Township and Wine Country TOURS in South Africa

Mar 5th, 2007, 07:02 PM
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Township and Wine Country TOURS in South Africa

Hi, all,

I am going to Cape Town for 8 days in June with some friends. I had tried to hire Selwyn ( )for his township tour and his wine country tour, but he is already booked on the days we wanted to do the tours.
Can any of your suggest:
1) a tour company for a township tour
2) a tour company for a one-day tour of wine country

Regarding wine country, is a self-drive visit better than a guided tour? What wineries and/or reatuarnats would you suggest, and would they require advance booking?

Thanks so much.

John H.
jh6000 is offline  
Mar 6th, 2007, 06:26 AM
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When we were in Cape Town this past December, we did a tour of the Garden Route with Hylton Ross. I'm not a "tour" person - but this one met out particular needs for this trip, and we really were impressed with the professionalism of our guide/driver. We had a great time. And it was SOOOO easy!

I believe they do all sorts of tours and probably have something that does what you want. Also, I believe you can hire a car(van)/driver and then design your own tour.

Don't know what wine country places you're looking at - but our lunch (3 years ago) at La Petite Ferme is still one of our favorites!!!!
Grcxx3 is offline  
Mar 6th, 2007, 01:50 PM
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Thanks for your feedback, Grcxx3.

I looked at La Petite Ferme -- looks great! Did you do a self-drive of the wine country, or was this part of your Garden Route tour? If you have (or if anyone else has) suggestions for a single day drive from Cape Town to/from the Franschhoek area (wineries to visit and/or what time might be reasonable to stop at La Petite Ferme for lunch), that would be appreciated. Thanks.

John H
jh6000 is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 02:00 AM
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Hi, john,

we are planning our tour of CPT and the garden route in july, looking at the same sorts of ideas.

as we have a hire car, we are looking at doing the tours ourselves, apart from a township tour, for which I'm hoping Selwyn will be available.#

For trips into the winelands, there are plenty of ideas on varous web-sites [just google the garden route] or if you can get hold of it, a book in the "landscape" series called "landscapes of south africa - the cape", pub. by sunflower books.

There are two recommended car tours of the winelands that look very interesting and it says that there are several wineries to visit on the R304 out of Stellenbosch. I found that by following the links on the web, I could get to the websites of the various wineries, and find out their opening times, wines they produce, other facilities etc.

good luck!

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 09:09 PM
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(Note: part 1 of 2 posts)

Not all "Township Tours" are the same, and many can be a real problem for the communities that are visited. The phrase "Township Tour" also has its issues.
Generally speaking, this isn't widely enough understood or discussed.

Firstly, you don't go to visit the township, you go to visit people, cultures and communities. Properly speaking one should be on a 'cultural' or 'community' tour, not a 'township' tour, and while one might consider that simply semantics, the fact is that the change of name also changes the entire set of expectations and the context of the experience. Anyone with a vehicle can drive you into a township for a tour. But only people with credible relationships in the communities and who have in-depth knowledge of a culture can help visitors get to know that community and experience that culture.

But local knowledge isn't always enough. The risk is that many straightforward "Township Tours" lack this context and therefore visitors don't understand what they're being taken to see or experience, or how to make sense of it or the expectations of the people they meet -- are you going to see how poor people live? Black people? Coloured people? Africans? To meet your guide's friends? To feel better about your own plight? To find a charity to donate to? This is where professional tour companies who specialize in cultural and community tours offer something meaningfully different from the local tour guide with a combi who takes you around to his church, his local shebeen, and to see the creche or the school. Without some contextual thread -- environmental challenges, artistic traditions, historical experiences, musical traditions, etc. -- the township tour can commodify the people in the township and render them little different from the safari animals viewed at a watering hole or on a walking safari.

Alternatively, one risks glorifying the spirit of poor people who "struggle on in the face of adversity", which is an over-simplified projection of what we as outsiders want to see, and doesn't do justice to the complexity of their situation.

I also want to point out that, by constructing township tours, the tourism industry has created a box to keep black tour guides in. They stay in the townships where they're "locals" but they don't get the opportunities to break into the mainstream. So you'll see plenty of non-white guides in Langa. But you won't see many leading tours through Kirstenbosch. They're drivers to Cape Point, but not guides to fine pinotage in Stellenbosch. Thus, taking a township tour can reinforce the status quo of white domination of the industry, which is exactly the opposite of the goals of the national Tourism Charter.

So, having said all this, I fully support and encourage visitors (and locals!) to take tours to visit the diverse communities and cultures in South Africa. Sometimes this goes by the name of "Township Tour" but is in fact a cultural and community tour -- but often it does not. My hope is to help create awareness of the underlying issues so that the exploitative and harmful sorts of tours are recognised as such and weeded out of the industry, and so that visitors can make more informed choices and thereby have a richer and more rewarding experience.

kurt_a is offline  
Mar 7th, 2007, 09:44 PM
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(Note: part 2 of 2 posts)

OK - now for some more practical suggestions.

I've spent a lot of time in recent months meeting with and interviewing a whole range of tour guides, micro-tour operators and tour companies who do "township tours" or offer community and cultural tours as part of the work I do with Ishabi.

We work with them, are involved in special training programmes, we use them for our own tours, and I've sent friends, colleagues and my mother in-law on various tours with them. These I point to below are a non-exhaustive list, but they are the real deal that I know first hand from my own projects. They all operate in and around Cape Town.

Nthuseng Tours (Nthuseng Tsoeu +27 83 453-2544, [email protected],

Fisher Tours (Melshaw Wyngaard, +27 84 4039881, [email protected])

Nomthunzie Tours (Charlotte Swartbooi +27 83 982 5692, [email protected])

Coffee Beans Routes (Iain Harris, +27 84 762 4944, [email protected],

Roots Africa (+27 21 9878330, [email protected],

Selwyn Davidowitz is also well known to Fodorites. I've never met Selwyn, but his credentials on community tours in townships are remarkable and his reputation in the industry is excellent (

As I said, this is a non-exhaustive list. However, this is a lengthy thread now, so for those interested in hearing still MORE from me (!) I have posted pointers for selecting a community or cultural tour operator/guide on my blog at

If you know of other good guides, tour operators, etc. who you've had a great experience with, I'd love to know. And if you have questions about particular tours or operators, I'm happy to try to help.


kurt_a is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 07:06 AM
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I used Hylton Ross and liked my guide. He was a resident of one of the township tours we visited and everyone seemed to know him and respect him. We visited a township community center and daycare center where they were happy for you to support the community by buying handicrafts.
RBCal is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 10:49 AM
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Hoary old thread re: why Hylton Ross isn't necessarily the first choice for Township Tours can be read here:

kurt_a is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 11:56 AM
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Hardly an unbiased source since that individual is a competitor. Do you also make money from tourism? (You accuse others of it on tripadvisor)
I'm a tourist and don't my living from tourism.
RBCal is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 12:03 PM
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Additionally the information posted by that competitor completely misrepresents the tour by their competitor. They describe it as a drive by tour and not supporting the community. Since I personally took the tour I can tell you that that is false. You stop and interact with the people at the community centers and daycares and have lunch at a shebeen.
(Pretty tacky way to advertise your services IMHO)
RBCal is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 07:55 PM
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Thanks, ann, for the "garden tour" ideas; I'll certainly follow up on that.

Kurt and RBCal, I appreciate your opinions, differing as they may be.

John H.
jh6000 is offline  
Mar 8th, 2007, 10:23 PM
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You had a good experience with Hylton Ross. That's great, and nobody is challenging it. They're a safe, credible tour to take. I have no doubt that others taking their tours also have good experiences.

However, my hope is to prompt all of us to consider whether, in the case of a "township tour" (or any community or cultural tour) the experience OF THE PEOPLE BEING VISITED is also a good experience. Is the tour exploitative? Is it sustainable business for the destination? Is it consistent with the principles of responsible tourism? Is it environmentally sound? Is it helping or hindering the transformation of a free and democratic South African society?

I believe we all want to be conscientious travellers, don't we?

This is where my interest lies, it is why I am participating in this forum, it is why I maintain a blog, and it is why I do the work I do.

I have said elsewhere and will repeat it again, that Hylton Ross is a professional and well regarded company. However, when it comes to their "township tours" the direct feedback I have had personally from the community members and leaders, from the H-R guides themselves who do these tours (and live in the communities visited), and from some others in the industry are that they still fall short and in some cases the company is actively disliked. (I look forward to the day this feedback changes, because H-R is a GIANT in the industry in Cape Town, and for them to get this right means a lot of good will be done for communities that could use a lot of good.)

This information comes from the work I do in tourism development and economic development consulting, mentoring emerging black-owned tourism businesses, and, yes, marketing cultural and community tours.

To call Ishabi a competitor to H-R is like calling an artisanal bakery a competitor to Hostess -- they both bake bread, but there's a world of difference in every other regard. We make most of our money from advising NGOs, governments and businesses. The tours we offer are tours we package and market, but we deliver them all through existing black-owned and operated micro-tour operators and independent guides whom we mentor, train and support. We don't own any vehicles. We don't employ any guides. We try to bring sustainable business to existing black-owned tourism companies in order to help transform the 99.2% white-owned tourism industry in the country and to diversify the product offering for people visiting our country. Our tours cost a bit more because we pay everyone involved fairly.

Next time you are in Cape Town, please take an Ishabi tour -- without telling me beforehand -- and then let me know what your experience was. I will reimburse you for the cost of the tour.

In the meantime, peace, please.

kurt_a is offline  
Mar 9th, 2007, 06:46 AM
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Thanks for clarifying that you make your money from tourism. Tripadvisor has strict policies of owners and agents reviewing their own properties and services as well as slamming their competitors. Too bad Fodors does not.
People come to these forums looking for unbiased advice from fellow travellers not for advertisers promoting their businesses for free.
RBCal is offline  
Mar 9th, 2007, 04:47 PM
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Hi RBCal,

Actually Fodors DOES have a rule against advertising. People who advertise their business can be banned. You can write to [email protected] to report abuse and get the advertising posts taken away.

MoiraS is offline  
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