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Nelson Mandela International Day | What to see, do, eat and experience in South Africa

July 17, 2021 / 10:43 PM IST
Nelson Mandela Capture Site, Howick, where Mandela was arrested on August 5, 1962. The sculpture here comprises 50 steel rods which align to create a portrait of Mandela.

Nelson Mandela Capture Site, Howick, where Mandela was arrested on August 5, 1962. The sculpture here comprises 50 steel rods which align to create a portrait of Mandela.

On July 8, 2021, protests in South Africa sparked by former President Jacob Zuma's arrest turned into rioting and looting in areas like Kwa-Zulu Natal. Over the next few days, commercial spaces were robbed and razed, and around 200 people lost their lives. South Africa, where Covid-19 has exacerbated income inequality and poverty, is still recovering from those wounds. While it may be prudent to wait a while before planning a visit, July 18 is observed as Nelson Mandela International Day - July 18 was Mandela's birthday. On this day, let’s look at the best things to do in South Africa.

9 must-do adventure activities

Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa. Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.

1. Big Rush Big Swing, Kwa-Zulu Natal: It is the world’s tallest swing since May 2011, according to the Guinness Book of Records. Take the thrilling leap swinging out into a massive 220m arc.

2. Bloukrans Bridge Bungee, Eastern Cape: The highest commercial bridge bungee jump in the world is at the Bloukrans Bridge, which has a 216 meter gorge below.

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3. Abseiling from Table Mountain, Western Cape: It is the seventh Natural Wonder of the World.

4. Shark-cage diving, Western Cape: Great White Shark spotting is one of the biggest draws to South Africa. The best shark-cage diving hubs are Gansbaai and Mossel Bay.

5. White water rafting: The best rivers for white water rafting are the Tugela River (upper Tugela near Weenen), the Buffalo river (accessed from Dundee), and the Umkomaas (near Hela Hela and Bulwer).

6. Helicopter ride, Western Cape: Helicopter flips allow travellers the joy of a bird's eye-view of Cape Town. Other helicopter tours include wine tasting or whale watching. A similar trip in Kwa-Zulu Natal offers a visit to the scenic midlands. A Drakensberg helicopter tour includes a visit to Cathkin Peak, Vultures' Retreat, Cleft Peak and the Organ Pipes.

7. Sandboarding in Western Cape & Eastern Cape: Sandboarding is fast becoming one of the most popular adventure activities in South Africa. The soft sands found in the Western Cape and Eastern Cape allows sandboarders to reach considerable speed and to perform a variety of tricks.

8. Canopy Tours, Kwa-Zulu Natal: This eco-adventure takes you on a ride as you zipline from one platform to the next along a series of steel cables set amongst magnificent natural surroundings.

9. Caving at Cango Caves: Oudtshoorn offers travellers the opportunity to explore the magical Cango Caves and the secrets of the huge cave network.

6 must-visit historic places

Cradle of Humankind, Maropeng, Gauteng, South Africa. (Image: South African Tourism via Wikimedia Commons CC2.0) Cradle of Humankind, Maropeng, Gauteng, South Africa. (Image: South African Tourism via Wikimedia Commons CC2.0)

1. Robben Island (World Heritage Site): Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in prison on this island situated off the coast of Cape Town. Robben Island is now a World Heritage Site and Museum. Trips to Robben Island begin from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront, where ferries transfer you to the former prison.

2. Pietermaritzburg Railway Station: It was on June 7, 1893, that Mahatma Gandhi  refused to budge from a ‘whites only’ coach on a train to Pretoria and was thrown off the train at Pietermaritzburg Railway Station. The historic building stills stands, with a plaque commemorating the incident.

3. Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng (World Heritage Site): Dotted with subterranean limestone caves that have turned up a rich fossil record for human evolutionary studies, the Cradle of Humankind is one of the eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa.

4. Phoenix Settlement, Inanda: Situated 20 kilometres north of Durban, the Phoenix Settlement is where Gandhi resided and produced his weekly Indian Opinion newspaper from the International Printing Press.

5. Constitution Hill: Through the years, the Constitution Hill functioned mainly as a prison. It was here that Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela were held. The site now has two permanent exhibitions that revolve around the lives of both these revolutionaries.

6. Capture Site: It was here that, after 17 months of evading the apartheid authorities, Nelson Mandela was arrested on August 5, 1962. To mark the historic spot is a sculpture comprising 50 steel rods, which align to create a magnificent portrait of Mandela.

5 must-have food and wine experiences

Mutton Bunny Chow (Image: Djreddy1985 via Wikimedia Commons CC4.0) Mutton Bunny Chow (Image: Djreddy1985 via Wikimedia Commons CC4.0)

1. The Indian-origin Bunny Chow: Bunny Chow (hollowed-out loaf of white bread filled with meat or vegetable curry), South Africa’s delicious signature dish has Indian origins. Each year in September, the ‘Bunny Chow Barometer’ attracts entrants to Durban to compete for the title of top bunny maker.

2. Sample delicious vegetarian options: Veg bobotie (mixture of curried vegetables, spices, fruits and nuts with a creamy golden topping), pampoenkoekie (pumpkin fritters) and pap tart (Pap, also known as mieliepap, is the Afrikaans word for porridge, typically prepared with corn-maize).

3. Moonlighting In The Winelands: Just 90 minutes from Cape Town, enjoy a wineland trail by moonlight on horseback.

4. Foodie tour in Franschhoek: Key highlights include enjoying a morning stroll through the heavenly gardens at Babylonstoren, tasting local charcuterie, biltong, morogo (type of wild spinach), chakalaka (a spicy relish), and boerewors roll (a variety of spicy sausage).

5. Quad biking though vineyards in Hermanus: Rated as one of the top trails in South Africa, the Quad Bike Trail in Hermanus is often featured in movies, commercials and numerous leisure itineraries.

5 must-dos for wildlife enthusiasts

The South African lion. South Africa is the only place in the world where wildlife-lovers can see not just the Big 5 but also the Big 7. (Photo: AFP) The South African lion. South Africa is the only place in the world where wildlife-lovers can see not just the Big 5 but also the Big 7. (Photo: AFP)

1. Go Big-5 spotting: South Africa is the only place in the world where wildlife-lovers can see not just the Big 5 but also the Big 7 that include the Southern Right Whale and Great White Shark (in Port Elizabeth/Nelson Mandela Bay). Mpumalanga and Limpopo offer some of the best wildlife sightings in the country. Kruger National Park – one of the biggest national parks in Africa – spans across both these Provinces.

2. Go underwater to spot the Marine Big-5: Go underwater to view the Marine Big-5:  African Penguin, Cape Fur Seal, Dolphins, Southern Right Whales and Great White Shark.

3. Luxury safari: Nestled deep within the South African bush, are luxurious and opulent game lodges. The best options are Madikwe Hills (Madikwe),  Tswalu Tarkuni & Motse (Kalahari),  Leobo Observatory (The Waterberg), Singita Lebombo (Kruger National Park), Chitwa Chitwa (Sabi Sands),  Phinda Vlei Lodge (Kwa Zulu Natal),  Kwandwe Ecca Lodge (Eastern Cape).

4. Overnight stay at the Shamwari Game Reserve: Wrapped in settler history, this award-winning game reserve which stretches along the Bushman’s River, goes up to north-east of Port Elizabeth and is a natural extension to Cape Town and the Garden Route.

5. Get pampered in the heart of the wild: After a safari of one’s choice – whether it is rhino walking or leopard spotting or a birding safari – kickback and enjoy a rejuvenating massage on the deck of the luxury game lodge. The best Spas on Safari options are Kapama Southern Camp Spa (Kruger National Park), Tintswalo Safari Lodge Spa, Elandela Private Game Reserve, King’s Camp Timbavati Spa, Kariega Game Reserve.

Must-see events from July-September

Namaqualand, South Africa Namaqualand, South Africa

1. Experience the Sardine Run (until July 30, 2021): Head to the Kwa-Zulu Natal east coast to witness the annual migration of millions of sardines. During the Greatest Shoal on Earth, as it has been named, countless dolphins, sharks, whales and seabirds follow the body of sardines as they move along the coast.

2. The Namaqualand Flower Route (Best witnessed in August & September): The Namaqualand Flower Route lies roughly 5 hours north of Cape Town. You can already see evidence of flowers even in Cape Town, and Postberg but the real flower show belongs to a series of drives that centre on the towns of Garies, Springbok, Kamieskroon and Port Nolloth, way up the N7.

3. Klein Karoo Klassique (August 6-8, 2021): Visit Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo in August for the Klein Karoo Klassique - a festival of classical music and Klein Karoo cuisine, wines and art.

(For details, visit: https://www.southafrica.net/in/en/travel)
Preeti Verma Lal is a Goa-based freelance writer/photographer.

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