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When the Europeans arrived in south-western Africa mainly Hottentots and Bushmen (San and Khoi-khoi) lived here. The Hottentots are extinct and only a small group of Nama in the Northern Cape Province are left. Small groups of Bushmen roam as hunters and gatherers in the Kalahari Desert today. Today there are about 44 million people in South Africa, as versatile as nature, so are the ethnic population groups. South Africans have ancestors from Africa, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Germany, France, Malaysia and India. After decades of oppression of all non-whites the ideal of the South African society is very multicultural today. The divisions that one still finds, mainly stems from the differences in income. 62% of the population lives in large cities: Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Since the end of apartheid more and more people move to the cities and it increases the number of illegal immigrants. This has led to the emergence and expansion of slums (Townships).

Art and culture have a long tradition in South Africa. The oldest works are the numerous rock paintings of the Bushmen (San). Their images of animals, humans and hunting scenes are up to 20 000 years old. In the Drakensberg you will find the majority of them. The artistic expressions of the diverse population are reflected in the traditional attire of the strains, hairstyles and jewellery, but also in pottery, basketry and processed fabrics. The Ndebele have their houses impressively painted in a colourful geometric style. The Venda people in the north of the country make elaborate carvings and pottery. The Zulus are known for their braiding and jewellery. The art of the white South Africans can especially be seen in its architecture, the furniture and decor items made of silver and glass. The Cape Dutch buildings of the farmers can be found mainly in the Cape region. There are also the beautiful houses of the British in Victorian and Edwardian style. You recognize the origin of a building by the traditions. The fine arts such as music, theatre, painting and literature have already received international attention.

Travelling in South Africa in the land of the Zulus:
In Zulu, the Zulus are: AmaZulu. A person is umZulu and the language is isiZulu. AmaZulu means people from heaven. The AmaZulu descendants are from the Nguni tribe. These people, the Amazulu, live in the mountains of KwaZulu-Natal. The Zulus are the largest South African ethnic group. In Zimbabwe, Zambia and Mozambique there are also a number of Zulus.

King Shaka
Zulu is the son of an Nguni chief in Congo. Zulus migrated to the place where they live now in the sixteenth century. Important in history is the tribe of King Shaka. Under the leadership of Shaka Zulu strength formed. The king ruled from 1816 to 1828 and had a lot of power over the tribe. Shaka was an awesome warrior and made of many small tribes that lived in the area, a powerful tribe. The Shaka army conquered many tribes, which were then added to the Zulu tribe. Shaka introduced new weapons and new combat formations. He was cruel and strict. From the time of King Shaka, Zulus fought many wars to prevent them from being dominated by the British. Shaka was assassinated in 1828 by his half-brothers Dingane and Mhlangana. Although Shaka was so very cruel, he brought the Zulus some progress and power, and he is still remembered.

Zulus describe their faith as a Christian, but in addition ancestor worship also very important. It also implies belief in the spirits of their ancestors in that the parents have the power to intervene in the lives of the people. Missionaries brought the Christianity to the Zulus and presented the faith with traditional customs of the Zulus, where the Messiah was cast in the form of Isaiah Shembe, the Zulu Messiah.

To come into contact with the spirit world we need a prophet (sangoma) and medicine (Inyanga). The Inyanga makes a spice (muthi) to influence the ancestors. White muthi has positive effects, such as healing and the prevention of an accident. Black muthi can bring sickness and death to others or if improperly obtained wealth to the user. The user of black muthi is seen as a witch and banned from the community.

In the Zulu community the woman are responsible for preparing food, cleaning, raising children, caring for the elderly, gathering wood, cultivating land, collecting water and brewing beer. The men protect their family and country and they are warriors, making decisions and receiving potential guests. The clothes, bracelets, necklaces and many other articles of clothing that are made of beads, are typical Zulu. Except that the beads look nice, they also give a message. The narrower the bead, the more it is worth. And also the colour determines the value. Red beads are worth the most, for example, and most of the green and yellow beads are only for chiefs and his family. But the colour of the bead has a meaning in itself: white stands for love, black for mourning, pink poverty, green for heartbreak or jealousy, blue for loyalty and red for tears and longing, yellow for prosperity and striped beads for doubt.

Dancing and singing is also very important to the Zulus. This is also reflected in the annual reed festival. The party is in honour of the Zulu nation and serves to connect the king and the nation together. Virgin girls are invited to the reed party to dance; virginity shows the ritual is 'pure'.

Your holiday begins at South Africa Specialist!

Questions about Culture

Q: What role has history played in the development of the traditions in South Africa?

A: The history of South Africa is obviously a diverse. The arrivals of Europeans, colonization, apartheid, etc. all have played an important role in the South Africa today.

Q: What are the distinctive traditions, norms and values ​​in South Africa?

A: Many people live, in spite of all the modern technologies still close to nature. Sangoma's (naturopaths) have a special role in the lives of many (dark) South Africans, both in rural and townships. Among some South African groups, such as the Zulu and Xhosa, polygamy is still normal. Men may have several wives. President Jacob Zuma has for example several.

Older people have a lot of respect from younger generations. At a wedding there is often lobola (traditional dowry) paid to the bride's family. These are often a number of cows. In terms of food, the braai (barbeque) and potjiekos (stew) is a real tradition. Mothers carry their babies in a sling or in a towel on their backs. This way the baby feels safe and the mother has her hands free to work her. In traditional Zulu dances the legs are thrown into the air as high as possible (see photo).

The (Christian) religion plays a very important role in the lives of many South Africans. Here they really get their hope and strength.

Q: What affects the survival of the traditions?

A: The traditions are passed from (grand) parents to their children. Family ties are very important in South Africa, and children therefore take the customs and habits of their parents quickly.

Q: How have you experienced that in your visit to South Africa?

A: You can clearly see the difference between us Western tourists and locals. Despite the fact that South Africa is quite Western, the traditions of the darker population are still clearly visible in everyday life. The population is also very open in this, and tells about their lives to foreigners happily.

Q: What does the population of South Africa itself feel about the traditions and way of life?

A: They find it quite normal, and often actually don't know any better. They are also proud of their nation and their country.

Q: Are the traditions of the past still there?

A: Yes, for example the Sangoma and paying lobola is centuries old.

Q: What is the woman against the man?

A: It is difficult to say from one man from one family. The women take care of the children, cook, clean the house, etc. A man may for instance have several wives, but a woman does not have several men. Also, if you want to separate a man and a woman, this can only happen if the husband applies for this. If the woman wants to divorce but not the man she should stay with him.

Q: Is there anything better in the position of women compared to the past?

A: Slowly it changes from generation to generation. These days, girls simply go to school here, and they have equal opportunities to go to college and find a job. Raising the kids and the running of the family will come back to the woman. Men interfere with this little.

Q: Do the girls and boys get sex education?

A: Yes, in all schools and in local clinics attention is paid to this, especially the prevention of HIV / AIDS which is an important issue that many talk about.

Q: Does the restrictions provide sexual morality for women?

A: Men are still quite dominant in the field of sex. Despite free condoms everywhere and available everywhere, a woman / girl often have little to say about how this happens.