Discover The Cape

January 2005 Newsletter

Cape Town Accommodation, Tours & Travel

African Township Tours

Greetings fellow Discoverers, I trust the holidays were a pleasant and enjoyable experience? To those unfortunate souls who worked during the holiday season, my thoughts were with you as I relaxed in my Jacuzzi, sipping on a shaken (not stirred) martini as I overlooked the Clifton beachside. Okay, I'm stretching the truth a bit - I ended up lying in a bathtub of cold water, sipping on a glass of tepid Oros - but a little imagination goes a long way.

2005 is all about experiencing and it's a mantra this newsletter lives by. This month I thought we'd take a look at our township tours, which are fast becoming a major tourist attraction.

Khayelitsha or Langa?

Cape Town has several major townships, currently tours are conducted in 2 of these, namely Khayelitsha and Langa. Langa is actually the oldest township in South Africa (useful fact of the day #1) while Khayelitsha is the second largest township in the country, Soweto being the biggest (useful fact of the day #2) Both Langa and Khayelitsha (and probably Soweto, but we're focusing on Cape Town here) offer daily tours through their suburbs, which have proven to be incredibly popular, especially among international tourists.

A Relic of Urban Migration

Historically, these townships were created when black migrant workers working in Cape Town were shafted there by the government at the time. The population quickly ballooned as more and more rural workers came down to the Cape, as the city was going through an industrial boom. This legacy has meant that a majority of people living here are largely destitute, although a burgeoning informal sector has meant the local economy has started to thrive.

Meet The People

So what can one expect on these tours? You will normally be co-led by one of the residents, because lets face, no one would know the surroundings better than someone actually living there. You will have the opportunity to take to the streets, conversing with the locals passing by and experiencing a taste of township life, albeit for an hour or so. Many tours on offer will include a visit to a resident's house where you can enjoy tea and biscuits and fire away any questions you may have. You will normally be taken to a nearby craft market where you will be greeted by a host of traders displaying a variety of wares. 

The Shebeen, a South African Tradition

A highlight of the tour would undoubtedly be a trip to a nearby shebeen, where good times and good beer are flowing in abundance. There's nothing like getting plastered in a strange place, it immediately washes away any trepidation you may have had, and the hospitality is top class. That pretty much sums up the experience of a township tour. The people you meet are genuinely happy to see you and it's rather refreshing to see.

How to Get There

Tour companies will offer you transport there and back so there are no hassles with driving (you're advised not to travel there by yourself by the way) and tours normally take about two hours or so, depending on what you'd like to do. It's a great way to spend a few hours, and it's a world many people don't actually see or know about. Be sure to bring a camera, there will no doubt be many memorable moments on offer. Also, some cash would probably be a good idea, especially if you have your eye on that Ndebele head carving you saw at the craft market.

Signing off.
The Caped Discoverer


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Township Tours

Township Tours


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