Western Cape, South Africa

Having spent barely any time away last year, it hit August/September and I made my boyfriend commit to a holiday away – we quickly settled on October, and for the sun, Africa. It wasn’t much time to get organised, and we ended up getting an agency involved to help with a week in Namibia (but more about that later), which left me to plan the week and a half we had in South Africa and so…

The first thing we booked was flights to Cape Town with British Airways. I tried to check-in online however it didn’t seem to be working so we headed out to Heathrow directly from work, aiming to be there about 4 hours early to be able to check in and get some dinner ready for our bed on our night flight. It didn’t quite go to plan. We got to the airport and were told that our flight had been overbooked, we would be put in the queue to get a spot if others pulled out or didn’t show but in the meantime here was a £5 voucher, go and make ourselves comfortable. Neither of us were too impressed with this for fairly obvious reasons – it had never happened before but they couldn’t tell us if we would fly, the way the overbooking works means we would’ve been low criteria on flying (not gold members, no onwards flight etc), the next BA flight was 24 hours later and there was nowhere to have dinner in the meantime. Not only that, but they accidentally sent my boyfriends bag through when tagging it so while he had a nightmare running around the airport and through security to get it tracked down again, I had to sit and stew (and read up on compensation with flight delays). I had a plan by the time my boyfriend returned, and we went to the Customer Service desk to ask them to find another flight to put us on – there was an Emirates and an Ethiopian Airlines (via Ethiopa) flight leaving that night that could get us to Cape Town the following day. There was a bit of debate, a bit of manager involvement and eventually we got it agreed that we could go on the Ethiopian flight (Emirates had sold out during the chatter), which was leaving in slightly over an hour and we still had to change terminal, check in and deal with security. Downside: no dinner, no relaxing, we didn’t get to sit together. Upside: we got to keep the 2x £5 vouchers, got over £500 compensation for the delay and still got safely to Cape Town on the right day!

By the time we touched down in Cape, we were pretty exhausted, so we went straight to the hotel for a nap. We stayed at the Long Street Boutique Hotel, which was right in the middle of the street so surrounded by fairly buzzy bars and restaurants. Although a little noisy at times, it was a lovely hotel with such friendly staff.

I could put absolutely endless amounts of detail in from our trip, but that’d take all day to write (and probably read) so I’m going to stick to the most incredible highlights, of which there were many.

We climbed Table Mountain, which was exhausting and hot and sweaty. It was at about 3pm that we started, to give us time to get to the top, get photos, admire the view and watch the sunset before the last cable car back to the ground. The dassie’s started appearing towards the top, they’re like giant guinea pigs for those who haven’t seen them, which helped distract me from the hiking. It took about 2 hours to climb, doing the Platteklip Gorge walk to the top, and although I wanted to give up every five minutes (I’m unfit and lazy), it became worth it as soon as we hit the top. It was beautiful in every direction, we were lucky to get there before any cloud hit and could spot sights in the city below. The cloud did roll in before nightfall, and made it all rather eerie – it was so thick you couldn’t see anything else but it definitely added something to the experience, especially as the sun started to set. Advice here – make sure you don’t miss the last cable car, it would be an incredibly dark walk down. It was really busy still at the top as we headed to catch it, but we gave it enough time to comfortably fit into the car, which did mean missing a bit of the sunset but I’ve no complaints given how lovely what we saw was.

Another place I loved was Bo Kaap, a beautiful part of town full of brightly coloured houses (and quite a few brightly coloured old cars too!). I loved how vibrant it all was, and it was a great place to stop off on our walk down the the V&A Waterfront. I’d definitely advise a wander around here, plus it’s free to visit! If you walk up to the top of the hill, you also get both a marvellous view and a good mini work out.

In Cape Town itself, we found a quirky restaurant down an industrial road that we loved so much we went twice – The Bitches Tits at YARD. We stumbled across it on Google Maps, and the name + some great reviews had us taking a walk to find it. It’s in a brick garage/warehouse type building, with the menus on chalkboards on the walls which was all fairly simple stuff – hubcabs, tacos, burgers. And yet, so simple but really delicious. In our two trips, we hada breakfast meal and then a couple of the burgers, and everything was well cooked with great combinations but nothing fussy or fancy. I’d really recommend popping in for a relaxed brunch.

And after a few days in Cape Town itself, we headed out to stay for a few more days in Hout Bay, to get closer to some of the other attractions I was desperate to see. Our hotel here was the Chapmans Peak Hotel, on the Chapman Peak Drive, famous for it’s views over the bays – with the hotel having an infinity pool looking right over the beach, which was what sold it for me.

I had preorganised a trip over to Noordhoek Bay to go for a horse ride on the beach. I’ve been riding since a child, but stopped a couple of years ago when I put my pony on loan to buy my flat. As you could imagine, I couldn’t be more excited to get back in the saddle somewhere so beautiful, particularly given I managed to drag my non-riding boyfriend along! It was only a small group – as well as us there were two teenage girls and another two instructors to accompany. We had a ride through some fields right onto the beach, where as I had ridden a lot before, I got to go off with one of the guys for a canter across the sand down to a flock of flamingos, while the others took in the scenery at a steadier pace. It was an absolute dream and over much too quickly.

The other main attraction for me on that side of the Western Cape was of course Boulders Beach and the African penguins! We had seen a few on our visit to Robben Island (a very worthwhile attraction to visit) but I couldn’t wait for see them in their dozens a bit closer up. We first went into the board walked area, where we started spotting the odd penguin through the trees which was enough to excite me, and when we hit the beach section they were everywhere! We were there at a time when the young penguins were starting to shed their fuzz which was quite cute, but honestly by this point I was impatient to get onto the main beach and go see them up close. There were loads of penguins all over the beach, though I was a bit disappointed on the security for them. There was a large group of visitors shrieking and chasing the birds around in and out of the sea in the hope of a good photo. That could really be worked on, but I am glad for what they are doing to protect the colony on the whole though raising awareness and having protected, closed off areas – hopefully they up the security on the beach itself. That said, it was incredible being able to wander amongst groups of penguins just chilling out on the rocks and sand, seeing them interact and a couple going out for a swim. So go, see them, and just try not to be one of those dickheads that ruin it for everyone else. No one likes that person.

And largely, that is my highlights in a not at all brief post, and I’ve barely scratched the surface. It was an incredible trip and it only got better from here with our week in Namibia, to be posted soon!

Last piece of advise – don’t go to the fish and chip takeaway shop in Hout Bay, it is not the one.

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