More than just a safari afterthought – how to connect with real culture in South Africa

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Home to classic African nature, stunning wilderness, and dramatic coastlines, South Africa’s reputation as a leading wildlife destination is renowned. However,’s two-minute travel guide to South Africa argues that there is much more to a holiday here than just ticking off the “Big 5” from a safari checklist, and that its culture should be more than just a safari afterthought.

Bo Kaap, Cape Town, South Africa
Discovering the real culture of South Africa, without the need for clichéd, often contrived tribal tours is one of the country's most underrated experiences.

The latest in’s series of refreshingly honest two-minute travel guides, available at, describes South Africa as “accessible Africa” and that discovering the real culture of the country, without the need for clichéd, often contrived tribal tours found in other African nations, is one of the country’s most underrated experiences. With contributions from local experts, the guide gives tips on how to have make your wildlife escape more culture-filled, enriching and authentic, with a focus on responsible tourism.

Here are’s top tips on how to connect with real culture in South Africa:

  •     Put culture in context – the best way to understand the present is to read up on South Africa’s complex past. The Apartheid Museum offers an interesting and profoundly moving insight into how the country’s recent history has shaped the lives of local South Africans.
  •     Eat, drink and be merry – wander through local markets, eat sizzling street food, dance to local music such as the Cape Malay ‘ghoema’ music, found in the Bo Kaap quarter of Cape Town, and visit cultural festivals for a taste of genuine culture from Zulu and Xhosa to Afrikaans.
  •     Visit a township - Previously no-go areas such as Soweto and Khayelitsha are becoming vibrant cultural draws. Rather than driving through, hidden behind your camera lens, choose a locally guided walking or cycling tour which allows you to meet local residents, sip a cold beer in a ‘shebeen’, purchase locally produced food and crafts, and directly support community development initiatives.
  •     Don’t be fooled by fakes – spot genuine South African beadwork ‘Ndebele’ by its geometric and diamond-shaped design and don’t be tempted by wooden drums and masks in Cape Town’s Green Market Square. These are usually imported from Mali and other African nations and aren’t part of South African heritage.
  •     Make your holiday Fair Trade – South Africa has led the world by becoming the first country to integrate the values of Fair Trade into its tourism industry, ensuring fair wages and working conditions for local staff. So look for hotels, tour operators, and experiences which carry the Fair Trade Tourism certification.

Find more tips in the two-minute guide to South Africa:

Notes to editors:

About is the world's leading online travel agent for responsible holidays and a pioneer of responsible tourism. Started in 2001 with backing from Dame Anita Roddick of The Body Shop, the site's mantra is 'travel like a local'. It sells holidays that are about more than just a brief stay somewhere - instead it is travel that offers a real connection with the people, the landscape, the culture, the food, and the environment. It offers over 7,500 responsible holidays from over 3,000 holiday providers which all support communities and conservation. Handpicked local specialists provide authentic holidays for those seeking adventure, culture, or luxury whether travelling with family, joining a small group or looking for tailor-made experiences worldwide, in destinations as diverse as the Galapagos Islands , Burma , Botswana , and Patagonia .

In addition,

  • founded and organises The World Responsible Tourism Awards, celebrating 11 years at World Travel Market this year.
  • campaigns for positive change in the travel and tourism industry.
  • publishes an expanding series of honest, expert two-minute travel guides

CEO Justin Francis has been included in Courvoisiers The Future 500, Thames and Hudsons 60 Innovators Shaping Our Creative Future, and taken his place on the Advisory Board of The International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan University.

The company is based in Brighton's North Laine district, England.


Sarah Bareham
01273 829 269 (UK)

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Sarah Bareham
since: 09/2009
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