According to travel experts there has been a growing global demand, post pandemic, for experiential travel opportunities that take travellers on dynamic journeys filled with culture, meaningful encounters and immersive, authentic adventures.
This rise in experiential travel has been so impactful that from 2019 to the first half of 2023 Mabrian Technologies, a travel intelligence company, found that there were over 400 million tourism-related interactions on social media platforms relating to this travel trend.
Research and Markets has also projected that the tours and activities reservations market, which makes up a big part of experiential travel, is projected to be worth US$264.4 billion by 2030 further illustrating the demand for experiential travel.
So if you’re wondering what you can get out of visiting South Africa, here are some examples of Mzansi’s best experiential travel experiences that are sure to be a hit with local and international visitors alike.
The eclectic flavours of SA
Travel experts revealed that culinary tourism is a burgeoning trend within experiential travel as it’s a great way to have an authentic, cultural experience.
“Food is a universal language and every country or region has its own customs, flavours and connections to specific meals, and the rituals associated with savouring them,” said the experts.
They also revealed that this form of experiential travel is expected to be worth over $1,796.5 billion globally by 2027.
Kruger Gate CEO, Anton Gillis, said that without a doubt one of the best ways to get to know a culture was to try its cuisine and South Africa was an ideal destination to have culinary related experiential adventures as it had such a heterogeneous mix of cultures.
“A tourist can try things like koeksisters, mopane worms, bunny chow or malva pudding with locals and learn as much about SA as they would in a museum or at a historical monument.
“Having the chance to try different culinary offerings on a guided tour is a great way to immerse yourself in others’ way of life,” said Gillis.
In Cape Town, travellers can embark on a thrilling gourmet adventure in culturally significant areas such as the Bo-Kaap and De Waterkant with Cape Town Essentials Tour, which offers participants four exciting food tastings that weave a tapestry of the Cape’s distinctive roots from the 1760s until present day.
There’s also a 3.5-hour immersive social cooking class with Bo-Kaap’s Zainie Misbach, where attendees can connect to Cape Malay traditions by learning to mix masala and make rotis, samoosas, dhaltjies (chilli bites) and chicken curry from scratch.
For those exploring Gauteng, you can spend time learning how to cook a traditional potjiekos meal using fresh vegetables and herbs grown at Lebo’s Soweto Backpackers, while listening to stories about the history of Soweto township in Johannesburg.
The potjie (meaning small pot) is a three-legged cauldron that originated in the Netherlands and was brought to South Africa in the 17th century.
It’s used to make potjiekos, which is a stew consisting of meat and vegetables cooked over an open fire.
In Durban, indulge in a gastronomic expedition into Zulu culture by trying dishes of Inhloko (beef brain), beef curry, Usu (beef tripe), Inkukhu (Zulu chicken), Isistambu (samp) and chakalaka and cream spinach and uPhuthu (pap) with Africonnection’s authentic Zulu food tour.
One-of-a-kind wildlife experiences
Gillis said that the magnificent Kruger National Park was a haven of natural wonders and home to magnificent wildlife.
The jaunt begins as you head eastwards into Mpumalanga from Johannesburg, where panoramic views, rugged cliffs and the lush vegetation of the Panorama Route will welcome you.
A visit to this part of the world wouldn’t be complete without stopping off at the iconic Blyde River Canyon, which is the largest green canyon in the world and third largest canyon globally.
“The park also offers thrilling experiential adventure activities. It is an idyllic destination for explorers of any age, and time spent here will leave visitors spellbound,” said Gillis.
The Kruger Gate Hotel CEO said that Kruger National Park is the epitome of an experiential travel destination, offering an ideal blend of adventure, education, and unparalleled natural beauty.
“It's a place where travellers can create cherished memories and fully immerse themselves in meaningful experiences on thrilling guided safaris in our open-air vehicles. In this way guests can connect with awe-inspiring African wildlife while their guides reveal the secrets and history of the bush.
“Those who prefer self-drive safaris in their own vehicles can discover the park’s beauty at their leisure too,” said Gillis.