Thursday, April 4, 2013

Lions, Great Whites and Penguins, Oh My!

South Africa was the port I was most looking forward to on the itinerary, so I was super excited the morning of docking. Amanda and I woke up for the sunrise, and Kayla, Ben, Nicole and Carly tagged along too. It was gorgeous. We saw the sun rising over a few of the 12 Apostles (the 12 mountains in the surrounding area) and even saw a few seals swimming in the water. We then went to breakfast and started getting ready for the day.
Ben, Nicole, Melissa and I decided we were going to explore the waterfront in the morning and head to the beach in the afternoon so Ben could work on his marine bio project. The V & A Waterfront is one comparable to the Sydney and San Francisco Harbors. It reminded me a lot of Annapolis with all of the cute shops, tons of boats and amazing restaurants. We went to lunch with Dana and Cassie, but they had to leave early for their field programs. At lunch, Ben and I both tried the game kabob that featured meats from Springbok, Impala, Kudu and Wildebeest. Both of our favorites were the wildebeest. After lunch, we bopped around the water front a little more before heading back to the ship to get ready for the beach. Nicole and Melissa just wanted to shop so they left Ben and me to go back to the waterfront. We then took a taxi to Camps Bay, a 15 minute cab ride to the other side of Table Mountain. Much to my dismay, it was incredibly windy so not a good day to lie out. Ben had to collect plastic pieces off the beach and write an observation, so I walked with him. We also saw a Coke commercial being shot there, which was cool to watch. Ben and I got back to the ship in time to meet up with Cassie, Lisa, Melissa, Nicole and Delia. We ate dinner on the ship and then went out for a few drinks before calling it a night.

The next morning, Cass and I woke up to get ready for shark diving! We weren’t sure if we would be able to go in the end because it was so windy, and Semester at Sea cage dives were “cancelled” (Turns out, the night before ISE decided that cage diving was not covered in their insurance so they wouldn’t let students get in the water. Instead, they were only allowed to sit on the boat and watch). Thankfully, we weren’t going through SAS, so we waited to hear the verdict from our guide. By 9, Kayla, Carter, Nicole, Phil, Raj, Lexi, Cassie, Drew and Ben were ready in the lobby to head out. We drove about 2 hours to the cage diving beach. We got wet suited up and sat in the boat for about an hour before our first sighting. The first group got in and had the shark brush up against the cage a few times before they got out. We didn’t see another for a while, and we were all convinced that was it. By the time my group got in (group 3), we had seen 6 different sharks of varying sizes. The first encounter we had with our new, 20 ft shark, his fin was stuck in the cage and he began thrashing around. We thought that was awesome, and had him swim by a few more times. When we were about to get out, we went back down for one more sighting. The shark actually put his face into the cage, and had I kept my hands where they were, I would be fingerless. It was awesome, and we have some video to prove it! The water was 55 degrees, so after being in the water for 30 minutes, we decided it was time to get out for real. Besides, nothing could top that. These pictures don’t do it justice. Check out my Facebook for better pics!

We got back into Cape Town around 7:30, and were all starving so we ate dinner on the waterfront and then headed back to the ship. The next morning, Raj and I wanted to do anything that involved adrenaline. We went to a tour agent and tried to book skydiving, bungee jumping, zip lining, or 4-wheeling, but since it was so last minute nothing was available. We ended up booking a tour down to the Cape of Good Hope which is the most south-western point of the African continent and is where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. It was a beautiful (but windy) day at the Cape, and on the way back we stopped at Boulders Beach which is home to thousands of penguins.


Because Raj and I were frantically trying to find something to do in the morning, we didn’t eat lunch, so by the time we got back to the ship at 8, we were starving. Craving Mexican food, we found Carly and started to head to the water front to the restaurant we looked up. On our way out, we ran into Lisa, Matt and Xavier at different points while trying to leave. They all wanted to come, so we waited for another 45 minutes before we got off the ship. We then could not find the restaurant, and found out it had been closed for a few years. Someone working on the waterfront pointed us in the direction of a great Mexican restaurant that we needed a cab for. Finally getting there, it was packed so we put our name on a 40 minute waiting list and headed across the street to a burger joint to “pre-game” for our Mexican. We finally sat down to dinner at 10 and got to eat. When we finished we were exhausted and headed back to the ship. 

The next morning, we had a guide pick us up and we did a wine tour/Safari overnight. We went into the wine country and visited 3 vineyards for tastings. We got to our hotel at around 7:30 that night and our guide gave us a barbeque and we all hung out.

On day 5, we did our game drive safari which we were all so excited for. We went to the Aquila Game Reserve which was about a 10 minute drive from the hotel. We were on our drive for roughly 2 hours, and saw tons of animals. My pictures will work a lot better than trying to explain it to you:

That afternoon, we drove back to the ship and unpacked before heading out to dinner on the waterfront. The next morning, our original plan was to hike Table Mountain, but there were thick clouds covering the summit and gale force winds. I am jealous of the people who enjoy hikes, but that is just not my cup of tea. Nonetheless, Cassie, Kayla, Gabby, Amanda, Carly, Lisa and Raj still trekked up the mountain for a 4 hour hike while Ben and I did our own thing. In the morning, we did a City Sightseeing bus tour which took us all around the city of Cape Town. In the afternoon we went to lunch on the waterfront and did some souvenir shopping before heading back to the ship for on-ship time. 

Our view of Table Mountain
Cape Town did not disappoint. I absolutely loved everything about the city and the entire country of South Africa. The citizens have so much pride in their country and there is so much to do here. Between the wine country and safaris, cage diving, skydiving, bungee jumping, beaches, city life and all of the other unique things to do, I could never get bored. I went to the waterfront every day and still found new things to do there on day 6. That being said, Cape Town is known to have the highest crime rates in the world, so we always had to be on our A-game. Still, I felt relatively safe the entire time I was there, and we just made sure we were smart about where we went and who we talked to. I am in love with this country and am going to return in the near future. 


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