Unearthing the Past in South Africa

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South Africa, meeting planning
Fairview Wine Estate, Cape Wine Route, South Africa

There’s something about South Africa that seeps into your soul. New attractions surrounding Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president, expound on this feeling by marrying the country’s history and culture together in creative ways. At the top of the list are the Mandela House Museum in Soweto, where Mandela lived with his wife and children, and Nelson Mandela Bridge, part of downtown Johannesburg’s rejuvenation that links lower Braamfontein with the Newtown Cultural Precinct and hot spots like the historic Market Theatre, Museum Africa and Gramadoelas restaurant.

About 30 miles northwest of Johannesburg, the Cradle of Humankind is one of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Africa. In an area of undulating grasslands, subterranean limestone caves and river courses, some of the world’s oldest human fossils have been unearthed. Here, groups will find the Sterkfontein Caves, Swartkrans and Kromdraai—all places that tell the story of humankind’s evolvement over the past 2 to 3 million years. There are a range of conference centers on-site, as well as accommodations and restaurants, with cycling and horseback riding trails and hot air balloon rides occupying groups in between meetings and events.

Though far from Hawaii, the concept of malama is alive and well throughout South Africa as well. Cultural and heritage trails are plentiful throughout the region—from pre- and post-tours to Limpopo province for a brush with the Rain Queen of Lobedu to guided walks, conservation safaris and 4×4 rides through Kruger National Park, a stronghold for rhino conservation. Kruger also has more than 255 archaeological sites—ranging from the Stone Age to Iron Age—many with cultural and spiritual significance. Numerous CSR opportunities help groups connect to local culture in meaningful and memorable ways. In Cape Town, the Light from Africa Foundation teaches orphaned children the ancient and healing art of pottery making. Interactive workshops connect groups and Light from Africa kids through local and Raku traditions, a form of Japanese pottery used in tea ceremonies.

South Africa’s Western Cape helps groups connect to the region in an entirely different way—through their palettes. The Cape’s 18 wine routes and two brandy routes trace some of the most scenic trails in the world, many featuring centuries-old wine estates. South Africa’s winelands stretch across the region, with plentiful options for wine tasting, harvesting and wine making tours.

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