What to do and see on a cultural holiday in Africa

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What to do and see on a cultural holiday in Africa

Visiting a country for a cultural holiday is a one-of-a-kind experience. It allows you to immerse yourself in a new culture and experience life in a different way. However, you will need to remember to remain culturally sensitive to the local people, trying not to judge their traditions and rituals.

Below are some of the most interesting activities and sights to enjoy on a cultural holiday in Africa.


Look for an Upliftment Project

An Upliftment Project is an organised and guided tour of areas in African and South Africa known as townships. These tours will show you areas of popular cities such as Port Elizabeth and Cape Town that are both developing and urban.  

You will not go to any dangerous areas but you will be able to see how life is lived in the township. Your guide will be able to teach you about the culture, language and traditions of these areas and the sights and experiences will challenge your preconceived notions of what township life and life in Africa is like.


Visit a local art gallery

Part of enriching yourself while travelling includes soaking up the local art of the area. While in Africa, be sure to visit an art gallery to view both traditional and modern African art. You will soon find yourself completely engrossed in the diverse offerings.

In South Africa one of the latest art galleries ios the Zeitz MOCAA, which focuses entirely on emerging African artists. If you are travelling to Uganda be sure to stop off at the Afriart Gallery, and in Kenya, you will find the Banana Hill Art Gallery. African art has changed drastically over the years and so any cultural tourist should avoid the traditional ‘tourist trap art’ and visit art galleries instead to see how local people express themselves.


Tour an informal village

Informal villages in Africa are unique, offering a glimpse into a more traditional way of life. Many game lodges are based in close proximity to these informal villages and so have collaborated with these communities to offer tours to both local and international visitors.

You will be able to visit someone’s house or see a rural school with guides and locals explaining the various traditions of the village. The experience can be both enlightening and heart-wrenching at the same time: many tourists who visit  Africa are not used to seeing the true poverty that the country experiences. The people in these informal villages all have unique stories to tell, and this experience will teach you about how different everybody’s lives truly are.


Visit unique heritage sites

Visiting heritage sites is a common tourist activity but there are unique heritage sites that not many people choose to see on their tours. These sites include Tsodilo Hills in Botswana, where you can find authentic bushmen paintings, the Khami ruins in Zimbabwe and Twyfelfontein in Namibia where ancient rock engravings are rife.

Visiting heritage sites that are considered to be “off the beaten track” allows you to experience a different history of the country you are visiting. These sites may also be cheaper to visit due to the smaller amount of tourist activity around them. You will also be able to experience them in peace, without having to wait in long lines for guides and access.


Go to a local market

Sometimes, shopping while on holiday is too hard to resist. Rather than heading to one of the major malls in the African country you are in, choose to go to a local market. Here you will find a smorgasbord of local offerings, from sumptuous local food to stunning fashion.

Aside from finding stunning souvenirs, you will also be able to experience the culture of the locals at the market. Always remember to respect the customs of the country, especially with regard to haggling, and whether or not this is accepted in the local markets. Be sure you have the local currency to hand, as often these markets are unable to accept card or foreign currency payments.


Try your hand at volunteering

If you are going to be touring a country for a period longer than one or two weeks, you could look into volunteering as part of your cultural enrichment. Volunteer work allows you to scratch below the surface and gain appreciation of a culture vastly different to your own.

If you are a native English speaker, you could volunteer to teach English at a rural school. Lovers of animals can look for local SPCAs or Animal Anti Cruelty Leagues (AACLs) and offer their time there, where you will educate locals about how to care for their pets and strays. Many African charities have initiatives that foreign visitors can help out with, but remember that you may have to pay a fee to participate.


Final thoughts

A cultural holiday in Africa is an experience that can teach your family and yourself about cultures other than your own. Immersing yourself in a culture-rich holiday is exciting, and will make for a getaway like no other. You will also learn about how the rest of the world lives and be able to take home some lessons from other people who see the world in a different light. However, always remember to respect any cultural or religious practices while abroad, and keep your mind open when it comes to food and traditions.

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