This is the beginning of my first travel series, My Maiden Voyage to South Africa, where I share about my experience visiting the southern tip of the African continent for the very first time. In this first chapter, I share about my plane ride from Singapore to Cape Town, and how my partner and I spent two days exploring the Mother City.
The Lion King.
That’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says the words ‘South Africa’. Well, at least before I made my maiden voyage to the place about a month ago.
An 11-day adventure that turned out exceeding the expectations of both myself and my travel companion’s, the initial prospect of setting foot in a country with a considerable reputation for violent crime made me admittedly apprehensive about the trip. Muggings, stabbings… Googling ‘South Africa safety’ only seemed to add to my futile distress.
What did put my mind at some ease was the fact that my travel companion/ better half had previously resided in the country and was familiar with all its quirks.
So, setting my wimpy fears aside and bidding some temporary goodbyes, we headed for Cape Town on a 1.30am Singapore Airlines flight outbound of Singapore – a nearly 14-hour journey that consists of a layover in Johannesburg.
During the layover, some passengers disembark the aircraft and cleaning crew hop on to spruce up the plane.
Stepping off the plane, we were eager to get the trip started. I was pretty excited. First things first, we aimed for a Vodafone store to get local SIM cards – one for each of us.
Excitement soon turned into agony, as I learned that things don’t usually go your way in Africa. We stood at the store for two hours waiting for the cards to work, only to get a refund for one of them before hopping over to another service provider store. They basically have really unreliable service providers there, and no one really knows how to help you.
Welcome to Africa, they say.
After the debilitating SIM card saga, we got our rental car sorted – something which involved me shuffling in an open car park whilst trying to stop our two big luggage from being wheeled away by the gust. Acquainted with what the Cape Town breeze could do, I was thankful I didn’t bring any kind of airy skirt with me (Well, except for the olive hobo dress I was wearing then).
Anyhow, on to the fun details of our journey.
A coastal city encircled by dramatic mountains such as Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak, Lion’s Head and Twelve Apostles, it’s impossible not to marvel at the spectacle that is Cape Town’s geographical beauty. Unlike any place I’ve ever been or seen, the cosmopolitan city tucks perfectly between jaw-dropping peaks and glittering coastlines – I’m not sure there’s any place like it.
There’s much to do in captivating Cape Town. And while we only had two days in the Mother City, we sure didn’t need to go shark cage diving or hike up to Lion’s Head to fully enjoy the city’s offerings (Heck, we didn’t even get up to Table Mountain thanks to the wind).
Instead, we basically admired Cape Town’s beauty from the front seat of our rental car – with just a tad of walking – and I wouldn’t have done it any way different. Here’s what we did and where we went.
Penguin viewing at Boulders Beach
One of the only spots you can get this close to African Penguins, Boulders Beach lies just outside of Cape Town, at Simon’s Town. A convenient stop as you drive towards Cape Point, the popular tourist attraction costs R65 a visit, as part of the Table Mountain National Park. Considering that the fuzzy chaps are of an endangered species, I guess it’s pretty reasonable as fees for conservation efforts.
Once known as Jackass Penguins due to the funny braying sounds they make, the flightless African Penguins are also the only penguins found on the continent.
Climb up to Cape Point
OK, we didn’t really climb up to Cape Point. We took the funicular, which takes you to a higher point, but you’ll still have to do some cardio up the stairs to get to the viewing point below the old lighthouse.
Cape Point has been a navigational landmark for sailors since its discovery in 1488, and continues to be significant in modern day. The old lighthouse at Cape Point is still used as the main monitoring point for other lighthouses that lie along the South African coast, while its newer counterpart remains the mightiest lighthouse around its coastline today.
Besides the remarkable lookout spot, Cape Point also offers shipwreck trails, hiking trails and other outdoorsy activities for those keen on spending a full day or more there. Whale-watching is also possible when annual migration occurs in June to October.
Continue on to the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula
A short drive from Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope lies on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula, and is in fact its southern end. The real southwestern-most point of Africa, it is often confused with Cape Point.
And while Cape Point offers an undisputedly epic view of the peninsula’s end, the Cape of Good Hope is untamed wilderness at its best. Watching the roughest waves crash against the rocky shore, and what with less tourists, the site’s alluring ruggedness is unbeatable.
Catch sundown from Signal Hill Road
A spectacular vantage point to watch the beautiful city bowl light up as the sun goes down, stopping by the side of Signal Hill Road was amazing. A must for any Cape Town traveller, with Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head providing a panoramic backdrop – you can even see part of the Twelve Apostles.
Hiking up to Lion’s Head and Signal Hill is also viable from Signal Hill Road, but we much enjoyed sitting by Signal Hill Road admiring its resplendent views.
Walk about the V&A waterfront
South Africa’s oldest working harbour brimming with retails shops, markets and restaurants, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is one of Cape Town’s busiest attractions. They’ve got everything – you can take a boat tour around the harbour, or even visit a diamond museum or ocean aquarium.
I got myself some souvenirs from a curio store (African art & craft gifts) here.
Just drive along the coast
From Clifton to Camps Bay where we stayed, continuing down Victoria Road to Hout Bay, we drove along the coast soaking up Cape Town’s beachy vibes and stopped for photos whenever we wanted. You’ll find yourself split between being in awe of Camps Bay’s swanky houses cropped against the Twelve Apostles mountains on one side, and the cerulean Atlantic waters on the other. I can tell you it is a pretty crazy sight no photo can do it justice.
All in all:
Our two lazy days in Cape Town were pretty fantastic even though we didn’t get to take the cablecar up to Table Mountain due to the gust, nor do anything remotely adrenaline-pumping. What I most enjoyed was the simplicity of driving along the coast and taking in the mind-blowing views. Something I would highly recommend.
A relaxing great start to our South African journey, I can definitely see myself returning to Cape Town in a heartbeat.
Next up on Bunny de coco:
Bunny de coco and her companion continue on to Johannesburg and drive for 5 hours through dense fog and deep potholes to get to the Kruger National Park (Safari time!). Along the way, they stop at one of the most magnificent spots in the world, where something magical happens.