South Africa: A Feast for the Mind, Body & Spirit

by Dan Allen

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday March 15, 2023

South Africa: A Feast for the Mind, Body & Spirit
  (Source:South African Tourism)

No matter what kind of travel thirst you're aiming to quench on your next holiday, South Africa is the perfect blend of fascinating LGBTQ+ art, delicious cuisine, and thrilling adventure. Here's just a sampling of the many ways that South Africa is a total feast for your mind, body and spirit.

The work of Zanele Muholi is featured at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa
The work of Zanele Muholi is featured at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa  (Source: Zanele Muholi/Instagram)


South Africa's arts scene is wildly expansive and thoroughly inclusive, with strong LGBTQ+ representation from world-renowned artists like Zanele Muholi and buzzworthy local creators like Jamal Nxedlana. Cape Town and Johannesburg are where you'll generally find the largest queer exhibitions, but smaller galleries around the country also often showcase LGBTQ+ artists.

The best in queer South African art is consistently at Cape Town's Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa — commonly known as Zeitz MOCAA, it's the world's largest museum of contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora. Located in the Silo District of Cape Town's Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the museum has a strong collection of the powerful work of the country's most famed queer artist, Durban native Zanele Muholi. Muholi's intense and revealing photographic portraits have brought the underrepresented faces of South Africa's LGBTQ+ community, especially Black lesbian and trans individuals from the urban townships, into top museums across the globe. Other queer artists in Zeitz MOCAA's permanent collection include Athi-Patra Ruga, Banele Khoza, Brett Charles Seiler, and Nicholas Hlobo.

Across town in the heart of Cape Town is the Iziko South African National Gallery (or ISANG), which houses many of the country's most prized and famed classic artworks. While the bulk of its collection is dedicated to Dutch, French and British works from the 17th to 19th centuries, the National Gallery has also hosted numerous exhibitions showcasing South African LGBTQ+ artists.

In Johannesburg, the esteemed Johannesburg Art Gallery regularly hosts exhibitions showcasing established LGBTQ+ artists, while the popular Bubblegum Gallery offers developing queer artists the chance to exhibit their work and connect with the more established art market.

(Source: South African Tourism)


With its rich confluence of cultures, its glorious bounty of ingredients, and its uniquely talented chefs and vintners, South Africa is one of the world's most exciting countries for food and wine aficionados.

Cape Town has long been the culinary capital of South Africa, and it's home to the latest darling of the South African foodie scene, FYN (pronounced "fine"), which this year vaulted to number 37 on the World's Best Restaurants list, and earned the Best Restaurant in Africa award. Many of Cape Town's neighborhoods offer distinctly excellent flavors, as in the famously colorful Bo Kaap district, where traditional Cape Malay meals are a spicy throwback to the 17th century when laborers from the Dutch East Indies first settled here.

In Johannesburg, enjoy fine South African dining with a side dish of the country's rich history at 1947 on Vilakazi Street in Soweto, set on the very same street where two Nobel Prize winners, President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, once lived. Experience Jo'burg's amazing gourmet street food culture at The Playground Market (formerly Neighbourgoods) in the Braamfontein neighborhood, currently the hippest and most popular of the city's many artisan markets.

Durban is the proud home to the popular South African snack "bunny chow," basically a hollowed-out loaf of white bread filled with curry, and originally the creation of the city's Indian community. Since that community here is so large and diverse, Durban's about much more than bunny chow, offering an absolute smorgasbord of authentic Indian cuisines. To truly delight your taste buds, check out the incredible Curry Buffet at The Oyster Box Hotel's Ocean Terrace Restaurant, overlooking the uMhlanga waterfront just north of the city.

For wine connoisseurs, few places on Earth compare to the Cape Winelands region just east of Cape Town, home to the picturesque wine-making towns of Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl, as well as some of the country's most phenomenal wine estates, like the truly exquisite Delaire Graff. The Franschhoek Wine Valley boasts more than 40 wine cellars, not to mention a very fun wine tram to transport you between them.

(Source: South African Tourism)


No place on Earth can match South Africa for its diverse array of electrifying adventure possibilities. Whether you prefer your thrills in water or on land or by air, you'll find countless unique ways to get your adrenaline pumping.

Abseiling down Cape Town's Table Mountain offers incredible views of the city and the Atlantic Ocean from atop its distinctively flat 3,500-foot summit. Anyone can hop a cable car to the top of Table Mountain, but only the most adventurous will dare experience the rare thrill of heading over the mountain's edge and abseiling down its side.

Across the country in the KwaZulu-Natal province on the Indian Ocean coast, expert guides can escort you on a truly thrilling kayak journey through the uniquely extreme waterways of the Saint Lucia Estuary, which is teeming with some 800 hippos and 1,200 crocs.

Along South Africa's southern Garden Route off the coast of the little seaside town of Knysna, take a snorkel at high tide to glimpse the lovely little Knysna seahorses that make these waters their home. Less than 5 inches long, these mesmerizing and endangered creatures have heads like horses, tails like monkeys, and swiveling eyes like chameleons.

On the border of the Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces, locals and visitors alike flock to the Bloukrans Bridge to bungee from one of the world's tallest commercial bridge jumps, where the 650-foot plunge is one of South Africa's most popular attractions.

And few places on Earth can match South Africa's range of options for the thrilling sport of shark cage diving. At False Bay's Pyramid Rock just south of Cape Town is one of only two places in the world to dive with cow sharks, while farther along the coast at Gansbaai, you can dive with one of the highest concentrations of great whites in the world.