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Mini Travel Guide: Cape Town


Almost three weeks ago I returned from my African adventure. It took me through Cape Town, Livingstone, Lusaka (both Zambia) and also a bit of Botswana. Africa was certainly different from what I was accustomed to (I've already been to three continents) and first off in the travel guide is Cape Town.

How I Got There



It was my dad who booked the flights but he assured me that he looked at KLM, South African Airways and some other little known air jets before settling on British Airways, which booking all flights together (Aberdeen - Heathrow - Cape Town - Livingstone - Heathrow - Aberdeen) offered us a cheaper deal. It had been a while since I had been on a British Airways flight (meaning over a decade) with my most recent long-haul flight having been KLM and truthfully between the two I prefer KLM. Much more leg room - I'm average woman size so I have no idea how tall people cope on these flights! 

British Aiways, just like most airlines, allows for custom meals to be ordered. From their site they cater to everything from fruitism to kosher. For the overnight flight there I had a veggie dinner which was up to my standards, but then for breakfast they went though everyone with two options - one being vegetarian. I was one of the first people they went by but I'm not sure what would happen if the very last person was a vegetarian.

Where I Stayed



Me and my dad stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in the city centre of Cape Town. Being a big hotel chain you are probably familiar with them already. The room was lovely and as corny as it sounds the showers I had there were possibly the best I have ever had. Staff were also really lovely and the included buffet breakfast was excellent for my vegetarian taste buds (the only meat I recall seeing was bacon and some ham). They also made a small takeaway breakfast for when I went shark diving early in the morning.

The only thing I will say is that their website stated that they were located close to the waterfront when in fact it was a 15 minute walk away. Okay for me, but my 60 year old dad wasn't amused.

What To Do



Having been in Cape Town for only three days I didn't have enough time to go everywhere and this is only a quick run-down of what me and my dad did between us. 

V&A Waterfront
Filled with restaurants, shops and some fabulous architecture this is a very touristy place and also is the place where a lot of tours start from. With the exchange rate being very in favour of the British Pound you'll find that you can pick up some really good bargains in the shops you've never heard of however the big band names are just as expensive if not more so always do a quick calculation in your head first. As for eating you'll find many restaurants and cafes in this area (along with a staff member outside trying to lure you in). 

Shark Diving
Yes, yes, yes. I am finally getting there. The company I chose to go with was Shark & Safari - which was the only one that let you dive without diving qualifications/experience. I was picked up at 6am outside my hotel while the owner drove around Cape Town picking up the rest (me, a Canadian, two Americans and a French national) before taking us to Gansbaai for an early afternoon dive. The boat is small and rocky and takes you by some small islands (one completely inhabited by seals!) before trying to find somewhere to stop. Whilst sharks need to be lured it took almost no-time for a shark to show up (possibly helped other shark diving companies already being in the water). The cages fit five people and it costs the same just to view from the boat which one woman did choose to do. The underwater and above water experience are different but I wouldn't say one if better than the other - you can see the shark in full underwater but if the shark chooses to come up to the surface you can see the marks on its skin and other details more clearly then when in the water. They also gave us hot soup on our return (much needed!)

Tip: Despite being a strong swimmer I have literally no diving experience. My advice is to get some diving experience behind you beforehand and you'll enjoy the experience more. I couldn't be bothered working out how to use the mouthpiece so chose to bob up and down. You could tell who the experienced divers were. 

Table Mountain
You can't miss Table Mountain as it looks over Cape Town. You can choose to hike/walk up or take a cable car that turn round for a 360 angle (take your travel sickness tablets!) but the view was amazing and I would really recommend you go. Also for some design whores: they hired a good typographer for the signs. There were some serious hikes for the more adventurous and whilst it looked easy from the mountain I overheard a tour guide warn that people do die on these treks! Also for the really adventurous was abseiling but unfortunetly I hadn't known before going up and was truthfully not dressed for abseiling. 

Tip: If you're going up in the cable car and just intend to absorb the view as opposed to going on a four day trek, you can leave the hiking boots and obvious tourist clothing at the hotel but don't go up in pumps or a mini-skirt. It's still a mountain. 

Robben Island
This is what my dad had intended to do whilst I was getting close to the Great White Shark however it was only when we got to Cape Town that he discovered you are advised to book this in advance and by then it was too late. If you fancy seeing when Nelsen Mandela and co were kept prisoners for 27 years then book ahead!  

Eating as a Vegetarian (and Eating in General)


Cape Town was very easy to be vegetarian though I would still generally advise sticking to the European themed restaurants. Also, you might find you need to do go through the menu as some restaurants aren't fans of putting a V next to the meat-free options. Though all and all I discovered some eateries that make British restaurants look lie blood thirsty vampires. 

Tasca De Belem 
This was a Portuguese restaurant me and my dad ate at the first night. Admittedly it wasn't overrun with veggie options but the dish I chose - the vegetarian platter - by chance had all my favourite foods on one plate. So I was pleased!

Doppio Zero
Situated in the Mandela Rhodes Place this by far the most vegetarian friendly restaurant I have ever visited and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The choices available for the meat-free was amazing and in the end even my dad (who always makes jokes about "you're going back to Dundee now - great we can have duck for tea") chose a veggie pizza topped with caramelised onion and honey - not for the savoury tooth! Whilst I had spaghetti with halloumi cheese, parmesan, basil and tomatoes. My mouth is watering again as I type this. 

Karibu
This is back on the waterfront within a long line of restaurants. Despite it's theme being South African it had a good selection of veggie dishes whilst still delivering something a bit different. My choice here was a baked butternut stuffed with rice and a coconut sauce, alongside a salad. It was huge and wasn't able to finish it.  The restaurant had a great atmosphere with traditional African singers - one of the performances being the South African national anthem. Also: great decor!

Pick n Pay
You'll spot loads of these walking about Cape Town, and they are basically the Tesco Metro of South Africa land. If you're wanting some munchies for your hotel room then look out for these signs - they cannot be missed. 

Other Tips


Crime and beggars
South Africa certainly gets a bit if rep for being crime ridden. Whilst my dad did choose to not let me out of his sight - I did feel like Cape Town gets its image unfairly. I didn't encounter any more beggars than I would in Dundee though the ones in SA were just a lot more persistent  - a simple "naww mate, sorry dinnae have 50p" would suffice in Dundee, but in CT you just have to ignore them and hope they go away. Be firm. I admittedly looked after my belongings a lot more in Cape Town than I would in Scotland - but even with just a zip up handbag and keeping money in zipped pockets was enough to prevent pick-pocketing. 

Language
Just a week beforehand I had cursed myself for not meeting up with a Namibian friend to get some basic Afrikaans phrases in me. Though whilst there I discovered English is very widely spoken and all signs are in English - the only Afrikaans I heard was when locals spoke to each other. You'll be fine with just your English. 

Packing
When packing for the South African leg of my trip I decided to pack what I would usually wear in this country. And for walking about the waterfront and going out to eat it was perfect. However, I didn't quite think about the activities I might do there. And you certainly don't wear H&M dresses whilst shark diving. So a mixture of your usual day time clothes mixed with some Billabong for a trip up Table Mountain or going shark diving. Alo with most trips I didn't use all the make-up that I had taken with me. Leave the eye bright at home ladies!

Have you ever been to South Africa? Anything to add to this or any question from those of you keen to go?




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morag | mo adore
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9 comments:

  1. Aww this sounds amazing!!! You're so lucky to have gone! xx

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  2. Looks amazing, I'm from Livingston just erm the less exotic Scottish version x

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    Replies
    1. Haha, yes. Whenever I mention Livingstone I always feel like I have to add " Zambia" on the end just so people don't think I mean Midlothian!

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  3. I would LOVE to go to South Africa. It was lovely to read this post!

    http://arrceebee.blogspot.com.au/

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  4. sooo jealous you got to go to SA, My mum and I were going to go a few years ago but got scared off by the horror stories! I would still love to go though. Sounds like you had an amazing time :) xx

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    Replies
    1. I had an amazing time. I spent three ay as there and I do think it's an undeserved reputation. Biggest tip: keep to tourist areas and always walk with purpose. If you have a map open you'll attract attention. Also try and not dress like a tourist haha.

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  5. Your stories have caused me great wonder and I would really love to travel to Cape Town soon. Good thing, cheap airline tickets are available!

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  6. You really provides great information about Cape Town.
    http://www.robinflights.co.uk/South-Africa/Cape-Town-CPT.aspx

    ReplyDelete

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