26 South African sights you will never see in Ireland.

lion head carpet in shop

26 South African sights you will never see in Ireland.

That’s right, you will never see these scenes in Ireland (unless you look at my photographs), because these are all typical scenes you would find in South Africa. Some of these are so normal to South Africans, it has taken me thirteen years of living in Ireland to realise these are not normal features for other places too!

Since 2004 we have returned to South Africa every two years or so to visit family, it’s important that our kids maintain relationships with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  Apart from that we love the country and look forward to our trips with great excitement. I think my husband starts his countdowns about 9 months before we go.

In April of last year (2017) we went on a three week road trip that began in Cape Town, followed the ‘Garden Route’ to George and then on through the ‘Karoo’ up to Kimberley in the centre of the country. We returned to Cape Town via the same route. On our journey it was hard not to compare how different South Africa is to Ireland. Some of the differences are fantastic and others are not so good. Each time we go back I appreciate more and more the good things that both countries have to offer and mindful of the downsides of living in either. I recognise that neither county is perfect but both have so much beauty and charm.

We are well settled now in Ireland but I do miss so much from our previous home country.  I miss the huge diversity of cultures and languages (11 official – Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu, most people speak more than one language).

I miss the spectacular variety of foods, the seemingly endless sunshine and outdoors life style, the wide skies where the mountains form a circle around the horizon 100km away, vivid blooms of purples, pinks and reds, the smell of baked earth and the sweet aroma of fynbos, the varied bird calls and the high pitched cheep of the cicada beetle in the heat of the day.

I admire the entrepreneurial spirit of the hard pressed folk, the positive attitudes of those who are most down trodden, the creativity and energy that has created such a vibrant society in the midst of the challenges of dire poverty, violent crime, dwindling education standards, overwhelming unemployment and corrupt governance.

I could list so much more that was remarkable and eventful. There is literally nothing like international travel for broadening horizons, especially for kids. Mine were struck by how different life is for many of the children in South Africa and how much we have to be grateful for. They also loved bonding with their cousins, exploring new sights, spotting wildlife and trying new foods. It is good to be home but it is going to be difficult having to wait another two years before we can go again.

Here follows just some of the sights from this trip that you would not see here in Ireland:

1. Restaurants can reliably serve customers outside under the trees in late Autumn without fear of the rain in South Africa:

Long table set outside beneath the trees

Cafe Bon Bon, Franschoek, Western Cape

2. Boule + beach + bush hats + beer bellies on a beach near George:

Three men playing boule on the beach

Herold’s Bay George

3. Shopping trolleys used as a means of transportation for a business anywhere in South Africa:

Three men pushing an overloaded shopping trolley

Business transportation

4 ‘Don’t care attitude’ Hitch-hikers waiting on the on ramp of the motorway right next to the NO Hitch-hiking sign:

On ramp with hitchhikers

Thumbs up or thumbs down?

5: Acres and acres of mega shopping malls with air conditioning, free parking, state of the art toilet facilities and car guards:

Outeniqua Shopping mall exterior

Outeniqua Mall, George

6: Vehicle guards wherever you park:

Car guard in parking lot

Please tip your guard, it’s his only income

7: Friendly smoking signs:

You May Smoke Here sign

I’m not a smoker so it’s good to see the smoking area is not right in front of the entrance.

8: Biltong (desiccated beef or venison) shops loved and made by South Africans, even in Ireland:

Strips of biltong - dried beef

A vegetarian’s nightmare!

9: Wide horizons and 6 hours of driving through desert scrub:

Wide open Scrubland

Miles and miles and miles of not much at all

10: Straighter than straight, straight roads, NEVER seen in Ireland:

Straight road to the horizon

Endless seeming roads that stretch to the horizon and beyond.

11. Child buskers on marimbas earning a living:

Three young people playing marimbas under a tree

Kids entertaining passing tourists for a few rands


12: Thorn trees on white grass plains (I really miss the umbrella thorn):

Thorn tree surrounded by dried grass

Note the colony of weaver bird’s nests dangling from the tree.

12. Using the open back of a bakkie (pick-up) for game viewing:

kids sitting in the back of a bakkie (pickup)

One way of squeezing everyone in

14: Nests that hang like bunches of baskets (Weaver bird):

Two weaver birds nests

clever birds keeping their young away from snakes

15: Picnic areas under gum trees with built in braais (bbq):

Blue gum tree and barbeque in picnic site

Rooifontein Eco Centre, Kimberley

16: The MOUNTAINS of (cheap) fresh fruit and veg:

vegetables piled high in store

Fruit and Veg City, Kimberley

17: Koppies (table-topped hills) and towns sometimes up to 200 km apart:

flat lanscape with koppies in the distance and sign post reading Beaufort West Victoria West

If you break down between one town and the next and need help you may have a bit of a wait or a bit of a walk.

18: Roadside farm shops, aloe and dust combo:

Karoo farm shop with aloe shrubs and tall palm trees

Chutney, koeksusters, rusks or biltong anyone?

19: Kiddies climbing frame decorated with antelope skulls:

climbing frame with antelope skull

‘Watch out for the thorns, snakes and scorpions sweetheart.’

20: Shops selling a typical assortment of animal skins, art, bric-a-brac, preserves, meat and wood for your braai fire:

Karoo farm shop interior filled with furniture, animal skins and preserves

Decorate your home or your larder with the produce of the land

21: River beds with NO water in them, imagine that in Ireland?:

dried river bed, karoo

Desiccated water course, Great Karoo

wide dried river bed

an even wider river bed with not a drop of water

stony river bed and hills

We must have passed more than thirty dry river beds


22: You may get to pat a giraffe in South Africa:

giraffe being stroked by two children

He’s a gentle giant


23: Men travel together in the same truck as ostriches:

truck with ostriches and farm hands

Ostriches en route to the happy ostrich home in the sky

24: The fields are green in Ireland but in South Africa they may be red:

red fields up to the horizon

Dried grass not a sheep in sight

25: Vast areas of corrugated iron shanty houses with satellite dishes:

shanty town and power lines

Khayelitsha, Cape

shacks made of corrugated iron

the palisade fencing prevents people from crossing the highway

26: Kids using the open ground next to the highway as a soccer pitch:

kids playing football on open land next to a busy higway

but palisade fencing can be breached

So that was a brief snapshot this crazy beautiful country but really, it would be better if you went there to see it for yourself.

PS IMPORTANT to KNOW: if you travel to South Africa with children, you HAVE to have their original birth certificate with you as well as a passport.

Want to read more? Click here to read about our Road Trip in the USA, a camping trip to France and another with tips on travelling with kids 

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18 thoughts on “26 South African sights you will never see in Ireland.”

  1. Oh I love the way you explain things explain things Liberty. You’ve captured the essence of our beautiful country in such a lovely way with both your words and the photos. It gave me goose bumps reading this and yes, I agree, I sure would miss seeing the umbrella thorn too if we were living somewhere else.

  2. Sarah - Mud, Cakes and Wine

    Love this and found it really interesting. The long long roads are so different to our windy ones and the trees are spectacular #Blogstravaganza.

  3. Liberty On the Lighter Side - (LOLS)

    Nice to meet you, I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog. The South Coast is lovely, I’m sure you miss it!

  4. Lucinda E Clarke

    Fabulous [ics, made me so homesick, though we have come back to Europe now. Loved the satellite dish in the informal settlement! Some of those places are amazing inside, complere with furniture from Saville’s!

    1. Liberty On the Lighter Side - (LOLS)

      Thank you! I feel everytime we go back I miss and appreciate it more. The satellite dishes killed me, and I love how they are often wallpapered beautifully with product wrappers.

  5. South Africa is so addictive once been there you can’t help it but to return. What makes south Africa so unique it is townships(ekasi) and its so caring people not to mention the unique culture including 11 official languages.

    1. Liberty On the Lighter Side

      Thanks for your comments, yes I love the people the most, I love making friends across so many different cultures. I know there are problems with the country but most people are so positive.

  6. Wow, awesome pics! I have always wanted to go to South Africa. Perhaps someday.

    “VERY straight roads that disappear over the horizon.” — Hmm, I-80 running through Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska. Straight, boring, and nothing but corn as far as the eye can see! Nice to see other parts of the world are like that, too.

    1. Liberty On the Lighter Side

      I think South Africa would have a lot more in common with the States than European countries purely because of it’s size and diversity in one country. I hope you do make it there – such incredible beauty.

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