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Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

Here at Acacia Africa, we know exploring Southern Africa isn’t just about ticking off a set of locations on your bucket list. Knowing Africa, and truly experiencing South Africa in a way that will impact your soul forever, is a phenomenon that goes far deeper- and today we’re going to unpack that just a little for you.

Travel is about the experience, not just the destination

Talk to anyone about travel, and you’re likely to hear a degree of envy sooner rather than later. We love the idea of visiting- or living in- places abroad. Our normal lives seem dull and mundane, the idea of being a global nomad hopelessly romantic and exciting.

But even ‘touring’ a country doesn’t mean you get to truly experience it. As a tourist, you live the high life. It’s likely you’re doing the best things possible at every moment. You have no obligations hanging over your head. You have the freedom and flexibility to do as you want. Your mood is buoyant and relaxed. You’re shepherded from place to place, shielded from reality, and if you want to eat only in friendly old McDonalds, you can do that too. We all know, at one level or another, that this isn’t the day-to-day experience of her citizens [although it’s a fantastic experience, all the same, don’t get us wrong!]

Chat with people about South Africa, and you’ll probably hear a whole lot of opinions. Some will be the very best- the Big 5! The wine Route! The weather! The scenery! Others will look only for the negative to scare you with, be it through jealousy or misguided concern. This comes from what we all, collectively, imagine a country is like. But imagination is clear-cut, black and white, and very superficial. It doesn’t cater remotely to the true experience of living that country like it’s your own and experiencing its heart for yourself.

So what does experiencing Africa really mean?

Unless you’re moving here, no one needs the experience of paying bills, taking out the garbage and doing bland day-to-day activities just to have an authentic African experience. We’re pretty sure bills are bills no matter where you live! But we encourage you to look a little deeper than just touring the country’s hot spots, too. We encourage you to truly aim to experience South Africa the Acacia Africa way, not just tour her, and let her seep into your soul just a little.

Consider her people

This is the land of 11 official languages- and still, that doesn’t scratch the surface of the fascinating languages and cultures this melting pot brings to the table. It’s utterly unique! Our many cultural heritages and the way they shape the people so very proud of them are the true heart of South Africa. You can’t really experience SA without experiencing her people.

So while the situations, sights and activities matter, don’t be afraid to reach out beyond them and meet the people on the other side too. Opt for a curated experience [it’s always wise to have a schedule and tour guide, especially as a solo traveller, plus those bucket list experiences aren’t going to tick themselves] but don’t let that become a sanitised hop from tourist venue to tourist venue without ever really stepping out and breathing in the real South Africa.

The native people in tourist destinations are often stereotyped into single boxes, and SA is no different. You’ve likely seen the Zulu Warrior in traditional battle dress, but have you met the Zulu CEO leading the charge in the boardroom with that same warrior spirit too? Reality is a broad spectrum of fascinating diversity. Taste our cuisines, chat with people and get a deeper glimpse into the Rainbow Nation and her [delicious] cultural heart. From the richest of the rich to the township poor, everyone has a fascinating, nuanced story to share and a heritage we’re proud of. The food is pretty darn amazing too!

It’s ok to not see only rainbows

South Africa may be the Rainbow Nation, but she has her own hurdles to surmount just like everywhere else. No country is perfect, and SA is still finding her feet in the developed world. It’s ok to see her faults and even engage meaningfully with locals about them. A chat about the pitfalls of ‘African Time’ and the attitudes that shape it with a local is a great way to let go of your frustration and reframe it for the positive, after all! The downsides are part of the South African experience too, and authentic experiences come when you remove the rose-tinted glasses. It’s all in what you do with it.

Leave behind footprints

Consider how the smallest efforts on your half- for example, using providers like Acacia Africa who work closely to empower local populations in the Tourism industry-  can meaningfully impact the people you meet on the way, helping ensure others get the chance to experience South Africa for themselves and her people to get a chance to thrive. From wildlife preservation and water conservation through to empowering people, you just coming here to enjoy can leave a meaningful impact for years to come.

Experiencing another country is a great way to remind yourself how incredible life really is. It can sharpen your appreciation for everything, reminding you time is fleeting, life is made of the small moments, and that you’re just a tiny piece of an amazing, magnificent, diverse world. You’ll see all the ways people are just like you- watching Netflix and posting status updates to Facebook dissing JLo’s latest album- and all the fascinating ways our heritage, upbringing and culture makes us different.

A true experience lets you feel it all- the magnificent highs and the occasional things we could all live without. It will help you explore other cultures, and appreciate more about your own. You’ll learn how your own heritage shapes who you are, and does the same for everyone you meet. You’ll find common ground, and places to agree to disagree. You’ll have moments where you stand out, and moments where you blend in. You’ll eat delectable food you never dreamed existed, and relegate others to the ‘best not tried again’ pile. You’ll expand your horizons and broaden your mind. Above all, you’ll come away with enriching experiences and a host of memories that will last forever.

Let Acacia Africa help you craft an authentic African experience today- it’s what we do best!