A Trip Report: Cape Town and Beyond in Seven Days

Sep 5th, 2007, 05:52 AM
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 26
A Trip Report: Cape Town and Beyond in Seven Days

Just returned from a 7-day trip to Cape Town, South Africa. What an amazing adventure. Wish we had more time but that wasn't possible. A reason to come back I guess.

Day 1:

I arrived at Cape Town airport in the morning, following a long flight from Canada. Had a long stop over in London, England the day prior where I explored the city for the day. Upon my arrival at Cape Town airport I picked up my rental car from Budget and immediately drove to our guest house (4 on Varneys, in Green Point). The driving was a little crazy at first with driving on the opposite side of the road and using a stick shift with the opposite hand. I kept turning on the wipers for the signal lights. I made it back to the guest house without incident, so I felt good about that. The Guest House was lovely and the hosts very helpful. I then walked to the waterfront area to do a little shopping while waiting for my husband to arrive by ship.

Maybe a little clarification is needed here. My husband is in the Canadian Navy and was sent on a 5-month NATO deployment with a number of other countries. The ships had a scheduled port stop in Cape Town. The navy flew myself and a number of other wives over to meet up with their husbands for the week. Their way of making the separation easier. His boat arrived around 4pm and we headed back to 4 on Varneys and then off to dinner at the Grill on the corner (Hussar Grill). We ate there twice on our trip, tasting the different game meats and fish. It was very tasty.

Day 2:

Early morning rise. We drove to Simon's Town for the Great White Shark excursion with Chris Fallows of African Shark Eco Charters. It was a very successful day with 25 shark breaches. We were even splashed by a great white as one swam by our boat. Too cold for the cage diving as we had planned for. Our impression of the whole experience was that it was a good trip. We went in to it with expectations of seeing the sharks much closer to the boat and much larger. The pictures on the various shark diving websites are spectacular and therefore a bit misleading in that way. It took them a long time to get all those good shots and we expected to see all that in one day. In any case, we were told that we had an excellent day for shark viewing and went went away satisfied with the experience.

Next we headed over to Boulder's Beach to see the penguins which were so cute. Spent only a short time before driving 10 km back to Baboon Matters for our walk with the Baboons (a very good cause). This turned out to me one of my favorite things we did on the trip. The Baboons climbed down the mountain as we climbed up, meeting halfway. We sat with them for a while and they were very friendly as the babies surrounded us and played with the little girl who was on the tour with us. I cannot describe how amazing this was.

Next we took the scenic drive back to Cape Town. Unfortunately Chapman's Peak was closed, but remaining drive was breathtaking. We then had dinner at a Thai restaurant (Wang Thai Restaurant)next to the Grill restaurant from the night before. Good food.

Day 3:

The next morning we had a lovely breakfast at 4 on Varney's and left for a short drive up Signal Hill and Table Mountain. It was too foggy for the cable car, so we planned to return.

We then left for our day in the Winelands. We stopped first in Stellenbosch to pick up some gifts at the market. Then we drove to Franschhoek to our guest house (Akademie Steet Guesthouses, we stayed in Gelatenheid). This house was amazing. An entire house to ourselves and the upper level was one large bedroom that had a wrap around outdoor veranda with a claw foot bathtub sitting out there. It was the most beautiful place we stayed on the trip...although they were all special in their own ways. We then had a fabulous lunch and wine at La Petite Ferme and went for a walk in the Franschhoek mountains. Definitely our most romantic day. Later that evening we ate at Bouillabaisse which we really didn't like...but it didn't damper our stay because everything else was perfect.

Day 4:

The next morning the hosts of Akademie provided the best breakfast of our trip. A wonderful spread of foods from the area. We filled up on breakfast for our long drive across the western and eastern cape to Tsitsikamma Lodge, close to Storms River. The drive on part of the Garden route was amazing. We took the Nature Valley Pass for some added beauty. We stopped briefly in Mossel Bay, Knysna, and Plettenberg Bay before arriving at 6pm to our Lodge. We had the honeymoon suite. It was a fantastic log cabin set in the mountains with a jacuzzi bath and a canopy bed. The 5-course dinner was great.

Day 5:

We got up early the next morning for our Canopy Tour in Storms River scheduled for 7:30am. This was also one of the highlights of the trip. It was so much fun gliding from tree too tree on cables high above the forest floor. Quite thrilling. They provided lunch and we then drove to the Port Elizabeth airport (2 hours away) to meet our guide for the safari and return our rental car. We had enough time to briefly check out the beach and market in Port Elizabeth as well.

Our guide (George) picked us up at 1:45pm and drove us to Schotia Private Game Reserve. We immediately went on a private safari tour for a few hours. We returned for tea and to pick up two other guests before heading out to see the lions. We finally found them and had a nice visit. When it got dark we used the spot light to see the animals. We returned for a great dinner and sat around the fire. George then drove us to our cottage on the reserve. It was the Warthog cottage and it was so magical. Lanterns and fire lit and the only sounds were of the animals. The cottage was beautiful and I simply cannot describe how magical. We certainly weren't expecting that.


The guide picked us up at the cottage at 8am and took us on another safari tour to see the giraffes and anything missing from the day before. We then had breakfast and the guide took us to Addo elephant park where we had an amazing encounter with the elephants. They surrounded us on the road as they crossed and were close enough to touch (though we didn't). Glorious animals.

Then the guide returned us to Port Elizabeth airport for an hour long flight back to Cape Town. We arrived at 3:30 and picked up a rental for the day. We drove to table mountain immediately but due to the rush hour traffic, we just missed the last cable car at 5pm. We took in the spectacular views and drove to our guest house for the last night. We stayed at 18 on Croix. The house and room (suite 3) was beautiful. They had rose petals and wine with truffles laid out for us. Great place to spend our last night. This is where we went top the Grill for dinner for the second time...we new it was a sure bet for a great meal. We then spent the evening back at the guest house.

Day 7:

I sadly drove my husband back to the ship docked at the V&A Waterfront at 6:30am and later had a lonely breakfast by myself at the guesthouse. I must say that the continental breakfast we quite beautifully presented though. The hosts gave me advise on where I could safely spend the day. I chose to do more shopping on the waterfront and visit the aquarium to see more sharks. Later I went up Table Mountain in the cable car. It was beautiful and I wished my husband was there to see the views. Had dinner on the top and a short walk around before returning down and driving back to the airport.

It was another long flight to London and then back to Nova Scotia, Canada.

Overall, the trip was amazing. We were thankful that we planned everything so thoroughly because with such a short amount of time we didn't have any to waste. The trip didn't feel rushed surprisingly. We felt that we packed in enough to get a good taste of South Africa. I had 2 solo days and that left us with only 5 days together, so we were very pleased with what we did in that short amount of time.

While our trip was fantastic, I guess I should add what we would have done differently for those of you planning an upcoming trip. Here is what we would have changed:

1. We would have only did the market thing once and got all of our gifts and souvenirs in one shot. I wasted too much time and energy shopping, as usual, worrying over who would like what back home.

2. We definitely would not have eaten at Bouillabaise, or at least we would have sought advise from locals on what to order from their menu. The restaurant smelled great and I bet it is great if you know what to order. We may have just picked the wrong tasters...but they were recommended by the wait staff.

3. We would have left a little earlier for the Baboon walk as the Baboons were interested in getting down the mountain to get to the village for garbage day. We would have loved more time with them but our trip was delayed 45 minutes as the rest of the party arrived late. We felt a little short changed and wished we had lucked into a private walk. This was still perhaps my favorite thing we did on the trip and I considered doing it again on my own on that last day.

4. The last rental car wasn't pre-booked and it therefore costed us precious time on our last day. Had we pre-booked, we would have made it to the cable car in time. Planning ahead definitely pays off when you have limited time.

Not much we would have changed. The trip was very much enjoyed and went of without a hitch. Thanks again to all of you who provided advice, especially you Selwyn. Your advice was priceless. We left your name everywhere we went.

If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask. I will continue checking this site for a while, but I'm not a regular on here as trips like this are few and far between for me. Hope this trip report was helpful to someone. South Africa is truly an amazing place to visit. So glad we did.
sandylee is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 10:14 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,785
hi, sandylee,

so glad you ad such a good trip.

isn't schotia great? we loved it too.

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 12:57 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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hi, sandylee,

glad you had such a good time, and thanks for posting your trip report do promptly - I'm still struggling with mine.

isn't schotia terrific ?- really a highlight of our trip and by the looks of it, of yours too.

regards, ann

annhig is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 12:58 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,785
oops -didn't mean to post twice - and now i've posted thrice!
annhig is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 02:30 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440

You did the shark trip, the penguins, and the baboons all in one day? That's an accomplishment and what a variety of wildlife. Those are the reasons I want to go to Cape Town and Simonstown.

Thanks for telling us what to expect on the shark viewing trip so our expectations remain reasonable. Did you need binoculars to see the shark breaching? I would think 25 breaches on one trip would be a record. Did you see any seals along with the sharks?

For your baboon walk, when and how did you arrange it? I want to do that too.

The end of your week must have been a sad time, knowing you'd be parted from your husband for another extended time.

Thanks for the report.
atravelynn is offline  
Sep 5th, 2007, 04:51 PM
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Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 26

wanted to thank you for your advice as well...especially on the Schotia safari. It was definitely a highlight. We wished we had more time to stay in that cottage. Apparently the Impala cottage is nice too...it's called the honeymoon cottage. Next time we go I guess!

Yeah, I did get the trip report done quickly. But remember I'm back home and my husband is still sailing around for the next few months. I don't have much else to do! Writing about it made me feel like I was still there.

Lynn (I'm guessing),

To answer your questions, The trip to Simon's Town is completely doable in one day...but you need to know that we aren't the type of couple to stroll along and stop for tea. We would have liked to make it to Cape Point but that would have been pushing it, since the park closed at 5pm. If you have kids, that usually takes some extra time too. The shark trip started at 6:30am and was over by noon. We went to see the penguins for an hour or so and had lunch. We started our Baboon hike at 3pm until 5pm. Then we drove back to Cape Town on the scenic coastal drive which took about 1 hour or so. Would have been a little longer if Chapman's Peak was open. Early morning rise though...we had to leave Cape Town by 5:30am. If you have it all planned in advance it will be fine.

To contact the tour guide for the Baboon walk, go to the "Baboon Matters" website at: http://www.baboonmatters.org.za/ and make contact through that site. I would advise doing the trip around 2:30pm to maximize your time with the Baboons. They are eager to get down the mountain later in the day and are less interested in you then.

I would highly recommend the company we went with for the shark viewing. Chris has taken many of the great white shark pictures you've probably seen. He is very knowledgeable and respectful of the sharks. We saw lots of seals. All of the breaches were due to the sharks jumping to get the seals, although the sharks are not as good at hunting as you might think. Many of the seals got away and back to their island. We did see some pretty thrilling attacks though! Its kind of like watching a car accident, you want to turn away but you just can't. Chris also took us on an upclose tour around seal island. Hundreds of seals sunbathing and splashing in the waves. They swam around the boat.

I would take into consideration what time of the year you are planning your trip. Chris said that the "breaching season" is just about over. It may end up making more sense to go to the other location if they are seeing more action that time of year.

Anyway, hope that helps. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask. Thinking/talking about the trip takes my mind off the fact that I'm not there anymore.

sandylee is offline  
Sep 6th, 2007, 03:36 AM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 62
Thanks for posting. You really got a lot packed into your limited time!
We are planning on going to SA next August, and I am interested by your comments about the sharks and baboons. Did you feel that these trips would suitable for young children (mine will be 5 and 8). I had not previously thought about going to see the sharks without actually doing the cage diving (which there is no way I would do), and it sounds like a fantastic experience.
allycb is offline  
Sep 6th, 2007, 03:54 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,440
Very helpful Sandylee! The Baboon Matters website is where I'll start. Your hint on timing is great. I am using Chris Fallows for the shark trip next July and have been booked for a couple of months now. So I am glad you so heartily recommend it.
Thanks for all the info!
atravelynn is offline  
Sep 7th, 2007, 10:36 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,785
hi, allycb,

think we've "spoken " on other threads.

with kids of that age, i wouldn't consider the shark boats or even the whale watching boatss - they are just too small for them to be able to see much, and can be very tippy.

but they would love the penguins at boulders Beach - we were there for over an hour with our much older kids, and i think they would enjoy the trip down to the Cape, with the funicular, and tehn running on one of the beaches on teh way back.

Also there are kid-focussed activities at Kirstenbosch gardens i think, but it would be a great place just to run about and play on the enormous lawns.

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Sep 7th, 2007, 11:57 AM
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In my opinion, the Baboon walk is great for children. The baboons may be a little intimidating to those children who are more on the nervous side...but what an opportunity to help them overcome their anxiety. I happen to be a child psychologist...is that shining through?

Baboons love children. On our walk, an 8-year-old girl was there as well. The baby baboons were all drawn to her and she was able to sit with them. They gently poked at her and played with her hair. She was a little cautious at first but quickly warmed up when she realized that they were friendly. I'm sure it ended up being the highlight of her trip. The guide was very good with the girl as well, and gave her forewarning about what to expect with the baboons and provided education on the baboons. If we had children, we would make it a plan to take them.

My opinion about the shark trip with children is that it may not be worth it. It would end up costing a lot for everyone (R1500 each)and I'm not sure how much young children would be interested in sharks, especially from a distance. Also, the trip is very long for children (5.5 hours). They would likely get bored. It was a fun thing to do but, honestly, if I went back I wouldn't do it again. I would do the baboon walk again for sure.

Why not take the children to the aquarium at the waterfront? Then they can see sharks, penguins, and lots of other stuff. I bet they would enjoy that more.
sandylee is offline  
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