The 27th of September is regarded as World Tourism Day. In honour of the #TourismMonth, South African Tourism held #TravelWeekSA specials from 23 to 29 September 2019 to promote business and leisure travel within South Africa and encourage more South Africans to explore their country. I took a Shot’Left around Johannesburg and the North West Province, ahead of #TravelWeekSA with South African Tourism.
South African Tourism initiated Travel Week in 2018, as a promotion to encourage all South Africans to explore more of their country. The aim of Travel Week is to promote leisure and business travel within South Africa. The week before Travel Week, ShotLeft (a branch of South African Tourism), held a media hosting with a few local Travelistas who travelled to Soweto and Hartebeespoort (known as Harties). During Travel Week you could book travel packages from flights, accommodation, and adventure experiences at up to 50% discount. So, if you come across this blog during #TravelWeekSA be sure to hop onto these amazing specials, by visiting Shot’Left on www.shotleft.co.za
At the beginning of the year I moved to Johannesburg from Cape Town which was such a tough decision for someone who was glued to Cape Town. I was afraid that my spontaneous travel bug would fade away and that I would get sucked into the concrete jungle with little to explore. My travels with Shot’Left this past week and weekend gave me more reason to explore other parts of South Africa.
I hope this blog post will help you to plan your next South African trip and give you reason to say #ItsMySouthAfrica and explore more of your backyard.
DAY 1: Thursday 19 September 2019
We gathered early in the morning at the South African Tourism offices in Sadnton for breakfast and we also had a bus pick us up for our tour.
Location: Located southwest of Johhanesburg.
Local Attractions: Orlando Towers, Mandela House, Tutu House, Hector Pieterson Museum, Freedom Towers.
Soweto is hailed as South Africa’s most precious township, as it has gained its popularity not from being the central dwelling place for miners back when Johannesburg was still a mining town, but more from the Apartheid Struggle icons such as Nelson Mandela, Winnie Mandela, Desmond Tutu who resided in Soweto at the time. This is where many events that transformed our country occurred in such as the Soweto Uprising on 16 June 1976, where students marched on the streets to protest Bantu education, which was a lower quality of education reserved only for black people. On this day 100s of students were shot dead by the police, thus the 16th of June is now commemorated as a public holiday in South Africa.
WHAT TO DO IN SOWETO
Today Soweto is a tourist attraction with frequent local and international tourists. Most people visiting Soweto are often looking to get an authentic South African Tourism experience.
- LEBO’S SOWETO BACKPACKERS
- Soweto bicycle tours
- Soweto Tuk-Tuk Tour
- Soweto Walking Tour
- Accommodation ( self- catering guesthouses, backpack lodges and Lebo Land Camping site)
- Food and cookingexpereince
If you are seeking a taste of “Local is Lekker” which is an authentic South African experience, then this is the place to be. We took Tuk-Tuks around Soweto and this was fun because the last time I was in a Tuk-Tuk was back in Thailand in 2015.
We had a few Tuk-Tuks which we shared amongst our group and we had two tour guides who gave us a tour of Soweto. The nice thing about this experience is that you get to see the lived experiences of people living in Soweto and learn about its history while you are there.
We then went to Hector Pieterson Memorial Site, which is where a 12-year-old Hector (who is carried in the photo below) was shot during the Soweto Uprising protest on 16 June 1976. Each structure along the Memorial Site has a significance to it. The olive trees symbolize peace and hope (this was a new learning for me), the rocks are in different lengths and they represent the ages of the children from the day of the march, and the spaces between the rocks resemble the missing information on what actually transpired on June 16.
I had ambivalent feelings about this visit as a part of me is privileged to have had a good education, but just knowing that it came at the cost of so many young people, is disheartening.
If you would like to see and learn more about Soweto’s history, you can also visit Mandela’s House. Soweto is filled with so many activites and learning and I always enjoy my time here.
Did I mention the food at Soweto Backpackers? We headed back for lunch and I loved the food there because it was original South African food, which made me feel like I was home.
- SOWETO TOURS
- Bungee jump
- SCAD Free Falling
- Straight jacket bungee
- Base jump
For this part of the tower, our group signed up for the Bungee jump and SCAD Free Falling. I chose to do the bungee as I’ve done many scary things in my life, but for some reason Bungee Jumping had never crossed my mind or I never created the opportunity to explore this activity more. I only regretted the decision minutes before the fall, but by then it was already too late. The experience was daunting scary and I saw myself hanging from the sky, that was freaky. However, it was a great experience.
The staff from Soweto Tours were so awesome and they actually helped to calm my nerves down. I still screamed for my mom towards the end (haha). Will I ever do it again? Only if I got paid to do it, time will tell.
Cost: Bungee Jump costs R680 per person, however you do get a discount of R580 for groups of 6 or more.
Visit www.sowetotours.co.za for more information
- Quad Biking
We also went quad biking after the Bungee Jump and for some reason I always get scared on this bike. Safe to say it was a great experience, again, going around Soweto and exploring more of it.
After our day adventure, we headed to the Soweto Hotel to freshen up for dinner and we had dinner at Sakhumzi Resturant based in Vilakazi Street. They had the best South African food and the service was amazing. For more information, visit www.sakhumzi.co.za
DAY 2: Friday 20 September 2019, Hartebeesport
On day two we travelled about 37km from Soweto to our first activity of the day, which was the Aerial Cableview Experience.
Location: “Harties” as we call it, is a resort town situated north of Johannesburg, in the North West Province.
Local attractions: Hartebeespoort Dam and the Crocodile River, which are both visible from the Hartebeespoort Aerial Cableway which ascends to the top of the Magaliesberg Mountains.
WHAT TO DO IN HARTIES
- HARTIES CABLEWAY
- Harties Cableway offers visitors a panoramic view of the Magaliesberg mountains, Hartebeespoort Dam and surrounding areas as well as excellent and educational facilities. It is also kids friendly.
Cost: Cable Car tickets are priced at R210 for adults, R125 for pensioners, R130 for children AND it’s FREE on your birthday.
The experience of ascending to the summit of the Cableway was so amazing as you are able to view the beauty of Magaliesberg mountains as you ascend. What really surprised me was how relaxed and buzzing the to of the summit was, with music, a cocktail bar and restaurants where you can chill and enjoy the panoramic views. I am definitely going back again.
Do yourself a favour and stick around for some refreshments.
Just when I thought I’d seen all the beauty in South Africa, the North West province took me by surprise and I’m so happy to explore more of this area.
2. GO-KARTING WITH DIRT RYDERS
We stopped by Dirt Ryders in Laseria for some speedy Go-Karting adventure. It was my first time, but I definitely felt like an Formula 1 driver during this activity, I dare you to race with me.
After th Day 2 Go-karting, Day 2 came to an end and we checked into our new stay at Riverstone Lodge where we had a lovely braai supper. Riverstone Lodge is an African inspired lodge, situated on the banks of the Crocodile River and at the buffer of the Cradle of Humankind.
On Saturday morning, I woke up to this African inspired suite with a huge bathroom that is now goals for my own bathroom oneday. The packed activities from Day 2 left me feeling exhausted. Luckily there was a bathtub and I was able to enjoy a warm bath, while enjoying the views over a cuppa. This was so relaxing and much needed.
This lodge is overly stunning and deserves a whole review on it’s own. As I always start my morning with a cup of green tea, this time, I did it while overlooking the Crocodile River with a tranquil scenery, while relaxing on the wooden balcony (first picture). A moment of pure relaxation.
DAY 3: 21 September 2019, Cradle of Humankind
CRADLE OF HUMANKIND
My first time at the Cradle of Humankind was back in high school on an Academic Tour and I remember being fascinated with learning that we all originate from South Africa.
Location: The Cradle of Humankind is a paleoanthropological site situated about 50km northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa, in the Gauteng province. It was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999.
Attractions: The official visitor centers are Maropeng Museum and the Sterkfontein Caves.
Open: 09h00 -17h00 everyday
Cost: Adults R120; Children under 4 – free; Pensioners R65 (both sites); Student R100; School groups R90 per pupil
Sterkfontein Caves is one of the world’s most richest hominid site, where some of the earliest ancestors of modern human fossils were found. one of them, Mrs Ples fell into the cave thousands of years ago and was later discovered by Robert Broom and John T. Robbinson on 18 April 1947.
Before we went into the cave we were guided through an exhibition that detailed the story of the evolution of humankind. Then we are taught about Mrs Ples who is notably the 2.1 million year-old Australopithecus skull that was found here and Little Foot with an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton, more almost 3 million years old. After the exhibition we walked to the cave.
#Tip: As the cave is rather deep with narrow pathways, you should wear comfortable shoes and clothing and leave any heavy bags behind. People who suffer from claustrophobia, chest problems, asthma or any respiratory illnesses including colds and flus at the time, might find this activity demanding. There is also a flight of about 150 stair cases that you climb to get out of the cave and you should take the necessary precautionary measures in keeping with your health and safety before coming to the cave.
Highlights of the tour includes seeing the cave openings where Mrs Ples fell through, learning about the formation of stalagmites and limestone.
After the tour, you are invited to either rub Robert Broom’s hand (statue) for wisdom or his nose for good luck, if you rub both then that is bad luck. I went for the “Good luck” rub.
Opening: 09h00 -17h00 (everyday)
Cost: Children under 4 – free; Pensioners R65; Students R75; School groups R65 per pupil.
Maropeng center is an award winning exhibition. The name “Maropeng” means returning to the place origin in Setswana. It contains land of about 53000 hectares and Sterkfontein is where all the fossils were discovered in the area.
We started the tour with an exhibition of the evolution of planet Earth and its species and learnt about the four Elements of the Nature: Air, Water, Fire and the Earth.
We then took a boat ride inside the museum which gave us an experience of all the elements of nature, which was so much fun. After the boat ride, the rest of the tour around the museum is then self instructed and you are able to stick around and learn about the extinct species and evolution or move straight to restaurant for some refreshments.
LONG MARCH TO FREEDOM
Our last stop at Maropeng was the Long March To Freedom Exhibition, which is a one of a kind exhibition of world leaders that have fought for the liberation and human rights across all groups of humanity. This unique exhibition has been at Maropeng since January 2019 and is said to relocate to Century City mid October 2019. This is to ensure that as many people as possible gain exposure to this incredible educational exhibition.
The highlight for me was seeing King Moshoeshoe of the Basotho Nation being recognized as one of the most successful leaders in the African continent.
LAST STAY OF THE TOUR
MISTY HILLS HOTEL
If African luxury and service excellence appeals to you, then Misty Hills is the place to be. I’ve always dreamt of a #solocation to Bali and this hotel gave me all the Bali vibes that I needed to convince me to book and go!
The hotel is nestled in the foothills of Swartkop mountains on the threshold of the beautiful Kromdraai Valley in Muldersdrift and it is one of the most popular hotel and conference venues in Gauteng. The elegant Royal suites and Presidential suite have enclosed walled-in gardens and plunge pools, offering you as a guest total luxury, privacy and exclusivity.
Given our packed day at the Cradle of Humankind and the past 3 days of exploring Gauteng and North West Pronvinces, it was time to relax and get a luxury spa treatment at the Spa in the Country situated within Misty Hills.
The property also boasts the world-famous Carnivore Restaurant with a truly authentic African dinning experience. I had never had so much meat in my life and I have a voucher for two to ensure that I take it ALL in.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is how you end off a Shot’Left adventure, with African inspired luxury. I’ve shared my itinerary with you on what to do in Gauteng and the North West province and I hope that you will visit some of these sites and hotels at your next #Shot’Left.
Shout out to South African Tourism for inviting me to this wonderful experience. This was one for the books!
Until next time, continue to travel and explore more of South Africa.