When South Africa is exemplified Table Mountain is the emblem. It’s the perfect example of the beauty South Africa beholds, mountains jutting out of the land, buildings built around it and then crashing into the surrounding sea. Cape Town is, by no exaggeration, a unique and awe-inspiring city and what better way to conquer it than by climbing its most famous mountain, conveniently placed right in the middle of everything.
If you feel fit enough, get up early and climb up, it should take no less than three hours though, so pack water and some snacks too. Get to the top feeling a sense of accomplishment and you will earn your ride down. If you want to go later on in the day the cable car has discounts for dusk rides. Don’t climb Table Mountain any time after dark, or any other mountain or trail for that matter, it is not safe and people, including locals, have been held up by criminals looking for vulnerable climbers.
One of the great things about S.A. is their highway system, it’s extensive, well signed, and easy to explore. Pick up a copy of Alternative Route Free Backpacking Guide, a source to all the places to stay while wandering the open road. Whether it’s the Garden Route, the Wild Coast, Cape Town to Joburg, or cruising the west coast to the little town of Springbok, road tripping is not to be missed. Take advantage of the coastal views, the expansive stretches of nothingness, and all that’s in between. Don’t want to drive? Take the hop on hop off Baz Bus taking travelers to the most popular destinations and off the beaten path all around S.A..
Hardcore Nat Geo Travel Road Trip (only for the ridiculously brave)
Put on your khakis, grab the binoculars and that trendy 15 pocket vest you bought at Outdoor World, cause we’re going on Safari. See if you can spot the big five: elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion, and rhino.Whatever you choose, consider a guide. They certainly do help and if you are going all the way to Southern Africa you may as well splurge on the trained eye of an expert. While you may see a rock and think it’s a lion from 10 feet away, a local guide will, with no effort, see a mouse scattering along from 10 miles away. No matter what you choose, be sure to spend at least a few days at one with South Africa’s many national parks.
P.S. If you don’t see the big 5 in person, take a look at your bank notes and you will find the coolest animals awaiting you on South African currency.
Developed in the early 1800′s Robben Island, meaning “seal” in Dutch, began as a hospital, an isolated environment to give the sick fresh air. Later, the island became a secluded leprosy colony. And finally, during apartheid, Robben Island was a political prison. The island, just under 7kms off the coast of Cape Town, held some of the most influential political activists in South Africa during the late 20th century. See the cell where Nelson Mandela wrote A Long Walk To Freedom (highly recommending reading this book before heading to S.A.) and learn about comrades like Robert Sobukwe and current South African President Jacob Zuma. Tours depart from the V&A Waterfront and fill up quickly, especially during high season, Nov-Feb. Be sure to book tickets ahead of time. Once on the island, former prisoners will take you on a tour, relaying their personal experiences. Remember to ask questions, be curious, and take photos of one of the most well known prisons on earth.
Every year, in May, the Cadiz Freedom Swim from Robben Island to Blouberg takes place. Thousands of swimmers challenge themselves to swim 7.5km of treacherous and freezing waters. Thousands come out to watch the event and athletes (and extreme sport lovers) from all around the world come to partake.
To come to South Africa and learn nothing of its rich and dynamic history would leave a traveler lost in the translation of understanding S.A.. Starting in 1948, apartheid(literally meaning apart) enforced a system of segregation among all South Africans oppressing the majority of the population. Laws and standards escalated until the early 1990′s when the regime ended. The Apartheid Museum in Joburg details the lead up to, duration of, and the end of Apartheid. Through multi-media exhibits, including interviews, photography, primary documentation, signs, artifacts, videos, and more, this museum is nothing short of living history. Take some time out of doing all the fun touristy activities S.A. has to offer and get a glimpse of this very real diverse, complicated country. Bring an open mind, an open heart, and maybe some tissues, this place gets right down to the core of what humanity is capable of, bad and good.
With over 1 million, South Africa has one of the largest population of Indians living outside of India. So, it’s little wonder the largely Indian populated city of Durban has great cultural chow. Expand your culinary horizons by eating at restaurants like The Indian Connection or Spice on Florida for some typical Indian delights. Try the “bunny chow” a signature dish originating in the coastal city of Durban.
Crafts, trinkets, little tastes of cupcakes, dips, handmade soaps, handmade giraffes, and chachkies as far as your eye can see. Markets really define the vibe, and the vendors give travelers the perfect opportunity to schmooze. In a country like South Africa, people will be trying to sell you anything from black garbage bags to beaded bowls, on the street, in a shop or while you are sitting at a restaurant. If you want some organic, low-fat, vegetarian chocolate you can find it and if you want a wooden carving of the big 5 animals you’ll find that too. Do not miss out on going to at least 3 markets, in all different cities of South Africa, you will not regret it.
Market Fleas – Online handmade South African craft products
Clifton 4th is for families, 3rd is for gay oiled men, 2nd is for college students, and 1st is for hipsters and 20 somethings. With only a row of rocks separating each beach from the next make sure you hit them all up. November through March Clifton, beaches 1-4 are pumpin’ with locals and tourists alike and all for good reason, because in the words of Zoolander “it’s ridiculously good-looking” oh and the beach isn’t so bad either. Head down the long trail of stairs to arrive at a boulder beach heaven. No shops, no restaurants, only guys selling African trinkets and sunglasses from china.
Cool down with a granadilla lolly from a vendor and be sure to bring your sunblock, after all it’s Africa.
There are few places more scenic and epic to jump out of a plane than Cape Town. You’ll feel a sensation that is indescribable, really it is, and you can only know what it feels like once you have done it. Don’t worry, you will be strung safely to a seasoned pro who gives you the confidence to jump and even if you don’t feel saucy that day, you are attached so, there’s only one way down. Seriously, don’t think about it and just do it.
Whether you depart for Joburg or Cape Town, or any other decently sized city in South Africa, what you will likely first lay eyes on, are not skyscrapers, Table Mountain, or the epic coast line. Instead, it will surely be a township, the home to the majority of the South African population. Makeshift houses, made of scrap metal, wood, bricks, and sometimes plastic garbage bags, line most urban areas. To not spend time in Soweto, or spend any time in a township, would be severely missing out on getting to know the heart of the population.
Alternative “Amazing Race” in Soweto
Lonely Planet Forum – Soweto Township Tours
Other Rocking Activities:
Active Sushi – All you can eat sushi and sashimi for 1o9 ZAR ($15) …… challenge yourself to eat an entire salmon raw!
Caledon – The best hot springs outside of Cape Town. Plan a day there for maximum relaxation. Their messages are said to turn even the most tense of women into mush.
Get a drink on Long Street in Cape Town at Neighbourhood Bar
Party it up in Jozi