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10 Photos Proving There Is So Much More To South Africa Than Safaris

From the food and wine, to the history.

26/08/2016 7:19 PM AEST | Updated 06/11/2016 4:23 PM AEDT
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Sunsets in South Africa look all the more glorious from rooftops.

When you think of people finding themselves overseas you think New York, London, maybe South America, but South Africa doesn't come to mind.

When South Africa is mentioned you think of Table Mountain and seeing The Big Five as the sun rises or sets. Or holding a baby lion. Don't do that (you can find out why here).

But as this author can attest, while the game drives and shark dives are must-dos in the country, there is so much more to South Africa than meets the eye, or Instagram filter.

Since this author already inundated her family and friends with evidence of her South African escape, there were so many more she just couldn't put to waste. So behold, the hidden treasures of a country where even the views don't do its soul and charm justice.

And yes, it might just be this author's soul country (if the term exists).

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Hidden above the Market on Main in Johannesburg is an excellent bar, with even better dancing.

1. The Dancing

Do yourself a favour. Leave your dignity at the hotel and find a local Shabeen to visit. Most of them are fun in the daylight, but when the sun sets they come to life. Think of your favourite club or bar that plays 90s R'n'B and times that by one million. It's a damn good time.

Even at the markets there are moves. Every Sunday in downtown Johannesburg the Market on Main comes to life with food, fashion, music and yes, glorious dancing from the locals.

And while you may feel out of place in the beginning because your hips don't lie like South Africans' do, don't fret. They appreciate it most when you let loose and at least get involved. Seriously, even dad moves are valued there. It just has to come with a smile, a drink in hand, and a little shamelessness.

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Fight like a girl, and Nelson Mandela.

2. The Kids

The children in South Africa are pretty wonderful, fabulously curious and every child this author met was as friendly as can be. Most love having their photo taken. The majority will tell you that as well.

In Johannesburg, a few boys and a girl were playing on a slide when they saw the Iphone pulled out from this author's pocket. The enthusiasm which followed is evidenced above. In Soweto, as this author rode a quad bike through the streets, the children would wave and some even decided the ride was worthy of a race.

So bring your playfulness to the streets, and an camera to capture a couple of moments too.

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Ballito, in all its serenity.

3. The Coastlines

The beaches in the KwaZulu-Natal province aren't like the beaches on the east coast of Australia. They're similar to some in South Australia -- long and sweeping, with powerful waves. But their enormity is mesmerizing with a peaceful charm.

Durban is one of South Africa's largest cities -- the largest after Capetown -- and it's home to a foreshore not dissimilar to California's Venice Beach. A few miles north, there's Ballito which is home to the wealthier end of town. On offer is a beautiful coastline filled with a beach perfect for long walks, and little crevices perfect for snorkelling.

And the further up the coast you go, you will not be disappointed, with St Lucia offering a delightful beach break before you head into the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park -- one of the national parks where game drives are on offer -- for a few nights on safari.

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Behind a young boy at the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto is the iconic photo of 13-year-old Hector Pieterson being carried after being shot by police during the 1976 Soweto uprising.

4. The History

You can't go to South Africa without visiting Nelson Mandela's house and the Hector Pieterson Museum. Both are based in the township of Soweto, just south of Johannesburg, not far from each other.

A quad bike tour will get you there, and you can see the township from a completely unique perspective, or you can travel there by bus or car.

Mandela's house in Soweto is one he describes as "the centre point of my world" in his autobiography. It was the home the former South African President left in 1961 to become a political activist on the run. He returned to No. 8115 in Soweto after 27 years in prison.

These days, you can be guided on a tour through the home, and gain a further understanding of what Mandela and his wife, Winnie, endured there.

Hector Pieterson was the young boy who died in the arms of another, while his sister ran beside them, terrified, on June 16, 1976. The photo became a significant symbol of the apartheid resistance and the museum in Soweto is consequently named after him.

Pieterson was one of the youth shot on the streets by police during a protest. June 16 is now commemorated as Youth Day in South Africa. And the museum and Mandela's home are both worth seeing to develop a further understand of what the country's people have endured, making the country what it is today.

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Breathtaking views, and colours, at St Lucia Beach.

5. The Serenity

Not much needs to be said about this, but the country is so vast and sweeping you'll find a moment of serenity almost every night and morning. In Johannesburg it was on a hotel rooftop, in Durban it was a morning walk along the beach.

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See those purple grapes. They're just waiting to be crushed into damn delicious Pinotage.

6. The Food

There's three things you need to consume in South Africa. The first is Bunny Chow, which is essentially butter chicken curry inside a bread roll. Yes, the idea is a brilliant one created by South Africans who couldn't afford to take their lunch to work in a container.

The second is Pinotage which is South Africa's signature red wine, not dissimilar to a Pinot Noir. And the third is Malva pudding, which is a traditional South African dessert usually served with cream or icecream.

Consume them all and thank us later.

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This is 1000 Hills. Yes, there are 1000 hills, at least.

7. The View(s)

This author spent ten days in South Africa without climbing Table Mountain, or even entering Capetown, and was inundated with spectacular views to capture. The east coast of South Africa is home to a beautiful coastline, and further inland from Durban is 1000 Hills. And yes, as you can see above, it seriously looks like there are 1000 Hills there.

There's a number of villages home to the Zulu people, who have a world of wisdom (and perspective) to impart on visitors.

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The reed bracelet a woman gives a man when she's ready to say 'I love you'.

8. The Mindblowing Culture

In the valley there are lovely Zulu people who are willing to let visitors into their homes to explore their culture. What remains with you when you leave is the simplicity in their way of life, which in turn, allows them to live seemingly in the now.

One of the biggest rules in the Zulu culture is if you pass a friend on your way to another meeting, you must stop. You must talk to them and genuinely see how they are. You mustn't rush off. Because what if, after you brushed them off in a rush, they passed away and your last encounter was an ingenuine one?

You can take what you want from that.

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Market on Main, in Johannesburg.

9. The Markets

The Market on Main, which lies in downtown Johannesburg provides an array of food, drink and fashion. And the dancing mentioned earlier.

And right in Johannesburg is the Neighbourgoods Market which is where the party starts first in the city. And yes, it begins before midday. From the stall workers to the patrons, there's an abundance of dancing to accompany the good food and drink. Yes, the name says it all.

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From the city to safari, the sunsets are glorious. This is Johannesburg, which looks even better from a rooftop.

10. The Sunsets

No more words needed.

You've got 1000 words right there on a rooftop.

This author travelled to South Africa courtesy of South African Tourism.

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