Strolling along the esplanade in Sea Point, it’s easy to see why the people living in Cape Town are so happy. With the South Atlantic Ocean to my right, Table Mountain and Lions Head to my left, and a gentle wave of people jogging, riding bikes and enjoying a coffee around me; I felt right at home straight away.
This year I did Contiki’s Cape Safari and Falls trip and started right in the heart of Cape Town at Mojo Hotel. This small, funky, vibrant hotel has a chill rooftop deck overlooking the ocean and Lions Head. Underneath Mojo is a bustling food market with something to suit everyone – from wood fire pizza to sushi, gourmet ice cream to churros. They even boast the largest collection of beers on tap in South Africa. Chuck in some epic local artists performing live on the stage, and you really get a feel for the Cape Town culture.
Later our Trip Manager, Alfie and local guide, Kyle take us around sights like the Cape Peninsula to see the South-Eastern-most point of Continental Africa. We also stop by Boulders Beach to see the endangered African penguins and even have a cheeky winery stop with some breathtaking views at Cape Point Winery. We also make it to the top of Table Mountain where we stand in awe of the phenomenal view.
Day one and I already feel like I know Cape Town. Of course, it’s is more than just Table Mountain! We jump on bikes and check out the Bo-Kaap, a cluster of boldly coloured buildings, nestled between Table Mountain and the Cape Town CBD. It feels unreal to see so many sides of a city.
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to food and culture in Cape Town. If you’re interested in biology, you can’t miss the Heart of Cape Town Museum to learn about the world’s first ever successful human heart transplant. History buff? The Castle of Good Hope or Robben Island are great places to start learning about the history of this amazing city.
Travelling alone or in a group, you really are made to feel at home here. A woman making dinner in her kitchen overlooking the streets of the Bo-Kaap called out to me when she saw me trying to take a selfie, and insisted I let her take the picture for me. She introduces herself as Rosa, she’s been living in the Bo-Kaap for 29 years and she’s seen it grow and change with her children over the years. She is such a genuine person, and even made me stick around and try some of the chicken stew and homemade bread she was preparing for her family; as if I was a family friend they had known for years. She asked me about my trip and where I was going, and my quick selfie almost turned into a full dinner with this big-hearted woman.
From Cape Town we travel north to Johannesburg where we got to meet our next local guide, Jesse, who introduces us to all things Kruger as we make the drive toward Orpen Gate. Tents, local food, and safaris… this is incredible!
We get to spend two days learning about the delicate ecosystem that helps keep the savannah thriving. From dung beetles to lions, our local guides taught us how to spot different animals and birds; how to understand tracks; and the dangerous effects man is having on this remarkable ecosystem.
I spot a giraffe within minutes of entering the park, elephants, and to top it all off, we see a white rhino. It’s truly breathtaking to see these majestic beings in their natural habitat. As we drive away from Kruger to start our next leg, another gorgeous flame-red sun sets over the savannah. This is Africa.
Africa is a melting pot of different cultures. This is evident as we leave Zambia and head towards Botswana. From a local market to another border crossing, you get to see the heart of Africa up close and personal.
In Chobe, we again get to see an amazing variety of animals. This time, armed with the information Alfie and Jesse taught us back in Kruger, we can truly appreciate what’s happening around us and the significance of every action taken by the animals. Then, as the sun sets and we make our way to our camps for the night, we see a pride of lions. They’re getting ready to organise a hunt.
Tonight is our last night camping. The local guides cook us a delicious dinner, which we enjoy around a crackling campfire before playing some games, and staring up at the Milky Way – the overwhelming bright star system above us. We head to bed early as we have to be up at the crack of dawn. But during the night, a group of zebras pass by our tents!
The next morning, we get to watch the sun rise as we adventure further into Chobe. We see families of baboons, buffalo, elephants and lions all getting themselves ready for the day, before the sun gets too hot. You can’t help but feel in awe of this natural beauty and on our last day together, we don’t feel like tourists. We’ve been made to feel like locals.
It doesn’t matter where we go, we ‘re greeted with a smile. People in restaurants and cafes ask you how your day is and they seem to genuinely care too. It’s a refreshing take on customer service compared to most other countries!
Leaving is hard, I’ve made a new family here in Africa, and I can’t help but feel a sense of leaving home as the plane takes off. The people and places that I discovered over 11 days have been welcoming and treated me as an equal. I visited four countries, made 26 new friends, learned from local experts, ate amazing local food and created some unforgettable memories. Contiki and Africa just feel like home.