South African Heritage Day: What we have to Celebrate

September 21, 2015

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Hard working South Africans welcome public holidays with open arms as a day to relax and recharge. We focus so much on the day off that we tend to forget the story behind why the day was declared a public holiday. With South African Heritage Day around the corner we’ve decided to look at what the day represents.

National Heritage Day is, when South Africans celebrate the diverse cultural heritage that makes up our ‘rainbow nation’. It is the day to celebrate the contribution of all South Africans to the building of South Africa. In order for us to celebrate our heritage we have to look at what we have to celebrate in the first place. The list below includes travel related heritage sites and activities that we can visit and participate in, on National Heritage Day 2015.

Shark Cage Diving

The water just off the coast of the small fishing village of Kleinbaai is home to the densest population of great white sharks in the world. In 1989 Pieter van der Walt started the shark cage diving industry in South Africa, fast forward 26 years and today Kleinbaai is the shark tourism capital of the world. Shark cage diving is completely safe and the industry is well regulated. The average cost of a shark cage diving day trip is R1500. Yes, in South Africa we pay money to get in a small cage to be lowered into icy shark invested water.

Kruger National Park


South Africa’s largest and oldest national park is one of Africa’s most popular destinations. South African citizens pay R66 per adult and R33 per child for a Kruger Park day pass. The park is home to the biggest population of white rhino in the world. Their numbers are being reduced at an alarming rate by illegal poaching. The big five, little five and shy five can all be seen in the park. The park protects and conserves a large part of our natural heritage. By visiting the park we are supporting the conservation effort and the fight against poaching, while learning more about our natural heritage at the same time.

Cradle of Humankind

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The Cradle of Humankind is one of South Africa’s eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. Forty percent of all human ancestral fossils ever found come from the Cradle of Humankind. It is without a doubt the richest hominin fossil site in the world. The most famous discoveries made at the cradle is the skull of Mrs. Ples, the most complete skull of an Australopithecus Africanus ever found, and the recent discovery of what is believed to be a newly discovered species of hominin, Homo Naledi. If the oldest early human fossils ever found comes from South Africa, then we can surely say that the heritage of the whole of the human race can be traced back to our country. You’re welcome world!

Sport

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We certainly punch above our weight category when it comes to international sport. We are the only country to have hosted the rugby, soccer and cricket world cups. We have won two Rugby World Cups. Giniel de Villiers and Jody Scheckter won the Dakar Rally and the Formula One World Championship for South Africa respectively. We have also produced a staggering seventy one world champion boxers. All of this is dwarfed by our achievements in golf. Our golfers have won five World Cups of golf, second only to the US, and twenty two major championships, the third most majors won by any nation. We will surely be celebrating our sporting heritage during the 2015 Rugby World Cup and hopefully add another win to our 1995 and 2007 triumphs.

Table Mountain

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It is quite amazing to think that Table Mountain is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and part of a UNESCO world heritage site. Visitors can either walk to the top of the mountain on one of the many hiking trails, which can be done free of charge, or you can use the cable car, which costs R240 per adult and R115 per child for a return trip. The amazing thing is that it is easily accessible as it is situated practically inside one of our largest cities. That city has been named as one of the most beautiful cities in the world by the likes of CNN, Buzzfeed, BBC, Forbes and Condé Nast. So here we have one of the most beautiful cities in the world that has one of the seven natural wonders of the world as its backdrop, that’s pretty impressive.

Cape Winelands

South Africa’s first wine route, the Stellenbosch wine route, was established in 1971. But wine has been made in the Cape for over 350 years. The wine industry is another area where we punch above our weight category. The Cape Winelands offer a large number of routes to explore, including the longest wine route in the world, Route 62. The winelands is where good food and wine meet as most of South Africa’s best restaurants are situated on Cape wine estates.

Robben Island

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Robben Island’s history is filled with stories of hardship and injustice. But what it stands for today is hope and the victory of good over evil, a story of which we certainly can be proud. The following two quotes perfectly describe why Robben Island is an important part of our heritage; “Never was so much owed by so many to so few”, by Winston Churchill and; “’Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”, by George Santayana. Robben Island reminds us of the sacrifices that were made by the freedom fighters, who were incarcerated on the island for many years. If we fail to learn from the mistakes that were made by previous generations, we will almost certainly make the same mistakes again.  Adults pay R300 and children U/18 R160 for a Robben Island tour, which includes a ferry ride across Table Bay, a visit to the infamous prison and a tour of the island.

Braaing

A photo posted by Jan Braai (@janbraai) on

South Africa’s favourite national pastime is without a doubt having a braai with friends and family. Braaing is such a big part of our culture and heritage that Heritage Day has been rebranded National Braai Day. Jan Braai, as seen above, is the man behind the National Braai Day initiative. The initiative calls for all South Africans to unite around a fire and share in our heritage. Let’s do it!

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