Today I’m taking you to Cape Town – undeniably and inarguably the most beautiful city in the world… and I’ve been to a lot of cities. With each new vista, from Table Mountain…
to Hout’s Bay…
to Chapman’s Peak…
to Cape Point at the Cape of Good Hope,
to sandboarding on the white dunes,
to visiting the townships,
your heart will expand until you feel your ribs might shatter. Add to that, African penguins…
…and then you implode from the amazingness.
The people of Cape Town are indescribably lovely and welcoming, and the activities and sites add up to the ideal vacation for friends, family, or even the solo traveler. Come along with me, Isoul Harris, Colleen Friesen, and Chadner Navarro as we visit Cape Town, South Africa after the jump… (more penguins!)
We stayed at the absolutely beautiful Bay Hotel in the Camp’s Bay area of Cape Town.
It’s right on the beach, so lovely, and all the rooms are suites, with a beautiful pool overlooking the ocean.
We had our first Cape Town dinner at the new Shimmy Beach Club, which was literally, not exaggerating, a 6-foot-long slab of wood coated in every kind of seafood you could imagine. It was almost so good I couldn’t enjoy it because my heart kept breaking that Jacinda wasn’t with me. Jacinda can put away a lobster like nobody’s business. This guy was totally winking at me.
I recommend hiring a guide for your time in Cape Town. Shaheed Ebrahim from Escape to the Cape is without a doubt the most-prepared guide I’ve ever had. We had a luxury van, equipped not only with your standard bottled-water and snacks, but chargers at every seat for every kind of phone/tablet/device! AND INTERNET. Yes, wifi in the car, which is what allowed me to live tweet, facebook, and instagram my Cape Town goings-on. Which you know I love doing in real time. My friend Chadner and I posed in the van (Chadner is the best, he kept us all happy with his rousing renditions of Disney musical anthems appropriate to our surroundings…on the beach, little mermaid, on safari, lion king, etc. etc.)
We set off for a tour of the beautiful sights of Cape Town. Because the morning was so clear and lovely, we headed right to Table Mountain to go up the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway and look down on the gorgeous city.
In the distance you can see Robben Island, where Nelson spent 18 years of his imprisonment looking up to Table Mountain as a “beacon of hope.” So moving.
Of course I had to pause for a portrait. Look how happy Table Mountain made me!
While at the top of the mountain, we saw this little guy. Does anyone know what he is?
It’s a rock dassie. So cute, but what’s most interesting is that it’s nearest relative in the animal kingdom is not a rodent or fuzzy mammal, but an elephant!
I loved learning all the legends surrounding Table Mountain…
The group stopped for a shot. I met all of these people for the first time on this trip, and we just got along so well. They were all even with me when I got the news of my adoption, so they will always hold a special place in my heart.
We departed Table Mountain via the cableway (though you could hike down, or even rappel, as I discovered when I saw this pile of gear)…
next to this cute boy 😉
From Table Mountain we headed with Shaheed to Hout’s Bay. I know we have a Prudent Mama from Hout’s Bay because she told me on instagram, what a beautiful place to call home!
At Hout’s Bay there is a man who is best friends with a seal. He is quite famous for his “seal whisperer” skills. His seal-friend’s name is Chippy. They have been friend for nine years, but before Chippy he had another seal friend who has since passed. Chippy lives in the bay and swims over every morning to hang out with his human BFF and eat fish.
You can give them a dollar and get to feed and pet Chippy. You know Chippy likes it because he doesn’t have to come do it every day! He’s surprisingly soft.
He will even gently bite the fish out of your mouth!
After washing away our fish-mouth-breath with ice cream, we continued along Chapman’s Peak drive to overlook the cove. Stunning.
We sat for a group shot. No idea why I am making such a ridiculous pose.
Our next stop was definitely one of my very favorite moment’s from the trip – Boulder’s Beach.
What makes Boulder’s Beach so amazing? The comorants pictured above are quite wonderful, but the real draw is the African penguin colony.
African penguins split the parenting duties 50/50. So that’s mom or dad, with baby penguin.
Another cutie. Fun note, there are gay penguins in this colony. All the other penguins are chill about it.
This penguin had something to say, but sadly I don’t speak penguin.
The beach is protected, so you can walk onto it on a walkway that goes through the penguins area, above where they make their nests. To help keep the population stable, they also provide the penguins with some track housing and the penguins dig it.
We saw some abandoned penguin eggs, which is a bad sign because penguins never leave their eggs alone, so our representative from South African tourism called a local penguin rescue organization and they came down to take the penguin eggs and incubate them.
I can’t get enough of these penguins.
After I was dragged kicking and screaming away from the penguins, we stopped in Simons Town for lunch, where we were serenaded by the lovely ladies and their musical DIY ankle instruments…
From Simons Town we hopped back in the van to head to the Cape of Good Hope and took the funicular up to Cape Point.
Once known as the Cape of Storms, the Cape of Good Hope felt to me like we were at the bottom of the world. I think this was one of my top two moments from the entire trip, just feeling like I was at the very tip of Africa.
Legend says this is where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, though the reality is it’s about 300km south of here. But this is as close as I got.
I was so invigorated by life, being at this place in the world.
The view was amazing. You could hike down to this beach…
..but it was quite windy that day.
I love a good directional sign. You know you are somewhere wonderful when you see a sign like this.
Or a sign like this.
After a long day like this we skipped wine country and high tea (in retrospect, we should have rallied! How often are you in South Africa?), we ate at the famous Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and I fell asleep at the table and everyone got drunk and took pictures of me sleeping. Oddly, I am not sharing those, ha. In the morning we woke up for a leisurely horseback ride on Noordhoek Beach.
Not a bad place to clear your mind, right?
It was so beautiful.
I adore horseback riding. It’s therapy, but prettier.
Here’s my adorable horse. I want to eat him.
It was lovely. Then we headed to the township of Langa for a tour and lunch. During apartheid, black South Africans were sent to live in townships outside of big cities, and it can be kind of shocking to see the townships at first, and honestly a little bit frightening. It’s just so different from any way of life we are familiar with here at home. They are places that are obviously poor, reeking of poverty, but at the same time, full of joy and welcoming people.
A church in Langa.
A bedroom in a Langa home.
So many small businesses making it work in Langa.
I found it interesting that Langa was experimenting with solar power. Awesome.
A Langa butchery, where you would purchase your meat…
And some of the meat for sale.
The people of Langa have pride and love for their township.
We visited the community center, where locals can learn craft skills (of course, I especially loved this part of the tour and purchased a bunch ‘o amazing stuff)
and we participated in a drumming session/lesson. This was awesome.
We had lunch at a lovely restaurant in Langa called Lelapa. The food was all prepared by proprietress Monica and her mother Sylvia.
It was amazing. I ate a bunch of meats that are common fare in South Africa but new to me, including Ostrich and Kudu. Pictured here are some yummy bread treats, including this fried dough ball that is a local Langa specialty. I asked Monica for the recipe and she said she would email me, but she likes to share them on her own site, so go check it out at lelapa.co.za.
One of my favorite moments of the trip is when I was talking to Monica about the recipes as two guys are playing marimba in the background, and she goes “Excuse me, just one second,” turns around to face the tables, and starts belting out a hardcore amazing The-Voice-worthy version of Happy Birthday. Monica’s got PIPES!
When you arrive in Langa, the kids know what’s up. They are the cutest, and they’ve obvs gotten some treats from some tourists before. This guy held our hands and did backflips until I stopped and bought him a lollipop. Cut to five minutes later, 300 kids are swarming me for lollipops. Which of course I loved, I missed Scarlet so much by now, I was so happy to play with some adorable children. I had brought pencils to give the kids, but left them in my suitcase, so I stocked up on lollipops at a candy store on the main street. I tried to ask all of their moms if it was cool before I gave their kids lollipops, and the moms I did ask said it was okay, but I hope I didn’t upset anyone. It’s probably not that awesome to just hand out candy without parental permission, so I apologize to nay Langa moms who had to wrench pops out of their kids’ hands.
A lesson from Langa: Love Your South Africa.
Our last adventure stop in the Cape Town area was to try sand boarding at Atlantis dunes. You set up your sandboarding trip in advance, then meet your dude at the dunes. There’s a parking area where you leave your vehicle, then he lets out some of the air in his tires (so they will drive on the sand better), and you climb in the back of his pick up to head onto the dunes.
When we got to the dunes, I turned around all smooth-like to hop out of the bed of the truck, and promptly caught my pants on a screw, ripping them wide open and revealing my booty to everyone. Luckily they only pretended to take instagram pics (I hope?). I headed back to the car to change into my spare shorts (thank god), which explains my amazing shorts-and-boots look I’m rocking here.
Sand boarding involves a board that is shorter than a snowboard, but otherwise similar. But there’s no ski-lifts, you have to walk to the top of the dune, which is cute the workout in itself. You wear your shoes and strap into the bindings on the board. you also wax the board before each run, otherwise you go quite slow. Even if you are not a skier, snowboarder, or general action sports enthusiast, I recommend sand boarding because it’s much, much tamer than you think. Sand is not speedy, that’s why you wax each time. I wasn’t feeling the smell of the wax on my hands so I did some passive-aggressive pleading with our instructor and he waxed my board for me 🙂
Which ended up super-helpful when I challenged Isoul to a race and my freshly-greased board coasted me to victory!
This group was such a fun one. We all enjoyed describing my shorts-and-boots look as the perfect style “for when your knees are hot, but your ankles are cold.”
Then we headed back in the pick up (and I kept my pants on).
Then to the airport to hop our flight (you can go direct from Cape Town to Limpopo on SA Express plane, FYI) to Kapama Private Game Reserve.
Next stop: SAFARI! Check in next week for all the wild animals you could ever imagine.