September is Heritage and Tourism Month in South Africa, a time when South Africans celebrate their unique heritage by showcasing museums, galleries and other attractions that highlight local crafts, heritage and culture. If you’re visiting from abroad, you’ll have the opportunity to join in the special festivals and events in celebration. Otherwise simply use this as guide to some of the best attractions to add to your travel plans.
Museums that celebrate South Africa’s rich heritage
Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg
If you want to understand and experience what apartheid in South Africa was really like, a visit to this museum is a must. 22 exhibitions take you through an emotional journey that tells a story of a state-sanctioned system based on racial discrimination. It details the struggle of the majority to overthrow this tyranny. It’s also a beacon of hope showing the world how South Africa is coming to terms with its oppressive past. Today is stands as a symbol of a people working towards a future of freedom and equal rights for all.
Mandela House Museum, Soweto (Johannesburg)
Mandela House, now a national monument, aims to provide an effective and meaningful experience for all visitors, educating them on President Nelson Mandela’s story both in the context of his home and in the context of his life as a whole, in a way that promotes human rights, democracy, reconciliation, mutual respect and tolerance among all South Africans.
Capture Site, Howick (KZN)
The Nelson Mandela Capture Site marks the moment in history when Nelson Mandela was arrested on 5 August 1962 outside of Howick in KwaZulu-Natal. Thereafter he spent the next 27 years of his life in prison. Visit the iconic sculpture and explore the visitor centre.
KZN Museum, Pietermaritzburg
Home to several of South Africa’s most important heritage collections including regional archaeology, African cultural products, European settler history, seashells, insects and other forms of animal life, this fascinating slice of history should be on your list. The aim of the KZN Museum is to increase understanding of the history of mankind in south-eastern Africa by showing us where we came from.
Barberton Museum, Barberton (Mpumalanga)
The small town of Barberton in Mpumalanga has its origin in the 1880s gold rush. The fascinating museum includes archaeological sites dating back to 400 BC and the heady story of the discovery of gold and subsequent settlement of Europeans in the region. Collect a map from the Barberton Information Centre and take the free Heritage Walk, a 24 stop trail through all of the town’s best historical attractions, and discover the pioneering spirit of Africans through evidence of San/Bushman habitats.
Iziko Museums, Cape Town
Iziko is a group of national museums located near Cape Town city centre, also known ‘Museum Mile’. The 11 museums include art, zoology, paleontology and archaeology collections as well as a Planetarium.
Attractions that showcase nature and natural scenery
Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town
The Aquarium represents South Africa’s incredibly rich marine life, including the 270 families of fish that call these shores home. Just over 13% of these are endemic to the region. It’s not just fish, however; you’ll also see waddling rescue penguins and learn about nature’s most misunderstood predator, the shark.
South African National Parks (SANParks)
Nature lovers and safari enthusiasts can enjoy the natural scenery and incredible wildlife for which SA is famous. National parks include Addo Elephant Park with herds its of gentle giants, Kruger National Park with the Big 5 and West Coast National Park, home to spring’s rainbow fields of wildflowers.
Cape Nature Reserves
Cape Nature’s 47 pristine reserves are scattered throughout the country. These wilderness regions are conservation sites for South Africa’s unique biodiversity and are perfect for enjoying the great outdoors. Think biking, hiking, picnicking, kayaking, bouldering and boating – a fantastic day out for the family.
Did you know: Hermanus is located in Walker Bay Nature Reserve where whales come to breed every year.