Experience Soweto through the eyes of Lebo

If it’s fun and interactive that you crave then this is the best way to see Soweto.Daily tours take you into the heart of this vibrant and historical township or “kasi “. Oozing with colour and friendly people who warmly welcome adventurous travellers’ this is a one stop location that will cater for all your needs.

Lebo’s Soweto backpackers
Leo’s bicycle tours in Soweto

Lebo Malepa started the backpackers from his family home in Orlando West in 1999, since 2003 it has been officially open when tourism was just starting to take off in Soweto. A new concept to both locals and visitors, Lebo went on to open South Africa’s first accommodation for backpackers that is situated in a township. Now 20 years on, he and his wife Maria from Sweden run a business that not only provides for them but also contributes to the local community through employment and by supporting local businesses. One could say, Lebo had a dream that he has watched grow over the years.

Lebo Malepa with his tuk tuks

A variety of tour options that reveal off – the – beaten – track spots means there is something that will appeal to everyone. The bicycle tours are both half day and full day. They offer an on – the – ground experience which includes many stops to appreciate the history and the public art that can be spotted on many walls. Walking tours are relaxed and the the best way to meet and interact with the local people while tasting local foods, doing some shopping and learning some township lingo “ Tsotsi Taal “.
All tours are guided by local, knowledgeable guides who can speak the local languages and explain the area to you.They are charismatic and energetic, not only do they tell you about the “ obvious spots “ but they also share what many would say is the unwritten story of Soweto from a locals perspective.

Children of Mzihlophe

My favourite was the sunset tuk tuk tour through some of the backstreets of Soweto. The tour included Vilakazi street.The most famous street in Soweto, it has been rejuvenated to a brightly-lit weekend entertainment hub with dance clubs, live music venues and popular drinking spots. This is the only street in the world to have two Nobel Prize winners as its residents. It is within walking distance of the Hector Pieterson Memorial museum and includes attractions like the Mandela House , the Tutu’s former home and Winnie Mandela’s house is not far away either.

Vilikazi Street

Riding in a quirky yellow tuk tuk through the streets of Mzihlophe which loosely translates as “ white village “ I was told how it was previously a hostel for around 10 000 men who lived here and worked on the mines, in local municipalities etc. Change started to take place from 1996 when the hostels became homes to families . This predominately Zulu speaking community is bustling with energy, children run in the streets, women carry all sorts of items on their heads and the men sit in groups socialising at shebeens and playing games. Amidst all this, the township finds time to breathe and relax in the beautiful open spaces and parks just like the one behind Lebo’s with its mural covered walls.

The streets of Mzihlophe in Soweto
Mzihlophe in Soweto

For a full and un – rushed experience the best is to stay overnight. There is a variety of accommodation ranging from budget style dormitories, to private double and single rooms, camping and camp chalets. I stayed in the double en suite room, this immaculately clean room with a private bathroom and quaint cosy garden outside was just perfect. Complete with Wifi I found my comfy spot in the garden and watched the heavy storm clouds roll in.

En Suite double room at Lebo’s
Courtyard area around rooms at Lebo’s

One gets the feeling you have arrived in a village with its deep sense of homeliness. From the sheep that had a lot to say to me, to the hammock swaying gently in the cool ambiance of the tropical type garden, with its vibey Beach Bar and the smiley, friendly staff. Brewing of home made beer and the aroma of the delicious potjiekos being prepared on the fire . All this combined with the laughter of children close by makes one feel relaxed and welcome. This is home away from home.

Leo’s camp site

Soweto is an experience like no other. Staying at Lebo’s where the activities, tastes and sounds encourage you to linger longer and spend more time exploring this hip urban lifestyle were tradition and customs have merged with modern day living.