Looking at South Africa today, it’s hard to believe that only a couple of decades ago, the country was full of racial segregation, poverty and people of colour were denied of any basic human rights there. This huge shift that we have seen since the nulling of the Apartheid in 1994 can, in large, be of thanks to Nelson Mandela: the former South African president and civil rights activist.
Following his death in 2013, he has become the most popular figure in South African history as support for his efforts in fighting for equality continues to be recognised globally today. Each year, on the 18th of July (Mandela’s birthday), Nelson Mandela International Day is celebrated in honour of Mr Mandela. The day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009, making 18 July 2010 the first UN Mandela Day.
As the 11th anniversary of Nelson Mandela International Day is approaching, we’d like to take the opportunity to recognise how Mandela’s efforts helped in rejuvenating South Africa as a tourist destination – from popular African safaris to peaceful getaways to creating space for improving mental health. There’s a lot that we have to be thankful for in remembering Nelson Mandela’s prime legacy and the halo effect it had on South Africa.
So, how does Nelson Mandela relate to travel and tourism in South Africa?
Prior to Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, South Africa was internationally sanctioned due to its separitist development policy. However, following his prison release in 1990 and his appointment as President of South Africa in 1994, the country experienced a huge tourism boom, as Mandela’s efforts to end the Apartheid had drawn international media attention, which, in turn, helped to reinstate South Africa as an international tourist destination.
A country with an impressive menu of assets including superb national parks, varied landscapes, towering mountain ranges and long coastlines, South Africa is perfect for safaris and indulging in African nature. Visitors there began travelling far and wide to explore both the rich, diverse landscapes and the country of the man that had become a model for equality across the world.
Did you know: Nelson Mandela created ‘South African Tourism’?
Following his initiation into the Presidency in 1996, Nelson Mandela proposed that a white paper be created on the state of South Africa’s tourism industry incorporating the country’s strengths and weaknesses from a tourism perspective. Thus was created ‘South African Tourism’, the tourism marketing arm of the African government. South African Tourism were in charge of managing the country’s international promotion and adding touristic value into the country’s development plans, which, at the time, included the ‘Poverty Relief Fund’, where tourist guide training was offered as part of a programme in helping to combat poverty.
Cultural and heritage tourism occupy a huge portion of South African Tourism
While interest and reason for travel to South Africa undoubtedly varies from traveller to traveller, most visits to this country often include some cultural aspect. Typically, this revolves around historical heritage, with Nelson Mandela playing an integral part in this form of heritage tourism. Throughout the country, there are many tours available where you can follow his footsteps, as well as a number of attractions, including museums, circuits and historical sites.
Dive into culture with Trafalgar on the Essence of South Africa tour, where you will visit the Hector Pieterson Museum and the Apartheid Museum, which chronicles South Africa’s tumultous Apartheid years.
How travel in South Africa has changed post-Covid
The collapse of tourism following the covid-19 pandemic was felt globally in 2020, including in South Africa, where knock-on effects devastated many community and conservation projects that relied on income from tourism. However, as travel is beginning to recalibrate, what’s been particularly interesting to note in South Africa is a spike in slow travel, whereby visitors have been opting to stay in one place for an extended period of time, rather than racing around from place to place.
This increase in travel method has conversely had positive effects on mental health, as the slower pace allows for visitors to become more connected to the destination, people and wildlife.
In order to accommodate this new way of relating to travellers, tour and camp providers around South Africa have begun including extended stays as part of their tour selection menus.
Marataba Conservation Camp
Located north of Pretoria, Marataba Conservation Camp has recently opened drawn-out stay options, which have allowed for offering an education to visitors in how land and species can be protected. Here, guests can get actively involved in tracking cheetahs, compiling elephant identification kits, patrolling for snares and providing aid in rhino ID tracking.
Jaci’s Safari Lodge
If you have a hankering to get involved on the ground, amongst the nature in Africa, and have a passion for wildlife, Jaci’s Safari Lodge in malaria-free Madikwe Game Reserve offers a variety of specialised conservation Africa safari experiences. Here, visitors have the opportunity to join a team of vets, helicopter pilots and field rangers as they microchip rhinos, gathering and tracking information on some of Africa’s most endangered animal species.
You can connect with nature and experience life on an African safari when you travel with Trafalgar on the Best of South Africa tour.
The Peech Hotel, Johannesburg
While conservation is most typically associated with nature and wildlife, there are also great initiatives happening in South Africa’s cities! Whilst stopping over in Johannesburg, add to your conservation credentials and embark on a purposeful stay at The Peech Hotel. The hotel runs an energy conservation and recycling scheme, and also provides education for disabled and handicapped children with the money from each visitors’ stay.
Following the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, communities and wildlife of Africa need tourism’s support more than ever. However, the silver lining to come from this is this new meditative pace of Africa safaris… Perhaps reconnecting with nature may be exactly what we all need to do.
Have you travelled to South Africa in pursuit of the perfect African safari experience? Or, are you hoping to venture into Africa in the near future? Let us know in the comments! Or, visit our website to learn more about how you can travel to South Africa with Trafalgar.