Designed to give visitors a more balanced perspective on what life in the Mother City is all about, few things offer better insight than a township tour in Cape Town. While postcards and guidebooks often focus on the glamorous, affluent attractions such as the city’s world-class beaches, high-end suburbs and modern urban spaces, life on the other side of the economic divide is very different. The Cape Townships are informal settlements that arose from the forced removals of the apartheid era.
Despite the harsh realities of poverty, crime and lack of basic services, life in the townships continues through the daily struggles. Many businesses have been forged here, with some of the Cape’s most promising artists, sculptors and craftsmen to be found. A visit to a local township may just be one of the most life-changing experiences you will have – whether you are a born and raised local or a visitor from abroad.
Why Everyone Should Take a Cape Township Tour
Here are some of the reasons that everyone should try a Cape township tour at least once in a lifetime…
1. Visit one of the most iconic landmarks of apartheid. District Six has become something of a poster child for the monstrosities of apartheid. Once a bustling residential area that was home to many people of various races, forced removals during the 1970s lead to up to 60, 000 people losing their homes, families and roots. Today, the District Six Museum stands as a reminder of what the area once was, as well as what happened during South Africa’s darkest years.
2. Discover the fastest growing township in the Cape. Khayalitsha means ‘new home’ in Xhosa, which is appropriate, as this township was named during its formation during apartheid, when many residents from District Six and other areas were relocated here. With an estimated population of over 400, 000, this is one of the largest and fastest growing settlements. It is also a popular stop on any township tour.
3. Experience a charismatic church in the city’s oldest township. Langa is another major township. This was also formed during apartheid, when thousands of people were relocated from areas designated for whites only. This settlement was named after renowned chief and rainmaker Langalibalele, who was sent to Robben Island prison in 1873. His crime? Rebelling against the Natal government. As heart-breaking as it is to consider the damages that humans can do to one another, a visit to a charismatic church will help you realise that there is still a huge sense of hope, courage and determination to be found.
4. Enjoy local beer at a traditional township shebeen. Essentially a pub, shebeens also serve as mini breweries, informal off-licenses and meeting places. Local beers are something to savour – full bodied, rich and utterly delicious! The atmosphere at a shebeen is also unforgettable. People go there to make friends, have a few drinks and enjoy entertainment that could range from dancing to live music. Trust us on this… you will not forget your time in a shebeen… even after a few beers!
5. View amazing art, decor and home made goods made locally by hand. Never, ever underestimate the resourcefulness of township entrepreneurs, who have developed myriad skills and trades. Tailors, barbers, workshops, markets and art galleries abound, with all sorts of amazing goodies to be found. Shopping here is far better than it is at a more touristy centre… you will be able to get unique products right from the source at good prices.