‘The Park’, Kruger is home to a larger variety of large mammals (147 species) than any other game reserve in Africa. Nelson Mandela himself kicked off his 80th birthday celebrations in 1998 by hosting a party for children in the Kruger Park.
Should you wish to explore the magic of Kruger yourself, the world-famous Kruger Gate Hotel, which is located right at the Greater Kruger Conservancy, enables the perfect way to access the Park within minutes, at any time in the day. The hotel also offers great package options throughout the day combining safari experiences and a stay that immerses guests in pristine wilderness where large herds and powerful predators roam freely.
A real way to immerse yourself in a new city is to mix and mingle with its local people. Walking tours, outdoor activities and cooking classes give travellers an opportunity to experience the friendliness that South Africans are famous for. Airbnb Experiences are experiences by locals for anyone to book and take part in. They are a great way to explore the range of cultures within South Africa. Consider new experiences like sunset architectural tours of Pretoria, Cape Malay or African food tours and one-day African print clothes design classes.
When travelling across Mzansi this year consider these words from Madiba’s 1995 speech, where he said “Our natural beauty only offers a fitting setting for our country’s most valuable asset: its people. Ours is a nation of warm and generous people. Its great variety of culture and heritage, once exploited to divide our people, has been turned by them into a source of strength and richness in every sphere of life.”