I know it’s been months since our South Africa trip but here it is! It was not easy planning with people from different parts of the world; me in Sydney, my cousin in Doha and the rest of the family back in the Philippines. It was a 4-month planning program and everything was unsure until the last 2 weeks before the trip. I’m actually very surprised how we organized everything.
Before I talk about my trip, let me tell you how silly it is to apply for a South African Visa in Australia. You would think Sydney would have a SA consulate to make it convenient for people to apply for a visa but NO, they don’t. Ofcourse, Australians do not need a visa to go so why have one in Sydney? For people like me who unfortunately have to get a visa for every single country I have to visit, I had to go through the hassle of a “personal appearance”. So my partner and I had to drive 3.5 hours to Canberra for an interview with the SA Embassy – 6am road trip to the capital for my 10am appointment– poor thing. When we got there, I walked in and said I had an appointment, they didn’t even ask for my name! They just asked for my documents and took it. That was it!! No personal interview or anything fancy like that. I was so disappointed. I don’t understand why they didn’t just let me mail the documents. Oh well. I just had to let that out my chest! On the brighter side, I got to see Canberra and I was one step closer to my SA trip.
South Africa has always been a dream destination of mine and finally, there was an opportunity for me to go. Cape Town was truly beautiful. Not only was the place amazing, even the people were. Contrary to what you hear about how dangerous this city is, it was actually quite pleasant. The people were so honest, friendly and very accommodating. So here are the 14 things my family and I did in Cape Town
Hiking up Lion’s Head
Matt and I arrived a day early so we can hike up the famous Table Mountain. We were over our heads and thought “let’s do Lion’s Head first and then walk up to Table Mountain afterwards” (Pfft! As if!) So we hiked up Lion’s head first. We started at Signal Hill and made our way up. Only a kilometer from where we started, I was already catching my breath and my legs were getting wobbly…oh geez! What was I even thinking?! We hiked up slowly but surely.
Lion’s head is still part of the Table Mountain National Park but it’s a less strenuous hike. Standing at 670M high, it’s pretty easy to get to the summit…or so i thought! okay it was relatively easy but because I didn’t prepare for it, I had a hard time in the beginning. Their website said it’s only a 1-hour hike to the very top but with my pace, it took us an hour and a half or was it two? (Let’s just stick to 1.5). It has a generally flat track but the exciting part is when you’re getting nearer to the summit. That’s when you need to do some serious climbing…at this point my body was already warmed up so I was no longer having a hard time. They have chains and ladders prepared to make it easier for the climbers and make it seem more “dangerous” but it really isn’t. When we reached the summit, the view we had was unfortunately all fog. We stayed for an hour up there waiting in vain for the clouds to subside but with no success. There were people having a picnic there with cheese and Champagne and I overheard them say “the first person who walks in front of us, i’ll offer them a cup of wine”. So I slowly started moving towards them and when they noticed us they asked “fancy a cup?”. Pretending I never heard what they said, I excitedly said, “OFCOURSE!!” haha We had a bad view but you can never go wrong with Champagne and some cheese.
The weather was hopeless so we made our decent with heavy hearts but halfway down, the clouds got clearer and we finally had an amazing view! It was so much better than the summit. We decided not to hike up Table Mountain anymore not because I didn’t have the energy for it but because it was starting to rain and that’s not an excuse!
Drinks at Café Caprice Camps Bay
What’s a vacation when you can’t wine and dine? Camps Bay is one of their broad beaches and is surrounded with bars and restaurants. Café Caprice is one of the places I recommend if you want delicious food and good wine. For a seafood platter and a bottle of wine, we paid only AU$30 for it. We had an amazing view of the beach and such a relaxing way to end our day after a hike. This was our pre-Valentines date with Matt.
15 Course Meal at Gold Restaurant
Our Valentine’s dinner was at the Gold Restaurant in 15 Bennet Street. I called for a reservation as this restaurant gets really full quite quickly –it’s very popular especially for tourists. Right when you enter the restaurant, you can already feel the vibe of it. Africans playing the drums and it just makes you feel like dancing. There was a mascot sitting down dressed in a typical African attire and here we thought it was just a display but then it stood up and we all thought it was falling down on us so we all shouted and together we pushed it but little did we know it was an actual man. So the other staff members had to help him stand up again. It was super funny! For PHP 1,000 (AU$30), we got to taste authentic African cuisine from all over the continent. Make sure you are very hungry. It was such an entertaining dinner with a Djembe drum class, 3 performances throughout the dinner, face painting and very, very entertaining staff. This gave us a very real African experience. It was a great welcome dinner for the entire family and what a way to spend our Valentines. Couldn’t ask for more.
Rent a Car
Transportation in Cape Town is pretty easy. Taxis can be found everywhere and they are cheap too. But there were 6 of us so we opted to rent a car. We rented an Avanza for AU$198 for 5 days, isn’t that such an amazing price?! It is so easy to find parking in Cape Town and there is no street-parking fee. You just need to give a tip to the guy who claims he’ll “look after” your parked car.
The Victoria and Albert Waterfront is the Fisherman’s Wharf or the Darling Harbour of Cape Town. This has a mall, so many bars and restaurants, the fish market and a lot of other entertainments. This is probably the center of entertainment in Cape Town. We visited this place more than once as there are just too many things to see especially at night. The restaurants are also so good! From seafood to steak, it is affordable, very delicious and excellent service too.
One of the Natural World Wonders is Table Mountain, this is the icon of Cape Town. They take pride and joy in this magnificent natural wonder. Table Mountain is just a breathtaking masterpiece of nature. For adventure junkies, you can opt to hike from the bottom of the mountain to the top. There are a hundred hikes to the top, just go to their website and it shows you different routes and tells you the difficulty too. I wanted to do this but unfortunately, the weather did not permit us. Another way to reach the summit is through the Cable Way. It will take you to the very top in 5 minutes with no effort exerted at all. You just need to pay AU$22/person for the Cable Car tickets. At the top, there are cafes and toilets and other refreshments so you don’t have to worry about being hungry. We spent a few hours there as it was just amazing. Another way to go down the mountain is by rappelling. Professionals are there to offer to anyone interested and you just pay them there.
Penguins at Boulders Beach
From Table Mountain we took a road trip to Simon’s Town at the southern part of Cape Town to go see the Penguins. They are so cute walking in their tuxedo-like nakedness and just minding their own business. There were hundreds and hundreds of them. They tend to be very curious and bite you if they get excited so be extra careful. I could stare at them all day! I could just imagine them dancing like Happy Feet.
Next in the agenda is another 45-minute drive to Cape Point. This is still part of Table Mountain National Park. Cape Point is at the southwest tip of the African continent. It is the edge of Africa and there’s nothing but water beyond that. Its pretty cool when you think about it. There is a lighthouse at the very top of the peak where you can choose to walk or take the Flying Dutchman Funicular. It was already closed when we got there so we had no choice but to walk up. I think it was the better choice anyway because the view was just ecstatic! A tip, watch out for the baboons!! I swear they are very aggressive and they will steal your bag if they smell food.
Cape of Good Hope is another 10-minute drive from the lighthouse. This is the point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. It’s famous because of the expeditions from hundreds of year ago. To be honest I don’t know why exactly, I just know that the scenery in this area is just wonderful and one of a kind.
Chapman’s Peak Drive
It was such a long day of driving and seeing beautiful places. We drove on the opposite side on the way home. We passed the famous James Bond set, Chapman’s Peak Drive. It is such a beautiful drive on the coastal area. The sunset drive was amazing! It is a must to see this wonderful scenery.
The apartment we stayed at was situated in Shortmarket Street right in front of Greenmarket square. I absolutely loved the apartment we stayed in. We had an amazing view of Table Mountain, we were in the heart of the city and the markets were right outside our doorsteps. You can find anything you want for souvenirs in the market. The sellers can be very aggressive and wouldn’t take no for an answer so you have to be strong when you say no. Also, haggle as much as you can because they usually mark up the price 3x.
Cage Shark Diving in Gaansbai
Swimming with the Great White Sharks has been in my bucket list. It’s time to finally scratch it off. South Africa is one of the best places to go Cage Shark diving. It was 2 hours away from Cape Town in a town called Gaansbai. This place has a lot of companies offering shark diving services but we chose Shark Diving Unlimited because Matt Damon, Blake Lively, Stephen Hawking’s grandson were some of the people who did the same experience. We had to wake up at 4am to get to the venue right on time. Matt and I were very tired! When we got there, they offered free breakfast so that was a highlight. We rode the Barracuda and sailed for about 30 minutes. The weather wasn’t cooperating, it was very cloudy and a little bit of a drizzle which was very disappointing because that only means one thing … very low visibility. It’s not like you anchor your vessel and there are sharks swimming around the boat ready to be seen… it takes time and you need to be very patient. I got really sea sick! There were too many people and not that much space to move around. If you get sea sick easily, you have to bring something to ease the sensation. Finally after almost an hour of waiting for these carnivores to show themselves, we were ready for some action! We needed to change to our wet suits and one by one we jumped into the tiny cage and touch the icy cold water. The cage was really small and they asked 7 people at a time to go in. I was having such a hard time coordinating myself – foggy glasses, strong current, freezing water, no room to stretch. It was so difficult to see the shark with everything going on. They literally had to be an inch in front of you to get a clear picture of them. I had to go down two times to finally see one. Though it was only for a second, they were scary as hell with their black eyes and really sharp teeth. Overall experience was not as great as I thought it would be but it wasn’t the company’s fault, it was the weather and obviously these creatures are wild and are not trained for our entertainment. They offered free lunch after the whole activity so that was good.
All around the city, they have these really large frames that has the perfect view of Table Mountain. There’s one in Signal Hill. Signal hill isn’t that high but you can have a picnic there and have a wonderful view. This is where the paragliding starts.
Today, everyone was feeling sick and down. (NEVER drink water from the tap even if it says its safe) we were sick for days! But we still pushed to go to our tour at 1pm. Believe it or not, we got lost 3 times looking for the ticketing office, we got there at 1:20pm but we still tried our luck, maybe Africans are like Filipinos with their time management. When we got there I asked”is there any chance the boat hasn’t left yet?” her reply was “Lucky you!”. I jumped for joy! I can’t believe we made the tour even if we were half an hour late.
Robben Island is the Alcatraz of Cape Town. You need to ride a ferry to reach the island. This is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 17 years. If that isn’t motivation enough to see the island, I don’t know what will. It’s a beautiful ferry ride with a different view of Table Mountain. When you get to the island, you ride a bus that will take you around the island with a tour guide explaining everything you need to know. Then you go see the cells where the convicts stayed. The most interesting one is when you get to see a glimpse of Nelson Mandela’s life in this tiny cell.
Sunset Champagne Cruise
Get ready to have a fill of “Champagne” or really, just sparkling wine. For AU$13, the website says you get 1 free glass of Champagne but in reality, you get unlimited glasses. They don’t even serve anything else in the boat, yup! Not even water. If there’s one thing those sailors want from you, it is to get you drunk! They wouldn’t take no for an answer. Intoxicated with wine on a sailboat… you’re in for a ride. It was a very fun cruise around the harbour of Cape Town. The view was just amazing and you get to meet people from all over the world too. Perfect way to spend our last night in this beautiful city.
There were still so much to see like Stellenbosch wine region but we were all sick and lost precious time but I wouldn’t have changed anything in our itinerary.This trip was such a memorable one for me. I haven’t seen my mom for 8 months and I was really stoked to finally spend time with her in Cape Town! Travelling with my family is always fun and there has never been a dull moment. 1 week in Cape Town was enough to see almost everything but it wasn’t enough time with my family. It always never is. I miss you Ma!
click here to see my Cape Town Travel Video
February 13-23, 2016