Eight Days a Tourist: Tosin Ajibade in Durban and Mpumalanga – #NigeriaMeetSouthAfrica
Right on the heels of my Los Angeles BET trip was another trip (READ ABOUT THE BET EXPERIENCE HERE), this time to South Africa, hosted by South African Airways and South Africa Tourism. I had a lot more company this time, traveling with Tiwa Savage, Ay Makun, Praiz, Juliet Ibrahim, Eki Ogunbor, Dotun Cool FM, Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Sisi Yemmie, Ebenezer, Yvonne Nelson and other Nigerian and Ghanaian influencers. The more, the merrier!
I left for the airport early because I had to pick my bag from KLM. I had flown in to Lagos from Amsterdam the previous night, but one of my bags didn’t come to Lagos, so I was told to come by 7pm to claim it.
On getting to the airport some minutes past 5pm, I checked in for my flight to Durban hoping to get my other bag from KLM before the counter closed. Finally 7pm came and I went to the arrival hall to claim my bag which came out several minutes after I got there. I can guess what you’re probably thinking. Don’t you rest, Tosin? Do you want to kill yourself? I assure you I rested, even though I had some work to do on my trip.
One thing I hate is rushing to the airport or to catch a flight. In this case, I was in a mess as I had misplaced my Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus. Still, I had to check in the luggage I had claimed from KLM before the counter closed and when I was done with that, I took time to search for my phone. I knew I had mislaid it somewhere between the arrival hall and departure hall but I was not sure where exactly.
I was told to report to FAAN authorities but I didn’t have enough time to do that; I would have to wait until I returned to Lagos.
Although I stayed positive, I also knew I put myself in this mess due to my nervousness about missing the counter check-in. By now though, I was calmer, and I locked my phone online.
I knew that Durban this weekend was going to be lit up and I was looking forward to exciting moments during this trip.
Day One: Arriving Johannesburg and Durban
After a long flight from Lagos to Johannesburg, we had just an hour before our next flight to Durban.
Our flight to Johannesburg from Lagos was smooth, thanks to South African Airways. We arrived in Johannesburg at 5:30am and we cleared at immigration and customs which took us about an hour or so. We headed to the domestic departure for our next flight to Durban for 7:30am.
We boarded our flight around 7:35am but the flight was delayed for over 3 hours due to technical faults, so we left Johannesburg sometime past 11 and arrived in Durban just after 12 noon.
The sun beaming in the sky, the beautiful landscape of the city and the warm reception from our hosts in Durban made for a very welcoming atmosphere. We left the airport to our hotel, Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani, North Beach, Durban, all tired from the long trip. Once we got checked in to our rooms, we had lunch by the seaside which is just opposite the hotel.
We were all hungry and tired from our trip but we managed to crack some jokes before our meal was served. Lunch was delicious. I had pasta with BBQ ribs and lemon water. Everyone on the table had their own cravings and the selections from different people made the table look beautiful. We retired to our rooms at 5:35pm to rest before heading out for dinner in four hours’ time.
Day Two: Moses Mabhida Stadium, Marine World, Turn Up For Tiwa Savage!
It started as a slow day for me, but being part of the group I came with energized me.
Our day started with a visit to Moses Mabhida Stadium where we were taken on a tour of the museum located on the ground floor.
After that, we went to the hilltop from where we could see the whole city of Durban. We spent roughly 10 to 15 minutes and then we had to leave for a dolphin show at uShaka Marine World. We watched the dolphin show which was slated for 12:30pm and after the show we had lunch — a three course meal.
After lunch, we went to the hotel to change our outfits for Tiwa Savage‘s party which was a sunset cruise organised by South Africa Tourism. The yacht charter left shortly after 5pm so we could catch the sunset, and then the party started. The regional manager for South Africa Tourism West Africa, Hloni Pitso, addressed the media from Durban, Nigeria and Ghana on the reason why we need to push tourism from West Africa to South Africa and vice versa and he also talked about the countries coming together for progress regardless of the issues that have long plagued the continent.
We were back before 7:30pm to get ready for dinner at the hotel. The party was fun and you know Lagos people love parties! We turned up for Tiwa Savage in a special way!
Day Three: Durban July Day!
One thing I learnt is that Durban night life is always alive on Florida Road. It does not sleep! You have two options: get to the club early to secure your table even when you reserved it, or just start the party in your room!
It was the morning of the biggest fashion and polo event in Durban — Durban July Day, which is held annually on the first Saturday in July. I woke up very tired after the night-crawling the previous night. I managed to get dressed for the event and I was ready before our call time which was 1pm. My outfit was by Kathrin Kidger, one of the leading female fashion designers in South Africa, my hair fascinator by Nigeria’s Urezkulture, and my makeup by me. The rest of the group was also ready for the most anticipated event for the weekend, and we all looked gorgeous in our outfits.
Durban July Day is South Africa’s premier horse racing event and it has held every single year since it started in 1897. 119 years! Isn’t that something? We had fun. It’s truly Africa’s greatest horse racing event, and we showed Durban the Naija style!
Later, we partied till late in the night. It was the same night Chris Brown performed in Durban so after the Durban July event, we turned up at the Chris Brown party later that night.
Day Four: Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Howick.
Today was a great day and I wore blue. Blue is one of my favourite colours and I felt like wearing it today. Guess what? It worked for me!
We started our day with a visit to the Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Howick, which was over an hour’s drive from Durban. Our tour guide Sbu explained to us what happened to Madiba when he was captured. After he had successfully evaded capture by apartheid operatives for 17 months, it was on this remote road that police, on August 5 1962, flagged down Nelson Mandela who was pretending to be a chauffeur, with fellow comrade Cecil Williams in the passenger seat, and arrested him. This marked the beginning of what Madiba termed “Long Walk to Freedom” as it led to several trials which eventually saw him spend 27 years in prison.
We got down from the bus and took photos of the spot where he was captured, and then we visited the museum where his memory is kept alive. It’s a free museum for now and donations are accepted. Our guide at the museum, Ayanda, took us round and showed us the life Madiba Nelson Mandela lived from youth to adulthood, and then his prison time on Robben Island and how he was the first democratic head of state to declare a day for blacks and whites to live as one in South Africa. Since Nelson Mandela bridged the gap between whites and blacks, the ill treatment of blacks by whites has drastically reduced. Racism still exists in the country, but it is not as intense as it used to be, and rarely escalates unless it is being discussed.
We went round the museum and the tour ended at the capture spot where a unique, stunning sculpture designed by artist Marco Cianfanelli stands. It is a masterpiece created with 50 poles which make a face, not just an ordinary face but an iconic one — the face of Nelson Mandela. I was awestruck. It was my second time there, but it surpassed my first experience by far. This time, I had time to explore the area, take great photos and walk round the site. It’s a tourist site and for me I’d rather take photographs than just look.
Sisi Yemmie, who was also part of the group, discovered a great place to take photos and the pictures came out well so I took the same spot and my photographs came out great too. It was like a photoshoot session. This time nature was with me, opportunity came and I grabbed it. I had ample time to take lots of photos with my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge courtesy Samsung Mobile Nigeria and the outcome was fantastic thanks to Sisi Yemmie.
I was fascinated by the outcome and became obsessed with the photos. The amazing blue sky and the fantastic golden sun were just there waiting for me, and this made the photos wow!!! My signature hair, sunglasses and blue outfit were perfect complements and it was a moment to capture. I loved the photos and shared them immediately on social media. I have never before seen myself look great in an outdoor photo when nature was with me ???.
After the photo shoot session, we left the site and made our way back to the hotel where we had 20 minutes to lay back and relax before going for dinner at Canelands Beach Club. On getting to Canelands Beach Club, it was windy and cold and we were famished. The group sat at two different tables, both close to each other. You know Nigerians don’t play with food. We waited only a few minutes before we got served. Dinner was pap with their local sauce, bread, vegetable salad, grilled beef, and lamb with some seafood topped with wine, and whiskey to ginger us.
Dinner was delicious, but you know there’s no party like a Lagos party and we created one. We were bored at a point, and then the DJ played some old school music which we didn’t hesitate to sing along to.
I grabbed the fork on my table and used it as a mic for the songs the DJ played and before we knew it, we were into it and the party started. We danced like there was no tomorrow. In no time, shoki and galala entered the dance. We had fun! South Africans who were at the beach club knew that some Nigerians were around and they joined us. It was fun to see Nigerians, Ghanaians and South Africans dance together like there is no hunger, political upheaval, war, fuel scarcity, ‘Tomato Ebola’, and power shortage in our countries. It was beautiful to see people from diverse backgrounds come together as one. I was happy. The night didn’t end without some renditions by Tiwa Savage, who sang for the people at the beach club.
Our hosts were not left out: Hloni also danced and partied with us while Jennifer rocked it on her seat.
If every day was a party, I would like to do it again with this group.
Day Five: Goodbye Durban, Hello Mpumalanga!
It was hard to say good bye to Durban but we had to leave as we had a flight to catch to Mpumalanga.
Our flight from Durban to Nelspruit was an hour long. We arrived in Nelspruit past 12 in the afternoon. The airport was sooooo nice, better than Port Harcourt international Airport in Nigeria! It is one of their local airports and I was impressed at what I saw. I said a little prayer for my country because I know we can get better.
We got into our shuttle bus for our transfer to the hotel. We were lodged into Protea Hotel in Hazyview, Mpumulanga and we enjoyed a pleasant welcome from the staff of the hotel and our host, Janette.
Each of us was treated to a massage at the spa an hour later and we also rested in our rooms before dinner around 8:30pm. We just love to party no matter where we find ourselves; we started the mini party from the restaurant and it ended in Praiz’s room. It ended in Praise ?
Day Six: Three Rondavels, God’s Window, Elephant Whispers, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, Bonfire Dinner, and Blyde River Canyon
We had a long day and a list of tourist destinations to cover in Mpumulanga. We were told that Mpumulanga is the place where the sun rises and sets and I witnessed sunrise and sunset in Mpumulanga; it was beautiful, especially for a lover of sunsets like me. We set out for our trips around 9am and our first stop was Elephant Whispers, which provides guests with a wide range of Elephant safari activities to enjoy. On getting to the reception, we signed an indemnity form just in case anything happens, then walked down to elephant sanctuary where we were given a brief history about the elephants. We also got to ride on them and it was an exhilarating experience! The name of the elephant I rode on was Thambo.
After our tour at the Elephant Whispers, we took a long ride to Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve in Graskop, home to God’s Window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, and the Three Rondavels. The popular vantage point, God’s Window, was our second destination.
On arriving God’s Window, I felt emotional not because it is called God’s Window but because the last time I visited was on my birthday in 2014 and I spent it with friends who were my tour guides then. It was a good feeling coming back after two years. The scenery is magnificent and the payment to enter the site is R60. Whoever named the site did well.
What exactly is God’s Window? It’s a highlight along what is known as the Panorama Route in the eastern Mpumalanga province. The natural wonders on the route range from cascading waterfalls to impressive mountain gorges. There are about four to five stops to view the site and a last stop at the top which is almost reaching the clouds. I did the long walk to the top to capture the moment and also say a little prayer to God. I also imagined what would happen if the site were in Nigeria; we all can guess lol!
The site is a peaceful place to commune with God, appreciate life more and see the beauty it has to offer.
Kelechi Amadi-Obi, Hloni, AY, Praiz, Ebenezer, Dotun and I made it to the top and it was worth the time and effort. We took as many photographs as we could, and I also took a deep breath to appreciate the moment. I can’t do this all the time, but it made me more grateful for life.
After our stop at God’s Window, we went to Bourke’s Luck Potholes at the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. The last time I was here was in December 2015 —I spent my Christmas and New Year in Nelspruit, Mpumulanga. Coming back gave me joy and I was visibly excited. On getting to Bourke’s Luck Potholes, we encountered a baboon that was scavenging for food in the bin and there was a sign that said ‘Do not feed the animals’. We were intrigued as the animal was looking for food and throwing things out of the bin. We made our way to the potholes. It was my fourth time visiting this site — the previous trips were made with my friends in Nelspruit — and this is another location that makes one wonder how God created the earth. Bourke’s Luck Potholes is not manmade, it’s a natural reserve. River activity over hundreds and hundreds of years has shaped the landscape, shaping a breathtaking and elaborate arrangement of natural rock formations and pools of water.
Sisi Yemmie and I did the historic jump at the site. Other members of the group were scared we would break our legs and we had to prove to them that we are young and we can do it. When we first arrived in Durban, we started the ‘oya jump’ from King Shaka International Airport and it was no surprise we did it till the end of the trip, even at Bourke’s Luck Potholes. We were so vain. We loved it too.
After our tour around the mysterious potholes, we made our way to the panoramic site of The Three Rondavels. On getting there, I saw the scenic site and, looking at it again, I remembered it was one of the questions asked during my exams for South Africa Specialist. I said to myself, ‘This is Drakensberg’ and then I asked the tour guide what the place was called and he said the area is called Drakensberg. Then I knew I didn’t fail my exam.
The Three Rondavels is a popular tourist site in Mpumulanga and there is a little bit of history to it. The Three Rondavels are three round mountain tops with slightly pointed tops, very similar to the traditional round or oval African homesteads made with local materials called rondavels.
They are sometimes also called the Three Sisters, and were once known as The Chief and His Three Wives — the flat-topped peak represented Mapjaneng, famous for opposing invading Swazis in a memorable battle is on the right, whilst the rondavels are three of his more troublesome wives, Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto.
The view point is spectacular. From here one looks over the canyon to the Three Rondavels on the other side of the northern edges of the Drakensberg range of mountains, an outlook that is overwhelmingly beautiful and deserves more than a moment’s appraisal.
The aesthetically pleasing formations are explained geographically as the slow erosion of underlying soft stone, leaving the exposed quartzite and shale rondavels at which we marvel. Whatever their origin, they are undoubtedly magnificent. Together with God’s Window and Bourkes Luck Potholes, the Three Rondavels are a highlight of any trip along the third largest canyon in the world.
It was a great experience to learn the history of the Three Rondavels. The weather was funny; it was really cold at this time, in fact I was freezing, and yet it was sunny.
After dinner at the restaurant in the hotel, we had a bonfire night. It was our last night in Mpumulanga. We just loved the syllables in the name – MPUMULANGAAAAAAAA. We were entertained by young dancers in Zulu dance and songs. They also regaled us with songs about the Late Nelson Mandela. July is the month where the late icon is celebrated in South Africa, and they heartily performed the songs for him.
The night didn’t end without us showing our own dance steps from West Africa, from shoki to azonto to dab. We don’t even own dabbing but all join as we dabbed to the African tunes.
AY, Dotun, Juliet Ibrahim, Reggie, Sisi Yemmie and I were on the dance floor showing them as we moved to the local tunes and gave them shoki. The Zulu dancers also copied and followed suit. The night didn’t end without us spraying some rands.
Day Seven: Homeward Bound
Our call time was 7:30am and we had to leave for the airport in 30 minutes. It was a lazy morning for me as I was tired and also didn’t want to leave Mpumulanga.
Our flight from Mpumulanga to Johannesburg was a 45-minute flight and we departed around 10am, arriving O.R Tambo International for our flight back to Lagos. ‘Eish!!’ to copy the South Africans’ sign of relief! I copied that well.
There are some slangs you need to learn when visiting SA, like ‘Sharp’, ‘Sure Sure’ and ‘Eish!’
We arrived Muritala Muhammed International Lagos at 8:10pm.
Some of the top memories for me in Durban were the museum at Moses Mabhiba Stadium, Tiwa’s party for her Album ‘RED“, Dinner at Canesland Beach Club (and the party was lit! Did you see all the Instagram posts? Check them out HERE), Nelson Mandela Capture Site in Howick (where I shot great photos of me in my Kale Keluma off-shoulder outfit, see the photos on my page HERE) Durban July, and the nightlife experience on Florida Road.
In Mpumulanga, my best memories are the three sites at the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, and the bonfire. I especially loved that we visited God’s Window and The Three Rondavels!
My Samsung Galaxy S7 edge was also one of the highlights during this trip. Eish!!! It took great photos and everyone wanted a picture from the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge. Special thanks to Samsung Mobile Nigeria; the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge was a great companion. My photos and shots were epic! I also tried out the slow motion feature on the phone which was exciting because we watched videos of ourselves in slow motion.
I must say a BIG thank you to South African Airways and South Africa Tourism for this awesome opportunity to explore South Africa. It was an unforgettable experience. Also, seeing the Three Rondavels in Mpumulanga was the biggest highlight because it was one of the questions in my exam and I got to read about it before seeing it live. Ngiyabonga! Ngiyabonga!! Ngiyabonga!!!
All photos in this post were taken with the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge.