My top 5 things to do in South Africa
- Volunteer work
Especially if you can’t get a work permit like me. Volunteering in South Africa is extremely rewarding, for starters one is far less restrained in regards to ‘do’s and don’ts of being a volunteer.’
I’ve been fortunate enough to get involved almost full time with both a local and national charity and spin off groups from both. It all started after years of sending Christmas shoeboxes to Africa from the UK, when I tweeted to ask if there was anything similar here and I’m now in my 3rd year with www.santashoebox.co.za as a co-ordinator for the Gauteng area. Santa shoebox identifies and delivers 100,000 Christmas gifts throughout the country to deserving and needy children. These gifts are collected from individuals and companies and are checked and delivered by a team of volunteers to schools and homes in townships and areas of deprivation. Pretoria aim to collect and distribute 10,000 boxes this year.
Through them I became involved with www.kwo.org.za an organisation that runs a home for adults with disabilities, educare facilities, drop in clinics and children’s home. I’m involved in the Children’s home and the workshop.
Through both organisations I have made the most amazing friends and shared some wonderful experiences and this weekend I am sleeping over in a township called Mamelodi, North of Pretoria, taking part in the Mams Art Festival http://www.viva-sa.co.za/ painting shacks.
I’ve been able to use my skills to support these worthy organisations and have learnt new skills such as sewing handbags which I sell to raise funds for @kwo_org.
- The Big 5
I can drive 5 minutes from home, traffic permitting, to look for Hippo and Rhino at the local nature reserve or I can drive a further 10 minutes to Groenkloof and go for a walk with the Giraffes.
To see the Big 5, Lion, Rhino, Leopard, Cape Buffalo and Elephants, I need to drive to Pilanesburg, near Sun City. This trip can be done in a day, it’s a 2 drive, but be warned there is nowhere to stop on route. Stopping for a wee on the side of the road is a NO, unless snakes and spiders aren’t a concern to you.
Krugersdorp Game Reserve is a must for a Sunday; make sure you arrive by 11.30am so you can watch the Lions being fed.
Or for a bit more excitement you can take a 5 hour road trip, East, each way, to Kruger National Park. Lodges, out of season, are around R250 pppn. The drive is fantastic, scenery amazing and plenty of rest stops on route for lunch or just a coffee.
Local nature and game reserves are self drive and around R40 pp for entry. Most of the roads are tarmaced so a normal car is fine, watch out for the off road routes as the rain tends to make it difficult to drive and the sun hardens the ground, leaving big ruts that we’ve seen many a car stuck in. Pilanesburg and Kruger offer game drives, it is cheaper to book with the reserve than with a tour guide/agent but still costs around R500 pp. But they do guarantee you’ll see the Big 5. Self drive is not permitted after 6pm and there are fines if you’re not back to the gate in time, or like me I had to wait for over an hour with wild dogs circling the car until a night drive safari turned up and opened the gates to let me out. I’ve not done a night drive yet, but I’ve heard it’s the best time to see the Leopards.
My son learnt to drive in a game reserve and now knows what to do at a Zebra crossing.
- Eating Out
The choice of restaurants is varied from traditional steak to Italian. Indian and Chinese restaurants in Gauteng are few and far between, but we’ve found a few take aways. I’ve yet to have a meal or a dining experience I haven’t enjoyed. In some cases it is cheaper to eat out than to cook at home.
For a real taste of Africa it is a must to eat at either Boma or Moyos for an authentic African evening. Drumming, dancing and tribal painting are on offer but don’t overwhelm the diner, there’s no pressure to join in. Make a whole evening of dining or an afternoon with friends for a coffee.
The wine list is ‘divine’ and the cocktails inexpensive. I can personally recommend the Sowetean Toilet. And be warned you will require a doggy bag, I can almost guarantee you’ll not finish your dessert.
- Culture and History
Despite South Africa being a modern country, there are so many places to visit. A visit to the Hector Pieterson Museum and Nelson Mandela’s house in Soweto are a must for the history of Apartheid. The Voortrekker Museum provides all the information on the original settlers and the Boar war right up to the present day.
Another must is the Cradle of Humankind, find out where Man originated and the continuing excavations.
A trip to Cape Town via the Garden Route and up Table Mountain to see the views.
Drive round the Cape of Good Hope. Durban for the beaches and long weekends.
There are cafes and gift shops at every stop. There is also so much to see and do here than we’ve already experienced and I fear we won’t be here long enough to fit it all in.
- Everything else
The shopping at the malls is wonderful, clean and tidy and air conditioned. Some malls are all indoors and perfect for a wet day, others are half and half where you can venture outdoors with kids play areas, fountains, beautiful sculptures and decoration, cinemas, restaurants and cafes. You’d never know you were inside a security area. Parking is around R10 a day or even cheaper.
All the malls contain the larger department and chain stores and a smattering of individual shops and stalls. You’ll also find at least 1 large supermarket.
There are plenty of retail parks, although these offer less in the way of security and parking is free.
Take a trip to Sandton to see how the other half live and a visit to Rosebank on a Sunday for the roof top African market. There are also various Saturday markets selling traditional African crafts and food.
Don’t forget the sporting opportunities. Centurion cricket ground is visible from our house and we’ve seen the 20/20. The wanderers ground for the ODI, SA v Sri Lanka. Ellis Park for the soccer, local team v Spurs and the Rugby SA v UK and finally the eldest boy to Soccer City in Soweto for the AFCON Finals.
These are just a few of the things we have done here in South Africa. Started off close to home and widening the circle as time has gone on and we’ve felt more comfortable with our personal security.