Ah it’s so weird to be writing again, I really fell off the bandwagon for a while but I’m excited to share the crazy stories about what happened in Africa!
I want to start with how we planned our trip to Africa. We decided back in December with a small group of our friends that an African safari was next on our list. We contacted our lovely travel agent (because Africa was a bit out of our travel planning comfort zone) and Liberty Travel really hooked us up and planned pretty much everything for us! We researched specific things we wanted and they made it all happen!
So September 1st came and we were off to Cape Town from JFK Airport in NYC. We flew straight from JFK to Johannesburg (almost 15 hours) and then Johannesburg to Cape Town. Our travel agent set up shuttles for us but in retrospect I don’t think they were really too necessary. One thing we did learn super early on in Africa is that they are HUGE on tipping and they aren’t afraid to ask for more. During our layover to get to Johannesburg one airport attendant insisted on helping us get to where we needed to go (even though we were already going the right way) and at the end he asked for a tip from all of us even though he just pushed one of our bags about 50 feet while we followed him. From then on and after a little bit of research we realized we needed to try to do things on our own and not accept help unless we needed it and that seemed to help.
Getting to Cape Town was quite easy and our first day we had about 2:00pm on to explore. We stayed at Mandela Rhodes place and it was quite over the top but the luxury was not unwelcomed. We had beautiful views of the mountains, a balcony, a kitchen, and we were perfectly located right near Long Street where you can find a lot of markets. We headed over to the market on Long Street the first day but didn’t end up buying much because we weren’t sure how authentic it was and the shop owners were a little overwhelming.
One place you can’t miss is the water front, it’s a little touristy but has an awesome selection of restaurants and a lot of fun entertainment. That night we made it over to Mitchell’s Waterfront Brewery and it seemed to be mostly German Fare and lots of beer, exactly what we needed after all that travel. Prices were pretty good and the food was pretty tasty as well.
Day 2: Boulder’s Beach, Table Mountain & Lion’s Head
So we started out our day taking an Uber to Boulder’s Beach which is about 40 minutes from Cape Town but we HAD to see the penguins! Let me say, Uber in South Africa was very professional and we always felt pretty safe with them. Our Uber driver even stayed around to take us back after our penguin adventures! First of all the penguins were SO CUTE and definitely worth the trip. You’re not allowed to touch them or get too close to them but they are very friendly and we got some great shots just hanging out with them. We went just as they opened and it wasn’t crowded at all but toward the end of our visit, we definitely saw some crowds coming in.
After Boulder’s Beach we were picked up for our Table Mountain and City Tour. We didn’t quite understand what the tour entailed and we though that we would be hiking and getting to see Lion’s Head but as we drove up to Table Mountain we realized it wasn’t what we wanted to do. We decided to leave our tour so that we would be able to experience everything we wanted to in the time we had. Definitely a tip for next time, make sure you understand everything that’s included in any tours and don’t settle if you are missing something you really wanted to do. We took the cable car up and down Table Mountain to save time and the top of Table Mountain was beautiful! It’s very high but very safe and also allows for you to climb out on the rocks and get some cool shots of your feet hanging off the rocks and the world at your fingertips.
Our tour guide decided to drop us off at Lion’s Head which was very much appreciated and we hiked up as fast as we could! It was a very similar hike to Angel’s Landing in Zion where there are some places where you have to pull yourself up and hang on to chains. It wasn’t too hard for very physically able people but I wouldn’t suggest it if you don’t hike much or have bad knees/ health issues. I did see some kids (under 5) doing the hike but everyone in my group agreed there is no way we’d be comfortable bringing a child that small on that hike. We made it to the top and it was breathtaking, it was really absolutely stunning. If you are able and have the time, Lion’s Head was probably my favorite view of the whole trip and definitely worth it. As we came back down, the sun was coming down into a beautiful sunset and it hit the rocks in a way that I can’t even explain.
Once we made it back to the hotel we decided we wanted to hop out of our comfort zone and try some Game Meat for dinner. Our hotel suggested the restaurant Balthazar and it did not disappoint. They had game kebabs of Wildebest, Ostrich, Kudu and Impala and it allowed us to try a bunch of things at once. The sides are sold separately but for a 3 course meal and wine the prices were amazing. The service was very professional and we truly enjoyed our meal and I seriously suggest this place.
Day 3: WINE, WINE & MORE WINE
This is the day I had been looking forward to since we booked our trip. Everyone had told me about how beautiful the winelands were and also how delicious (and affordable) their wine was. We headed to the KWV Wine Emporium. This place was a little commercial and didn’t really make me feel like it was much of a winery. They started out small and grew to a huge exporter of wine but it didn’t give me that comfortable, natural feel that I love at a winery. There were no good views of vineyards or anything and their wine was pretty generic (but they did give you huge pours!). Overall, the experience here showed us a lot of history of the winery but wasn’t really what I was looking for and I think could be skipped if I were going back.
We stopped in Franschhoek for lunch and it was a cute little town with cafes and shopping. We came across a biltong shop that cut fresh biltong for us and let us try a few different samples. The freshness of the biltong was delicious and a perfect snack for the next few days on my trip. We stopped at this little cafe called Dutch East and I had a Porcini infused mushroom risotto that was to die for!
Tokara Winery was our second stop and it was definitely more in line with what I was expecting to see. Upon driving up, it was a gorgeous view of the vineyards that overtook the countryside. The winery itself had floor to ceiling windows which just made it feel very natural and it was such a lovely view. The wine was more enjoyable here and the pours were actually pretty big. I would have liked a little more time at this winery to take advantage of photos but I am so glad we got to stop here.
After the second winery, we made another stop at a little town with shops and finally found the one souvenir we’d been searching for – ostrich eggs for souvenirs in the city center and we actually found a little shop that was selling them for half the price we were finding in Cape Town so we were super excited.
Muratie Winery was our last stop and it was definitely rough around the edges but such a cool experience. Everything inside (and out) was very vintage and they even leave all of the cob webs up around their tasting room. It definitely looked like it was in need of a good cleaning but it was all part of the experience. Their wine was by far my favorite and super affordable (I think I paid abut $6 USD per bottle). Their staff was very eclectic and they had great customer service because I got charged twice for my order and once I noticed, I emailed them and they took it off right away!
Once we got home we headed to Harbour House restaurant and I had some sushi and some delicious gnocchi. Overall the restaurant was okay, but the wait for food was pretty long. If you’re on a time crunch I wouldn’t suggest going here but the ambiance was really nice and the food was very tasty.
Day 4: The Watershed & Cape Point
Here’s the worst part, we found out that our shark cage dive was canceled. We were devastated. We tried everything to get to go and they told us that every dive had been canceled for the entire week due to rough waters. This was the one thing we had really been looking forward to in Cape Town and now we just know we need to go back one day.
We heard about this place called The Watershed along the waterfront and it was everything we were looking for in terms of local vendors and art. Almost everything in the watershed was unique, handmade, and from South Africa. No one was pushy the way we felt at the other markets and we all really enjoyed our time wandering the indoor shops and were really happy with our finds. We stopped at the V & A food market and I indulged in delicious samosa’s and everyone else got Turkish pizzas that were also AMAZING. These two places are a can’t miss spot on the waterfront!
We decided to take an Uber to Cape Point to do some more hiking and see what more there was to see. The views were amazing and we even got to see a whale and if you know me, that was like the highlight of my day. It’s an interesting experience here because there are a ton of baboons that jump on cars and aren’t afraid at all of people. There are a lot of signs but nothing can really prepare you for how aggressive they can be. We decided to take a trail down toward a cove along the beach and it was such a beautiful spot. One of our friends, went to go climb a rock and as I followed him I noticed he had taken his backpack off and there was a HUGE baboon trying to get into the backpack. I wasn’t ready to take on a baboon by myself so we called for help. With only GoPro selfie sticks to defend ourselves we finally got the monkey to abandon the bag once he realized there wasn’t food.
However, as he was coming down from the rock he ran past us and started to chase our other friend. In an effort to get the baboon away from her, she threw her backpack and he picked it up and ran with it immediately. He made noises to his friends which we saw start to line the top of the cove and come down toward us. We tried for a while to get the bag back but these monkeys were smart, and pissed whenever we tried to get it back. I was honestly really afraid and knew that it was a long hike back that I didn’t really want to do with huge baboons chasing me. We recovered some of her belongings that the monkey dropped but in the end, we decided to leave the bag. On the way back we had a few other scary encounters with baboons and I can safely say that baboons are no longer cute. I’m so glad we were in a group of 5 and that we finally made it out without getting hurt.
That night we headed to Royale Eatery in Cape Town which was recommended by a friend and it did not disappoint. They had delicious game burgers (regular ones too!) and the milkshakes were probably some of the best milkshakes I’ve ever had. They allow you to mix and match milkshakes so I tried a Milo, Oreo, and peanut butter milkshake and it was seriously the best thing I have ever had. The burger I had was a tad spicy but was called The El Burro and it was a blend of chorizo and chiles and had guac and jalapeños to top it off! Walking to/from the restaurant at night was a little uncomfortable because we were clearly tourists and a lot of people were trying to talk to us and stop us on the street. I felt okay in a group of 5 but I wouldn’t really be comfortable going out at night alone or with one other person in this area.
Overall, Cape Town was full of lots of adventures and excitement. I loved the mix of mountains, city, and waterfront and I really felt like there was something for everyone. The food was all delicious and pricing on everything was very affordable. I know one thing I was always looking for before leaving was “what to wear in Cape Town” so I wanted to share that Cape Town is really like anywhere else! Obviously check the weather but you don’t have to wear anything that you wouldn’t wear elsewhere. I did wear bug spray everyday just in case and comfortable shoes a lot for walking. Bring lots of hiking clothes and a hat for hiking so you don’t get sunburn! We also learned to steer clear from animals that would help us on our next leg of the trip where we head out to the safari at Pilanesberg National Park (blog coming soon!)