Before I start writing this blog I want to stress that within this entry there is one day which was truly the most ridiculous day of our entire trip…you’ll see what I mean later!!
We were both really looking forward to our time in Cape Town. Even though it was the first place we were going to on our trip that we’d been to before, it would be nice to spend over two weeks in one place. But more importantly my Mum, Dad, sister Katherine (Frim) and her boyfriend Chris were coming to visit so I was really excited about seeing them.
After successfully negotiating the bus from the airport we spotted my Mum and Dad waving furiously at the side of the road, I hadn’t seen them for 10 months so there was a lot of hugging and general excitement. Last time we came to Cape Town we stayed at a place called Camps Bay Resort which is metres from what I think is the nicest beach in Cape Town. This time it was a little out of our price range but as my parents kindly offered to pay, we got to stay there again, yey.
Camps Bay is dramatically set at the foot of the Twelve Apostles Mountains and the beach front is full of lovely bars and restaurants. Straight away it felt like like a holiday from our travelling, thankfully with the help of the bank of mum and dad!! It was actually lovely not to do much apart from chill out on the beach for a few days and go out for amazing food. The meat and fish in Cape Town is incredible and luckily for us the exchange rate from pounds to rand makes everything really cheap! On the second afternoon after a lazy day on the beach we headed to V&A waterfront. It’s such a pretty place, and I knew my parents would love it. It’s still a working harbour and with Table Mountain in the the background and beautiful buildings all around with tons of bars and restaurants, it’s a great place to spend an afternoon.
We went out for an amazing african meal and Tom had Ostrich, which was delicious. That’s one thing we vowed to do whilst in Africa, try as many different game meats as possible!
The following day arrived and with it the arrival of my sister and her boyfriend. Again we hadn’t seen them for 10 months so we were really excited to get everyone together and let the holiday really begin. Every year the six of us head to Cornwall and have a few days together on the south coast of England. Obviously myself and Tom didn’t make it last year as we were in Japan so when Fris (Frim and Chris) arrived it was like the six of us being back in Cornwall….just six thousand and five miles further south!! We had tons of stuff lined up to do so after another amazing meal out in Camps Bay we headed to bed ahead of our trip up Table Mountain the following day.
Fris are keen walkers so they decided to hike up to the top of table mountain whilst the rest of us got the cable car up, far more civilised! The views from the top are truly spectacular.
Fris made is up about an hour later after their stroll up the side of the mountain in the 30 degree heat! Frim almost gave up but fair play to them both for doing it. I’d earlier asked Tom if he wanted to walk up and was met with a ‘what do you think’ stare…I took that as a no!
After a few hours at the top and a few photos of Dassies (big guinea pig like things) myself and Fris walked to the highest point, Maclear’s Beacon…just to say we’d been there.
The next day was something Frim was really excited about, a trip to see the penguins at Simons Town. Back in 2008 when me and Tom were last in Cape Town we’d taken a trip there and I knew the Eccles’ and Chris would love it. After a stop off at St. James Beach to take some pictures of the brightly coloured beach huts we continued on to Simons Town, the home of Boulders Beach and the African Penguins.
After a lovely meal in the harbour we headed off to see the penguins. We started off by doing the walk we did last time and saw tons of penguins hiding and nesting in the woods. I think everyone was excited to see them, but were more excited to see them on the beach…that was coming up. We arrived at Boulders Beach and I went for a swim. It was amazing just being in the water and seeing a penguin pop up next to me.
I could have stayed there all day but the others had headed back to the penguin walkways on the next beach along so we went to join them. If we weren’t on a tight schedule I think we’d have been there for hours as penguins really amuse me, just waddling around in the sand!!
We finally managed to drag ourselves away and headed down to Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. Last time we’d visited South Africa we’d headed there for sunset but didn’t realise that they actually shut the gates at sunset and won’t let you in anytime after 5pm (we arrived at 5.02pm!) We didn’t take any chances this time and made sure we were there with plenty of time to spare. We headed to Cape Point first and took some amazing pictures.
After we’d done there we headed to Cape of Good Hope and enroute stumbled across a herd(?) of Ostriches….as you do!
Cape of a Good Hope was beautiful and we decided to stay as long as possible without getting fined for being out after sunset (apparently they do this and seeing as we knew from experience they were sticklers for the rules, we didn’t want to take the chance!) We were the last car to leave and it really was beautiful sitting on the beach watching the sun go down. After a speedy journey to the gate we luckily made it out with a minute to spare…
Whilst my family were in Africa I really wanted them experience going on safari but unfortunately there aren’t any of the big national parks near Cape Town. I did a bit of research and found a place called Inverdoorn Game Reserve, and decided that was a good alternative. Inverdoorn is the largest private game reserve in the western Cape and is home to the big 5 (elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino, leopard) amongst other animals. Quite a few of the animals have been rescued and there is a cheetah conservation program which is pioneering the fight to save the cheetah and is home to 14 cheetahs, many of which have been rescued from horrific circumstances.
As we’d left it late to book there were only the deluxe chalets available, such a shame! It was like staying in a five star hotel. On arrival we spotted 2 small rhinos in an enclosure near our accommodation so headed over to see them.
We learnt that their mother had been killed by poachers so they had been rescued and brought to the centre. They were too small to be let out into the reserve alone so they had to be hand reared until they were 2 years old, then they could be reintroduced into the wild. Poaching is a huge problem in Africa and has now reached crisis point. In 2013 the recorded number of rhinos poached in South Africa alone was 1004 which was over double that off 2011. The stats are pretty horrific and if the killing continues at this rate, rhino deaths could overtake births in 2016-2018, meaning rhinos could go extinct in the very near future. All the rhinos at Inverdoorn had paint injected into their horns to try and stop poachers, it’s so sad the lengths they have to go to.
After some lovely food and a relaxing time by the pool, we headed out on our first safari.
To begin with we headed into the lion reserve. All three lions at Inverdoorn were rescued and unfortunately they have to kept separate from the other animals as they have to be fed by the rangers. One of the Lion’s, Robby, was rescued from a terrible fate as a canned lion. (Canning refers to trophy hunting, trapping an animal in an enclosed space so hunters guarantee a successful hunt) So even though the lions aren’t completely wild they have a huge area to wander around freely and have a much better life now than previously.
After visiting the lions we headed into the main reserve and went off in search of other animals. We saw found giraffes, rhinos and wildebeest as well as various other animals and birds such as kudu, impala and zebra.
Next stop was the cheetah conservation centre. Sadly, there are less than 10 000 cheetahs left in the wild today. Their biggest threats are human conflicts, habitat loss and illegal trading. Inverdoorn runs the a Cheetah centre with an aim to raise awareness about the dwindling numbers of these beautiful cats.
One of the aims of the conservation centre is to release the wild cheetahs into the main reserve. Many of the cheetahs have been rescued from dire circumstances so they have to be properly rehabilitated before this can happen. For example they have to know how to hunt in order to survive. This is one of the reasons for the daily cheetah run, to help the them get used to chasing prey. We were lucky enough to experience a successful cheetah run, (sometimes they can’t be bothered to run) it was amazing to see the fastest land mammal speeding past!
As the sky started to change colour we headed back to the lodge to watch a beautiful african sunset from the comfort of our roof terrace, it’s a hard life!
That evening we had a lovely meal by the swimming pool before heading back up to our roof terrace for some stargazing. As we were in the middle of nowhere the stars were fantastic and it really was the perfect end to an amazing day.
The following morning we had an early game drive. We saw more giraffes just as the sun was coming up so got some stunning photos.
We saw hippos and buffalo, found one of the two wild cheetah’s released into the main reserve, saw more rhinos and then much to my Mum’s delight we found the elephants. There are two elephants at Inverdoorn, Bully and Nduna. Both were bred in captivity and were working in films until they were transferred to Inverdoorn for a life in their natural environment. We spent loads of time watching the, and they seemed very happy in their new environment.
After a lovely breakfast we went on our a cheetah interaction and met Velvet. The story of how she ended up at the centre was pretty horrific. As a cub she was being reared in a bathroom with her 3 brothers before being sent to the Middle East to be a rich person’s pet! The conservation centre tried to rescue the 4 cubs but it took the death of one of Velvet’s brothers for the owner to see sense and allow the conservation centre to take them away. Unfortunately for Velvet she has a broken tail which means she will never be able to be released into the wild. Cheetahs use their tails whilst running to help them steer and turn, so she wouldn’t be able to successfully hunt. The interaction though was amazing. We learnt all about the beautiful cats and also had the chance to stroke her.
All in all it was a great experience and one which I hope my parents and Fris will never forget.
On the way back to Cape Town we decided to take a detour and drive through Stellenbosch, one of the biggest wine regions in South Africa. We’d done quite a bit of wine tasting on our travels and I was keen to let the others experience it. We decided to go to Ernie Els’ winery as it had a good write up. Well, it was interesting to say the least.
The setting was beautiful but we unfortunately met one of the rudest waiters I’d ever met in my life. Amongst many other things he blamed us for ordering food after the kitchen had closed, even though he had left us waiting for a table for half an hour and then went on to say that the wine we’d chosen to taste wasn’t worth tasting!! It was all bizarre and I managed to bite my tongue as I didn’t want to kick up too much of a fuss and ruin the experience even more than this idiot already was. Thankfully we still had a lovely time and after a few choice words from me he actually apologised, kind of! It did mean that he served me minuscule tasters of the wine compared to the others…oh well.
After a day on the beach and one of Camps Bay’s beautiful sunsets it was time for the strangest day of our trip…
The last time we came to Cape Town we went shark cage diving in nearby Gansbaai and as my Dad is really interested in sharks we knew he’d love it. There was no way in the world we’d get my Mum in the cage but we thought she’d enjoy the views from the boat. On arrival in Gansbaai we had a lovely breakfast before heading off onto the boat. Unfortunately for us we’d picked a day which wasn’t exactly ideal. The conditions out at sea were pretty rough and the visibility in the water wasn’t very good. It also started raining as we left land, but I was still confident we’d have a fun time.
It took about an hour for us to find the first Great Whites but when we did they were incredible. They were coming up out of the water trying to eat the tuna head and the first divers went into the cage.
I noticed that once people had been in the cage they came out looking a bit green and a few started being sea-sick. As the weather started to deteriorate the amount of people getting sick started to increase and before long about half the people on the boat we making use of the paper bags provided!!
Before long it was our turn in the cage and it didn’t disappoint. Just seeing the Great Whites so close and coming towards the cage under the water was amazing. I did try and take some photos with our underwater camera but the choppy conditions meant I ended up taking pictures of the ropes and side of the cage!! Oh well. When our time was up we headed back onto the boat and had just started discussing our experience when suddenly things took a turn for the worst. I didn’t actually see this incident occur but Tom saw it first hand. He was saying to Chris now he felt a bit rough but Chris said he felt fine. Then suddenly out of nowhere projectile vomit fired out of Chris’s mouth into a towel and the pressure of the spew went flying over the top of the towel and all over Frim’s head, face and shoulders (and onto the arm of the skipper!) I turned around to see my poor sister standing there looking shell shocked covered (and I mean covered) in bright yellow sick!! As I’d missed the main event I had absolutely no idea what had happened and was really confused…I actually thought she’d been sick on herself until I worked out it would be pretty tricky to be sick on the top of your own head!! Because I’m a lovely helpful sister I, along with the unfortunate skipper, helped clean the sick off Frim who still looked distraught.
This pretty much spelled the end for our shark experience as the weather was truly horrific by this point and the skipper called it a day. We headed back in treacherous conditions and by all accounts the upstairs of the boat was like a roller coaster. Thankfully we made it back to dry land without any other vomit related events occurring!!
Once back at the centre we wound Chris up with as many sick related puns as we could think of, ate some food and then headed off back to Cape Town. We stopped off to get some diesel and I spotted an off licence so we went to buy some wine for the evening. We were just getting back into the car when we heard this crash and the sound of broken glass. My Dad had fallen off the kerb and hit his elbow and knee at the same time as dropping one of the bottles of wine. Thankfully his injuries weren’t too bad but I headed to the pharmacy to get some antiseptic wipes whilst my Mum and sister went back to the off licence to replace the bottle of wine….priorities!! After cleaning him up we were back on our way laughing about what else could possibly go wrong!!
About twenty minutes later there was a loud cracking noise as a large stone hit the windscreen of our hire car! After close inspection there was a rather large chip in the windscreen…argh. This day was getting pretty ridiculous.
We continued on and as we were giving the car back the following day we had to make sure the tank was full so stopped off at another petrol station close to home. In South Africa there are attendants that fill the tank up for you. Unfortunately for us our attendant was also having a bad day and even though Tom asked for diesel and there was a huge sign saying diesel next to the petrol cap…he filled up with petrol…aaah. Our ridiculous day of projectile vomiting, smashed wine, injured limbs, a chipped windscreen and now useless car was complete! Thankfully the petrol station took full responsibility for the mistake and sorted it out with the rental company and we headed home in a taxi!!
That evening we “carefully” walked up the hill to an amazing grill restaurant near our apartments and ate one of the best meals of our holiday. The steaks were to die for and after the day we’d had we were just pleased that we didn’t all walk away with food poisoning!!!
Still laughing about the ridiculousness of the previous day we headed off to the district six museum. District Six used to be a vibrant centre close to the city but by the beginning of the twentieth century black South Africans were being forced out. Then in 1966 it was declared a whites area and 60,000 people were forcibly removed and their houses in District Six were flattened by bulldozers. The museum tells the stories of some of these people and has some of the original signs from the area. It was really interesting, if a little disorganised, but we were all pleased we’d visited.
After there we headed to V and A ahead of our trip to Robben Island.
The island is most famously known as the place where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, but before it was a prison it had various other uses such as a leper colony and a military base.
We were warned that the crossing was going to be a bit rough (so we obviously all looked at Chris) but compared to our shark adventure it was like a millpond! It was really interesting to visit the place where Nelson Mandela spent so many years of his life. I’d recently read his autobiography so it was great to visit the various places he wrote about, such as the limestone quarry, his prison cell and the yard in which Mandela and Walter Sisulu buried the manuscript which later became Long Walk to Freedom.
After returning to the V and A in chilly conditions we headed out for the last supper as my parents were heading home the following day. The holiday had absolutely flown by and even though we’d packed so much into the 10 days it felt like they’d only just arrived. We went to an amazing restaurant at the V and A, even if it was way to dark for my parents and much to my amusement they had to read the menu with a torch!!!
It was sad saying goodbye to my mum and dad the following day but we were so pleased they’d come all the way to Cape Town to visit us. I knew they’d love it and I was so happy that we’d given them the excuse to come and visit this wonderful city. Tom and I also had to leave Camps Bay and find somewhere else to stay as the bank of Mum and Dad was now closed, so we needed cheaper accommodation! We found an awesome hostel near Long Street, the main street in Cape Town which was really homely and had lovely views of table mountain. Plus it was only £8 a night, bargain!
We headed back to Camps Bay for one last meal with Fris at a restaurant we’d not been able to go to with my parents as my Dad doesn’t like fish. It’s called Codfather and instead of having a menu you just head up to the counter and pick out the fish you’d like to try.
Back in 2008 we’d visited the restaurant twice and once again it didn’t disappoint. It was the perfect end to the family trip to Cape Town.
We did head back to Camps Bay the next day to wave Fris off, and were greeted by the sight of a huge pod of dolphins swimming in the bay, this place never ceases to amaze me.
Then the holiday from our travels was over, and it was amazing!!! We did have a few extra days in Cape Town but apart from searching for a sleeping bag for our trip to Namibia and petting Easter bunnies in a shopping centre we didn’t do very much.
I loved every second of South Africa…actually I don’t mean that, cleaning sick off Frim’s head was definitely a lowlight…but apart from that the last two weeks were amazing and I was so happy my family came out and experienced this special place with us.