Travel To South Africa Offers Look Behind Headlines

Jan 9, 2014

When Nelson Mandela died in December, the eyes of the world once again focused on South Africa. Earthbound Expeditions founder and KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says it’s his favorite place on the planet, and worth a deeper look than the headlines can offer.

"It's a truly remarkable place. There's no other country I've been to on this planet that has more diversity," Brumley said. "The history is phenomenal. It dates back hundreds of thousands of years, and the culture is multiracial. It's the Rainbow Nation."

Getting There

South Africa is more than 10,000 miles from Seattle. That’s a long flight, about 29 hours. Brumley recommends breaking up the trip with a few days at a layover destination. His favorite is Dakar, Senegal, which offers beaches, music and history.

"Think about, for $200 extra, spending a couple nights in Senegal, going out and seeing this old slave fort where many north Africans, northwestern Africans were deported to the United States," he said. "It's a great way to acclimate to the time and to the culture, and then make your way to South Africa."

Visiting Mandela's Cell at Robben Island

For sites important in Mandela's life, start with Robben Island, where he was incarcerated for 18 years. Visitors can see his cell and the quarry where he worked. Ex-political prisoners are often available to provide information.

Brumley says Robben Island is "one of those places that I go to where I'm forever changed."

"I think one of the things that is truly amazing is how he [Mandela] walked out of there after 18 years and practiced forgiveness," he said. 

Natural Beauty of Kruger National Park

In Kruger National Park in northeast South Africa, visitors can experience nature, see wildlife and view archeological sites. Brumley says its relative proximity to other destinations in the country make South Africa one of the most diverse places he's ever experienced.

On Rewards of Travel

Many people want to learn about a new culture and its history when they travel, says Brumley. And they also want to connect with the locals. 

"I think that's perhaps the greatest thing about travel is when you go overseas and you connect with the locals. And you discuss your life with them, and they talk about theirs, and you find out that really, we're just the same," he said.


Matthew Brumley is the founder of Earthbound Expeditions, which organizes small-group travel around the world for clients, including KPLU.