We were so excited when in August 2009 we had the great opportunity to have a trip to South Africa , to Cape Town. We started our flight that should have a duration of about 12 hours with our hearts beating.
During this flight actually I recognized how HUGE the African continent is – we flew about 12 hours via Johannesburg – such a long distance within 1 continent only…
We were so excited about these holidays that we were looking for since quite some time . We landed in the morning at Cape Town Airport . The air was bright , the sky had a great blue color , the air was fresh – it was wintertime in Cape Town – about 22-24 degrees .
People wore coats as they were really freezing .We drove to our hotel which was a small boutique hotel close to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.
How nice it was to be here – in the most southern part of the huge African continent that was ruled by a minority of white people till 1994. A country with a gorgeous landscape , beautiful mountain ranges and famous sandy windy beaches . A unique piece of land that we were on our way to explore – thousands of kilometers far away from the rest of the world. There were so many things to see and to learn on this journey !
I did not know that I will learn so much about “Apartheid ” and about the life of “Nelson Mandela ” and that I will be shocked when getting more insight in that part of history .
Certainly I knew what “Apartheid” is and who Mandela is but it was a totally different feeling when you were there , when you faced the people who went through these cultural and historical events and when you saw where and how all this happened…it was sometimes unbelievable and also very sad .
Our first day we spent at the V&A Waterfront , a nice place to spend with its harbor , its shops and nice restaurants,the boats coming and going and the sea lions lying in the harbor in the sun – one day we even saw a little baby sea lion.
Here we were at the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean and this is why the sea is quite rough , the place where since centuries most of the ships sank due to the very difficult rough sea conditions .
Here is also the point where you can have a trip to Robben Island which is just lying very close in front of the Coastline of Cape Town .
On our first day we drove to table mountain where you have a gorgeous view of Cape Town , we pass by Lion Head and saw the 12 apostles – the whole coastline is so beautiful – down there with the famous beaches like Clifton Beach and Camps Beach.
The next day we took the famous Chapmans Peak Drive along the coastline to the southern peninsula – one beautiful little fishers village after the other and nobody around – 114 curves along the Atlantic Coast and many stops that we took in order to enjoy the view along the coast – probably this drive is one of the most scenic ones in the World – it is difficult to describe the beauty of this route ! We drove from Cape Town to Hout Bay , to Fish Hoek , to Boulders Beach and Simons Town . All the little fisher villages were so pretty and we had some fish in a little fish restaurant close to Simons Town at lunchtime.
Later we left to have a look at Simons Town , the little village with the penguins – at Boulders Beach we have the opportunity to watch hundreds of penguins in their natural environment with their little babies – so close to the summer houses of the people who are living in that area .Of course , we were at one of the most southern parts of the world.
After Simons Town we arrived at the Cape Point , a natural reserve peninsula approx. 60 km southwest of Cape Town which is a Unesco World Heritage Site, 7750 hectares of land with more then 250 species of birds – a little paradise with great views to both oceans – The Atlantic and the Indian side.
It covers the famous Cape of Good Hope where in ancient times ships where passing by when they were travelling from Far East to Europe as they needed to surround the whole African continent as there was no Suez Canal.
While we were standing high on the rocky mountains in Cape Point I suddenly recognized something huge down there in the waves .First I thought that it is a kind of boat since the distance was quite far but once I was looking closer and trying to understand what that object was I realized that it was a huge ! whale !
My Goodness, I couldnt believe my eyes – it was the first whale that I saw in my life and I couldnt believe the size of it – it was really as huge as a boat !
It could be just a good sign and a great chance to see a whale at the Cape of Good Hope – it looked as if it is unreal – the sun was shining into our eyes and we could see the whale breathing and spraying water around and disappearing in the width of the ocean .
Once again I felt deep respect to the Sea and Nature – it was an unbelievable experience that I will never forget !
We also drove down to the beach and the rocks at the cape point – the sea was really rough over here – we needed to be careful not to be too close to the waterside – the wind was blowing us away …
In the nature reserve there could be any kind of animals around so that we needed to be careful -especially we needed to be careful about the baboons in this area . They were quite aggressive . While we drove back out of the natural reserve we observed a couple standing next to their car which was totally crowded with baboons who were trying to detect anything from the car – they played with the mirrors and jumped on the roof of the car – the whole baboon family with its kids and it was not possible to approach the car as they were starting to attack you – the couple was lost as they needed to wait until the baboons left by themselves.
We left the reserve and our last stop before the sun was going down and we went back to Cape Town was Muinzenberg , a cute little quiet fisher village as well.
Few kids were playing here and kayaking in the sun dawn – it was peaceful here .
On one of our next days we drove to Hermanus which is a 2 hours drive from Cape Town – a marvelous , beautiful huge bay. The most interesting part was that it was home to a lot of species of whales coming here in this season.
The rocks at the coast were suitable to walk along the seaside and if you had a chance to see the whales from very close .
A whole day we spent here to see these majestic animals – they were far but we could observe them .A whale crier was around and whenever he saw whales in the ocean he was blowing into his horn and showing the direction where the whales were.
It was a beautiful day , we had a nice place up in one of the great restaurants , we ate our fish and our eyes were looking out there to the Oceanside to watch a whale jumping or waving with its tale.
There were also whale watching boats and people kayaking in the sea who tried to approach the giants. How gorgeous it should be – the water should be also cold in this season but for us , our location was perfect and we walked up and down the rocks whenever there was an opportunity to see something .
Hermanus was definitely a place to visit again and again – a beautiful natural bay especially if you were in love with whales .We spent a whole day over there …
Another day we drove to Worcester , a region which was also a 2 hours drive northern from Cape Town – here was a natural reserve where we wanted to see the Big Five.
We had tickets for the Fairy Glen Reserve – my goodness what a procedure .You needed to sign a lot of documents that the resort was not responsible in case of any accident with the animals or in case of your death .My husband and my daughter were kidding as they thought that it could not be serious but actually it was…
Via a huge gate we entered the reserve and we were not allowed to leave our car .
After a while the road lead us to the main building here where we waited for our jeep to arrive.
We would have a guide and would pass through the natural reserve with this jeep .We were about 8 people and everybody was escaping to the seats with the higher location while I needed to sit nearly next to our driver and guide which was very close to the earth.
We were quite nervous as there was nothing in the car that could protect you and it was our first experience.
It was different as you needed to watch your environment 360 degrees – you were not in the zoo , you were not in a safety area – you needed to open your ears and eyes to be aware of what was around , you needee to be quiet and you needed to rely on the guide.
While we drove around we recognized that it was not that easy to recognize the animals as they had the same colors like their natural surrounding.
2 rhinos were lying in the mud and they had the same color like the mud – you recognized them when they stood up out of this muddy place and started to walk.
The ostriches had the same colors like the savanna here . You recognized them when they started to run , opened their wings and played with each other , the gazelles ,the water buffalos , the giraffes you nearly couldnt see when they were standing under the trees as it was again the same coloring and design .
A little further were the elephants – we couldnt approach them too close and observed them from the distance .All the animals were so beautiful .
Every minute we were very tense and nervous as you didn’t know what nature has prepared for you in the next minute.
There were lots of rhinos in this reserve and we needed to be very careful as they got nervous when the jeep was approaching .
It was all ok till one of the rhinos was just standing on our way and was not very happy to see us – he was looking quite angrily to us and all of a sudden he started running with an immense speed towards us – OMG .
The location of my seating was not very funny for such an incident as if the rhino would attack our jeep we were sitting without any protection and could be hurt very seriously .While the rhino was running towards us nevertheless I succeed in taking a photo of him being scared at the same time .
Our driver was driving backwards as fast as he could- he was also nervous !
But thanks God , the rhino accepted our withdraw and stopped running having a very angry mine on his face – this was all what could happen over here .
Later we had also a look at the lions but it was good that they were in a separated part of the reserve that you could not enter as a visitor.
Later once finishing the drive we had a great party at the lodge and celebrated this great experience – but the fear was still in our bones as this was a different world that needed to be respected and been taken care of .
One of our last days we decided to visit Robben Island – a very special place in the history of South Africa – an island which is like a bewitched prison island.
We left for Robben Island from V&A waterfront .The island was about 5 miles in front of the coast of Cape Town .
This was the place where Apartheid was imprisoning its political enemies from 1961-1991 and the place where also Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years out of his 27 years in jail of his life.
When arriving on the island there were buses who took you around and you were guided by black people who have been imprisoned at this place in former times as well.
They were very friendly and talked about what freedom means and what the life on Robben Island was about.
It was an island where there is NOTHING … really nothing but just eucalyptus trees and white bleak lime stones .The jail was very small – so were the cells .Nelson Mandela s cell was 7 x 9 feet – so small that there is nearly no space to move inside. Mandela said that he could walk the cell in 3 paces and when he was laying down he could feel the wall at his end of his feet .
There were no people other then the guardians on the island as the government did not allow any women or kids to be on the island as these would mean some life or hope for the imprisoned people .
Nelson Mandela spent a lifetime here , while he was studying in his books and also teaching the people around – Robben Island was also called the university of Nelson Mandela . Most of the black people here in jail could not read and write but were taught by him .Though the location was brutal and inhumane it was a place for Nelson Mandela to keep his hope, his strength and political believe alive .Mandela was forced to work on the rocky white lime stones under the bright African sun whole days for about 13 years where he and his followers lost partly their eye sight as it was so bright and dusty over there.
In those days the black people in South Africa did not have any human rights at all .They were not allowed to go to school or to study , they could not have any profession , they were not allowed to live in the city but were forced to live outside very poor ghettos . they were not treated like human beings but as slaves and Nelson Mandela was their hope to get back their freedom .There were the rules of Apartheid where a minority of white people were ruling over the country and the black people .
In 1997 when Apartheid fell , Robben Island became the Robben Island Museum .
When Mandela later became free and then president of South Africa he always told his people that though they suffered a lot from apartheid they will not take revenge but want to live altogether in peace in the Republic of South Africa .
One of his first actions when he became president was to invite the former white presidents and their wives and families for a cup of tea to his residency.
He knew that this was the only way for peace and freedom for all in his country .
For all this reason it was very impressive for us when our taxi driver who drove us to the airport told us that he is so happy to drive a taxi as in the past he was not allowed to have a driving license and he could not be a taxi driver but today he can.
Now we could understand his joy .The same happened when a customs officer ,a lady, at the airport asked us whether we enjoyed our trip and whether we liked South Africa and when we said “yes – we loved it “- I will not forget her smile on her face with proud and joy – it was really special .
The people felt so honored and happy …
There are so many other beautiful and impressive experiences and memories that we had from South Africa – later in 2016 we had another short visit to Cape Town before we started our long jeep journey to West Africa .That time we drove from the Western coastline along up to Namibia – that part is also such a nice natural drive .
South Africa is always a region that I would love to visit again and again as it is such a beautiful and interesting part of the World .