Stepping out of the Cape Town airport into the humid thirty six degree heat was exactly the feeling I was looking for as I ran from Canada’s winter. A cab driver was waiting to whisk me off to the hostel I would be staying at, Ashanti Lodge, Gardens. The driver was very friendly and pointed out different landmarks on our way through the city, telling me the names of the different mountains, driving past the hospital where the first heart transplant was performed, and explaining how people lived in the poorer areas.
Ashanti Lodge was conveniently located near a sopping center, multiple restaurants and bars, and MyCiti stops, the public transit. The lady who checked me in wasn’t the friendliest however the other staff who helped me out with bookings and directions later on were much better. My dorm was at the front of the building and was kept tidy however at night their was a lot of noise from the patio area drifting into the room which made it hard to sleep. Ashanti had complimentary WiFi, a clean and well-kept swimming pool, and a bar/restaurant area with a pool table.
My first full day in Cape Town I caught the MyCiti bus to Hout Bay to go snorkeling with fur seals. I had bought a groupon through Cape Town Bucket List which cut the cost of this activity in half. The staff were awesome and upbeat and got us all suited up in wet suits to head out to Duiker Island where the seals are found. Unfortunately, the summer months in Cape Town are not the best time for diving and snorkeling as the visibility is very poor. The island is home to over 10, 000 fur seals yet we only got to snorkel with four that swam out. Those four were fairly playful and one would come within arms reach before diving off into the depths then returning a short while later. We spent about 45 minutes in the water with the seals before climbing back into the boat where we were treated to hot chocolate and cookies. On the trip back a pod of common dolphins made their way over and swam along side of the boat for a little while.
The next day was New Years Eve. An American girl I had met my first night at Ashanti was friends with a guy from Cape Town who was throwing a party to ring in the new year. Gayle and I, plus two American guys we had met also at the hostel dressed up and headed to our first South African house party. Entry to the party was a donation of clothing for the homeless which I thought was a great idea. I packed very minimal clothing for my trip but luckily Gayle had extra to get rid of.
The party had a brilliant view over town and of the fireworks. There were three different level decks to party on, one with a braai (barbecue) and dancing, one with a pool, and another small deck where people also danced and drank. The DJ was on the third level keeping us going all through the night. It was an awesome experience and a great way to welcome 2016.
Battling hangovers on New Years day, myself and the same three Americans I had gone to the party with booked a cab to take us on a tour of Cape Point Peninsula. We were all on a tight schedule so it was going to be our only chance to do the tour together. Alvin, our driver, showed up at nine am to take us out for the day. We all piled in the car and headed off, first to Hout Bay, the same place I did the seal snorkeling.
We arrived at Hout Bay just in time to catch the glass bottom boat out to Duiker Island to view the seals from above. There was a bar on the boat but we all passed on that offer. It was a beautiful day and the fresh air was great for the hangover, the rocking of the boat was not so much. We all managed to snap a few shots of the slippery Cape fur seals before the boat headed back to dock.
From there Alvin drove us along Chapman’s Peak, a beautiful drive that skirts the mountains on the coast. We stopped at a lookout to capture the scenery before continuing up to Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope. We caught the funicular up to the lighthouse at Cape Point as we were running a little short on time and it was getting fairly warm.
Next stop was Boulders Beach where the jackass penguins live. We paid a small entry fee to get onto the sandy beach where we could dip our toes in the Indian ocean and catch some rays alongside the little penguins. Wadding along the beach the tiny tuxedoed fellows were fun to watch, even if one did try to eat my gopro. The four of us kicked back and enjoyed the afternoon at the beach before I had to head back to the hostel to meet my tour group.
When I decided I wanted to travel to Africa I had to do a bit of research. I wasn’t sure that trying to tackle alone was in my best interest so I chose to join an overland group, Absolute Africa. My group consists of four other travelers, a guide and a driver. We have a massive truck made to seat 28 so there is lots of room for us to all spread out and get comfortable. We are going to travelling together from Cape town up to Nairobi, Kenya visiting a total of nine countries.
I met my overland group that evening for the first time. We got the tour of the truck and were told how things would work before we all went our separate ways again. We would have one more full day in Cape Town to do our own thing before departing on our first leg of the journey.
My last day in Cape Town was spent getting the adrenaline pumping. A bus came and picked me up from the hostel at 3:30am before driving out to Gansbaai where I would get to do a great white shark cage dive. We were one of the first boats out in the bay that morning but we spent ages chumming the water, waiting and hoping a shark would turn up. Over an hour passed before the boat closes to us managed to draw in a shark, unfortunately we still had nothing. Our skipper called one shark or five more minutes before we would head back to shore. Our spirits were all low when at the last minute one shark appeared. Everyone was up on their feet at once hoping to catch a glimpse of the most feared shark. The first group of viewers suited up and climbed into the cage. A second shark appeared. Then a third. Then a fourth. One shark measured close to five metres long.
When it was my turn I was so excited but also nervous. Of course we had a cage to protect us but the water was so murky it was hard to tell which way the sharks would be coming from. I was the only one on the boat who had brought along a snorkel so I was able to spend the whole time under water, waiting, watching. Everyone else waited at the surface for our guide to yell the shark was approaching, they would then duck under and try to see it before it disappeared again into the deep.
The experience was a great way to end my time in Cape Town. I wish I had more time as there is still so much more to do in the area but I got a good taste before departing the next morning on what is turning out to be a most excellent adventure.
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