Nov 12

Crazy Power Points in South Africa

Whenever I travel internationally I like to check the plug adapters, which was what I did before I went to South Africa.  And they conveniently looked a lot like the European plug.  I also saw that UK plugs are sometimes used. I’ve got both of them, I was set.

But then something told me to double check and it turns out that a few months prior South Africa designated a new official plug, that is not like the European or the UK’s plugs. UGH! I probably should have done this checking more than a day before the trip, but I was able to find the South Africa plug adapter in the airport.

But I did take the UK (had a stopover in London anyway) and European plugs just in case. It was a great move! Turns out many hotels have a variety of outlets available, this meant I was able to plug more things in! I still wonder about the decision of South Africa to get their own unique plug, instead of using an existing plug type.  But, at least it worked out for me.

Oct 15

Cage Diving in Cape Town

Whenever I’m traveling I try to do something unique and something that people think of when they think of certain locations.  In South Africa I decided to do Cage Diving with sharks!

My day started with a morning pick up (these tours either have pickups around 5 AM or 8 AM) and a 2 hour drive to Gansbaai, where the diving is.

Once at Supreme Sharks we filled out our forms (they’re not liable for a shark eating us) and have a continental breakfast.  We also got suited up with wet suits.  After the group was ready we walked 2 blocks to our boat and set sail for the sharks.  The ride to the dive spot took about 15 minutes and was pretty bumpy, but it was a lovely setting along the coast.

Once docked we put on our wetsuits and waited…

While we waited there was a crew member who photographed, and another member who put chum in the water. After about 15 minutes sharks started to circle and after a few minutes of watching them we got the order to get in the cage. The cage is long and holds 8 people. It has an entrance on each end for easy loading. The top portion of the cage is above water and has a bar to hold onto (and push yourself down with). The good thing is that when they start loading the cage, it’s done quickly, this is good because it is REALLY REALLY cold! Once inside the cage you wait for direction from the crew, this typically comes as “down and left” telling you where the shark is.  After the sharks went by a few times they had our group switch with the other half of the group that was still on the boat.  I was happy when it was time to switch, I felt like I was constantly being jostled around while in the cage from the natural motion of the ocean.

Once on the boat, I felt like I actually had a better view of the sharks, but the downside was the chum. It literally smells like shit and kinda looked worse.  This is the part where I almost got sick (from the smell, not the rocking of the boat) as well as several people who did get sick. From what I hear, this is not uncommon when cage diving.  Finally, after the second group finished we loaded up the cage on the boat and sailed back to town, I was never so happy to be on dry land again.

Back at the Supreme Shark HQ we had lunch, which I didn’t eat much of since I was still feeling ill. We also got to see (and purchase) the video and photos they took.  Then it was time for the 2 hour ride back to Cape Town.  The building did have facilities to change and even shower if you needed to.

What to wear: A bathing suit with easy to take off clothing, as well as a water proof camera. Also, bring a change of clothes for the ride back to the hotel. Towels were provided.

Do I recommend Cage Diving? Well either you’re interested or you’re not.  If you’re not, then don’t do it.  If you are, then yes, I think it’s a fun experience. I felt totally safe and if you don’t feel safe going in the cage once on board, you don’t have to. But at least you’ll get some nice views of the sharks.  But, be warned that you may feel sick on the boat, if you do, stay outside and breath in the fresh air away from the chum and sick passengers.

Oct 01

What to Bring on Safari

I’ll admit, when I was planning my trip to South Africa and Kruger National Park I didn’t give much thought to what I needed for the day when I was on Safari. After the first day, I certainly did!

  • A camera and camera equipment, I will cover this in a future post.

  • Binoculars to help you find the animals that are hiding.
  • A hat – in the summer you’ll want something light to keep the sun off your face. In the Fall/Winter/Spring you’ll want a warm hat. I had a hooded fleece that did the job too.
  • Water
  • Snacks, breakfast or lunch – At Kruger I only saw one main center with a restaurant. I’m sure there are others, but they would be quite far apart. We had a packed breakfast, I brought granola bars for myself and we ate our lunches at the restaurant. If you’re chasing down an animal and get a little further away then you were planning (it happened to us) a granola bar will hold you over.
  • Dress in layers – I was there in May and the weather had already turned to “winter” with high temperatures in the mid 60s. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Until you leave your lodge at 5:30 AM and get in an open safari vehicle. It gets really cold and windy in there very fast! On our first day everyone wore a t-shirt and fleece, on the second day everyone layered up. As the day gets warmer you can take off some of those layers, until then, you’ll be warm.

  • Hand wipes – I’ll admit I didn’t use these as much as I should, but it’s dusty on Safari and if you’re going to eat or even just touch your face, you should be cleaning your hands off.
  • Sunglasses

Is there anything I missed that you think you need for a safari?

Aug 01

The Lady Hamilton Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa

This was my first hotel and my second interaction with South Africans and although the hotel was a bit old, it had everything I needed and the staff was super friendly at the Lady Hamilton Hotel. The room was a little tired, but overall did the job and the best thing about it was that there were all sorts of different plugs and lots of them. Have a European plug, no problem! UK, North American, it’s all-good! I had to actually look for the South African plug in the room.

The room had two beds (which were comfortable), a safe, desk, chair and a heater/air conditioner. The hotel included breakfast (and the omelet maker was one of the best I’ve ever encountered) and drinks in the lobby all day. The hotel does offer Wi-Fi, but only in the lobby. You do need to take a Wi-Fi code from the desk that gave 500mb of data. However, they did not monitor how much data you used or how many codes you took, essentially giving unlimited Wi-Fi.

The staff there was very helpful in booking tours, or helping you find whatever you needed. Although the hotel isn’t in the best area of the city, it’s not in a bad area and there are shops and restaurants a block away.

If I were to offer two areas of improvement they would be in the dinner and the bathrooms. The dinner was just average, nothing exciting or anything that would suck you into dining there; I thought there were better options about 2 blocks away. The bathroom is the area where the hotel seemed the oldest. They could stand to have better ventilation and a counter or two in them. Otherwise the toilet, shower and sink all worked fine.

 

The hotel certainly isn’t a 5 star hotel, but it offered all the basic necessities and more. If you’re on a budget and looking for a nice, clean place to stay, this is a great option.

Jul 30

Visit Cape Point, South Africa

I think a lot of people were skeptical about South Africa as a destination, even after I returned home and said how much I loved it.  But I knew I had changed opinions when my mother saw my pictures from Cape Point and was shocked at the beauty there.

Cape Point is basically (as in not scientifically) the bottom of the African Continent.  The Cape of Good Hope is the most Southwestern point on the African Continent and is with Cape Point.  There are a few things to see at Cape Point – Animals, the lighthouse, and the Cape of Good Hope.

I visited Cape Point twice during my trip, once on a group tour and once as part of my photography tour.

Animals

There is quite a bit of wildlife at Cape Point, the most infamous is the Baboon.  Baboons might look like cute monkey like animals, but looks can be deceiving.  They are mean creates that will steal your shit! I don’t blame them, I blame the people over the years who have fed them and made them expect food from people. Tips – keep your windows closed and don’t taunt them and you’ll probably be ok.

Next up are Ostrich, they are pretty cool animals and since I got some great shots of them and they didn’t attack us (I don’t think they do), I’m a fan!

Cape Mountain Zebra – nearing extinction with only 400 of them in existence (which is actually up from the last few decades). They are rare to see and I only saw them one of my two days I was there.  But, a Zebra of any kind is cool to see for a New Yorker, the ones at The Bronx Zoo don’t walk across the street.

There are some other birds, but I’m not a bird person.

The Lighthouse

On my first tour our guided recommended against taking the funicular to the light house; however, on my second trip I did take the funicular and thought it was worth the time. His reasoning is that Cape of Good Hope is better.  I think both are great; but, the views from the lighthouse area are better in my opinion. Though both areas have different views so it’s a matter of opinion. Either way, the lighthouse area where the funicular takes you has some really great dramatic views of the Atlantic Ocean. I know some people will tell you that this is where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, but it’s not exactly here, and where they meet will vary based on tides. You can tell where they meet though because the water will be different colors for each ocean.

Cape of Good Hope

So named by Portugal’s King John II this area has captured the imagination of European sailors such as Dias who first named it the Cape of Storms in 1488 and later in 1580 Sir Francis Drake who called it the “The Fairest Cape in all the World”.

Now that I kind of just knocked the Cape of Good Hope, I’ll talk it up too.  This area has a rocky coastal view and importantly, a sign to take a picture with.  I know these pictures are tourist cheesy, but if you’re a tourist, embrace it and get your picture taken.  This area is just a quick drive away from the high point with the funicular, so if you have the time, it’s worth it to do both.

Cape Point is a MUST see if you’re in Cape Town, whether you take a tour or go on your own. There’s some interesting wildlife and great views. Just watch out for the Baboons, they’re not your friends.

Jul 02

Why I Love South Africa

Before going to South Africa I had heard it was a great place, but it’s never the same thing hearing it as it is living it.  Yet, I will still do the same thing – tell you why I loved South Africa and why you should add it to your own travel bucket list.

South Africa is Beautiful

Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula is beautiful. There is great scenery along the coastal areas and there is lots of that.  Sharp drops in the coastline, beaches, blue oceans, rocky areas, towns, and wildlife.

I did not visit the Garden Route or the wineries but I hear they are also beautiful. On our train ride we did pass some wineries, and mountainous scenery almost worthy of the 30 hour train ride.

Cape Point

Wildlife

Coming from a suburb of NYC, squirrels are wildlife.  Raccoons are dangerous animals!  In South Africa it’s very different.  There’s the Big 5, Zebra, Baboons, Ostrich and of course giraffes.  Yes, many of it is in game areas or parks, but my local “game area” is a petting zoo.

Boulders Beach Penguins

Food

The food is great in South Africa; yes, some of it is a little extreme – don’t think I’ve seen Ox Tail or Kudu on a menu here.  But for the price, I had some fabulous meals and even tried Springbuck, which was delicious.  I’m more of a casual wine drinker, but found a couple great wines there and even bought some with tall horses (giraffes) on the label.

History

South Africa has tons of history. It starts with the Dutch coming, then the English, civil war and finally Apartheid.  Unfortunately, like most history, it’s sad history.  But it adds a certain depth to the country, the type of history that makes a stronger populous.

 Hospitality

I’ve been to a lot of places in the world, and the people of South Africa were the most hospitable people I have encountered.  Yes, I found a few pushy ones.  But overall, everyone had a smile on their face and was happy to help.  When they asked how you were doing or if you enjoyed something, they did it in a way where you knew they genuinely cared, and not that they were asking because it was the polite thing to do.

Would I return to South Africa? Absolutely! South Africa is a developed nation, and a good place to start a trip through Africa, you’ll find people and places are very accommodating to Westerners.