If you want to break free from big city life, dressing up, having a superficial conversation and holding your pinkies up while sipping on a margarita – this is the place for you. South Africa’s townships are unlike anything you’ll ever experience.
The first SA township that formed was Langa, meaning place of the sun. Apart from Langa, there are many other townships right across South Africa. These cultural hubs are unique to South Africa, and every South African, especially, should experience the vibe in this retro space.
Here are 5 unique South African things you can only do in a township, and nowhere else on the face of the earth:
1. Drink 5 liters of home-brewed beer – Umqombothi – in a shack.
Calling it beer is a far stretch, really, as it is something in between a sweet porridge and a milk stout – with alcohol. It’s served in a 5l paint can, which you cover with a tile of some sort in-between sips to keep out the flies.
SA’s townships are the only place in the world where you can drink this proudly SA drink as you should; in a small dark shack, sharing the tin with some locals.
2. Eat smileys cooked on the pavement.
FYI –smileys are sheep’s heads, cooked on open fire and named so due to the animals’ teeth being exposed to the eaters. If you’re grossed out, shame on you… sheep’s head is a sought after delicacy – like foire gras and caviar, but cheaper. In the townships you’ll find the real, real deal.
Locals call it the townships’ KFC, which should serve as an indication as to how much people love it.
ALSO READ: 21 Unique eats worth travelling South Africa for
3. Visit a Sangoma in their home. 4. Meet your tour guide’s family.
Walking with a guide, of course, you will walk right into locals’ homes and sit and chat with them. In Masiphumelele township in Cape Town, you can even sit in on a Sangoma's session.
It happens naturally, when you’re walking on the street and a cousin or a brother or a niece walks by, and you always stop to greet them and have a quick chat.
With the new trend in tourism that leans towards a more personal tourist experience - these guys are leading the way. While exploring the important history in the township, you also get to meet your tour guide’s extended family on the job. This is exactly what makes this township tour so special, and so proudly South African.
5. Own the streets.
Cars aren't very plentiful in the townships, so naturally, people take to the streets. Instead of the streets being the roadways to destinations, they are the destinations where people meet, party, play and eat. Lovely.
Take a picture without asking permission
For your own safety and prevention of complete embarrassment, here are TWO things you can’t do:
Pat a dog
The scruffy strays scouting around for scraps of something to eat will see your friendly patting hand as just that too… something to eat. Don’t.
Firstly, it’s rude sticking a camera in an unexpecting person’s face. And secondly, ask to take a picture – as you would any other subject. ALSO: Do not take pictures of someone else’s children without asking, at the very least. Not only is it against the law to do so, it’s also very creepy. REALLY… End of story.
Interested in going on a Township Tour in SA? Here's how:
Who: City Sightseeing offers safe, secure and interactive tours to three of the major townships in SA, namely Langa, Gugulethu and Soweto. You can visit their website for details on these tours.
How much: LaGugu tour prices: Adult R270 (offline price R290); Kids 5 - 17 R150; Kids under 5 Free (max 2 kids/adult) Soweto tour prices (Joburg and Soweto Combo): Adult R370 (offline price R420); Kids 5 - 17 R200; Kids under 5 Free (max 2 kids/adult)
Louzel Lombard was hosted for a media visit on a LaGugu (Langa and Gugulethu) Township tour by City Sightseeing.
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