Background Image

Cultural Safari in South Africa: History, heritage and hohle*

Cultural Safari guide in South Africa. Little zulu girl with some face paint smiling broadly into the camera.

Contained within South Africa’s borders are Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Tswana, Ndebele, Khoisan, Hindu, Muslim, and Afrikaner people to name but a few. All of these people are united by calling South Africa home, and therefore their lives all contribute to forming a part of the country’s heritage, identity and culture.

September 2017 is Tourism Month in South Africa, so why not plan a cultural safari to explore the rich heritage around you. We have put together a list, by region, with the best historical and cultural experiences for all types.

*’hohle‘ means all in Sotho, one of South Africa’s national 11 languages.


Culture & Heritage sites in Gauteng

Mandela House in Vilakazi Street, Soweto, was Nelson Mandela’s house from 1946 until he was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964. The house preserves the history and legacy of the Mandela Family. Vilakazi Street is the only street in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize laureates have lived.

The Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site which includes Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves encompasses 200 caves holding some of the world’s most valuable fossils, some dating back three million years. Great outing for families!

Constitution Hill was originally built as a fort under Paul Kruger and became notorious as a prison during the apartheid era. Some of the famous prisoners who were incarcerated there include Nelson and Winnie Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Fatima Meer.

The Apartheid Museum tells the tale of how human spirit can triumph over adversity and oppression. This is a bucket list item for anyone coming to South Africa to understand our history and the progress that has been made since then.

The Cullinan Diamond Mine in Tshwane is the site where some of the world’s most renowned diamonds were found, including the Cullinan I and the Cullinan II which are set in the British Crown Jewels. There are also some great restaurants and adventure outings in this area, so make a day of it.

The James Hall Museum of Transport is the largest and most comprehensive museum of land transport in South Africa and was established in 1964. It showcases some of the most interesting and rare land transport vehicles used in the history of Southern Africa.

For more sites in and around Gauteng go to this post by Portfolio Collection.


Culture & Heritage sites around Cape Town

The Iziko Slave Lodge is one of Cape Town’s oldest buildings, with a history that spans three centuries. Iziko aims to transform the Slave Lodge from a site of human wrongs to one of human rights.

Table Mountain, an official New 7 Wonder of Nature, is one of South Africa’s premier tourist attractions. Table Mountain Aerial Cableway allows visitors to experience the best views of Cape Town as they travel to the top of Table Mountain to take in the breathtaking scenery around the mountain.

The Cape Town Holocaust Centre features a newly renovated permanent exhibition on the history of the Holocaust, combining photographs, multimedia displays and recreated environments. The display also includes sections on the pseudo-science of ‘race’, the roots of antisemitism, and the institutionalised racism of apartheid.

Robben Island is a living museum and World Heritage Site, a tangible reminder of the past and a symbol of hope for the future. The Island captures the essence of the South African liberation struggle in a cultural showcase of visual, oral and emotive memories.

The Huguenot Memorial Museum displays the historic story of the Huguenots’ journey from France to settling in the Cape. The museum has a list of all the Huguenots that came, how they survived and how they contributed to the new country. The Annexe refers to the Khoisan that traded with the Huguenots and the development of the town.

Dorp Street in Stellenbosch is one of the more that 120 provincial heritage sites in Stellenbosch but it is arguably the most famous. The street is an old wagon road that is lined with very well-preserved colonial buildings from top to bottom.

The town of Graaff-Reinet, just like Stellenbosch, has a staggering amount of provincial heritage sites with over 150 sites being named as such. It is the fourth oldest town in South Africa which explains why so many of the local sites have been named provincial heritage sites.

For more sites in and around Cape Town go to this post by Portfolio Collection.


Culture & Heritage sites in the Eastern Cape

The Nelson Mandela Museum was officially opened on 11 February 2000, to coincide with the tenth anniversary of his release from prison in 1990. Nelson Mandela insisted that the museum was not to be a static collection and tribute to him, but a living memorial to his values and vision. It was to inspire and enrich all who visit it and serve as a catalyst for development and share the heritage resources linked to him.

No 7 Castle Hill Museum is one of the oldest remaining dwelling houses in Port Elizabeth and is furnished as a family home of the mid-Victorian period, depicting the early Settler way of life. The house was declared a National Monument in 1962 and became a museum in 1964.

The South End Museum is a community-based museum, operated by a small staff and volunteer group. This museum was established to capture the memories of the effects of the Group Areas Act, during the Apartheid era, and to develop the heritage of the communities of this Metro, and especially with youth development.

Bulungula Lodge, situated in the heart of a traditional Xhosa village, include local activities such as brick-making, maize stamping, traditional food preparation, Umqombothi beer brewing and tasting, firewood collecting, local fishing, local culture and more. Lovely outing!

Mama Tofu is the star attraction of Ngxingxolo village. She and her team of cultural dancers and musicians present an afternoon of demonstration, sound and local cuisine that delights visitors. It’s a great way of learning Xhosa history and customs.

For more sites in and around the Eastern Cape go to this post by Portfolio Collection.


Culture & Heritage sites in the Northern Cape

The Kalahari Red Dune Route forms part of the Green Kalahari in the Northern Cape and is known for its legendary hospitality. The local cuisine is popular and includes traditional dishes like roosterkoek, nabbas, venison and melktert. Activities include exploring the ironstone hills at Koppieskraal, as well as camel safaris. Birdwatching is popular and numerous adventure activities are on offer, such as 4×4 routes, sundowners on a Kalahari dune or even farm holidays with your kids.

The 160 000ha Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape of dramatic mountainous desert in north-western South Africa is communally owned and managed. This site sustains the semi-nomadic pastoral livelihood of the Nama people, reflecting seasonal patterns that may have persisted for as long as two millennia in southern Africa.

The !Xaus Lodge pronounced ‘kaus’) the lodge is a place to experience a unique desert environment, providing accommodation in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park for eco-tourists and visitors to the Kalahari.

For more sites in and around the Northern Cape go to this post by Portfolio Collection.


Culture & Heritage sites in Kwazulu-Natal

The Battlefields Route is not to be missed when in Kwazulu-Natal. With 82 battlefields, museums, old fortifications and places of remembrance the Route boasts the largest concentration of significant Battles and war related sites than anywhere in South Africa.

The Old Prison can count 127 years of history including the Colonial times, Apartheid, the Liberation struggle, the political struggle through to the dawn of a democratic South Africa in 1994.

iSimangaliso Wetland Park was listed as South Africa’s first World Heritage Site in recognition of its unique global values; no other place has comparable ecological processes or the superlative natural beauty and biodiversity of iSimangaliso. Strongly recommend this!

The Luthuli Museum showcase, promote and create awareness about the life, achievements and values of non-violence, human rights and non-racism reflected in the man, politician and leader Chief Albert Luthuli.

The Capture Site is where the late Nelson Mandela was ‘captured’ on his return journey to Johannesburg on the R103 – the old main road – 5km from Howick on 5 August 1962. He then began his 27-year incarceration and his long walk to freedom.

For more sites in and around Kwazulu-Natal go to this post by Portfolio Collection.


Culture & Heritage sites in Limpopo

At the Shingwedzi De Wildt Cheetah & Wildlife Ranch visitors can sit back and relax as they watch African wild dogs and cheetahs feed two metres away. Enjoy the opportunity to view the rare King Cheetah up close, as well as the vulture camp, wild cats and other free-roaming animals.

Mapungubwe, at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers, developed into the largest kingdom in the subcontinent before it was abandoned in the 14th century. What survives are the almost untouched remains of the palace sites and also the entire surrounding settlement area, and two earlier capital sites, together presenting an unrivalled picture of the development of social and political structures over some 400 years.

For more sites in and around Limpopo go to this post by Portfolio Collection.


Culture & Heritage sites in Mpumalanga

The Barberton Museum, situated 350km east of Gauteng, in the town of Barberton is rich in ancient and modern history. Some of the oldest rocks preserved on earth are found here in the Barberton mountains. The area was first inhabited by the Stone Age people and later the Swazi, with their rich culture, under the leadership of King Sobhuza.

Midway between the Blyde River canyon and the southern Kruger National Park, the traditional villages of Shangana invite guests to share in the way of life of the Shangaan people. The picturesque villages are set in the shade of ancient trees in a reserve of forest and grassland.

The history of Pilgrim’s Rest dates back to ancient times when unknown black miners worked the quartz reefs for gold and is captured in the Pilgrim’s Rest Museum. However, the historic village, as we know it, was founded in 1873 when alluvial gold was discovered in the Pilgrim’s Creek.

For more sites in and around Mpumalanga go to this post by Portfolio Collection.


Culture & Heritage sites in the North West

The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre is renowned for its breeding success in cheetah, African wild dog, the rare king cheetah and various other endangered species. By prior booking, visitors to the centre can join one of the three-hour guided tours and, on certain days of the week, experience the cheetah running at high speed.

The fourth largest park in South Africa, Pilanesberg is a melting pot of topographies – which include syenite koppies, forested ravines, bush veld and rolling grasslands and lightly wooded areas – all contained in the crater of an extinct volcano that covers 55,000 hectares.

Mapoch is situated about 40km from Pretoria and offers a very rural (and non-commercial) cultural experience. The Ndebele Cultural community in Mapoch still lives in a traditional village manner and practises its customs and traditions in an authentic way.

For more sites in and around North West go to this post by Portfolio Collection.


Culture & Heritage sites in the Free State

Over 2 million years ago an asteroid with a diameter of between 5 and 10 km hit the earth at this very spot leaving behind the largest and oldest verified impact crater on Earth, giving it the status of World Heritage Site. The Vredefort Dome stretches over 300 km across and bears witness to the world’s greatest known single energy release event, which had devastating global effects including, according to some scientists, major evolutionary changes.

Dating back to 1877, the Bloemfontein National Museum has developed into an institution of international stature and through its displays and educational programmes, renders a service to all, engaging them in enjoyable and enlightening experiences and enriching learning opportunities.

Officially opened as a satellite of the National Museum in 1989, the Oliewenhuis Art Museum holds in trust a historical and contemporary collection of South African art.

The Basotho Cultural Village is a real cultural treasure. See the simplistic and fascinating architecture of the south Sotho and a host of activities in which tourists can take part. The village celebrates the cultures and traditions of the Sotho people – huts are built and furnished according to time period and one can enjoy traditional dancing, cuisine and some time with the resident sangoma.

Clarens has some of the world’s oldest dinosaur fossils in its soil and rock formations. Massive dinosaurs lived in and migrated through this area around 200-million-years ago. The super-continent Gondwana was still intact back then.

The story of South Africa’s commercial and mining history can be traced back to this one site: Kimberley’s Big Hole. 150 years ago, the site of the Big Hole was a featureless, flat-topped hill. When word spread that diamonds had been discovered, thousands of prospectors, armed with nothing more than picks, shovels and hope, descended on Kimberley and created the largest hand-dug excavation in the world.

For more sites in and around Free State go to this post by Portfolio Collection.



We are not affiliated to the products or services mentioned in this article, in any way. It is mentioned as a result of our own experiences and research on public domains.

We endeavour to check all information for accuracy upon writing the article. If this information is outdated or wrong, please let us know and we will gladly amend it where need be. 



For more things to do, see and experience in Southern Africa why not go to the following pages to get inspired:

Events, Festivals & Shows

Popular Activities

Top Lists by Country

Weekend Holiday Ideas

Awesome Tours

Helpful Travel Information



Elize Rowe

No Comments

Post a Comment

contact us

Password reset link will be sent to your email