6 Amazing Adventures Beyond Cape Town

Having spent a fantastic week with Mr CT , as I shall now call him, (our friend who lives locally) showing us the ropes, it was time to set out on our own. We hired a car and hit the road! Driving in SA is easy for us Brits, as it is on the left hand side! The roads are also incredible – in general – but we were well aware of some of the crime  issues that are car related.  We were cautious and sensible but that didn’t spoil the driving experience.

Our first stop was an overnight stay at the Aquila Private Game Reserve. Before undertaking a Safari in the Western Cape, it is important to understand that it won’t be like staying in one of the iconic South African Game Reserves e.g. the Kruger National Park. However, it will be malaria free. You will still have the opportunity to see the Big 5: Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo, Lion and Leopard but you need to bear in mind that all five of these species were reintroduced to the Western Cape, having been driven to the brink of extinction. Aquila is also home to the Aquila Animal and Rescue Conservation Centre.

Our accommodation was in a ‘luxury cottage’. It had a patio, corner bath and outdoor rock shower, plus fan and feature “coal‟ stove. The latter wasn’t needed. I liked the elephant towel arrangement that welcomed us!

We went out on safari on the afternoon of our arrival and also at six the next morning. Our driver/ranger was brilliant and it was a fantastic experience.  These photos give you an idea of some of the animals we saw, although there were many more besides, including giraffes, hippos and buffalo. These pics were taken with my phone. The ones (still) on the camera are miles better but I’m too impatient to wait for them to be uploaded.

Following this we set off on our next adventure which was to explore the Garden Route. Our first stop was Mossel Bay and our last was Plettenberg Bay. The natural beauty of the Garden Route is outstanding and the coastline is dotted with fantastic beaches. Many of these beaches are excellent for surfing. We didn’t have our wetsuits – haha!

We spent two nights in a lodge overlooking the beautiful lagoon in Knysna.

One of the high spots (literally!) of our stay here was driving to the top of two sandstone cliffs known as the Heads. The views were amazing.

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Soon it was time to go inland and travel along Route 62. We were heading for Oudtshoorn which is also known as the ostrich capital of the world! We drove away from the ocean and beaches and through a very different type of landscape.

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Oudtshoorn is located in the Klein Karoo between the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains. It is an area of surprising contrasts and has its own natural beauty. As we were in the ostrich capital of the world, we had to visit an ostrich farm.

We went to Highgate Ostrich Farm. It started over a hundred years ago. The tour we went on was very informative and hands-on. We now know everything there is to know about ostriches, from their conception to their transformation into ostrich products. We were able to hand feed some of the ostriches and hold a baby ostrich. Ostrich riding does not take place at Highgate (I am pleased to say!) because of the potential injury to the bird. I was so immersed in the tour that I forgot to take photos!

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29km from Oudtshoorn, we visited the amazing Cango Caves. These caves are home to some of the biggest limestone stalagmites in the world. The system of tunnels and chambers run for over 4 km but only about a quarter is open to visitors.

We were taken on a tour of the caves by an informative and amusing guide who demonstrated the cave acoustics by singing! He did have a very beautiful voice.

However, the most surprising element of the whole visit was bumping into someone I had once worked with! I hadn’t seen her for years and I couldn’t help but wonder what are the odds of meeting someone you know, in a cave in South Africa.

A trip to the Western Cape wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the  Winelands. We opted to stay in Franschhoek  which is known as “A corner that is forever France”. This is because about 200 French Huguenots, escaping religious persecution in France between 1688 and 1700, were offered a passage to the Cape and granted land here.

Franschhoek has a wonderful setting, surrounded on three sides by mountains. It has a very laid back, charming atmosphere. It was the ideal place to relax and recuperate at the end of a busy but fantastic trip.

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We also enjoyed eating at two of the many excellent restaurants. After all, Franschhoek is known as the culinary capital of the Cape!

And the wine tasting? We opted for the Leopard’s Leap Estate where we sampled 5 of their delicious wines.

To complete our trip, we returned to Cape Town and enjoyed a final fabulous dinner with Mr CT.

What I’d love to know is if you have ever bumped into someone you know, in an unexpected place; maybe on holiday!

 

 

 

6 highlights from my trip to Cape Town

Cape Town exceeded my expectations in so many ways. Initially, I was blown away by the sheer beauty of the city, its geography, geology and landscape. My eye was constantly drawn to Table Mountain and the ocean.

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It is actually difficult  to select my highlights when there were so many! Therefore, in no particular order:

Watching the sunset over Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain. Incredible! I’m not great with heights, so I was little apprehensive about the cable car trip but it was absolutely fine and I’m so glad I did it. We were very fortunate in having a very good friend, and local resident, to accompany and advise us! His wealth of knowledge meant that we avoided all the long queues to go up the mountain.

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A free Historic City Walking Tour which our friend also organised for us. It was brilliant in terms of understanding what has made Cape Town the city it is. Our guide, who was absolutely wonderful , was one of several who are not paid and only work for tips. He clearly loved Cape Town and did not flinch when talking about slavery, apartheid and the effects of colonialism. Here are some of the photos I took during the walking tour:

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In a similar vein, our visit to Robben Island was outstanding. I think it is an essential destination if you want to learn about and understand some of South Africa’s complex history. It is the symbol of ‘the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, suffering and injustice’.

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Robben Island has housed a leper colony, been a military base, a whaling station and a prison which held convicts and political prisoners. Of course, it is most famous for having Nelson Mandela as a prisoner for eighteen years.

To get there, you catch a ferry from the V&A Waterfront. We booked out tickets on line which meant we avoided all the long queues. The weather was very favourable when we went and the sea calm, so we got there in about thirty minutes. When you arrive on the island, you are transported by buses to visit the main sites. One of the stops was at the limestone quarry where Mandela and fellow prisoners had to carry out hard labour. Each bus has a guide and our one was very entertaining and informative.

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The tour ended with a visit to the maximum security prison and was led by a former political prisoner. Their personal experience is very moving and impactful. As was the visit to Mandela’s cell which remains as it was when he was imprisoned there.

 Bo-Kaap is known for its bright, colourful houses and is the cultural home of Cape Town’s Muslim community. We decided to do another Free Walking Tour as we had enjoyed the first one so much. This enabled us to learn about the history, culture, architecture, traditions, religion and economics of the area. Here are a selection of the photos I took of some of the very distinctive houses.

The last highlight was a drive from Cape Town to Cape Point returning via Boulders Beach and Simon’s Town. Our friend drove us along the Atlantic Seaboard from Sea Point, through Camps Bay and Hout Bay. These were just some of the scenic places we passed through, there were many more besides. As we were passengers, we were able to truly appreciate the breath-taking views.

We stopped several times, en route, to take in the stunning scenery and, in this case, to take a look at the Shark Spotter. What a job! If he spots sharks, the call goes out and a warning given to people on the beach.

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Cape Point is where the most powerful lighthouse, on the South African coast, can be seen. The sea is  very dangerous here and there are 26 recorded shipwrecks in the area.  We all walked up to see the lighthouse and to enjoy the amazing, panoramic views. Unfortunately, I was so taken with views that I didn’t take any photos! However, Mr FF did record the views but hasn’t downloaded his photos yet. Eventually, I made the descent alone, as our friend and Mr FF took the Flying Dutchman funicular to save their knees!! Just to confuse you, the lighthouse below is not the one I just described but another one we saw en route!

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Trivia: Contrary to popular belief, Cape Point is not the place where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, although the warm and cold currents mix slightly in the nearby False Bay…The actual point is at Cape Agulhas.

Whenever we were driving, I was amused by the signs warning of Baboons and tortoises on the road. Possibly, because we had a pet tortoise when I was a child. The most baboons we saw were when we stopped for refreshments at Cape Point.

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Finally, I need to talk to you about penguins! In particular, the colony which lives at Boulder’s Beach, between Cape Town and Cape Point. This is one of the few sites where African penguins can be observed at close range, as they wander freely in a protected natural environment.

This has turned out to be quite a lengthy post but it was extremely difficult to select just a few highlights when there were so many.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and I would love to know if you have ever been to Cape Town or South Africa or where your dream destination might be.

Coming up … my highlights outside of Cape Town, including a safari, the Garden Route, Route 62 and the Winelands.