A First-Timer’s Guide To South Africa For Muslim Travellers


Nadhirah •  Jan 29, 2018

Hey, did you know that South Africa is so much more than just ostriches, rugby, and that infamous Paralympian?

Credit: Giphy

Yes! It has everything you could possibly want out of a holiday destination from amazing wildlife to rich history to plenty of Halal food options and even prayer spaces everywhere, to boot! Like seriously, just look at this and tell me honestly that your interest isn’t piqued:

Credit: Christina on Flickr

Okay Nadhirah, you’ve caught my attention. I’ve booked my plane ticket and taken time off work. What is there to see, do, and eat?’ I’m glad you asked ?

P.S. Too lazy to plan your trip? Why not let us help you??

Here we go!

Top things to do

1. Experience Lion King IRL before the live-action one comes out ?

When I said that South Africa has everything you could possibly want out of a holiday, I really did mean everything. Step straight into National Geographic and see the magnificent beasts for yourself in their natural habitat. If you get lucky, you may even see all of the “Big Five” game animals—lion, Cape buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros, and leopard!

There’s a myth that going on a safari will cost you an arm and a leg but honestly there’s a safari for every budget. If you want to go all out and stay in a private safari lodge then go for it but if you’re more towards the frugal end of the spectrum then just pop on over to the South African National Parks website (sanparks.org)! SANParks properties are much cheaper than their privately owned counterparts. You can also save cost by driving yourself instead of getting a guide and camping out instead of staying in a cottage. And don’t worry about safety! There are different kinds of camps to cater for various levels of adventurousness: wilderness camps, rest camps, and bush camps.

#HHWT Tip: If you go to a large reserve (such as Kruger Park), you’ll spend about 70% of your time just looking for the animals since they’re so spread out. If you want to go when it’s easier to spot them, go during winter (June -  August) when there isn’t much greenery so you can see further across the plain.

2. Make it a road trip ?

Credit: Henti Smith on Flickr

Honestly, the best way to hit all the spots in South Africa is to rent a car and just drive everywhere. As an added bonus, you’ll get to admire all the countryside scenery, check out their quirky roadside stops, and all at your own leisurely pace. All of the international airports have car rental services (such as Hertz, Avis, Sixt, and Thrifty)  and prices start at roughly 165 ZAR (16 SGD) per day—a worthwhile investment if you ask me!

There are many South African road trip itineraries out there, but for first-timers we highly recommend driving from Stormsrivier to Cape Town. This way you’ll get to experience the beauty of the Garden Route while also not missing out on the tourist capital of Cape Town!

Credit: @kathryntamblyn on Instagram

#HHWT Tip: Did you know that many of the fast-food outlets that you can find at petrol stations in South Africa are Halal-certified? ?  This means that you too can participate in the road trip ritual of eating junk food. Just know that some chains, like McDonald's, are Halal-certified nationwide whilst others only have select Halal chains. You can check the Halal status of a specific restaurant at Zabihah.com or at the South Africa National Halal Association (SANHA) website.

3. Drive along the Garden Route ?

Credit: Riaan West on Instagram

The Garden Route is the embodiment of the saying ‘it’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey.’ This 300 km stretch of coast from the Western Cape to the Eastern Cape is rich with breathtaking views and topography so incredible it’ll leave you wondering if you’re driving through multiple countries at once.

Credit: Sharyn Hodges Photography on Facebook

Photogenic sceneries are not all that this route offers, however! Within it is Garden Route National Park—a massive national park comprised of smaller ones, laden with things to see and do.

#HHWT Tip: To fully appreciate the Garden Route, we recommend you stay in one of the adorable and tourist-friendly towns along the way such as George, Knysna, Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay.

Address: Dumbleton Road, Wilderness, 6560, South Africa

Fee: A conservation fee is required for every day spent inside the park. The fees are 216 ZAR (21 SGD) for Storms River, 96 ZAR (9.43 SGD) for Nature’s Valley, 130 ZAR (12.76 SGD) for Wilderness per person.

Contact: +27 44 877 0046

Website | Facebook | Instagram

4. Embrace your adventurous side at Tsitsikamma National Park ??‍♀️

Credit: Michiel Van Balen on Flickr

Overwhelmed with all the options available at the Garden Route National Park? Go to Tsitsikamma—it’s the one-stop shop for all things outdoorsy in South Africa. Here, you can bungee jump off of Bloukrans Bridge (the highest bridge bungee in the world!), kayak through the Storms River, zipline across the Kruis River and more! Check out the tourism companies Tsitsikamma Falls Adventures, Face Adrenalin, Untouched Adventures, and Stormsriver Adventures for more details.

Credit: Namaqua Camper on Facebook

If you prefer to take things at a gentler pace, not to worry because there are activities for you too. You can hike along several incredibly photogenic trails, experience the forest life from up above with a canopy tour, and brave the Storms River Suspension Bridge.

Credit: Ben Haeringer on Flickr

Address: South, Paarl, 7624, South Africa

Opening hours: 7AM-10PM daily

Fee/price: A conservation fee is required for every day spent inside the park. The fees are 216 ZAR (21 SGD) for Storms River and 96 ZAR (9.43 SGD) for Nature’s Valley

Contact: +27 42 281 1607

Website | Facebook

5. Make some feathered (or furry!) friends at the animal sanctuaries ?

Like all parts of the Garden Route National Park, Tsitsikamma is home to plenty of nature reserves. The most notable among them are the Birds of Eden free-flight aviary and the Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary—both homes to thousands of tame free-roaming birds and monkeys. Don’t worry, they’ve been rehabilitated so they are unafraid of humans and you’re welcome to take as many closeup shots as your heart desires.

Credit: Andrew Miller on Flickr

Just remember and abide by the cardinal rule of all animal reserves!

Address: Garden Route, South Africa (Detailed directions for both Monkeyland and Birds of Eden can be found on their website)

Operating Hours: 8AM-5PM daily

Single ticket prices:

1 Nov 2017 - 31 Oct 2018: 230 ZAR (23 SGD) for adults, 115 ZAR (12 SGD) for children (3-12 years)

1 Nov 2018 - 31 Oct 2019: 260 ZAR (26 SGD) for adults, 130 ZAR (13 SGD) for children (3-12 years)

Combo ticket prices (2 sanctuaries):

1 Nov 2017 - 31 Oct 2018: 360 ZAR (34 SGD) for adults, 180 ZAR (18 SGD) for children (3-12 years)

1 Nov 2018 - 31 Oct 2019: 410 ZAR (41 SGD) for adults, 205 ZAR (21 SGD)for children (3-12 years)

Contact: +27 (0) 44 534 8906

Birds of Eden: Website | Facebook | Instagram

Monkeyland: Website | Facebook| Instagram

6. Get up close and personal with some Great White sharks ?

Credit: Gaftels on Flickr

What’s life without some adventure right? This exhilarating activity is offered by a large number of companies scattered across the coast, some big names among them being White Shark Ventures, SharkZone, and Great White Shark Tours. In fact, South Africa is one of the top 10 countries in the world to go shark diving! So go on, hop in a cage and hope that these sharks are as nice as the ones in Finding Nemo.

#HHWT Tip: Book these trips online well in advance and allow at least two days in your itinerary for diving in case of poor weather.

Duration: 4-6 hours depending on the shark activity, usually in the morning

Fee: 1000 ZAR (99 SGD) - 2000 ZAR (200 SGD) depending on the tourist company and package

7. Live out your flying fantasies ?

Credit: leyla.a  on Flickr

Enjoyed seeing the world from great depths after the shark dive? Then go the opposite extreme and experience it from great heights! Just like shark diving, there are plenty of tourist companies which offer this experience such as Fly Cape Town, Adrenaline Hunter, and Parapax. It’s so common in Cape Town that about an hour before sunset if you look towards the ocean, you can see dozens of para-gliders floating gently in the sky. Aladdin was right, it really is a whole new world up there.

*Disclaimer: We cannot guarantee that a flock of birds will fly in sync with you, sorry ?

8. Admire everything the light touches from one of the two Capes ⛰

Credit: Bas Leenders on Flickr

I mean...it’s called Cape Town for a reason, right? There are two well-known Capes—Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. Contrary to popular belief, neither of them are actually the southernmost point of Africa (that’d be Cape Agulhas) but they are still well worth a visit for the views that make you feel as if you’re standing on the edge of the world.

There are plenty of high-altitude landmarks in Cape Town if you’ve got a taste for hikes and incredible views. Be sure to also check out Table Mountain, Signal Hill, and Lion’s Head!

P.S. Can't wait to explore South Africa? Start planning your trip now?

Must-try Muslim-friendly food

Maybe you’re a foodie who firmly believes that trying the local cuisine is core to the traveling experience. Or maybe you just eat for sustenance and want to know where you can find food that doesn’t require you to prepare it yourself. Whatever the case, don’t you worry, we’ve got you covered!

Cape Town

9. Bo-Kaap Kombuis

Credit: @logonfood on Instagram

Have a taste of delicious authentic Cape Malay cuisine with a stunning view of Table Mountain at this Muslim owned family-run restaurant! Here you can get bobotie, a traditional dish made up of spiced lamb or beef mince and an egg-based topping. (It has been described as similar to moussaka.) Other traditional Cape Malay dishes you can try there are denning vleis, lamb penang curry, and malva pudding. Just be sure to choose the à la carte, as reviews have said that their buffet does not offer many options.

Credit: Philippe Targino  on Flickr

#HHWT Tip: Bo-Kaap is traditionally known as the Muslim center of Cape Town so there are plenty of mosques nearby! Also, the street itself is known for the brightly-colored houses so be sure to visit in the daytime to take that aesthetic photo.

Halal status: Muslim-owned

Address: 7 August Street, Schotsche Kloof, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa

Operating Hours: 12PM–4PM, 6PM–10PM daily, 12PM–3PM Sundays and closed Mondays

Price: $$-$$$

Contact: + 27 21 422 5446

Website | Facebook

10. Addis in Cape

Credit: Addis in Cape Ethiopian Restaurant on Facebook

This restaurant offers authentic Ethiopian food in all of its wondrous glory! Addis in Cape strives to provide its customers with the most thoroughly Ethiopian experience possible and this extends beyond the food to the manner of serving it and the decor of the restaurant too.

Credit: Addis in Cape Ethipian Restaurant on Facebook

You must try the kitfo, shimbera asa wot, and, of course, the Ethiopian coffee. There is not a negative review in sight so you just know that this restaurant is not to be missed!

Note: Though the food is all Halal, there is a fully functioning bar on the premises. Do dine at your own discretion.

Address: 41 Church Street, Corner Long & Church Street, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa

Operating Hours: Lunch—12PM–4:30 PM on Monday -  Saturday (closed for lunch on public holidays) Dinner—4:30 PM–10:30 PM Monday - Saturday. (Closed on Sundays)

Price: $$

Email/Contact: [email protected] + 27 21 424 5722

Website | Facebook

11. Jiah Restaurant

Credit: @jiahfood on Instagram

Jiah is the place you go to when your group can’t decide on what to eat, because there will surely be something for everyone. This Halal-certified restaurant serves a variety of dishes from different cuisines and even have a fantastically unique section of their menu dedicated to fusion food called ‘East Meets West’. As one review put it, ‘I have been there twice, and the two experiences were different...what stayed the same is [sic] that the food was tasty.’

#HHWT Tip: Fully Halal casual fine dining restaurants aren’t all that common in Cape Town so be sure to make a reservation or you may be waiting a while!

Halal status: Halal-certified

Address: 70 New Church Street, Gardens, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa

Operating Hours: 5 PM–10 PM Monday and Tuesday, 12 PM–10 PM Wednesday and Thursday, 2 AM–10 PM Friday, 12 PM–10 PM Saturday, 12 PM–5 PM Sunday

Price: $$$

Contact: + 27 21 707 1001

Website | Instagram

Garden Route

12. Mega Bite Takeouts

Credit: @za_foodie on Instagram

If you want to grab a quick bite while still having a taste of the local cuisine, then Mega Bite is for you! This fast food restaurant is run by people who are passionate about the food they serve. They strive to source only the best ingredients and serve a wide range of foods from steaks to seafood! You can also try a gatsby there, a staple South African corner shop footlong sandwich made up of a bread roll, chips (a.k.a: French fries) and various fillings depending on the vendor.

Address: 24 Gladiolus Street, Malabar, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

Operating Hours: only open on Friday from 6 PM–10 PM and Saturday 5 PM–10 PM

Price: $

Email/Contact: [email protected] +27 41 457 1524


13. Raasoie: The Kitchen of India

Credit: Raasoie—The Kitchen of India on Facebook

Enjoy a little spice on your road trip through the Garden Route at Raasoie! This restaurant is very accommodating to all their customers and will try to cater to your needs in any way possible be it by making room for large parties or changing their dishes so that they’re vegetarian-friendly. It’s a favorite of locals and tourists alike so is well worth a visit!

Address: 9 Dolphins Leap, Beach Road, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape

Operating Hours: 12 PM–3 PM, 5 PM–10 PM daily, closed on Mondays

Price: $

Contact: + 27 41 582 3981


And if all else fails, halal fast food chains is the way to go!

14. Burger King

All of Burger King’s meat is certified Halal in South Africa. That means that you can sink your teeth into your classic faves like the Whopper or even try something new like the Chicken Fingers!

Credit: @burgerkingsa on Instagram

Address: Multiple locations (You may refer to their official website)

Facebook | Instagram | Website

15. McDonald’s

All seasoned travellers know that McDonald’s tastes different in every country. Some people even have a travel ritual whereby they must try the local McDonald’s everywhere they go! If you’re one of those people then not to worry, you don’t have to limit yourself to the dreaded filet-o-fish when you go to South Africa, because all of their meat is Halal certified!

Credit: @mariska_504  on Instagram

Address: Multiple locations (You may refer to their official website)

Instagram | Website

16. KFC

Yep, KFC is here to join the ranks of Halal fast food chains in South Africa! Get your hands on some of that finger-lickin’ goodness in between your adventures. It makes great road trip food too ?

Credit: @kfcsouthafrica on Instagram

Address: Multiple locations (You may refer to their official website)

Website | Instagram

**Bonus: Biltong!

Biltong is spiced, dried and cured meat that’s eaten as a snack. In other words: jerky’s African cousin. It’s usually made out of beef but can be made of other meats such as chicken, fish, ostrich and game (kudu, springbok and wildebeest). There are all sorts of different ways of making it so buy a little of everything and see which one you like best! Just make sure to have some toothpicks with you ?  There is a bounty of Halal biltong so you don’t have to miss out! You can find Halal versions of this tasty little treat everywhere, from gas stations to supermarkets.

Honestly, we’ve only grazed the surface on all the things to see and do in South Africa. There are about a million other reasons to go there so what are you waiting for?

P.S. Your dream trip to South Africa awaits. Time to make it a reality!?