Celebrate Heritage Day in a national park!

Celebrate Heritage Day in a national park!

On 24 September we’re honouring our country’s rich cultures, traditions and beliefs

With Heritage Day falling on a Monday this year, the result is a Heritage Long Weekend, perfect for exploring a national park and learning about the people and places that make our country great. This includes our latest UNESCO World Heritage Site, the The Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains in Mpumalanga.

Here’s our pick of heritage sites and parks to visit.

Basotho Cultural Village, Golden Gate Highlands National Park

You may think you’ve stumbled through a time warp: the traditional huts, decorations and people you’ll find at the Basotho Cultural Village are straight out of the 18th century. Your visit begins with a welcome from the chief and a cup of traditionally brewed beer. Then you can learn how to grind corn by hand, try on traditional dress or listen to local musicians. The Herbal Trail is your chance to join the village traditional healer on a guided walk and learn about the medicinal plants you come across along the way. This trail also includes a visit to caves where ancient San rock art graces the walls – enquire about availability before your visit. Round off your day by checking into your own quaint rondavel and relaxing on the stoep as you look out over a landscape that has beguiled people for millennia.
Bookings: SANParks Central Reservations 012 428 9111, www.sanparks.org

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Cape Agulhas Lighthouse and Rhenosterkop Cottages, Agulhas National Park

For many years the rocky coastline around the southern tip of Africa claimed its share of shipwrecks. But since 1849 the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse has safely guided seafarers through these treacherous waters. Today you can climb the 71 steps to reach the top of one of the oldest working lighthouses in the country. The base of the building is home to a lighthouse museum, where you can delve into the history of these lifesaving beacons. Some 30km away you’ll find the restored Rhenosterkop Cottages, which take their name from the skull of a black rhino found nearby centuries ago – it is now preserved in the Springfield Estate museum. With their whitewashed walls and thatched roofs, the cottages are typical of farm dwellings built in the 18th century and have a huge welcoming hearth at one end. When there’s a storm blowing off the ocean, there’s no place cosier and more comforting than these farm cottages.
Bookings: SANParks Central Reservations 012 428 9111, www.sanparks.org

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Mapungubwe Hill and interpretive centre, Mapungubwe National Park

Once home to an ancient kingdom, Mapungubwe still resonates with the ingenuity, artistry and ambition of its people. Discover its history for yourself on a Heritage Tour to the top of Mapungubwe Hill. Between AD1200 and AD1270 an African civilisation flourished here, growing wealthy through trade with faraway lands such as Egypt, India and China. The kingdom’s riches and mastery were uncovered in the 1930s when archaeologists excavated the famous golden rhino and other artefacts. You can view these in the interpretive centre, where guides are on hand to unravel the mysteries of the lost kingdom. Before you head back to your cottage for a braai under millions of stars, stand still and look out over this timeless landscape. From the towering baobabs to the fantastical rock formations, Mapungubwe is truly a land of wonder.
Bookings: SANParks Central Reservations 012 428 9111, www.sanparks.org

See it all

South Africa’s parks and nature reserves protect not only our natural heritage, but also our cultural heritage. Other destinations to explore include Matjiesrivier Nature Reserve in the Cederberg for rock art, Thulamela Iron Age site in the Kruger National Park and Game Pass Shelter in Kamberg Nature Reserve. These are just a few of the more than 80 protected areas Wild Card members can visit without paying entrance fees. To find out more, visit www.wildcard.co.za.

Wild Card members have access to great year-round offers as well as amazing giveaways and competitions. You’ll also receive a monthly e-newsletter and the quarterly Wild magazine, Southern Africa’s premier conservation publication, delivered to your door. Visit the SANParks website at www.wildcard.co.za and fill in the application form to get your Wild Card.

 
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Calling all nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts – a Wild Card is your ticket to experience the unspoilt beauty of Southern Africa, 365 days a year! With more than 80 parks and reserves through its wide-reaching network of conservation partners, the wild is your oyster.

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