I struggle to find the right words to emphasise just how spectacular my trip to South Africa was. It was impossible to see and do everything in one trip as there is an astounding array of activities available at your fingertips in the Cape. However, I gave it my best shot and after I finished my two week volunteering stint I crammed my final week full of sightseeing Cape Town and the surrounding areas.
I will be doing several posts on my trip but to start with I wanted to give an overview on a few of my highlights from South Africa.
The Garden Route
I did a 2 day Safari tour with Hotspots2c that ended up covering a bit of the Garden Route and I now fully understand why so many people rave about this majestic stretch of coast. You cannot help but fall in love with the long stretches of rural nature, the quaint beaches and the rolling hills. Although the drive is long (and I only went as far as George and Oudtshoorn) there are plenty of little towns to stop at along the way.
Also highly recommend Hotspots2c as a tour company if you don’t fancy doing the drive on your own.
Safari – seeing the “big 5”
The purpose of me going on a guided tour along the Garden Route was so I could go on a safari. The safari took place at Botlierskop private game reserve and it was spectacular. The reserve is 4000 hectare and houses a wide variety of wild animals, including 4 of the “big 5”. We were taken out in a 4×4 that could seat 16 of us, although it wasn’t full so we all had plenty of room to manoeuvre when we wanted to take photos. I would say my highlight of the safari was seeing a family of giraffes – they are such beautiful creatures!
Crocodile cage diving
In Oudtshoorn we visited Cango Wildlife Ranch and Conservation Centre. The standard entrance ticket included a guided tour around the park where we got to see a range of animals from the African bush pig to meerkats and from turtles to leopards. I’ll be honest, I’m not a fan of seeing animals kept in confined spaces – it just doesn’t seem right. However, the conservation work that goes on here has been described as invaluable research for the safeguarding of these animals. I didn’t see any animals that looked mistreated or malnourished, and all the keepers seemed to have the animal’s wellbeing as their top concern.
For an additional 200 rand you could do an “animal encounter”. There was only one thing on my mind when I heard this – I wanted to swim with the crocs! I promised my parents before I went to South Africa that I wouldn’t swim with sharks, but I hadn’t made any such promise about crocodiles! Before I could talk myself out of it I paid the 200 rand and jumped into my wetsuit. Initially my concern wasn’t the crocodile but the freezing cold water I was being lowered into. However, once I adjusted to the temperature, I embraced the experience. I had ten minutes in the cage and could dive under the water to see the croc from all angles. It was an exhilarating, once in a lifetime experience that I would recommend to anyone out there looking to do something a little different.
As part of my Safari tour we had entrance to Buffelsdrift Game Lodge included. Here, we got to meet the three resident elephants (Jabari, Malaika and Bulelo) and we had the opportunity to walk alongside them and feed them some breakfast. I am well aware that some people may be against this due to animal cruelty, but I can honestly say from what I saw the animals were well loved and looked after. We were told to respect their space and there were animal trainers on hand to monitor their behaviour, so we were told when it was safe to approach and feed them. The elephants had plenty of space to roam around and tended to do what they wanted – which meant on the walk back we had to wait a long time from them to stop munching on the trees and playing in the water. It was lovely to see these beautiful mammals up close and it was an experience I’ll never forget.
After my skydive three years ago I thought it was about time I experienced another airborne adrenaline experience. Before I left for my trip I booked a paraglide with Cape Town Tandem Paragliding for New Years Day. A couple of tips if you want to paraglide on January 1st –
- Don’t have a heavy New Year’s Eve night out
- If you are going to drink, stop drinking at a reasonable hour
- Make sure you get more than 1 hours sleep before Paragliding
Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it. However, despite the hangover, I did it as I wanted to paraglide on the 1st day of the New Year to symbolise that 2017 would be filled with many new and exciting adventures.
Once I was in the right frame of mind and totally focussed on the activity I loved it! The views from the sky were spectacular, my guide was brilliant and the weather was great.
Honestly, this needs to be on your list of things to do in Cape Town.
Flight: 1150 rand
Photos & Video: 250 rand
Table mountain sunset
On my penultimate night in Cape Town I finally went up Table Mountain. Due to time constraints, and pure laziness, I got the cable car up with the sunset ticket (half priced tickets after 6pm and well worth it). During my time in Cape Town I had seen “the table cloth” cover Table Mountain many times and was sceptical that I would get good views from the top. The odds were on my side though and the sunset was truly phenomenal.
Tips for if you want to do a sunset tour-
- Bring your own alcohol: the wine you can buy up Table Mountain, although delicious, was expensive. Bring your own and save some pennies
- Take a picnic: make the most of your time up the mountain- grab some friends, bring a picnic and make an evening of it!
- Buy your ticket in advance: it saves the hassle of having the queue to buy your ticket on the night – the queues get pretty long so be prepared.
- Pick a viewing spot early: We found an idyllic spot on the rocks to watch the sunset. The mountain is huge so there isn’t a lack of space to watch the sunset, there are just some places that give you a better view
- Don’t forget your camera: If you are as lucky as I was and pick a clear night, you will more than likely witness a beautiful sunset – capture this moment and take a photo!
There is an abundance of markets in Cape Town, so I’ll just mention a few of them.
The Old Biscuit Mill.
Although it was ridiculously busy, this was probably my favourite market in Cape Town. There was a wide selection of food, shops and bars. The queues were big for the food and drink but it wasn’t hard to find somewhere to sit in the sun once you were ready to rest your feet. I can recommend the vegetable samosas if you’re looking for a small, tasty snack and the champagne bar if you’re looking for a refreshing drink.
V&A Waterfront food market
This indoor market is spread over several levels and has something for everyone to enjoy. There is a range of food and drink stands selling an array of delicious goods. As it’s right on the waterfront it’s the perfect place to grab a snack if you and your friends all want to eat something different before heading back out into the bustling centre.
When I arrived at this market I didn’t have high hopes – it looked small and the stalls seemed to sell the same goods every other market had. However, once I started walking around and exploring a bit more I noticed that not only did they have some quirky gifts but everything was so much cheaper here! I ended up buying several beautiful ornaments and paintings and made sure I recommended it to friends before I went home.
Greenmarket is probably the most famous market in Cape Town and the one tourists tend to flock to. Located just off Long Street it has many street vendors who are desperately trying to sell you their goods. I liked that the market was large but the pressure to buy was just a bit too much for me. Vendors would follow you around, trying to persuade you into making a purchase and I ended up feeling compelled to buy something. Really nice market in a good location, but be strong when you go there – don’t make rash purchases.
Cape Point Vineyards, Noordhoek Market
Although there is a market here, the real reason I visited was because it was a vineyard and I was told they have spectacular sunset views. So, alongside friends, I bought some pasta from the market, a bottle of wine (splattered toad- highly recommend) and settled down for the evening to watch the sun go down.
This former township is known for its hilly cobbled streets and colourful buildings. The culture and heritage museum is located in the heart of Bo-Kaap and is well worth the visit. There are daily free walking tours leaving from Greenmarket that take you on a tour around the area and explain why the buildings are painted in such vibrant, bright colours.
And finally, no post on Cape Town would be complete without mentioning the V&A Waterfront. The touristic central of the city has a stunning backdrop of Table Mountain and an array of bars and restaurants for you to sit in whilst you absorb the atmosphere. Although at first glance you may be overwhelmed by the shopping mall and the sheer number of people frequenting the place, it is still somewhere that is easy to adore. There is a varied selection of cultural and historical sights to enjoy and many tours, including the one to Robben Island, take off from the waterfront.
I’m hoping that after reading this post I’ve inspired at least one person to add South Africa to their list of “must see” places. I can honestly say that the time I spent there was 3 of the best weeks of my life and I know for certain I’ll be back to visit again soon.