Victoria and Albert Waterfront is the tourist Mecca of Cape Town and understandably so. It’s very picturesque with a mall, and lots to do and eat.
The happiest time in Cape Town was our visit in Camps Bay which feels like being in Miami or some exotic seaside location. When we come again we will definitely make Camps Bay our home base. It felt like a funny mix of Caribbean, meets Almalfi coast, meets Miami, meets Europe…I had to keep reminding myself I was in Africa…a 20-hour plane ride away from home.
We spent one whole day warming in the sun, marveling in the beautiful turquoise blue sea and blindingly white sand that swirled up into the vast blue sky every few minutes due to the wind tunnels in the rocky mountains that surrounded us. Then spent the evening dining on the strip as we watched the sun set behind the horizon. Camps Bay is GORGEOUS.
We went on a real safari in Cape Town (unlike the one in Durban) at Fairy Glen Safari which was about 40 minutes outside of Cape Town in the middle of this exquisitely imposing mountain ridge. I felt sooooo small as we drove past the mountains and through the vineyards to this safari that had the big 5 (elephants, lions, rhinos, and two other major animals, I forget) TIP: You want to go to a safari that has the “Big 5”.
Our safari was peaceful. Birds were chirping, the animals were active, the sun was warm and bright and there were only 2 other safari participants with us. The guide was so knowledgeable and funny too.
We were feet away from a lion and a couple of lionesses. I kept asking the guide what the protocol was if the lion decided to jump up and snatch one of us. He said the protocol was to sacrifice one of the tourists. Hahaha…but nah, for real tho?
The lions were busy gnawing on a bloody sheep leg⎯I guess they make sure they feed the lions before entering their territory. Only in Africa. But how ’bout when the elephant tried to come for me? What is it with me and wild animals?? (I’m recalling when a pack of iguana’s tried to punk me in the Virgin Islands) They love me, and I’m terrified of them! This elephant stuck his snotty trunk in my face and felt me up with it. Ugh!
An ostrich egg
We had 3 days to squeeze it all in. After the safari, we barely made our afternoon tour of Robben Island. I’m so proud of the girls, they were hungry and tired but were just as excited as I was about visiting the prison, even more so after Ev and I explained who Mandela was and why this place was significant. TIP: buy your tickets for the Robben Island Tour and Table Mountain cable cars in advance.
The island felt desolate to me, maybe a bit haunted. There was little there and if felt empty, like an empty shell, but I suppose it’s fitting. It was cool to have a former ANC prisoner who fought alongside Mandela be our tour guide and explain how things worked in the prison when he was tortured and locked in there for 8 long years. The prison visit really touched Ev.
Of course, no visit to Cape Town would be complete without a visit to (and selfie in) Bo-Kaap.
While Cape Town is beautiful, there is still an unspoken sadness behind it…like an unspoken disappointment, black people looked left out of the equation to me. Whenever I visit someplace new, I like to learn about the contributions of African people and other people of color in that city or town. Obviously, I was in Africa so I didn’t think to make an effort to plan my visit around finding the black narrative, but in Cape Town I felt I did⎯there wasn’t much of a black narrative.
Cape Town is very much a European city in Africa. While the natural beauty of Cape Town is striking and not unlike other places in Africa, how that beauty was expressed; carved out and highlighted for the world to see, didn’t look or feel non-European to me. I guess that’s why I kept forgetting I was in Africa. From my point of view, seeing black waiters, cleaners, uber drivers, service workers, had us asking where the heck white South Africans worked. We were told they pretty much owned everything still, so that’s why we didn’t see any other races interfacing with customers. Interesting. We didn’t see much inter racial intermingling either.
In Durban though, there was more culture (I can honestly identify South African culture in Zulu nation⎯in Cape Town, not so much) and more black folk actually enjoying the scene and services offered in the city. There were black folks patronizing the restaurants and clubs and hangout spots. We enjoyed our time in Cape Town more because everything is accessible and felt familiar. Cape Town is truly a beautiful piece of earth⎯just don’t try to cross the street thinking you in a cross walk and you have the right of way…your ass will get ran over.
Until next time we visit, South Africa will always have a place in our memories and in our hearts.