My first township tour in Cape Town

The other day I mentioned that we had decided to go on a township tour in the end. Before telling you about the actual tour day in a coupe of following posts, Ill tell you a bit about my interest in even going to a township as some people find it odd that I even want to visit.

First of all my interest in townships stems from the fact that they are similar to slums per definition. They are places that don’t exist in my own country, and although I’ve traveled to developing countries and seen many from a distance, I’ve never seen one from within with my own eyes.

However, I’ve read a lot about slums and living conditions within them globally, in addition to studying society differences, poor people´s struggles and so on through my Human Geography studies. On top of that, how the media portrays slums (often on a negative note) grabs my attention.

Also, a couple of friends of mine that spent some weeks in South Africa years ago, told me about the interesting township youth culture and funky music scene within, and although I don’t know much about the music from here I was a huge fan of the kwaito- tune township funk by a local artist called Mujava.

The music video is pretty cool too:

Mujava was in fact supposed to play on Sonar 2009, but cancelled to friends’ and my huge disappointment.

Anyways. Back to the townships.

Since we arrived to Cape Town we’ve passed many of them by car and talked about how little we know about their history, questioned what is in their reputation (which seemingly is bad) and finally we decided to go to see one from the inside. Therefore, while being here, I´ve read more – and talked to people – about why townships were created in the first place, and how they´ve got overpopulated with black people during Apartheid.


Photo of Langa township, the closest one to the city center of Cape Town. Credit: Google images

Like other slum areas, and regardless of Apartheid, people seem to agree that areas like a township in which many deprived people live, are dangerous for outsiders. On the Cape Town tourism government pages it is not recommended to enter one alone, but with a guide.

This has made me start thinking back and forth, first of all because I’m not a fan of media or others pushing the “fear buttons” in people, nor am I found of stereotyping or categorising things/ people/ places. I simply prefer to think that anywhere in the world people are people, and most people are good and peaceful. And when they´re not, there are often quite good reasons behind it!

Also, on a much more important note: It’s pretty obvious that crime rates increase with tourism due to the often extreme socioeconomic unbalance between hosts and guests. The awareness about – and desire to affect – that unbalance, is at the core of why I´ve become so passionate about the tourism industry myself. True story.

This means that I´ve come to understand as a traveler myself – and as a student going a bit deeper into the academic field of this specific topic – that the world would be a much better place if travelers took more responsibility to engage respectfully in the places they visit. If travelers would be more aware of the various impacts their traveling can have on communities and workers around the world, tourism could probably have a lot more positive impacts.

So, why am I writing all this under the title My first township tour?

Well, as I said Ive for long been interested in how a township looks myself, not to mention how tourism is conducted in them. The latter is in fact an enhanced interest of mine after reading a Norwegian travel article about Cape Town, in which the author gave the impression that township tourism in particular is about teaching tourists about the legacy of Apartheid. In addition to showing how residents cope with poverty on a daily basis, emphasising that their lives perhaps aren´t all that gloomy as the (mass) media wants us to believe.

The author thus stressed that touring a township had good impacts both on the traveler (who often is from a privileged background) and the local residents. First because it both educates the traveler on township lifestyles and helps to combat stereotypes, which secondly would benefit locals socially in terms of cutting down the barriers between rich and poor people. Economically it´s said that if visitors spend money inside the poor neighbourhoods they are visiting, this will obviously benefit at least some residents.

Still after going, it’s difficult to know whether all this in fact is taking place, however the experience was really eyeopening and made me think a lot, and want to question thousands of things. I feel like I understand a bit more about township life since going, yet it feels like I have no clue about “what’s in it for them with tourists coming to visit”. Therefore, thinking more and more about how I can study topics related to tourism as a development tool in the future, Ive now become extra curious about what this sector in South Africa entails.

The mentioned Norwegian article talked warmly about a small family run company and its owner Neville, which we chose to trust and booked a tour with. It was an interesting Christmas day indeed. 🙂 Meet Neville and get the rest of the story about our day in the township of Langa here.


  1. Pingback: Why township tourism? | All that JAS
  2. Pingback: Sim sala bim – soon there | All that JAS
  3. Pingback: My first township tour (part III) | The Gipsy Giraffe

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