Walk in Mandela’s footsteps with these Airbnb Experiences

To this day, visitors to Cape Town take the ferry to Robben Island and visit Mandela’s former cell.

The world yesterday celebrated the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela and there were many Mandela Day activities and tributes.

Mandela’s presence in South Africa is still being felt and there are many places one can visit to witness how his legacy lives on.

Airbnb Experiences – activities designed and led by inspiring South Africans – launched in Johannesburg recently and offers about 30 local experiences on the platform.

The walk, for example, gives people the opportunity to experience what it may have been like to walk in the great man’s footsteps while also getting active.

These are activities highlighting the interests and perspectives of inspiring South Africans in unique places that many visitors might not otherwise know.

The website is also now open for experience host submissions across the nation.

In the Mandela centenary year, the following Airbnb Experiences enable South Africans to walk in his footsteps:

Where he lived

Home is home, even for those who aspire to serve wider interests and who have established their home of choice in distant regions.

Explore Soweto with Airbnb host and experienced tour guide, Ntsiki. She grew up in Soweto and loves to show hospitality through history and culture.

Her tour begins with a visit to Vilakazi Street in Orlando “to experience both the historical and current happenings of Soweto”.

Vilakazi Street in Soweto. Picture: Gauteng Tourism.

This street is famous for being the location of the homes of both Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. Madiba’s home is now a museum and Tutu can sometimes be seen strolling along the street when he’s in town.

You will also visit Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s home and the Hector Pieterson Museum, both in Orlando, where you will learn about the 1976 Soweto student uprising that became a turning point in South African history.

A minibus taxi will transport you to “the deep side of the township” to view the older, historic parts of Soweto and before you go home, you will enjoy some local delicacies (including some of Madiba’s personal favourites).

Throughout this tour, you will learn about the history of Soweto that was once home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners.

Where that iconic moment happened

Walking through Cape Town’s city centre, there is so much history around you. This walking tour takes you from the Central Methodist Mission Church in the city’s Greenmarket Square (where the early policing system was founded) to the Castle (the oldest building in the city) via the Grand Parade and City Hall, where Mandela made his first public speech after being released from prison in 1990.

Your Airbnb Experience host Richard is a registered tour guide with first-hand experience of the brutality of apartheid.

You will also visit Company’s Garden and Iziko Slave Lodge before ending your tour at St George’s Cathedral – an active location during the anti-apartheid protests.

Where he spent part of his 27 years in prison

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I would still be in prison,” said Mandela.

He spent 18 of his 27 years in prison on Robben Island. To this day, visitors to Cape Town take the ferry to the island to tour this prison and visit his former cell.

For additional perspective into Mandela’s time on the island, this Airbnb Experience takes the traditional tour to a new level.

Long before Jack was an Airbnb Experience host, he was Mandela’s prison warden. He will be your personal tour guide on the island and share his memories of life as a white warden under apartheid.

You will visit Mandela’s cell and the lime quarry where prisoners worked by day, as well as Jack’s former accommodation on the island. You will then share lunch in the prison before travelling to the prison “home” in Cape Town where Mandela spent his final 14 months before he was released.

As a social impact experience, 100% of your payment for this tour will go to the Nelson Mandela Foundation. About 30% of Experiences booked in South Africa are Social Impact Experiences that support different associations and nongovernmental groups.

How he trained

“After a strenuous workout, I felt both mentally and physically lighter,” Mandela said. “It was a way of losing myself in something that wasn’t the struggle.

“After an evening’s workout, I would wake up the next morning feeling strong and refreshed, ready to take up the fight again.”

Madiba loved boxing for fitness and the science behind the sport. In his autobiography Long Walk to Freedom, he describes how he was “intrigued by how one moved one’s body to protect oneself, how one used a strategy both to attack and retreat, how one paced oneself over a match”.

Taking a class with “Boxing Grannies” will give you a glimpse into the sport and as another social impact experience, it benefits the A-Team Foundation which helps promote fitness and bodybuilding in underserved areas.

You will spend a morning boxing with a group of grannies. You will learn about the nongovernmental organisations’ work and be paired with a granny for a one-on-one sparring.

Be warned though, they are much tougher than they look. With some years of training behind them, be afraid of their upper cuts!

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