Khayelitsha, Cape Town © FreddieA
The N2 highway that connects Cape Town International Airport to the city is lined with townships, consisting of a mixture of shacks and solid buildings. During the days of Apartheid, people of colour were not allowed to live in the white suburbs and were banished to areas away from the city. Township tours allow visitors to experience how the majority of Capetonians still live in the townships that surround the city. Guides, often residents, take visitors around to meet the people, see community projects, have a drink in a shebeen (township pub) and shop for local crafts. Each township has its own colourful character, and despite their difficult living conditions, residents are generally hospitable and delighted to receive visitors. Townships were once no-go areas for many people, but today a visit is becoming a popular experience for tourists to Cape Town. Visit Langa, the oldest of South Africa's black townships, established in 1923, or one of the newest and second largest in the country, Khayelitsha, which dates from the 1980s. Guguletu and Nyanga were set up in the 1950s. Visitors are advised not to visit the townships alone as crime is still rife and some areas are best avoided completely; there are many tour companies that offer wonderful tours, including transport to and from the township areas. Contact the Cape Town Tourism Visitor Information Centre or its satellite, the Sivuyile Tourism Centre in Guguletu, for information about tours, accommodation and entertainment in the townships.
There is the possibility that these tours can become unpleasantly voyeuristic in the wrong hands - tourists should remember that they are exploring real communities where people live and should treat the locals with respect.
Telephone: Cape Town Tourism Visitor Information Centre: 021 487 6800, or Sivuyile Tourism Centre: 021 637 8449