South Africa has become a dream destination for thousands of Kenyans. From quad biking in Atlantis Dunes Nature Reserve to hanging above the Table Mountain on a cable car, to paragliding above Cape Town and doing wine tours and tastings in Stellenbosch, South Africa has become a must-visit for adventurous travellers.
Mninwa Johannes Mahlangu, the South African High Commissioner to Kenya talks to the BDLife on what to do in South Africa if you visit.
Have you seen an increase in the number of Kenyans travelling to South Africa?
The recent visa waiver and consistent marketing have enhanced travel between Kenya and South Africa. The travel volumes have significantly gone up as a result. Currently, in the continent, Kenya is the fastest growing market and the tourist arrival figures have exceeded the pre-Covid numbers. From January to June 2023, we received 19,095 which is the equivalent of 118.1 percent increase.
What's South Africa well known for?
South Africa stands out for its vibrant and diverse cultures, rich history, natural beauty, and unique talent. Its trendiest new export, Amapiano, is captivating and continues to attract new fans from across the world. We are also known as the home for conferences and events as we have world-class Infrastructure. With more than 1,700 meeting venues, and international convention centres.
Where should a Kenyan visit?
South Africa offers excellent value for money. It is accessible (a five-hour flight away and visa-free travel), has diverse and breath-taking landscapes, a 3000-kilometre coastline with some of the best blue flag beaches in the world, has excellent infrastructure and is home to a nation of people who are naturally warm, welcoming and friendly.
Kenyan visitors coming into Johannesburg should go to Soweto, Nelson Mandela's former home. When you visit The Mandela House Museum, you will learn about Nelson Mandela's biography, including his family life and his rise from Africa National Congress (ANC) member to a renowned member of the ANC Youth League.
For the music and culture lovers, Soweto is also the birthplace of Kwaito. Young folks will tell you that there are plenty of venues to choose from where one can regularly hear the electrifying sounds, or even catch a performance by local Amapiano musicians, like, Amapiano pioneer and record label owner, Kabza De Small, Njelic or Kamo Mphela at venue such as Konka, Zone 6 or Disoufeng.
Approximately an hour north of Johannesburg is the administration capital city of Pretoria, known as the birthplace of Amapiano, and home to influential Amapiano musicians such as Pabi Cooper, Focalistic, Chicco Mellow and Sleazy (who make up a collective called Pitori Super League) and the likes of Vigro Deep.
In Pretoria, one can enjoy the latest and most popular new hits at the high-end lounge/restaurant Ayepyep which boasts two locations in the city and a third now in Cape Town.
South Africa plays host to many lifestyle festivals and international music concerts.
For the hikers and those who love adventure, hiking the Drakensberg Mountain range in the KwaZulu-Natal Province should be on their bucket list. The Tsitsikamma region and the Hogsback/Amatola Mountains in the Eastern Cape Province are also other areas that they should visit.
They should also explore the Three Rondavels and Gods Window in Mpumalanga, my province which is very stunning. When I go there I relax and I always feel like all my stress is gone.
Kenyans will also enjoy nature in Augrabies Waterfall and Stargazing in Sutherland in the Northern Cape Province. When it comes to game drives, apart from Kruger National Park, they can explore the Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the Free State Province and Pilanesberg Game Reserve in the North West Province.
The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape in the Limpopo Province, a place which was the centre of one of the powerful indigenous kingdoms in South Africa: the present-day Shona and Venda between AD 900 and 1300.
What food should travellers try out?
While in Limpopo, sample mopani worms and oxtail stew with motogo wa ting (sour porridge). In Durban, try bunny chow, an Indian South African fast food dish which comprises a hollowed-out loaf of white bread filled with curry and a serving of salad by the side.
If they get to Cape Town, they should try butter chicken and The Gatsby, which is a filling of French fries with several ingredients like meat, fish or eggs. In Johannesburg, try kota with spicy atchar and while in the Eastern Cape. Umngqusho with a meaty stew (this was also Nelson Mandela’s favourite food).
South African wine is one of the best and the Western Cape has 18 official wine routes, and two brandy routes, that are among the most scenic in the world, featuring many historic wine estates that date back centuries.
Take your time exploring this magnificent part of South Africa’s Western Cape Province and enjoy sampling its award-winning wines and brandy.
How was your first experience in Kenya like?
I discovered that Kenyans are friendly and welcoming people and I enjoy working with them. I also love the weather and I find it beautiful and accommodating. I also discovered that there are a lot of tourist attractions where a person can visit and though I have visited a few, you can’t sit here and be bored. The style of driving in Kenya also brought a bit of shock to me.
Do you have favourite destinations?
I have visited the Nairobi National Park and enjoyed the experience of being there. I have also visited Kyamwilu Hill in Machakos and the renowned Maasai Mara. I loved Mombasa too, its beaches, and Fort Jesus.
What do you enjoy the most about being an Ambassador?
Representing my country South Africa is an honour. As the Ambassador to Kenya for South Africa I am also accredited as a Permanent Representative to UNON, Unep and UN-Habitat.
I love being in Kenya as it's the home to the only UN headquarters in the continent, which houses two agencies: Unep and UN-Habitat. Kenya also hosts the biggest diplomatic community in the region so it’s nice to meet them and share ideas and friends and talk about your countries.