SOUTH AFRICA VACATION
Heritage emanates from the earth, all across Africa. This is the land where it all began, the continent that reflects our evolution as a species. Ancient traditions continue to evolve, protecting and preserving nature as it always has been. Poignant histories float on the air, whispering the stories of the stolen. More modern legacies such as Mandela’s have created a celebratory air, helping to change perceptions and people.
Of course, this heritage is not always clearcut. Stories blur into each other. Histories need to be untangled. Expectations and perceptions are met by a reality that is just as evocative, just not as it may first be imagined. After a quarter of a century operating cultural tours, we know the importance of clearing away the top level of ochre-hued earth, in search of the heart and soul that lays within. Glimpsing a piece of Africa’s heritage will bring special moments; understanding a part of the heritage is a more memorable and moving experience.
We were one of the first tour operators to be established in post-apartheid South Africa. Over the last 25 years we’ve helped people from all over the world understand a piece of Africa. As a proudly independent African business we always seek to provide authenticity and connection. Our clients and tours have included:
- Guiding The Links through Ghana and Liberia, as they inducted Liberia’s Noble Peace Prize-winning president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf into their organisation.
- A safari and heritage tour for Lucy Baines Johnson (daughter of the 36th US President) and her extended family of 20, exploring the connection between civil rights in the US and the end of apartheid.
- Celebrating Jewish heritage across South Africa, on tours that explore the contribution of Jews to South African society and the anti apartheid struggle.
- Guiding NPOs and assisting family foundations interested in sustainable upliftment projects across Africa.
- Taking The LINKS through South Africa as they visited schools their organization had
- Heritage and cultural tours for various church groups, including examining the role of faith in overthrowing apartheid.
Unfortunately, Africa as a continent is often misunderstood and maligned. Stereotypes are quick to simplify, portraying Africa as a single entity. This is a continent of 2000 languages and some 3000 tribes, a continent with more individual countries than any other. Yet its portrayal, in popular media and in many political circles as well, tends to lurch from ignorance to racism.
At Heritage Africa we like to dispel these simplifications and celebrate the diversity that Africa brings to the world. No other continent has given as much, nor has any other such complex or eternal tales to tell. Everything we do at Heritage Africa is completely customized. Cultural experiences can be built into an African safari program. Heritage can also provide the focal point to tours and vacations to different corners of the continent. These tours and experiences usually flow from three core themes.
Heritage and Change – Exploring West Africa
In West Africa there are so many stories that remain untold. All the slave castles has their own poignant history, arousing emotion in Ghana and along the Gulf of Guinea. The history of brutality and atrocity comes alive as you explore the sites. Standing in dank cells you sense the souls of the stolen. The air remains heavy with suffering spirits: mothers, fathers, siblings, ancestors. Darkened passages lead to a gate of no return. You can imagine the lines of slaves, hear jangling shackles meeting the Atlantic’s churning scream.
Castles and other West Africa slave sites provide a heartbreaking experience. It always feels personal, the threads of history untangled on ephemeral whispers. And to hear the numbers, to hear the scale of what took place, can be harrowing. Still, history rarely ever provides comfortable viewing. Away from the coast there are tales to imagine at slave markets, memorials, routes and trees. It’s the sense of what came next that transforms these histories. Out of this horror there is now such enthusiasm, success and hope.
While heritage takes centerstage when exploring West Africa, a key piece of the story is how this region has changed, especially how this heritage has evolved. Although undoubtedly affected by the part, you feel that West Africa is on the cusp of enormous transformation. Experiencing what had to be overcome increases your admiration for everything that has happened since, all over the world. It turns uncomfortable viewing into a celebratory occasion, while honoring very complex histories.
Over the last quarter of a century, Heritage Africa has organized a wide variety of cultural tours to West Africa. We’ll leave it to Eris T. Sims, the NAACP’s senior director for events planning to give an opinion on the tours we run.
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Evolving Tradition – African Safaris Led By Indigenous Experts
Stories of poaching and illegal hunting often create a popular narrative, suggesting Africa has a problem. Let’s remember: wildlife has been virtually wiped off every other continent bar this one. For countless millennia, local people have lived in harmony with the land, protecting and preserving nature as it always has been. Many different tribes continue to coexist with wild nature, their traditions evolving to meet demands brought by tourism and outside influence. Yes there are poachers and hunters: the problem lies in demand beyond Africa’s borders.
Indigenous people utilize their ancestral knowledge to keep you safe on a safari. You may see a pile of feces; your guide knows the age and sex of the animal, as well as when it passed through. There are so many clues and signs: an upturned stone, an indentation in a bush, leaves fallen from an acacia. Exploring with indigenous experts impresses an understanding of both nature and culture, as well as impressing admiration for all the minute details.
Experiencing this evolving tradition is incorporated into our African safaris, particularly in East Africa. Do note that many guides, trackers and guards often come from communities who have traditionally lived in the area, for example, the Masai or Samburu. So there is usually a cultural experience right in front of you, it’s just different from visiting a village, waving a camera around, and expressing sympathy for poor-looking conditions.
We believe the real cultural experience involves learning from the gatekeepers of the land. It is based upon their cultural richness, their incredible understanding of a realm that most others can’t even grasp. People like the Masai, Samburu, Hadzabe, and San, have the knowledge to make the world a better place, if only their story was given recognition. Our African safaris like to infuse some of this heritage in a way that can challenge perceptions.
Legacy and Legend – Mandela and More in South Africa
You can still hear Mandela’s words being whispered down South Africa’s streets of change. He may be gone but you can feel the power his legacy holds, inspiring people to live the life they can be capable of living. No other modern politician has had such a positive impact on the world, nor achieved such a remarkable transformation in politics. His legacy will always live on and is just one element of our heritage tours in South Africa.
Delve beneath the surface and this is a country with many complex histories. Mandela was the one who could bring them together. There are stories of complex Jewish heritage, particularly around Cape Town. In Kwazulu-Natal you follow the redolent tales of the Zulu people, experiencing their traditions and how these juxtapose with contemporary society. From Soweto to District Six there are very personal and moving histories, ensuring that sacrifices made in battling apartheid will never be forgotten.
Mandela provides a focal point for many of our visitors. We can arrange a tour of Robben Island with his former prison guard, Christo Brand. In Soweto we can organize guided visits to Mandela’s home, while in the surrounding area it’s possible to explore the places where he was arrested and tried. Our South African cultural tours often focus on transformation: while the history is important and eye-opening, it’s what’s happening next that best showcases the legacy and legend.
Heritage in Africa, by Heritage Africa
For more than a quarter of a century we’ve customized tours for wildlife and culture lovers. Please take a look at this page to get a better understanding of who we are and our journey.
We know that everybody wants to take something different from their trip to Africa. So we take the time to understand who you are, what you like, and what most inspires you about the continent. With this as a starting point we can arrange something that inspires Africa’s heritage in you.