South Africa is genuinely unique in many ways. It may be a cliché, but it is true. South Africa is a rainbow nation brimming with diverse experiences, cultures and things you'll only find in Mzansi. Here is the Flight Centre team’s favourite ten things you'll only find in South Africa.
1. The Big Seven
It may sound like the name of your local rugby team, but in fact, the Big Seven is the 'new' Big Five. The Big Seven includes the famous Big Five wildlife, the lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. The Big Seven refers to either the addition of the great white shark and the southern right whale or sometimes the addition of the cheetah and African Wild Dog. Spot the Big Seven marine species in the Addo National Park and the other land-based Big Seven in many parks such as the Madikwe Game Reserve and the Kruger National Park. And don't forget to look down. Keep your eyes peeled for the Little Five – the elephant shrew, ant lion, rhinoceros beetle, buffalo weaver and leopard tortoise.
2. Swim with penguins
Sure, there are other places on the globe where you can see penguins. But where else than on our beautiful shores can you swim with them? Hidden deep in the southern suburbs of Cape Town on the False Bay coast, lies Boulders Beach. It's Insta-famous for being the home of over 3000 African penguins. The granite boulders shelter the clear, turquoise water of a small bay, creating a calm natural swimming pool. It’s perfect for swimming and paddling and snapping selfies with a waddling penguin. But steer clear of their beaks! READ MORE: Local experiences to add to your list
3. Cape Malay cuisine
Nowhere else in the world can visitors experience Cape Malay cuisine. It's a style that is truly South African, infused with the diverse flavours of our multicultural heritage. A Bo-Kaap cooking class and tour is a must-do when in Cape Town. Learn how to roll koeksisters and make delicious dhaltjies, bredie, breyani, bobotie and more, so you can add these local favourites to your repertoire of recipes.
4. The Vuvuzela
Ah, the vuvuzela. Love it or hate it, nothing quite sounds like South Africa than the ear-splitting sound of the vuvuzela. Did you know that South Africa's most famous musical instrument is also known as a lepatata (its Tswana name)? Although the world may not be a fan (it's been banned at subsequent FIFA World Cups), the sounds of vuvuzelas whisk us right back to our favourite soccer game, beer in one hand and boerie roll in the other. It's claimed that the vuvuzela was invented in the 1990s by a Kaizer Chiefs FC fan, Freddie "Saddam" Maake, after he got the idea from a bicycle rubber horn.
5. Dig up your roots
The Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its fossil-rich sites and caves, the most significant on the continent. It's a fun and fascinating educational experience for the whole family, just an hour northwest of Joburg.
6. Kayak with Hippos and Crocs in KwaZulu-Natal
Sure, this may be one thing that isn't quite up to your alley. But for the adventurers, this is one for the books. Head into KwaZulu-Natal's St Lucia estuary for the chance to enjoy a kayak safari, gliding past the watchful eyes of crocs and hippos along the way.
7. Bungee jump from Bloukrans Bridge
Take a deep breath and plunge off the top of Bloukrans Bridge, the world's highest commercial bungee jump. Although we doubt you'd ever forget the experience, if you're looking for something extra; be sure to buy their footage as a reminder of your bravery.
8. Homegrown snacks
Mrs Ball's chutney, rusks, green Crème soda (elsewhere in the world it is clear, red, light brown or even pink – but certainly not green), biltong, droewors, NikNaks, peppermint crisp, rooibos, Provita, Big Korn Bites, Chappies, Flings, All Gold Tomato Sauce and more. No fridge or pantry is complete without these essential, proudly South African snacks and products. Not to mention bunny chow! Which (thankfully) contains absolutely no bunny at all.
9. The way we love a braai
Yes, the rest of the world does their thing with their "barbie," "barbeque," "grill" or whatever they want to call the method and process of roasting their meat on the fire. But in Mzansi, it's a braai. Only a braai. Without a doubt, braaing is the most popular South African pastime, hobby and family bonding experience. Throw on some chops, pour a drink and pull up a chair around the braai.
>All our official languages
Sure, Zimbabwe may have a staggering 16 official languages, but South Africa isn't too far behind. Mzansi is proudly home to 11 official languages and cultures that are diverse and welcoming. And our many languages have created many quirks that are commonplace to us South Africans but baffle the rest of the world. Such as our robots. While elsewhere in the world, robots denote a human-made robot of sorts, here in South Africa we have many, many sets of robots. To the rest of the world, they're traffic lights. Not to mention the confusion around “now” and "now now." We'll get into that just now!
READ MORE: Worked up an appetite? Take a food tour around South Africa.