Flying in from Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways, there are no direct flights to Cape Town. So, we had to take a connecting flight via Johannesburg. All in all, it’s a pretty long journey but not too uncomfortable. One thing that really got to me though was how hot it got in the airports due to the lack of air-conditions. It is a good idea to purchase a cell-phone sim for your trip (google maps!), this can be done right by the arrival’s exit at Johannesburg Airport. I cannot tell you exactly how much the data package cost me but I remember it was pretty cheap. We finally go to Cape Town at around 9 PM so by the time we received our luggage and picked up the rental car, checking into our hotel and crashing for the night seemed like the best option. We stayed at the Icon Luxury Apartments, well priced for the size of the apartment and the master bedroom was fit for a king! However, there was only one small air conditioning unit for the entire place so it got really warm and the thing broke down after only one night.
Day 1: Table Mountain & VA Waterfront
Excitement was in the air! We were all up and ready by 7:30 AM to begin our first planned adventure in this beautiful country, hiking up Table Mountain and then abseiling down. I booked the hiking and abseiling tour with Abseil Africa, must say I was very pleased with their website and staff. However, my advice would be to just book the abseiling part with them and do the hike on your own. The hike up took us around 3 hours (you could probably do it in less but we were chilling) and this is where we met Victoria and Ramin (actually travelled to Thailand together a couple of months later too!).
Table Mountain is around 1100 meters high and offers stunning views of Cape Town, so you’ll definitely be getting that Instagram worthy picture. The abseil takes you down 200 meters and then you need to hike back up (30 minutes or so). I am afraid of heights so dangling off a mountain at that altitude whilst trying to take the perfect video on my GoPro was enough to get the adrenaline rushing through my veins. Moreover, there is a surprise half way down but I will not spoil that for you; let’s just I am not too proud of the noises I made and my friends will hold that footage against me forever (you can actually check out the video on Instagram @mdrakeley). That being said though, don’t chicken out guys, abseiling is extremely fun so grasp the adventure and do it!
Unfortunately, by the time we were done with Table Mountain, it was too late to visit Robben Island which was part of the plan initially. Nevertheless, I still recommend that you fit it into your schedule. After all it is where the great Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years! Do book a tour at Robben Island Museum in advance though because they sell out pretty quick.
After a short rest at the hotel, it was time to discover one of my favorite travel activities… FOOD! Therefore, we made our way to the V&A Waterfront. Now, I have visited tons of waterfronts in my lifetime but this was by far the most memorable (share your favorites in the comments section below). The place is just so vibrant and alive it left me breathless. I felt like an 8 year old in Toys-R-Us, like a fat kid at Magnolia’s Bakery, like a student with a substitute teacher, like a mom when her kid takes out the trash, you get the idea. The waterfront has a great variety of restaurants, souvenir shops, art galleries, shopping malls, fare rides, street performers and stage performances. In just a couple of hours, I bought a hat, fridge magnets, furniture, spices, dinner (ZEBRA STEAK!!!) and watched a great Jazz band stage performance and an African music and dance street performance. The best part of it all was: everything was so cheap. What more can I possibly ask for?
Day 2: Cape Point & Boulder Beach
Our friend arrived late last night from Dallas, Texas and the travel group was finally complete, we even got Victoria and Ramin to join us with today’s adventures. Breakfast at one of the many restaurants and cafes in Camps Bay was the perfect start of the day. Afterwards, we chilled at the beach for an intense game of frisbee (by intense I mean completely missing and hitting other people in the face) and some drone footage. After enough pain was inflicted by the frisbee, it was time to head down the peninsula to Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope. Of course, we did make a few stops at some of the towns along the coast before getting to the capes. A common misconception is that Cape of Good Hope is the southern tip of Africa; in reality, the tip is actually further down the coast and can be visited on the Garden Route, it is called Cape Agulhas. We parked at Cape of Good Hope and hiked to Cape Point and back. It is an easy 1.2 km hike with some beautiful scenery along the way. If you are lucky, you might get to see the dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans since that oceanic meeting point fluctuates between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point; weather is an important factor too. Can’t say I’d ever get enough of this place but with time running out, we had to rush back to the car and head to Boulder Beach. Forgot to mention, we bumped into a couple of ostriches on the hike back to Cape of Good Hope, no big deal 😝
If you like penguins, then this beach is your heaven. For only $5, you get to chill at a beach with dozens of penguins just roaming and swimming around you. Keep in mind that this is not a zoo or national park, this is just where the penguins happen to chill and sunbathe, so you’re getting the real experience. That being said, there is no guarantee that there will be penguins there, but your chances are very high (in February at least). Another thing, I know penguins may look super cute, but Madagascar is actually more accurate than I thought, they are badasses! I tried petting one and almost got my finger chopped off (slight exaggeration but I do like to feel like Steve Irwin every now and then).
Finally, it was time for dinner. Once again, we picked up Ramin and Victoria and hit up ‘Mama Africa’. This restaurant is located on the main ‘nightlife’ street of Cape Town but I have to admit, I did not feel too comfortable walking down it, neither one of us did. The restaurant itself is great though, the decor gave us a very ‘African’ vibe and the live band definitely added to the experience. I order a meat platter consisting of crocodile, ostrich, beef, venison and spring buck; it was awesome but be prepared to wait a little while for your food.
All in all, it was a quality day, 10/10. However, with shark cage diving at 7 AM (or so I thought) and a two hour drive to get there, it was time to say goodbye to our new friends and call it a night.
Hiccups on an Otherwise Perfect Trip:
I was extremely excited to try shark cage diving. I mean what could get your adrenaline pumping more than being stuck in a cage underwater while a 5 meter killing machine bashes against it? Ramin and Victoria tried it a couple of days before we met them and they couldn’t stop talking about it, that only added to the excitement. Therefore, safe to say I was devastated when I got back to an email saying that the trip was cancelled because for the FIRST TIME IN HISTORY orcas (killer whales) swam into the bay where the great whites are usually found. For those of you who don’t know, orcas actually kill great whites so when they swam into the bay, they chased all the sharks away, leaving me broken at the end of a very good day (rhyme intended).
Day 3: V&A Waterfront
I think a very small part of us was actually glad we’d get to sleep in and not get up at 4 AM to drive to Gaansbai for the great white shark cage diving. With time to kill before heading out on the Garden Route, we decided to head to the V&A Waterfront one more time (Steff had to see it too since she joined us a day late). We did some more souvenir shopping and watched an outstanding music performance (check her out on Instagram @alpetersenmusic). One of us proved they couldn’t be left alone too because they get talked into buying the most useless things in the world!
When it was time for lunch, we had pasta and carpaccio at a restaurant named Alfredo. It was possibly one of the best pastas I have ever had so if you’re ever there, I definitely recommend you dine there. Their dessert was also delicious.
Two days were simply not enough. I could go back and easily spend another week or two in this city without a single dull moment. Alas, the Garden Route along the south of South Africa awaits and boy does it hold a ton of adventures. If you are planning a trip to South Africa soon, I would definitely recommend including this scenic journey from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. To know more about the Garden Route and our adventures on it, check out our next blog post!