How to turn your Heritage Day into a 5-day holiday

2018-06-22 13:33
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Young Zulu girls celebrate their culture

Heritage Day is on Monday this year so that means a long weekend to do the things you want to do with the people you love.

Without using any of those leave days you’ve been accumulating so patiently, you get 3 days of relaxation and a countrywide celebration of culture and heritage to partake in. So, put on your traditional wear, get the braai going and turn the music up - it’s time to celebrate.

  • If you want to boost your Heritage Day holiday, perhaps you should consider taking off on Friday 21, September and one day of leave gets you 4 days of freedom to do what you want.
  • Alternatively, take off on Tuesday 25 September in addition to the Friday 21 September and you’ve used 2 leave days to craft a 5-day holiday!

Click here for a full list of creative ways to get the most out of the public holidays this year

Now that you've got all this free time you're probably wondering how you're going to make use of it all, but fret not as we've got you covered with that too.

Celebrated every year on 24 September, South Africans across the spectrum are encouraged to take the time out to appreciate the diversity of the nation by celebrating their traditions and beliefs. Our heritage can be seeing as being the essence of our identity. It speaks of what the nation has endured, its achievements, and how these will affect its residents in future. This annual event is marked by people wearing traditional dress, gathering around a fire with friends and families and visits to destinations that mark our unique natural cultural landmarks.

In an address marking Heritage Day in 1996, former President Nelson Mandela stated, "When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation."

A great way for you to celebrate your heritage and build the nation is to take the time out to travel and see some of South Africa's great World Heritage Sites. 

Nine South African places declared World Heritage Sites that you should check out: 

1. The iSimangaliso (Greater St Lucia) Wetland Park

Renowned for its exceptionally rich biodiversity, the iSimagaliso Wetland Park is a outstanding gem in the South African natural heritage treasure chest.

In a country so blessed with an abundance of natural wonders, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park surely stands out for the sheer variety of, and in, its ecosystems. Home to five individual ecosystems (Marine, eastern shores,  lake system, Umfolozi and Mkhuze swamps and the western shores), the estuary is the largest in Africa and is the site of the largest forested sand dunes in the world, reaching up to 180 metres in some places. White, sandy beaches, coral reefs and sub-marine canyons, grassy plains to wetlands, freshwater lakes to swamp forest and dry savannah woodlands - the iSimagaliso Wetland Park has it all for you this Heritage Day weekend.

Isimangaliso Wetland Park landscape(Photo: iStock)

Hippos, zebras and wildebeest gather around a body(Photo: iStock)

SEE: iSimangaliso trail challenge: An experience of a lifetime

2. The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park

Pristine river valleys, rocky gorges, rolling grasslands and a diversity of flora and fauna - the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park is a must-visit heritage site. The best part is that it's only 4 hours from Gauteng and 2 from Durban making this an easily accessible trip into the verdant beauty of the Drakensberg. Whether you're looking for adventure or just a place to chill, uKhahlamba has it all with mountain biking, fly fishing, bird-watching and more on offer. Stand in awe of the majestic beauty of your country as you marvel at millenia-old San rock paintings and mammals including Caracal, Mountain Rhebuck, Eland and more in their natural environment. Don't miss out! 

Drakensberg, South Africa(Photo: iStock)

South African San Rock Art(Photo: iStock)

WATCH: Ukhahlamba - Drakensberg viral video is incredible

3. Robben Island

Robben Island is a rocky outcrop of land just off the coast of Cape Town with a storied history. A one-time leper colony, guiding light for ships and infamously - the site of imprisonment for many of South Africa's revolutionary struggle icons including Nelson Mandela. Nowadays, the Island is a popular tourist attraction and World Heritage Site - but you already knew that. Head on down and hop on a ferry and take a tour of this living museum. 

Robben Island and Table Mountain, Cape Town (Photo: iStock)

 4. The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape   

A true confluence of African natural wonder, the Mpungbwe Cultural Landscape straddles the borders of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswane.

Translating to mean 'place of the stone of wisdom', the Cultural Landscape is a delight for the traveller in the heart of the open savannah of the Mapungubwe National Park. Head out and learn more about this historical site of South Africa's first kingdom.  

Mapungubwe National Park, landscape, South Africa(Photo: iStock)

Oryx, bush, wildlife, Safari, Mapungubwe National (Photo: iStock)

PIC: Giant rhino etched into Mapungubwe bushveld spotted

5. Vredefort Dome

Located just 120 kilometres south west of Jo'burg, the Vredefort Dome is an incredible insight into the history of the region, South Africa and the planet in general.

Part of a large meteroite impact area, the site is the largest and oldest meteorite impact structure in the world with a radius of 190 kilometres and an age of roughly 2,023 million years. It is also known as being the site of what is, now, the confirmed largest single release of energy event in known history of the planet - emitting energy thousands of times more intense than all the earths nuclear weapons. T

his is a great location for travellers to engage with their natural heritage.  Vredefort Dome, South Africa(Photo: Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO)

Vredefort Dome, South Africa(Photo: Francesco Bandarin, UNESCO)

WATCH: Meteorite enters atmosphere just off SA West Coast

6. The Cape Floral Region

Stretching all the way from the Cape Peninsula in the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape province, the Cape Floral Kingdom is a wonder of our natural heritage that South Africans should make use of their time to appreciate and relax in.

Home to some of the greatest biodiversity of plant life in the world, the Kingdom is the home to thousands of species of flora including, but not limited to, Succlent Karoo, Afromontane, Renosterveld, Sub-tropical thicket and - of course- Fynbos.

Catch up with friends and family and spend time enjoying our natural bounty this Heritage day weekend. Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden(Photo: iStock)

Fynbos of Western Cape (Photo: iStock)

WATCH: Inside the Cape Floral Kingdom: The most magnificent little wonderland of SA

7. The Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape

In the Northern Cape you will find an arid, sparsely-populated mountainous desert that is the contemporary and traditional home of the Khoi people. With harsh dry desertscapes and dramatic mountains, this is a land of extremes.

Despite its seemingly desolate appearance, the area is rich with rugged, enduring forms of life that have eked out an existence in this harsh environment. Travellers will appreciate the diversity of plant life and the abundance of wildlife and birdlife that call this area home.

Make sure you pack a lot of water!    

Desert Valley and Mountains in Richtersveld Nation(Photo: iStock)

Richtersveld scene (Photo: iStock)

WATCH: A wild run across the ancient Richtersveld

8. The Fossil Hominid Sites of Fossil Hominid, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and environs

Located just outside of Johannesburg, the Cradle of Humankind is one of South Africa's premiere Heritage Sites. Consisting of a complex of fossil bearing caves including Bolt's Farm, Coopers Cave, Drimolen, Gondolin, Haasgat, Kromdraai, Minaars Cave, Motsetsi, Plovers Lake, Sterkfontein and Swartkrans, the Cradle of Humankind is well worth exploring. 'Mrs Ples', an approximately 2.3 million year old fossil was found here marking this the location as a focal point in South Africa's heritage.

Get down and explore! 

Wonder Cave in Kromdraai(Photo: iStock)

Pillars of limestone hang from the ceiling of the (Photo: iStock)

PICS: Western Cape discovers its own cradle of humankind

9. Maloti-Drakensberg Park 

The Maloti-Drakensberg Park, which is composed of the uKahlamba Drakensberg National Park and the Sehlathebe National Park in Lesotho is another heritage site that travellers would do well to visit on their heritage holiday.

With spectacular natural beauty ranging from cliffs, rock pools to caves and buttresses, this location is filled with natural beauty in every nook and cranny. playing host to a unique and bio-diverse assortment of flora, you will see plants that exist nowhere else on the planet.

Beyond the natural wonder, the caves and rocks of the park are noted as being the largest concentrated group of rock-paintings in Southern Africa. Head on over and explore this heritage site and enjoy your country this Heritage Day. 

 (Photo: iStock)

 (Photo: iStock)

WATCH: This drone in the Drakensberg will make you pack your hiking bag, stat! 

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