• Bitten by the whale watching bug Bitten by the whale watching bug We don’t realise how lucky we are in South Africa, and in particular the Western Cape, to have the mightiest of the marine mammals visit our coastline between every year ...
  • The Whale Trail The Whale Trail The Whale Trail is not a new trail, having been around since about 2002, but it has become extremely popular. It is truly a unique experience, perhaps comparable with ...
  • 10 Pamper-Perfect Spas in South Africa 10 Pamper-Perfect Spas in South Africa Combine your trip to South Africa with a relaxing, revitalising visit to a health spa and experience Africa at it's finest. Our favourite 10 Pamper-Perfect Spas in South Africa are ...
  • Locals share their favourite getaways Locals share their favourite getaways We ask 30 local South Africans to share their favourite holiday destinations and getaways with us. From the more popular destinations like Knysna and the Kruger Park to ...
  • The Oude Skip hike The Oude Skip hike The Oude Skip walk shares portions of its hike with the larger Karbonkelberg Traverse, which is roughly seven hours of hard walk from Hout Bay harbour to Llandudno ...
  • 10 Amazing Game Lodges 10 Amazing Game Lodges South Africa is world renowned for her game reserves and wildlife. The lodges which allow us to experience these in luxury are no less awe inspiring. Our favourites are ...
  • 101 Things to Do with Kids in Cape Town 101 Things to Do with Kids in Cape Town As much as your kids will tell you they can’t wait for the school holidays, the words "I’m bored" inevitably cross their lips. Our "101 things to do with kids in Cape Town" will ...
  • "World's most beautiful Cities" "World's most beautiful Cities" Open space makes Cape Town special. Renowned English sea navigator Sir Francis Drake once referred to Cape Town as the fairest cape in the world. The city houses the ...

Find Accommodation in South Africa
Subscribe to our Feed
Posted on: Friday, 21 September 2012

Townships By Bike – In Jo’burg And Cape Town

Send to Kindle
Bike It!

Get On Your Bike

I’ve recently been inspired by Bicycle Portaits – everyday South Africans and their bicycles.

For those who don’t know, Stan Engelbrecht and Nic Grobler (two guys in Cape Town) raised the funds for the book via a website called Kickstarter and successfully produced the book in three volumes – they ended up with so many awesome pictures and stories that it made more sense to produce three affordable books than one big one (don’t you just love what we can achieve on the web?).

In similar fashion – that is on a bicycle – you can do local township tours of Soweto or Masiphumelele. A dusty, first-hand account in which a ride through the vibrancy of a township from the saddle of a bike is definitely one up on driving through behind the safety glass of a tour bus.

There are a number of tour operators that will handle either of these tours, and each will differ slightly but here is the low down for each:

Township Cycle

Township Cycle


This overcrowded informal shack land, also known as Site 5, lies on the hillside as you enter Hout Bay. By township standards it is small – only about 30 000 people live here – overcrowded, with high unemployment.

Despite the obvious squalor, it’s cheerful (most of the more luxurious neighbourhoods in Cape Town could take a leaf out of their book) and a tour through the streets will happen alongside children, who when they’re not in school find visitors a novelty, women roasting mealie cobs or hanging out their washing and kwaito or hip hop music from the windows of cars that barely look as if they’ll make it to the main road (the cars, not the windows).

Bikes are supplied by BEN – the Bicycle Empowerment Network – who get old and broken bicycles from Europe, which they fix cheaply and sell to locals. A tour (one of the bicycle tours is accredited by Fair Trade in Tourism SA) could include a visit to a local sangoma, a stop at a local children’s creche, a Habitat for Humanity home-building project, a vegetable garden project and somewhere for tea or lunch.

Bike Tour Of Soweto

Bike Tour Of Soweto


Soweto, by comparison, is huge. A third of Johannesburg‘s residents are said to live here, which makes it the most populous black urban residential area in the country and one of the most popular tours to take (few South Africans have visited, let alone on a bike, but visitors to the country make it a priority).

Soweto is regarded as the most metropolitan township in the country, responsible for establishing trends in fashion, music, dance, language and politics.

A township tour of Soweto will probably include highights like the Hector Pieterson Memorial, the former homes of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu in Vilikazi Street (nowhere else in the world can claim 2 Nobel laureates on one street), Meadowlands – one of the oldest suburbs in Soweto and to which black people were ‘sent’ after being forcibly removed from ‘white’ areas during apartheid. You will pass the Orlando cooling towers, enjoy local beer at a shebeen, or visit a workers’ hostel. There are alternative tours to Kliptown too. Soweto is large, so you’ll need a whole day at least.

Useful Links:

Johannesburg Hotels
Cape Town Hotels
Cape Town Tours
South Africa Accom
South Africa Events

Things to do in South Africa

Cycling in Cape Town


Wanda Coustas


Wanda Coustas has written in one form or another for 10 years, seven of them as a copyblogger. She has travelled the Western Cape extensively and the rest of the country in protracted road trips that have given her both joy and an ongoing relish for experiencing what she writes about first-hand. She is a trained opera singer, poet, eurythmy dancer, philosopher, and bee whisperer.

Related Posts: