Ann: Mountains, Beaches, People; worth coming back for
Taylor: Unique, yet familiar - could easily be home.
Ann: Is wasn’t enough to learn to sail in the most challenging waters in the world, hike in the dark of the night, or cage dive with sharks, but my most memorable moment was how easy it was to decide to bungee jump from the highest bungee jumping bridge in the world and the resulting awesome adrenaline rush was so worth it.
Taylor: I'm tempted to choose the bungee jump, but luckily there are two other moments that also come to mind. The first was one windy night, when our trip to a third outdoor movie was cancelled due to bad weather, and instead of giving up on doing something, we (Mom, our wonderful roommate Kathryn, and I) decided to take our chances at Hint Hunt. We may not have gotten out of the room in our allotted sixty minutes, but we had a great night that was probably better than the movies - because we got to work together as a team and tear apart the room we were in. The second was our last day at the building site, which coincidentally was the same day as the Christmas party being held for the kids. There was no concrete that day, but we spent the morning dancing around with the kids and then giving them the Christmas presents that we had bought for them the day before. It was a really great day to spend not only with the kids at the site, but also the adults there - even though we saw everyone again the next night on Lion's Head, it was a wonderful way to say goodbye to the wonderful people we worked with for our 8 weeks.
To be honest, there wasn't too much we had to adapt to in South Africa - it was incredibly easy (maybe too easy) to spend time in the landscape downtown, which felt like any current western city, or at our host family's home. The predominant language is English and the customs, food, culture and many people are products of many varying cultures, similar to the melting pot of the US. The biggest culture shock came in Lavender Heights, where our project was located. The environment, like the many other informal settlements that are home to hundreds of thousands of people was the most difficult and gut wrenching we've experienced on our journey. More than once, we were shuttled away from the work site early due to gang violence in the area, and we were not allowed to walk around the township without our project supervisor. It was also a shock (even though it was expected) to see the state of the "homes" that people live in. Even though you know it exists, it's a lot harder to be inside a family's home made of tin, with rubber tires keeping the roof down than it is to see a picture of it. The beauty of being there was meeting the people and watching the strong community support of each other within the settlements.
Ann: The beautiful mountains, the oceans and bays, the culture of community, the sharks, the whales, the penguins and all the great people (big and little) we met.
Taylor: Everything. The people are amazing (both within Projects Abroad and the people in the community), all the food is so yummy, and the landscape is fantastic. Being at a place in the world with such spectacular mountains and two oceans in such a close proximity to a wonderful town is so rare and such a great place to spend time - whether for a short trip or a very very extended one. I even miss the crazy, crowded, minibuses. The first few times we took the minibuses, I counted the number of people sitting in there, it's supposed to be 11, but we had more than 20 people in one during one rush hour. It was hot and sweaty and such an experience that I can't bring myself to be glad that it's over.
Ann: Fear of easily transferable infections and diseases.
Taylor: Probably hearing about other people being pickpocketed, mugged, or stolen from. There were many smart phones from people we knew that were taken, as well as a few purses, and a home that was broken into and everything (from their clothes to their laptops) was taken. The worst part of (most of) them, was that they were entirely avoidable circumstances, people just... didn't always think through pulling their phone out on a busy street. Luckily, we never encountered this, but just hearing about it from other people was stressful. And I'm definitely not missing leaving my phone at home every day.
With the ease of culture adaptation, great host family, large volunteer base and a great supportive office, Cape Town would be a strong recommended opportunity for anyone wanting to do a volunteer assignment with Projects Abroad and in South Africa. Our experience in Cape Town was wonderful, and 8 weeks wasn't enough. We really got to know Grassy Park, Lavender Hill and Cape Town and even though we didn't travel too far on weekends from our home base, we felt that our time was well spent on the peninsula.
I leave Cape Town with a great feeling. Satisfied and humbled with being able to make a significant contribution in the lives of many in a short period of time. The people, both locals and the volunteers, were a fantastic part of us enjoying our time here in Cape Town and I can’t say enough about how much I enjoyed the life style and opportunities with being on Cape Peninsula. My future hopes for Cape Town is to find a balance between providing employment opportunities to their large populations of unemployed and the continuation of finding sustainable ways to use active hands on education for those who live in informal settlements. Improving the education to enhance the living conditions within the informal settlements with classes in gardening, sanitation and use of natural resources; i.e. rain water, wind and solar would be fantastic. Another welcomed change would be for each Capetonian to proactively find opportunities where communities can work together to form a better balance of resource sharing and to build a more cohesive community. This seems like a place where the strength of the parts would build a wonderful whole community system.
Cape Town is easily a place I can see myself living in. There's two sides of the city: the side that is doing just fine and the side that needs to continue to pull itself up. I had such a phenomenal two months there, and that was not a fluke. It wasn't just the people we worked with or lived with or helped. It wasn't just the unique atmosphere and stunning scenery. It wasn't just that the city has something to offer everyone all the time. It was all of those things and more. Being able to experience it in such an intimate and special way allowed me to see more than a guided tour. We saw the side of Cape Town that you read about, the side of Cape Town that some Capetonians don't even allow themselves the chance to see, and had the amazing opportunity to give a lot in a little amount of time. I got to know Cape Town in the short time we were there. And what I got to know was an amazing place, with a talented, unique, and wonderful group of citizens that is working towards a better future.
One of the interesting things about the culture in Cape Town is how influenced by outside cultures it is. While there are the distinct South African restaurants lining the city streets, just as popular are the Indian restaurants, Mediterranean restaurants, restaurants from many European countries and the occasional Mexican restaurant. Unlike our experiences in China and Morocco, where the majority of the food we ate had origins in that country (except Mike’s Pizza in Chengdu – we still miss it), we ate fairly similarly to how we do back in the states.
While we didn’t choose to eat any of these selections, many of the South African restaurants (usually geared to tourists) had a large range of game meats to try – anything from warthog, to springbok, ostrich, kudu, and wildebeest.
Sauces: Peri-Peri, Sweet Chili, and Mrs. H.S. Ball’s Chutney
Two of our favorite sauces from our time in Cape Town were present in just about everyone’s pantries and added quite a bit of flavor to any dish. The first is peri-peri, a spicy red colored sauce that was used to spice up many proteins, from shrimp to chicken, and sautéed vegetables, and was a unique flavor to Cape Town. The second was a sweet chili sauce, which isn’t necessarily only found in South Africa (we first has it on our trip to Australia/New Zealand 2 years ago), but was served with everything from french fries to breaded chicken. And the last, Mrs. Ball’s Chutney, was such a popular flavor with South African’s that it is also used to flavor potato chips. Yum.
Recipes borrowed from Sarah Graham at afoodieliveshere.co.za, photos linked to their original websites.
Butter Chicken Bunny Chow
A favorite dish of Taylor’s (and many other visitors of Cape Town) was the butter chicken. But butter chicken by itself is Indian. So South Africans made it their own by calling it bunny chow and stuffing a piece of hollowed out bread with the curried chicken. Spiced with turmeric and curry, this chicken makes a hearty dinner that is full of flavor.
If possible, the morning before:
Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl and coat with the yoghurt, and 1 tsp each of the turmeric, curry powder, coriander, cumin and chili. Cover with saran wrap and place in the fridge to rest.
1. Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium-sized pot over a medium–high heat. Add the garlic, grated ginger, black pepper and remaining spices, and let them ‘marry’ with the oil until fragrant.
2. Add the chicken mix in a couple of batches so that the pot isn’t overwhelmed. Stir and let it come to a simmer, 3–5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, sweet chili sauce and ground almonds.
3. Simmer gently for about 20 minutes. You will know you’re close when the color starts to change to a delicious rich burnt orange and the meat is really tender. Try not to stir too often, as this can break up the chicken too much.
4. About 5 minutes before serving, add the coconut milk to the butter chicken and stir gently and add salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle over the fresh coriander.
5. To serve, arrange the pitas or bread on a platter with the dish of butter chicken and a few teaspoons on the side for serving. Your can then spoon the chicken directly into the pitas, making individual ‘bunny chows’.
One of the most South African of desserts is malva pudding. It’s a type of bread pudding served at many of Cape Town’s restaurants, and a dessert that was ordered nearly every time it was seen on a menu – mostly to see if they all tasted good.
1. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt.
2. Beat the egg and sugar well in mixer.
3. Melt the butter and along with the vinegar and apricot jam add to the egg mixture.
4. Add the liquids alternately with flour to egg mixture and beat well.
5. Bake in a covered dish at 350 °F for 45 – 60 minutes until lightly golden in color.
Melt all the ingredients together in a saucepan and pour over the pudding as soon as it comes out of the oven.
Serve with whipped cream or vanilla custard (or both!)
Sailing & The Volvo Ocean Race
Cape Town is a city of adventure and we had plenty of opportunities to get our adrenalin pumping while there. The first exhilarating experience we had was taking a few sailing lessons – we’re certainly not ready to charter our own sailboat yet, but we were responsible for crewing the 42 ft. boat. Whether we were sweating a sail, tying buoys, or standing at the helm, we were totally involved in every aspect of sailing – maybe a little confused at moments, as the instructor would prefer to say “winch the halyard” three times than explaining what winching means and which line is the halyard. The good thing is you eventually figure it out. These lessons, coupled with the fact that the Volvo Ocean Race was in town made for a pretty exciting sailing experience. The Volvo Ocean Race is a sailing race that occurs once every four years where teams of 8 (all men) to 11 (all women) compete as they sail all around the world. This is considered the most intense sailing boat race of all sail races. This year is especially special as it is the first year that a team of all women is competing and they debuted a new sailboat that all 7 teams are required to sail from Alicante, Spain to Cape Town, Abu Dhabi, Sanya, Auckland, Itajaí, Newport, Lisbon, Lorient, The Hague, and finish the race in Gothenburg. We felt fortunate to see each boat up close while in port, to be able to watch the in port race from the water, and then watch the send off as the boats left for Abu Dhabi from the coast. By the time the boats left Cape Town, we were so familiar with the race and each team; we could identify each and every boat as they sailed around the harbor.
While in Cape Town we had enough time to hike on the Table Mountain range on 3 different occasions. Although we attempted to hike a few additional times, we were unable to due to fogging or wet weather; it was surprising to us how often the weather prevented many people from actually completing hikes. Two of our three hikes were exactly the same (the Full Moon Hike on Lion’s Head) just one month apart. We were pleased we managed to get all 3 hikes completed in favorable conditions, and although some would say it was a bit hot, we certainly would prefer a clear, hot, sunny day, than a rainy and foggy day. Our first hike and our last hike was up Lion’s Head. The fun and interesting aspect of the hike (besides the challenge) is that it’s great to do when there is a full moon, so you can watch the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean and the moonrise over the city of Cape Town. This is a very popular hike and both times we did it, it felt as though a good many Capetonians also hike this on a regular basis. The hike began as a wide sloped path before turning into rocky steps and eventually jagged rocky outcrops with a few ladders, clips and staples to climb up before making it to the tiny summit. It is a beautiful site and as you sit to enjoy the views, some are eating snacks, having conversations, taking lots of pictures and some found smaller, rocky outcrops to simply reflect and be quiet as they enjoyed the incredible beautiful views. Once you have taken in the views and the darkness has set in, the next challenge is to hike down the mountain in the dark. It’s slow moving and thank goodness for head torches and the flashlight on the iPhone to light the way, or at least the 2 feet in front of you. The second time we hiked Lion’s Head for the Full Moon hike was the last night we were in Cape Town before embarking on our 19-hour flight back to the states. We were so happy to do this hike with many of our newly found friends. It was a pretty fantastic way to say good-bye, but it was also bittersweet. This was another one of those moments when we realized how much we would miss our friends and Cape Town.
Our other hike was Table Mountain itself. Most people who visit Cape Town want to see the top of the flat top mountain that sits behind the city and protects it from the southern winds. One of its most interesting features is how quickly very thick cloud cover can encompass the tabletop and it often looks as though a tablecloth has just been placed over the mountain. On the day we finally hiked, we were pleased there was no cloud cover; it was a sunny, beautiful 85-degree day. We chose to hike up Platteklip Gorge, one of the more commonly taken trails up the mountain. It starts about a mile from the bottom cableway station and ends about a 10-minute walk across the mountain to the top of the cableway where there is an ice cream shop, a gift shop, and a restaurant. It was a good hike with many steep switchbacks and significant climbing steps, some up to 3 feet in height. It was tough hike on the quadriceps, knees and hamstrings, but oh so rewarding. We had very little shade on the day we hiked, so anytime we found some we took a nice rest and then continued on. All in all, it took us 2 hours and 45 minutes to reach the top and it was so well worth it to hike up. We were fortunate that the winds were low when we reached the top, so we enjoyed lunch and then took the 360-degree rotating cable car down to the base of the mountain. The next time we visit Cape Town, we want to hike the Skeleton’s Gorge trail, a much more challenging scale of the mountain face, and hike Devil’s Peak, the third mountain that protects the city.
Since our first attempt at seeing sharks in Gansbaai was unsuccessful, we decided if we had time, we would try it again. We are happy to report that our second attempt to see great white sharks was successful. We took our last weekend in Cape Town to return to Gansbaai and as soon as we got there, we boarded the Shark Fin and headed out to the shallows. We had heard there had been good sightings early in the day, so we decided we wanted to be first in the cage once everything was set up. Once we anchored about 40 minutes away from the dock, they lowered the cage and we volunteered to jump in first. We were in the two positions on the far end of the cage, which put us closest to the sharks on many occasions. The water was cold and it took a little while to get accustomed to where your hands and feet should and should not go. We were playing around with the GoPro, when quickly and suddenly there was our first shark directly in front of us. We got so excited, we fumbled a little bit and then steadied ourselves as the next shark passed from left to right and used its very strong tail to smack the cage. The visibility was low and the water murky here in the shallows, but the sharks were interested so they hung around the boat for quite some time. We never seemed to get a good shot from inside the cage, but the experience was dynamic and fun. We were in the cage for about 30 minutes when we got out to let the next group in. After drying off and enjoying some hot chocolate, we got our camera ready for some above the water shots which turned out to be so much better than what we could see from inside the cage. Part of the reason we wanted to do the cage diving was because of Taylor’s fear of sharks, but once we were in the cage and got to watch them from the boat, they didn’t seem so bad. We are so happy we made the second attempt at shark cage diving – it seemed like a strange idea to drive all that way again, but it was so worth it.
Most people ask… we even asked ourselves, “Why would anyone voluntarily jump off a bridge with a rope tied around their ankles?” Well the best answer we have is for the sheer adventure and adrenaline rush, with no logic involved. When we arrived in Cape Town many people asked if we were planning to bungee jump at Face Adrenaline, the highest bungee bridge jump in the world (at 216M). We initially said the logical thing, “No.” But then, as we heard the stories from others and watched several videos of those who had jumped, we began to change our mind. We learned that when jumping from a bridge instead of from a cliff or a platform there is a greater chance for the dive to be more like a pendulum swing versus a jump and snap. Of course there is still great risk in jumping off a bridge, but that fear and risk seemed to become something we were willing to accept. As we scheduled the trip to go on our Garden Route weekend, we looked at each other almost simultaneously and said I think I am going to jump. Once we arrived at the site, we never hesitated and surprisingly neither of us found the nervousness we thought we may encounter. The team at Bloukrans had weighed each of us and written our weight on our hands, they carefully checked all the gear and determined (but didn’t tell us) the groups according to weight, they gave us a safety briefing, and we were ready to go. Out on the bridge while getting ready for the jumps were 24 other volunteers, most of who were jumping and a few who had just come to watch. The music was blasting, the winds were blowing, and we were dancing and cheering each other on as we were waited for our numbers to be called.
Ann: It’s tough to describe in words that feeling of jumping – it was like doing a swan dive off of a diving board with a beautiful green mountain landscape as your view and no water to land in. The speed in which you fall is exhilarating and once you are at the bottom hanging and bouncing upside down you realize, I really just jumped off a 718-foot bridge. Amazing… Simply amazing.
Taylor: For me, jumping was the easiest part of the day. You sit waiting while the bungee team ties your ankles and attaches them to the cord, you shuffle out to the edge, wait patiently as they get the final ok, you smile for the video camera, hear them say “3, 2, 1, Bungee!,” and then dive. It’s an amazing feeling and crazy adrenaline rush as you watch the ground underneath you get closer and closer and by the time you realize you can see things waay more clearly than you should be able to, you’ve already begun to ascend and feel as though you’re floating through the air. It’s an experience unlike any other, and I’m so glad I did it and even more glad that that pesky fear thing didn't make an appearance.
Hop on - Hop off
It was our very first weekend in Cape Town and in order to orient ourselves better to the Cape Peninsula, we took the double decker hop on - hop off peninsula bus tour. The ride took us around Table Mountain, beginning from the city centre and circling past the Constantia Winelands, Hout Bay, and Camps Bay before heading back into the city. We only hopped off the bus for lunch near the gorgeous turquoise waters of Hout Bay and for a short walk along the beach at Camps Bay, but the tour gave us a great idea of where in the city we would like to visit during our remaining time in Cape Town.
A visit to Cape Town would not be complete without exploring the beautiful beaches and bays along the Atlantic Coast and False Bay. We found ourselves spending the majority of our time split between two beaches: Camps Bay (Atlantic Coast) and Muizenberg Beach (False Bay). In addition to our first walk along Camps Bay, we returned for a few fun beach days, a beautiful sunset, and we enjoyed dinner and drinks along the long strip of restaurants and shops that ran parallel to the beach. The water at Camps Bay is known for being especially cold during the summer months (November - February), as it directly influenced by the cold melting ice in the Antarctic. Despite this, we decided to take a swim and attempted to learn how to throw a rugby ball while in the water. Our other favorite beach spot is Muizenberg Beach’s Surfer’s Corner. It was an easy train ride to get to and had gorgeous views of False Bay. Besides being a great surfers beach, it is also known (or is most photographed) for its brightly colored beach huts and the walk along the coast to St. James Beach and onto Hout Bay. We never surfed in Muizenberg, but almost every Friday afternoon we went to the beach to watch our other volunteer friends surf and have dinner at one of our local favorite hang out locations, the Blue Bird Garage Food Market. The Blue Bird easily became our Friday night hang out with it’s 16 food vendors selling everything from Vegan Sushi to Burgers to our favorite Falafel to Portuguese cuisine and yummy Chinese dumplings. And that doesn’t even count the dessert and the handmade goods for sale. It turned out to also be one of our favorite shopping locations and one of the best places for us to have great conversations with the local residents.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Even though it’s one of Cape Town’s biggest tourist attractions, we enjoyed spending time at the V&A Waterfront eating, drinking, shopping, visiting museums, the Volvo Ocean Race sailing boats, and even for watching an outdoor film. While the only locals you meet there are the employees of the many shops and restaurants, it was easy to wander around and enjoy the atmosphere. In addition to the variety of restaurants and mall shopping, there was a large warehouse filled with artistry and handmade curios, an aquarium, a food market, the Nelson Mandela gateway (where boats leave for Robben Island) and museum, and plenty of “people watching” to be done. One evening we also enjoyed “Love Actually” on the lawn of the Springbok Museum. It was great to pack a picnic, grab your blankets and lawn chairs to enjoy a movie on a chilly but nice spring evening. We enjoyed it so much we attended a second outdoor movie but in a different location.
The beautiful botanical gardens of the Cape sit at the base of Table Mountain and this was the location of our second movie watching experience, as we enjoyed watching “The Breakfast Club”. Although the atmosphere at the Springbok Museum was nice, this atmosphere, sitting in the lush gardens nestled up against Table Mountain with a beautiful star lit night was more than enough incentive for us to enjoy another movie with our blankets, lawn chairs and wonderful picnic and snack foods. If you are ever visiting Cape Town in November through April, we would highly recommend finding a Galileo movie site and enjoying a great evening relaxing under the stars with friends, a glass of your favorite drink, and a nice picnic.
The Old Biscuit Mill, Neighbor Goods Market, and Hint Hunt
The Old Biscuit Mill is a set of refurbished buildings just outside of Cape Town located in Woodstock. The buildings are filled with shops and restaurants, and on the weekends the Neighbor Goods Markets opens with many wonderful food vendors for brunch, lunch and drinks. It is such a popular place, it seems that most of Cape Town turns out for the yummy food, drink and great open camaraderie. It was fun to enjoy the food while sitting at large picnic tables casually conversing. One of the businesses occupying the top floor of the mill is Hint Hunt. If you have never heard an escape game, the rules are fairly simple – you enter a room with your friends or team, are locked in, and have one hour to find your way out using the clues hidden inside. We attempted the escape with 3 people and didn’t quite make it out, but it was a great way to challenge ourselves and spend an evening working together. This is something we will certainly do again. As we have now learned these types of escape games are popping up in many cities, so keep on the look out – it was good fun!
The Bourbon Street of Cape Town, Long Street is filled with two story bars and restaurants with traditional Dutch Captonian architecture including balconies and many inebriated people, some locals but mostly tourists. Wednesdays seemed to be the nights we would go there with many of the Projects Abroad volunteers for a beer and playing billiards. This was also the area of town where we had to be most alert to the pick pocketing. Thank goodness, we never experienced this directly, but had known several volunteers who had their iPhones and jewelry taken.
ABSA Currie Cup Rugby Finals
Our second weekend in Cape Town we managed to secure tickets to South Africa’s premier domestic rugby competition. While we can’t claim to have known much about rugby beforehand (and still can’t really make that claim) it was so easy to get caught up in the spirit of Newlands Stadium and the energy of the Western Province fans. The last 7 minutes of the game may have been the most exciting (and it was the one time where we actually felt like we knew what was happening) and when Western Province won in the last second of the game, we were exhilarated and thrilled to have been able to be present at such an exciting event, and at that particular moment, be loud cheering WP fans.
We visited the beautiful wine country and town of Stellenbosch twice while in Cape Town. The first was a brief visit to the town, but a wonderful full day visit to 3 local wineries and the second was for a nice relaxing dinner at one of the many outside cafes in the quaint downtown area. While neither of us are big wine drinkers (obviously beer is the drink of choice for this mother/daughter team), we knew we had to make this experience a fulfilling one by trying way more wines that we are accustomed to drinking. I think we had 12 glasses each throughout the day. We started the day by visiting the oldest winery in the Cape region (making wine since 1692!). We enjoyed a wonderful tasting of the Spier wine while strolling around their garden overlooking the vineyards and a beautiful lake. Our second stop was Kleine Zalze who started making wine in 1695 and was located on another beautiful piece of property and we were served our tastings in a nice Tuscan styled bar. After about 8 glasses of wine we were excited (or maybe desperate) to have our 2:30 lunch at our next location. As we drove to our third winery we passed the Ernie Els property and were hoping that was to be our third stop, but we continued on and were not disappointed by the arrival at the Haskell winery where we enjoyed a relaxing and wonderful afternoon, a full gourmet meal, and of course more wine. This tasting was delightful as they paired the tastings with the food and the views were incredibly beautiful looking out onto the mountains of vineyards.
No trip to Cape Town is complete without journeying to the south-western most point of the African continent, the Cape of Good Hope, to look out over the Atlantic Ocean and know there is nothing but sea between you and Antarctica. We rented a car for this trip and started our day with a road trip to Simonstown and Boulder’s Beach to see the African penguins. We were a bit disappointed with the views and the small number of penguins we saw, but it was a nice stop and walk along the rocky coast of Boulder’s Beach. We continued down the False Bay coast to the southern section of Table Mountain National Park and then to the Cape of Good Hope and to the impressive site of Cape Point. The winding drive along the rocky cliff edged coast was simply amazing and beautiful. Our return trip was to travel west up the Atlantic coastline, driving on the infamous Chapman’s Peak, passing through Hout Bay, before settling on a spot near Camps Bay along side of the road to watch the sunset over the Atlantic.
Strand Beach & Gordon's Bay
One weekend morning we decided we wanted to have a relaxing beach day outside of Cape Town, so we drove about 45 minutes outside the city to Strand Beach, which is a popular vacation spot for South Africans. We chose to walk along the coast to get some ice cream before heading to the next town, Gordon’s Bay to visit the best International Book Store near the Cape Peninsula and to walk along Bikini Beach. Both beaches had charm and were in the protected False Bay, but it was much too cold of a day for swimming. So we enjoyed our ice cream, lunch, the shopping and some long casual walking along the coast.
Hermanus & Betty's Bay
Hermanus, one of the world’s best locations for whale watching from the shore, is located about 2 hours from Cape Town, and was on our list for a weekend visit. So we set out through Sir Lawry’s Pass with beautiful views of the inner mountainous landscape of the Cape Peninsula to arrive at Hermanus in time for lunch. We enjoyed our lunch on the coastline and were particularly surprised at how many times during our meal we heard “Look! There!” and then simultaneously saw patrons running out to see the whales in the bay. We saw more Southern Right Whales than we ever thought we would during our lunchtime adventure and we were particularly entertained with a mother whale and her calf playing near the surf where we’d parked our car. But then it was time to go in search of our next animal – the Great White Shark – in Gansbaai, the nearest city and harbor to famed “Shark Alley.” We didn’t see any sharks that day, but we did see more whales! For our return trip to Cape Town we decided to take the Whale Coast drive from Gansbaai back through Hermanus through to Betty’s Bay. Betty’s Bay is not as popular as Boulder’s Beach, but anyone who is visiting this region with a car should go to Betty’s Bay to see the many, many penguins. There were penguins everywhere: penguins in their nests, penguins in the water, penguins feeding their babies, penguins toddling along the pathways… Suffice it to say, we were in African penguin heaven. We enjoyed the penguins and then were back in the car to drive back along coast of False Bay, which gave us another lovely view of the sun setting behind the Table Mountain range.
Mossel Bay, Myoli Beach, & the Garden Route
One weekend we took a travel trip in a van with 26 other volunteers as we adventured for a weekend on a Garden Route tour. We were not responsible for the itinerary so besides knowing a few highlights, we were ready to go with the flow and see what this tour would be all about. The hostel where we stayed was located on Myoli Beach and so the accommodation location was fantastic. We enjoyed our evenings at the large outdoor fire pit surrounded by the sand floor bar and restaurant. Our dinners were typical of an African braai (bar-b-que) for our dinners, although Ann got to enjoy an over the fire vegetarian pizza which was fantastic! Our activities on the tour began with a safari ride at a beautiful private ranch, onto an Elephant sanctuary, a breeding farm for ostriches and a wildlife farm.
The 2 1/2 hour safari was filled with a jeep ride across the well-manicured mountain range where we saw rhinos, zebras, eland, giraffes, wildebeests, lions, and elephants! These animals were very aware and comfortable with humans and so they remained very calm and relaxed, which was a very different experience than we had when we lived in the bush camp for the week in Botswana, where the animals were wild. At the elephant sanctuary, we were excited for the close encounter and the ability to feed the elephants, but still we much preferred our time in the wild where our line of sight and camera lens were the closest encounters we had; with the exception of our visit from Captain, the elephant who came to our camp in Botswana. Next was the Ostrich farm, where Ann had an ostrich eat off of her shoulder and we were able to see an ostrich egg hatching. The ostrich farm was quite a bit touristy and although we believe they took care of the ostrich’s and they were helping to ensure reproduction was successful, it was not one of our favorite animal visits. The wildlife range had some beautiful animals like the snow-white Bengal tiger, the leopard, and our particular favorite was the adorable lemurs they had. I think seeing the lemurs just made us more excited to see them in their natural habitat in Madagascar (another place to add to the ever growing bucket list). The scenery of the garden route through never ending vineyards of the some of the best wine country in South Africa, and the varying landscape of immense rocky mountains and the lush filled pine tree forests was all so very gorgeous and although we probably would not go back to the animal ranch, sanctuary, or farm we would return for continuing on the Garden Route for the landscape views. For us, the highlight of the Garden Route tour was the bungee, which we will tell you about under our “Cape Adventure” part of the South African blog.