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Home to stunning African wildlife, beautiful views 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. Here's how to get the most out of your trip.

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.

Image credit: Thinkstock


More than just a safari afterthought: How to connect with real culture in South Africa
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