If you’re only joining us now, in our Power of Your Green Book blog series we’re highlighting some exciting, exotic locations that you can visit without the hassle of getting a visa. With summer on the horizon, being outside of South Africa seems unthinkable but, you know, people are weird sometimes. So, here are some more options for you to explore:
Let’s start with the obvious, Benin is located in the boot of Africa, nestled between Nigeria and Togo.
Benin was one of many African countries that suffered greatly under colonialism and, as sombre as it seems, there is a sense of pride in embracing this tragic history. Many monuments and buildings have been maintained for future generations to observe and remember those who were sold as slaves. Followers of world history would certainly benefit from visiting Route des Esclaves, which features a slave auction plaza leading to the Gate of No Return at the coast. The route itself is beautiful, making it difficult to fathom how 12 million people traveled this route to be deported.
Benin certainly isn’t all doom and gloom; although it gained independence from France in 1960, it still has many heavy French influences, which naturally brings the flare and flavour typical of le Français. Architecture nerds will certainly get a kick out of visiting the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Miséricorde, more commonly known as Cotonou Cathedral. It’s distinct burgundy and white striped tiled appearance is hard to miss and, though it is an active cathedral, still stands as a monument to the French influence – having been built around 1883.
Ganvie Stilt Village is another fascinating visit, located in the lagoon of Lake Nokoue. The Tofinu people built their homes on stilts to escape from slavers. This became part of their culture, expanding their stilted village to include schools, churches and other structures. The villagers live almost exclusively on fishing and are relatively secluded, however, they’re still warm and welcoming to outsiders – eager to show them their unusual way of life.
Finally, Benin is also known for its ties to voodoo. Ouidah is Benin’s voodoo heartland and thought to be the spiritual birthplace of voodoo or vodun as it known in Benin. Often misunderstood, voodoo officially became a Beninese religion in 1989, and is thought to be increasing in popularity with around 17% of the population following it. There are a number of markets, most famously the Fetish Market, that sell voodoo paraphernalia and are a great window to allow outsiders a glimpse of a follower of voodoo’s lifestyle.
Possibly another country you may struggle to place on a map, Guyana is found on mainland South America, with Brazil to its south and Venezuela to its west.
Guyana is the only South American country where English is the official language, so unlike some of the exotic places we’ve suggested, many South Africans can slot right into Guyana. It is, however, part of the West Indies, meaning you can look forward to some of that awesome, island twang. It was first colonized by the Dutch, closely followed by the British. Adding in the Indian and African workers brought into the country, the resulting blend of cultures feels oddly like home for South Africans.
Georgetown is Guyana’s capital and no doubt the first point of contact for visitors. As mentioned, the colonial influences are still evident in the architecture, even its name is in honor of Britain’s King George III. We tend to always suggest the classy, cultural things to check out, so to take a break from that, we can recommend paying the Demerara Rum Distillery a visit. Authentic Caribbean rum, anyone?
As it shares a border with Brazil, Guyanese nature and animal life can get wild as well. Iwokrama is one such area, with large winding rivers and dense forest. As has recently reported, these forests are in trouble, with farming and forestry taking its toll and every encroaching wildlife habitat. The Iwokrama International Centre for Rainforest Conservation and Development is a great place to visit to gain education on how man and wildlife can coexist.
That brings our third part of the Power of Your Green Book series to a close. There are still plenty of countries to think about, thankfully our little green book is more powerful than you may think. We hope you join us for the next installment to see where else your passport can take you. But, as always, if the price of flights puts you off, you still have a home away from home waiting for you at any City Lodge Hotel!