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Updated: Nov 29, 2023

South Africa is one of my favorite places to visit. The culture, the history, the scenery, and the people are all worth the trip, and every time I go, time flies so fast I promise myself next time, I’ll take longer. If you’re like me and have a shorter visit planned, here’s how to make the most out of your South African visit with five things you can do in ten days.

Feed the elephants at the Elephant Sanctuary. There are few things more majestic in this world than an Elephant, and visiting the Elephant Sanctuary gives you an opportunity to get up close and personal with these beautiful beasts. Feed them, learn about them, and while you’re there, add on a visit to the Monkey Sanctuary and the Lion and Safari Park.

Visit Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton and get a pic with his statue. The Father of South Africa, and the man who symbolized hope and peace for the many tribal nations of the country, Nelson Mandela is memorialized in many ways throughout the nation. Nelson Mandela Square in Johannesburg is a place where you will find an abundance of restaurants and eateries, and a giant statue of the man, making this the perfect place to enjoy the warmth of the African sun and a photo opportunity like no other.

Take in the sights of Soweto, including Nelson Mandela’s house, where the ANC has its roots. Soweto has a long and difficult past, with the famous uprising of 1976 marking a key moment in South Africa’s history. Soweto is also the birthplace of the African National Congress, the party that found its way to power in 1994 with Nelson Mandela at the helm. Many things have changed since, and telling the story of those changes is the home at 8115 Orlando West. Now known as Mandela House, this was once the home of Nelson and his wife Winnie and has been carefully cultivated into a world-class landmark that you cannot miss.

Check out the talented cultural performers. Whether you are in the streets of Soweto or you’re in the quiet spaces of a bar or restaurant, you will likely come across some extraordinary local talent. Soweto has a population that is almost 99 percent Black, and the English and Afrikaans languages collectively are first languages for a mere 1 percent of the population, so walking the streets and taking in the performance artists sharing their craft is a colorful experience that demonstrates just how diverse and magical the motherland and her people truly are. You can’t help but be pulled in by the chanting, singing, dancing, and drum beats, and there is much joy to be found in joining in with their celebrations of culture and life.

Shop the street markets and adorn yourself in handcrafted South African jewelry. Whether you’ve been to the motherland before or you’re planning your first visit, shopping for African jewelry has to be on your to-do list. Not only do you support local economies and artisans, but you can come away with some truly incredible items of jewelry that will grab attention wherever you go. Colorful, affordable, and unique handmade pieces can be found in every local market, so take some time to wander the streets and get yourself a beautiful piece of the motherland to remember your trip.

South Africa is a melting pot of cultures and a country with a unique heritage and a tragic history. Throughout it all, though, her people have found ways to celebrate and come together, and even on a short visit, there are opportunities to join in, soak up the culture, and experience this magical place.


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