Cape Town is located far south on my favourite continent, Africa, and easily my favourite city in the world.
It’s as simple as that. I have never been more overwhelmed by a city, with its incredible combination of exhilarating activities, beautiful scenery, friendly people, fresh seafood and history.
After one night in Johannesburg I took a Mango Airlines flight to Cape Town International Airport and checked in at an hostel in Central Capetown. I didn’t put much energy in researching a “good” hostel and just went with one of the first that I came across. I booked a dorm for a week at the Carnival Court hostel and it turned out to be awesome.
The hostel was not crowded, maybe 8 or 10 people all together were staying there and I had 2 roommates. From the first day on Andrew, Douglas and me were inseparable and we had an amazing time.
I could ramble on and on about how much we enjoyed the numerous parties and countless bars we’ve been to. But that’s not the stuff you want to hear about. (I guess.) Instead, I will tell you why Cape Town has stolen my heart.
Some of the most important cities in the world are defined by their mesmerizing skylines, but not this city. This city lays underneath the majestic mountain range, that is one of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World. I bet you one dollar, that whenever you hear Cape Town the image about a flat mountain pops up in your mind. The Table Mountain. It is possible to hike up or do the lazy hangover option of taking a cab there and then the cable car up, like we did. (I promised myself, that during my next visit I’ll hike up.)
The views from Table Mountain are among the best I ever witnessed. We walked around the top, climbed around a little bit, realised that Cape Town is actually quite small and enjoyed some overpriced beers with a killer view. The colours of the sky changed to all sorts of red and purple, while we planned our activities for the next couple days. Absolutely pumped by this view we went back home and got ready for another party night.
Early in the morning we got picked up and drove about 2 hours to Gansbaai. A small fishing town most commonly known for two of world’s biggest water animals. Great White Sharks and Whales. I must confess, since forever, I do not like being in deep water, and whenever I am in there, I immediately think, that some super-majestic-monster will attack me at any given moment. It is a childish and stupid thought, but if you have any similar fear you’ll know, what I’m talking about. But don’t get me wrong, I love the sea. I spend hours of swimming and snorkelling around in the deep blue waters of Hawaii, Philippines and other spots, overcoming my fear. But this time was different. I woke up feeling anxious and it never changed the whole day.
We got a safety briefing in a small house next to the harbour and then about 20 people boarded our small boat. We were all sitting very close to each other and looking at some of the faces of my fellow cage divers I could see fear. Real fear. It took 30 minutes to cross the bay and arrive at Shark Alley. The capital of Great White Sharks. The point where the biggest concentration of Great Whites is found. The waves were big. The anchor went down and then everyone was calm. I never experienced such calmness. Everyone was looking around, nobody said anything. Our guide broke the silence and we were told to go up on the upper deck. He told us it could take up to 30 minutes until a shark arrives, if a shark arrives. If not we would be reimbursed and could come back on any other day. Not even 10 seconds later, there it was. A huge shadow gliding through the water. A rush struck through me. I felt a mixture of excitement and fear.
We started to change. It was difficult, because space was narrow on this boat. We could only sit with little space and now twenty people had to change into swim wear. So some started, while others waited on the upper deck. The cage was lowered on the right side and we were told anyone who is about to get sea sick should go to the left side.
We had about 4 Great White Sharks now circling our boat. 2 small ones with about 700-800 kgs and 2 meters and 2 really big ones with about 4 meters length and god knows how much they were weighing. I started to feel the waves and felt a bit noxious. I normally don’t get sea sick and never had been sea sick on many days on the sea before. But I already knew, it would probably hit me pretty soon.
4 of us were in the cage at the same time. You go to the right side and jump. Before I even properly settled myself in the cage one of the 4 meters Great Whites passed so close by the cage I gasped for air. Adrenaline rushed through my body. Never have I felt more alive. I didn’t think anymore, I just held on to the metal bars in front of me and whenever a shark swam by, we went underwater. It was unreal. It was unreal, because, it is everyone’s nightmare, that you are in the water and a Great White Shark is right next to you. And when you get in the cage, you actually get to experience a part of this nightmare, without being in the real nightmare.
Cage diving operators are not allowed to feed the sharks. They put huge chunks of tuna on hooks and bait them. As soon as a shark comes close to the bait, the staff will pull the tuna right in front of the cage and out of the water to provoke the sharks to catch the bait. Every once in a while a shark catches the bait and gets fed, but that doesn’t count as feeding. At least, that’s what we were told.
We changed a couple times and everyone had some turns in the water. I can vividly remember the moment of sheer beauty and elegance as the gigantic shark swam by our cage. Slowly. I was in sheer awe. It is one of those experiences, that will stay forever in my mind. Sharks are very fascinating animals and don’t deserve to be the hated predators, as society refers to them in general.
After my second time in the water I felt blurry and weak. I went on the upper deck to calm and relax. It got worse. I admitted to myself, that I will now have to go on the left side of the boat. There were already three asians cramped in the corner, feeling seasick. I sat down, put my arms over board, looking in the water and I felt it coming. I started to really concentrate on the waves, forgetting the sharks and everyone around. I looked deep into the water. I leaned over the boat and with all my heart I puked over board. In the same exact moment a freaking shark swam, with his fin shining out of the water, right beneath me. And that was the moment I puked on a shark. It was no relief at all. One of my fellow asians puked again, just as she saw me puking. I couldn’t believe, what just happened and looked overboard again, but the fin was gone and that was also the last time I saw one of the Great Whites. I recall this trip to Shark Alley very often in my mind and it is one of the coolest things I have ever done.
On our way back to Cape Town we stopped in Hermanus, a lovely sea town in the Western Cape. It is said that it is actually one of world’s best spots to see whales. And probably the only spot, where you can see whales right from the shore, without getting on a boat. We strolled around and saw some whales calmly drifting through the water, but not very close. Nothing special after getting out of a cage with Great Whites, but it made a nice end to our day trip. Plus, I never saw whales before. So I was still very happy to see them.
Back in the hostel and some beers later I felt better. Douglas and me were still pumped by this amazing encounter earlier and probably never talked about anything else that night.
Cape Town and the Southern Coast loves to be seen from above. There are numerous ways to do it. I took a helicopter on my first day here, that flew me around the coast for a couple minutes. Prices are usually high and are in the low 3 digit area, but with a little bargaining, I was able to get a decent deal and enjoyed nice views along the coast. Another way is to go up to Table Mountain, but it is not the only major high spot to catch some views.
On a pitch perfect weather day we went up to Signal Hill, which is a hill in a central area with an antenna on top of it, hence the name. But on top of Signal Hill is the starting point for the best way to see Cape Town from above. Andrew, Douglas and me went up the Hill and met our instructors. We would paraglide down the hill overlooking the city. After a small briefing and preparation we took off. It was unbelievably beautiful. You just have to love this city.
During my week I just took a sip of the amazing cocktail, that is Cape Town. I plan to come back here this year and see more, do more and experience more of its surroundings. It is one of those cities I can imagine myself living in. And at some point, I will do exactly that.
TIA. This Is Africa.
Because I love Cape Town so much, some more impressions:
My favourite coffee place for breakfast in Downtown
Funky buildings at Long Street