This is a culmination of my series of posts on our vacation in South Africa. We were touring in the South African winter. We had had 4 glorious days of wildlife in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier park and 2 days of sunshine in Cape Town. But it was too good to last. The weather in Cape Town in the winter is known to go all awry at a moments notice and it finally did!!
We were supposed to go Whale watching and Shark Cage diving on our last two days in Cape Town according to our planned itinerary. We woke up on day three to pouring rains. It was difficult to believe that we were in the same place which was sunny just few hours ago. But vagaries of the weather are not something you can control. You just have to make the most of the time in this beautiful part of our world.
Our transport and driver Jorge arrived exactly on time only to give us the bad news that all sea activities for the day were cancelled due to the rain and the wind. But we had the car at our disposal and we could go where we wanted but we would have to pay for the activities. We asked about our options on this terrible day and were given the options of a wine estate tour, ostrich farm, crocodile farms and a cheetah rehabilitation centre.
We went for the wine estate tour first as it was mostly indoors and it included a wine and cheese tasting, ideal for a cold wet day. We drove towards the wine estate on the road to Paarl ( A name vaguely familiar as it has a cricket ground) and turned towards Franschhoek which is a region known for its wine estates. We just chose one suggested by our driver as I’m not really a wine connoisseur. The vineyards were bare in the winter and we quickly proceeded indoors out of the rain.
After a quick tour of the facility I got down to business and tasted the red wines that they had to offer along with a wonderful cheese platter. The better half is a teetotaller and had to just sit there watching me have wine and just be satisfied with sampling the cheese. I bought a bottle for my dad who likes wines. Jorge told us that it had stopped raining so we hastened our departure.
We didn’t want to see ostriches as we had had our fill in the Kalahari and chose the crocodile farm as our next destination. These are farms which breed crocodiles for their hide and meat and provide visitors with an opportunity to see the huge number of crocodiles and even hold a baby croc. We were given a tour of the facility and I got some great photos. After spending some time watching the beasts tear apart fish fed to them we had a chill down the spine imagining falling into the tank and being torn apart!! That made us leave and proceed to our next stop.
Jorge told us that the prison where Mandela was released, the Drakenstein Correctional centre from was nearby. We didn’t have the chance to visit the Robben Island prison so we jumped at the opportunity to see this iconic place, which I distinctly remember seeing on TV surrounded by a media circus when the great man was released. In contrast today it was wet and empty. It is still a active prison unlike Robben island. I took my photos and we proceeded to our next destination.
Next we decided to visit the cheetah outreach centre on the outskirts of Cape Town. This is a centre which captures cheetahs and other predators that have ventured into farmlands and rehabilitates them. They also breed huge dogs which are meant to guard farms and prevent human predator conflict.
It was an opportunity for my adrenaline junkie of a better half to touch a cheetah. ( As safely as you can touch a predator!!) After a short lecture of what not to do and where not to touch the beast she proceeded to pet the cheetah. I took photos from a safe distance and hoped that she would come out all limbs in place. Thankfully the cat was in a good mood.
We had lunch, a rather late one and returned to Cape Town. I was sad that we wouldn’t have enough time to visit the Two Oceans Aquarium in our days in Cape Town. But the rains meant that we would get our day at this great aquarium. Every cloud does have a silver lining! The aquarium has a huge variety of marine life from the Indian and Atlantic oceans and a huge shark tank.
It also has a group of Northern Rockhopper Penguins that were rehabilitated after they were found stranded on a Cape Town beach. These are the cutest penguins you will ever see. As I would never get to visit the remote islands which these birds called home, this was the only opportunity to photograph them.
We stayed around till closing time and had a great time. Before we were shooed out we took photos at the Nemo tank full of Clown Fish and left with a big smile on our face.
We had our dinner at the waterfront, but indoors this time thanks to the wet conditions and retired for the night.
Our last day at Cape Town was also overcast and windy. But not rainy, Thank God!! We decided to go whale watching as Jorge told us that Shark Cage diving in the cold water is not exactly a pleasant experience. We reached Hermanus and waited for our Catamaran. The choppy waters were not an exciting proposition. But we boarded anyway. It was the boat ride of a lifetime!!!
The waters were so choppy that the boat was rocking away to glory. There were no whales to be seen. They had better sense than to surface in this choppy weather. Almost everyone on board got seasick. Some tourist lost a camera overboard. I forgot all about whales. I didn’t move from my seat and my dear camera stayed safely in my bag and for the two hours I was praying that we won’t capsize!! We lived to tell the tale and get 50% refund for not spotting any whales. I was more than happy to leave alive.
We returned to Cape Town and the final activity I had planned for the better half was a paragliding off Signal Hill. She loves these adrenaline rushes and it was ideal for the windy day. We went up Signal Hill and took photos before the better half strapped up for the flight off the second tallest mountain in the region.
As she glided down we raced down Signal Hill to meet her on the gardens at ground level and take photos of the landing. It was a great finale to our memorable trip
We had our last dinner at the Waterfront, which by now had become like our second home. But you can’t be on vacation forever. We slept early to catch a early flight back to Mumbai.
It had been a great 8 days in the Southern most tip of Africa. We had had our close encounter with the great Kalahari Lions, stayed at the amazing Kalahari tented camp, seen penguins, smelled the seals, visited the Cape of Good Hope and the amazing Kirstenbosch gardens and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Memories for a lifetime!!
Till my next post from a new destination in a new country.