Cape Town - Exercise your right to freedom this long weekend by taking the liberty of exploring the abundance of sights and sounds that South Africa has to offer.
And you can do it all by caravan, as proven by Blacks Do Caravan author, Fikile Hlatshwayo.
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Fikile, who hails from Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, says that the book aims to show South Africans just how magnificent the country is, while breaking racial and cultural stereotypes that not only prove that blacks do go on caravan adventures, but also encourages South Africans of all creeds and cultures to get out of their comfort zones and explore as much as they possibly can of this beautiful country.
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A once reserved traveller, Fikile has since caravanned most of SA – in a total of 7 months - with her husband, a University professor and conservationist, and two children; Lesedi (11) and Leo (7).
Fikile, who is passionate about the “camping community” and believes it has the power to unite South Africa, makes a profound statement about her caravanning experience: “we have a lot to learn from one another and discover ourselves in the process”.
Traveller24 chats to her to find out more about the inspiration behind her book, her most outrageous travel experience and why we should exercise our right to freely explore our country.
What is the book about and why should we read it?
“It’s an exciting, simple book – with lots of photos – that came about when we were travelling the lengths and breadths of the country in a caravan – something that is seldom done by black people.
“When visiting the different parts of the country I realised that South Africa is still a very divided nation, and I wanted to change this reality,” says Fikile.
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“I decided, while in the bush, that I wanted to write the book to change mind-sets, to breakdown stereotypes - that certain things are for white people and certain things are for black people. I think it’s about time that South Africans should unite through travelling.
“It was an easy book to write because wherever we visited, I always found time to make notes. And South Africa is so rich in natural resources and outdoor lifestyle - I documented everything I experienced,” says the author, who also published an academic book, Export growth opportunities in Africa, in 2005.
Despite her romantic and spectacular experiences of beaches and bushveld, Hlatshwayo was also a victim of harsh social stereotypes and discrimination.
“There was one time I was mistaken for a cleaner!” she laughs as she recalls the memory. “It was painful at the time, but I looked at it differently. I knew we were going to an area where my family is the odd one out … because black people don’t travel enough … That’s why I titled the book: Blacks Do Caravan.
“It’s a very bold title, to shift mind-sets.”
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Discover the beauty of South Africa
The idea of the book is also to create awareness about South Africa too.
“Holidays aren’t only about sleeping in hotels and eating nice food. I wanted to show a different aspect of travelling,” says Fikile. “There are so many things to get involved in, especially when travelling with children.”
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Fikile, who has been bunjee-jumping, zip-lining, swimming in waterfalls and rock pools among many other adventurous activities, says that South Africans are not being exposed well enough to everything the country has to offer.
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“South Africa is so rich in adventure sports, rich in activities like game drives, sunset drives, abseiling, zip-lining … Be active! We all want to rest - but let’s have fun.”
“My kids are learning so much more”
Fikile encourages families not to wait for school holidays, but to take time off even during school terms and consider home-schooling their children while travelling. “South African schools are very flexible. I found that with my kids it was easy to take them out [of school],” says Fikile.
SEE: 7 family-friendly camping spots ideal for a long weekend
“I had an agreement with the school, with packages of programmes to teach the children. It makes a difference because my kids are learning so much more out there in the wild than in a confined classroom.”
Travelling broadens one’s mind
Over Easter, Fikile did something she never thought she would do.
“This is about fear of the unknown and how travelling really broadens one’s mind.”
Fikile met with Crystal Divers in KwaZulu-Natal for a once in a lifetime shark-cage diving adventure. She grew up watching jaws and always had a fear of sharks but says: “after this experience I am an advocate of sharks.”
“I even went out of the cage and swam with the sharks. My daughter was there too. We were freely swimming with sharks,” she beams with pride.
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. You don’t swim with sharks everyday of your life … to see them so peaceful.”
“Fear of the unknown shouldn’t limit our possibilities,” says Fikile.
Watch Fikile swimming with sharks here.
Staying at home will not benefit you
“Tourism is expensive in South Africa and we shouldn’t be paying the same price as tourists [to visit local sites],” says Fikile who is currently in negotiations with some stakeholders in the tourism industry to revisit the pricing model for locals.
However, she says that camping and caravanning is a much cheaper means of touring. “You don’t even need to buy a caravan – go camping and spend your money on activities instead,” she says.
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“I’m not a tourism expert but through my experiences I can advocate for touring South Africa. Staying at home will not benefit you at all,” says Fikile.
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