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#HeritageDay: 5 local holidays you should experience

Cape Town - Are you ready to fire up the braai this weekend? Or have you enrolled in the local Shisa Nyama competition?

Heritage Day is one of South Africa's most beautiful and unique public holidays, so let's make September 24 a day to remember. What better way to celebrate the diversity of South Africa than by taking a trip in your own country?

The scenic Drakensberg mountains, with over 22 000 ancient rock art paintings, will make anyone reflect upon their heritage.Robben Island Museum is hosting an open day on Heritage Day and will be giving away 1600 free tickets to South Africans for a return trip to the island and the museum.For the best sightings on safari, you better hit the bush early.

We've selected a few holidays every South African should experience at least once in a lifetime…

A trip to the beginning of times

When celebrating your own unique heritage, it's think we all originate from the same beginnings at the Cradle of Humankind in Maropeng. Did you know by the way that Maropeng means “returning to the place of origin” in Setswana?

What to expect

This is the place to be if you want to learn everything there is to learn about the history of humankind. You'll see first-hand the fossil record that lies in the network of limestone caves beneath the surface.

A unique experience

Maropeng recently launched the Isivivane programme. Isivivane is an ancient African custom which dictates that a traveller leaving a village must spit on a stone, leaving his or her DNA behind. Now, at Maropeng, they won't ask you to spit on anything, but you will have the opportunity to have your name or the name of a loved one engraved on a stone and placed at Maropeng for posterity.

A life-changing wildlife experience

“Nothing quite compares to coming face-to-face with our country's beautiful wildlife,” says Henk Graaff, MD SW Africa. “Watch the wonder in your child's eyes when he sees a lion or a rhino for the first time in his life. South Africa's big five are sure to leave a lasting impression upon everyone and will create lifetime memories.”

What to expect

Rise and shine, sunshine! For the best sightings on safari, you better hit the bush early. Wild animals have no qualms about waking up at 5am. In fact, this is the time animals are the most active.

A unique experience

For a truly unique experience, SW Africa organises conservation safaris, where travellers are able to get right in the midst of the action and assist wildlife vets with animal relocations and notching. They can locate and dart animals from the vantage point of a helicopter or track the animal by 4x4. Once darted, they will assist the veterinary team to either notch or relocate the animals.

A hike in the Drakensberg mountains

The scenic Drakensberg mountains, with over 22 000 ancient rock art paintings, will make anyone reflect upon their heritage. These etchings of history recorded the daily lives and spiritual adventures of the “First People” - the original South Africans.

What to expect

“The beauty of the Drakensberg is that you can make your holiday as active or as laid-back as you want. Adrenaline junkies and outdoor enthusiasts can hike, climb rocks, paraglide, abseil, ice climb (we kid you not) or horse ride. The more mellow travellers can just sit back, relax with a glass of wine and enjoy the view,” says Hayley Walls, Sales and Marketing Manager Thompsons Travel.

A unique experience

Why not overnight in a cave in the Drakensberg as an incredible back-to-nature experience. Watch the dawn break in the morning over the mountains from the 'Sleeping Beauty' Cave. Just remember: leave only your footprints behind….

A visit to the 'Mother City' of the world

“Cape Town is a vibrant buzzing city with a rich history and culture. From the colourful Bo-Kaap to the history at Robben Island, Cape Town is a great multicultural place with an absolutely fascinating history,” says Graaff.

What to expect

Robben Island Museum is hosting an open day on Heritage Day and will be giving away 1600 free tickets to South Africans for a return trip to the island and the museum. The free ticket includes a ferry ride to and from the island and a tour of the island where visitors can visit late President Nelson Mandela's prison cell.

A unique experience

SW Africa organises cooking safaris in Cape Town. You'll be able to participate in an informal cooking workshop in a Bo-Kaap family home, where you will learn more about the ways in which food, history and religion are interwoven in the Bo-Kaap culture.

Ag pleez Deddy won't you take us off to Durban

“The ultimate South African holiday beach destination, Durban is the setting of many fond South African childhood memories. The warm Indian Ocean, golden sand, and an incredible nightlife… what more could anyone ask for?” says Walls.

What to expect

Durban is teeming with activities on Heritage Day. Why not try the Pinotage on Tap Wine Festival, which will be held at the Litchi Orchard in Ballito. Good food, great music and free flowing wine… need we say more?

A unique experience

Book a scuba introduction at KZN's sunny South Coast with Thompsons Travel. Our South African waters are a true marine wonderland. Do you want to come up close and personal with nurse sharks, ragged tooth sharks, manta rays or loggerhead turtles, then KZN is the place-to-be.

Adapted from a press release for IOL

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