9: Explore SA

Get out! 

Now you’re on your way, this step hints at the beautiful, delicious and fun things to do in South Africa. If you’re still unconvinced, browse the gallery below for a spot of inspiration. Don’t stop at the doors of your chosen institution – get out, go far.

There are so many awesome things to do here – we hope that you make the most of your stay in South Africa. Go for weekend excursions, and get all your work done so that you have the second part of the day free for explorations, adventures, and plenty of stories and memories to take back home.

No list will ever cover all the must-dos, but here are some ideas and suggestions for you on how to maximize your South African experience. Get your blood pumping, because if your mission is to make this experience unforgettable, then it will be.

Culture & Adventure

9: Explore SA

Our history, society and culture is incredibly complex. The best way to start grasping it is to do some basic research and build on those basics by chatting to locals and guides. It’s appreciated when visitors make an effort to understand our difficult history and how it plays into everyday lived experiences. 

Here are some ways for you to explore SA:

  • Try traditional SA food
  • Make a local friend and ask them for recommendations (this is a really great way to get in tune with the city)
  • Explore historical areas (e.g. the Cradle of Humankind or Robben Island)
  • Choose your mode of travel depending on how you want to engage – walking and cycling are more likely to get you in touch with cityscapes and people en route. Taking a minibus taxi will seat you next to South Africans, while using cabs will keep you isolated. If that’s what you’re after, that’s fine.
  • Join clubs and societies at your institution. These often have great activities that introduce you to new people and places
  • Visit museums to learn more Apartheid, colonialism, and our turbulent past that still has tangible effects today 

Top 10 Culture & Adventure activities: Coming Soon

Other Exciting Ideas

If you’re an adrenalin junkie then you’ve made the right decision to travel to SA. Here you’ll find countless activities that are riveting and sensational. Go shark cage diving or bungee jumping off the highest bridge in the world. 

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Keep in mind that hanging out with South Africans is probably one of the best ways to get a real feel for our culture(s). Try something new and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Essentially that’s where you truly start living. It might seem clichéd but once you broaden your perspective you become more aware of the different cultures that this world inhabits.

Wildlife & Nature

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South Africa is famous for its unique wildlife and exquisite nature. What makes the natural environment so unique is the different landscapes that compliment this country. You’ll drive through one province, drive through the next and suddenly have a completely different experience. Even within some cities, you can find a harbour, winelands, mountains, and city life within 30 minutes drive from each other. 

Visit the Kruger National Park, Addo National Park or others where you’ll see South Africa’s wild animals’ right in front of you! Forget about postcards and the Discovery Channel to observe these majestic creatures. 

Top 10 Wildlife & Nature activities: Coming Soon.

Fun fact: SA is home to the Big Five. What’s that you ask? The Big Five represents South Africa’s five greatest wild animals –leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo and rhino. 

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Please don’t forget that even though SA is beautiful you need to be aware that we do have dangerous animals that bite. Yes, the fluffy lion you want to touch has teeth. Stay clear from baboons and never (ever) feed them.  Apart from that please, please go ahead and take advantage of the beautiful landscapes. Go hiking, surfing, climbing – or do the whole lot!

Food

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In South Africa we have a rich and diverse population, with so many different cultures and ways of living. With culture comes language, customs, and of course, food! Many dishes that are typically associated with countries and regions outside of South Africa have slowly but surely become symbolic of South Africa too, for example Indian Curries, or wine with a cheese platter.  Whether you enjoy Vietnamese, Mozambican, Greek, Thai, or German food – you will find it here. 

Many dishes that we call ‘typically South African’ have European and Malay heritage, but more often than not, we refer to ‘typically South African’ dishes and foods that aren’t really found elsewhere in the world – at least not with the magical SA touch (and needless to say, not quite as delicious… just picture us winking right now). If you want to explore the South African cuisine, here are some meals you need to try:

Local SA Meals

  • Bobotie. A curried mince dish with a baked egg mixture and chutney sauce.
  • Potjie Kos. A meat and starchy vegetable stew cooked in a three-legged iron pot over a fire.
  • Snoek Braai. Snoek is a type of mackerel fish. It’s prepared with coarse salt, pepper, lemon juice and sometimes a bit of olive oil and apricot jam. Smoked snoek is also delicious – just be aware that snoek has many fine fish bones.
  • Fish and Chips. This combo consists of a fish steak (Hake, Kingklip, Snoek, etc.) and a portion of ‘slap chips’ – salty, sloppy French Fries.
  • Boerewors Roll. The amazing Boerewors is a long (coiled up) roll of sausage made from spiced beef, lamb, and pork mince. Cut a nice piece off and place it on a fresh roll with some margarine and tomato sauce, and you have yourself a true South African meal.
  • Mielie Pap and Chakalaka. Mielie Pap, or just ‘pap,’ is a maize/corn porridge (and has a very distinctive smell). It’s served with Chakalaka, a spicy vegetable dish (mainly beans, tomatoes, onions).
  • Seafood. Some of the seafood you get here is so fresh, it might as well still be alive. Go wild. Mussels, oysters, crayfish, calamari, prawns… you name it. Since our seafood and fish generally come from our own waters, you can imagine that it’s pretty top notch. (So is the sushi!)

Local SA Desserts

  • Malva Pudding. A rich and sticky pudding served hot, with custard, cream, or ice cream (imagine an apricot jam, toffee-caramel flavoured, soaked sponge cake)
  • Melktert. ‘Milk tart’ is basically what it’s called – a sweet tart with a delicious pastry crust and a creamy, milky filling – topped with cinnamon (consistency can vary, but it’s usually somewhere in between ‘wobbly’ and ‘cheese cake’)
  • Vet Koek and Koek Sisters. ‘Koek’ means cake (or something else, if we go into slang…) Vet Koek is a deep-fried bread dough roll – it’s quite rich, and we eat it with either mince or cheese, or more like a dessert with whipped cream or butter, jam, and syrup. Koek Sisters are short strips of dough intertwisted like a braided plat – they are deep fried and then dipped into syrup. They are extremely sweet and rich (and sticky). 

Local SA Snacks

  • Biltong and Droëwors. Dark brown, salty, spiced dried meat and dried sausage… let us say no more, or else this note will become an ode.
  • Simba Chips. Just look for the packet with the lion – Simba means lion, by the way. Try the Salt and Vinegar flavour if salty treats rock your boat in particular.
  • Maynard’s Wine Gums and Jelly Babies. The taste of these sweets spark childhood memories for most South Africans.
  • Wilson’s Original Toffee. It’s a square toffee sweet with black wrapping.  You need to have both a sweet tooth and patience for this, because it’s really tough! Speed kills – but it can also break your jaw.
  • Bakers Ginger Nuts. Bakers goods in general are part of most households. But the ginger biscuits are really awesome if you are in the mood for a sweet but spicy treat.
  • Rusks. Not be mistaken as a super stale piece of bread! Rusks are delicious, dry, crunchy biscuits that you dunk into tea or coffee. Ouma Rusks is a very popular brand, but check out what Woolworths and Melissa’s have on offer – you can thank us later. 

Local SA Drinks

  • Tea: Rooibos (you will finally learn how to pronounce this word right), which is an indigenous non-caffeinated tea
  • Beer: Castle Lager and Black Label are house favourites
  • Craft Beer: CBC and Devil’s Peak breweries, keep an eye out for them
  • Cider: Savannah (look out for the clear bottle filled with the golden nectar)
  • Wine: Where do we even begin…

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It’s impossible to travel anywhere new without minimal alterations to your diet. Hence why so many people pack on the kilos during a gap year – which is totally fine. Eat, Pray, Love all you can. Explore as many new flavours, textures, and food combinations as you can. Once you return home, it’ll all go back to how it was, so don’t be scared to hit up your taste buds with new discoveries while you’re here!

Night Life

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There is a pretty hefty student nightlife in SA – from chilled-out bars where you can play pool, bars and clubs where you can score cheap shots, to posh night clubs where money seems to flow as effortlessly as the booze. Wherever there are students, there will be a party.  

You will figure out soon enough where the go-to places are in your town, and where to be for which happy hour, or what nights have live music events. Don’t be fooled by the size or party reputation of a big city – you can have a fun night practically anywhere as long as your company is awesome.

In terms of cash – if you come to SA with a strong international currency, you will probably laugh at the comparatively cheap prices here. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to party here – then again, if you only drink Sky Vodka and Red Bull in combination with a super high alcohol tolerance, it might be a different story. 

Just remember to keep safe and party in groups – just like you would in any new or foreign country (and even back home). Don’t let your drinks go unattended; don’t just go home with any stranger; use safe taxi services; and just use your street wisdom. 

Top 10 Nightlife hot spots: Coming Soon

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An essential part of being a student is to let loose every once in a while, and let’s face it, how many crazy memories are thanks to some jolling party nights? Many. Have a good time and blossom, young ones. But we do encourage you not to blow your entire budget on booze and partying. There is so much to do and see here, and it would be a shame if one extra night of partying could have financed a weekend stay-over somewhere, or a paragliding trip off Lion’s Head… if you catch our drift. 

Guys, you’re almost here! We’re getting excited for you already. Feel free to contact us anytime during your stay in SA, whether it’s to ask for tips and advice, or write for us about your experience, or even just to join us for a cup of coffee here at the offices!

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