Cape Town, South Africa
This city was something straight out of the movies. Because of the shape of the western cape where we were docking, the 2+ hours it took for us to dockwould have been prime photo time. We were experiencing such bad weather, however, that we got to the port at 11:45 at night when we should have been cleared to get off at 8 am... everyone was so upset that we missed our entire first day in the city. The field office even had to reimburse us for our paid programs Day 1. But we made it! And the city changed my life.
Semester at Sea makes it possible for parents to visit their kids who are traveling by ship in each country. One of the greatest people I have met, Eva ( Eva Pearson, snake wrangler), was lucky enough to be able to see her mom and dad in Cape Town--shout out to Gina and Tim for adopting me for a few days. On Day 2, I had the Cheetah Outreach Program & Wine Tasting through SAS. Normally, I am very against organization who use animals as tourist attractions as most of them sedate the animals to prepare them for human interactions, but this wasn't the case. This was a sanctuary for cheetahs who were either injured or born in a type of captivity that would decrease their chances of survival in the wild. I was able to play with the cubs and pet one of the adult who is basically the face of the organization now. My day ended with a visit to the wonderful Morgenster Winery where we got to taste the different wines, olives, and oils--so delicious. I then headed back to the ship to meet Eva's fam. Straight off the bat, they invited me to dinner at Nobu, lord jesus that restaurant is sooo good. After we were in a coma from all the sushi and drinks specially mixed by our friend Elton, we checked in to the most beautiful Airbnb you could ever imagine. We stay in a town called Constantia and even though it was maybe 20 minutes away, it was worth it. We were greeted by the house manager, Donald, and we unpacked and got ready for our week of never ending adventure.
Day 3 started bright and early with a 2 hour trip to the whale watching capital of South Africa. Here, we went shark cage diving. We struggled to get into our 7mm wetsuits and went about 15 minutes offshore to the feeding grounds of their local great white shark population. The guides throw out the chum and the seal decoy and within a couple minutes, a 13.6 foot great white decided to eat the cage that we are in--literally yanking it off the boat. It was sweet ahah. I had the best hot chocolate afterwards. Some of our friends did a package called Cape Town Adventure and it included skydiving, bungy jumping, shark cage diving, and a safari. We weren't able to see our friends (Lexi, Laura, Christian, or Kelsey) because they had some of these things planned. Normally the guy who organizes it, Michael Bluestone, would post on the SAS Facebook page months before the voyage if anyone is interested! Our dearest friends finally joined us at our Airbnb this night went we got back.
Day 4 had to be one of my favorites. Two Semester at Sea groups went on a safari at the Aquila Game Reserve. This is a private reserve and lodge about 2 hours outside of Cape Town. We were greeted with bottles of wine and a huge buffet. We all packed into the trucks, the ones WITHOUT the cages, and headed out to see the Big 5. We saw rhinos, hippos, springbok, antelope, elephants, giraffes, and lions. The lions were in a separate enclosure, but they were free to roam around our very open and sketchy truck. I could've been their lunch at any moment. On the way out, we were so close to an elephant that I could reach out and touch it. They are huge, majestic creatures. I had such an amazing time, but Day 5 beats them all.
While some of our group went shopping and on another wine tour, 2 of my friends and I decided to hike to premier Table Mountain. This seems like a good idea before you learn that it takes 2-3 hours... if you go fast. About halfway up, I look to the top, look back down to the bottom, and wanted to just give up. It was truly one of the hardest things I have ever done. People were curled in balls in the shade, dehydrated, throwing up. But we kept going. Pushing through was the best decision we have ever made because the view was breathtaking. We stood at the top in complete silence. There is really no other way to appreciate such natural beauty. This is no task to do twice, however. Usain Bolt himself couldn't have ran as fast as we did to catch the cable car on the way down. We sat perfectly content on our 1 minute ride down the mountain.
Our time in Cape Town ended in a reckless, day-long shopping spree at the V&A Waterfront, walking distance from the ship. Adidas, Zara, more sushi, Sephora, gelato, everything. I can confidently say that this isn't the last time I'll be visiting here. By far my favorite port yet.