Cape Town…you had us at hello.
What an incredible city. It’s drop dead gorgeous to start with, but there’s so much to do you go dizzy trying to fit it all in.
Flying from Uganda to Cape Town we knew that our time of “roughing it” in Africa was over. We were headed to meet up with a few more friends. Stephen and Vicky were a couple we met one Sunday at church back in Queenstown, New Zealand. They were traveling for a few months before moving to Cape Town from Bermuda and just happened to be in Queenstown on a Sunday. We invited them to our weekly BBQ that night and while talking they commented on how we should look them up in Cape Town when we’re traveling through later on our trip. Fast forward 6 months and there we were being picked up by Stephen at the airport to stay with them for 5 nights (this is the beauty of the traveling community).
Stephen and Vicky on the far right from way back in New Zealand!
Five days in one city is a really long time for us the way we’ve been moving around this year, but when we asked Stephen and Vicky about the length of our stay their response was “Wait…that’s all?” Turns out they were right! We highly underestimated this place. Staying with people you know is the greatest blessing while traveling, but what made the pot sweeter was that they happened to be house-sitting for a friend who had an absolute mansion. We were set up like never before on on our year of travels. We had our own “wing” of the house including a maid that washed, dried, and ironed all of our travel clothes (every other day)…it was such a treat.
The Cape Town region
On our first day the four of us took a gorgeous drive down both sides of the Cape Peninsula. We headed all the way to Cape Point on the very southern tip where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. The views along the drive were stunning and we even stopped off at Boulders Beach to see some wildlife up close and personal.
The Indian Ocean side of the Cape Peninsula
These guys would get so close to you without any hesitation
The Atlantic Ocean side of the Cape Peninsula
The lighthouse at Cape Point
The Cape of Good Hope
The view of Hout Bay from the scenic highway
Since June is the winter in South Africa the weather can be a bit fickle. It doesn’t get overly cold (lows in the 50’s), but cloudy, rainy days are common so you have to plan outdoor activities accordingly. That being said, day two was a bit ugly so we opted to stay indoors and taste a bit of wine. The Cape Town region is very well known for its wine and wineries are littered all over the countryside with gorgeous mountain backdrops.
Wine tasting in Constantia
The following day was our iconic Cape Town day as we hiked up and around Table Mountain. The mountain towers over the city and usually has picturesque 360 degree views from the top. We had great weaton the way up and down the mountain, but we unfortunately didn’t have great views at the top because of the cloud that engulfed us.
The Pipeline trail
Lion’s Head Rock
Our stellar view from the top of Table Mountain
Our final, full day wasn’t one that we had anticipated, but one that we’ll never forget. Cage diving with Great White Sharks has always been one of those dreams we thought would never actually happen in our life. We had a chance to go in New Zealand, but it was going to cost us about $400/person. So when we found out we could go in Cape Town — the Great White capital of the world — for only $125/person we couldn’t possibly pass it up….and what a way to celebrate our two year anniversary!
The cage diving company picked us up and drove us two hours outside of town to board a boat headed for “Shark Alley.” This is the famous spot where most of the National Geographic documentaries are filmed. As if that weren’t enough, just 10 minutes into our boat ride we experienced one of the most magical moments of our entire trip. One of Taylor’s biggest dreams in life is to see whales in the wild, but there are specific parameters in which her dream needed to be accomplished. She’s never wanted to pay for an actual whale watching tour because she has always wanted this to happen spontaneously. She finally got her wish on one of the last days of our trip. Our captain spotted two humpback whales ahead of us (which is rare for this area) so we cruised over to watch them play.
The seal island behind us creates “Shark Alley”
Two humpbacks slapping their fins on the water for us to see
Then, all of a sudden…
THIS HAPPENED RIGHT IN FRONT OF US!!!!
Are You Serious???????????????
Que Taylor crying. It was absolutely amazing and about as spontaneous as it gets. We were so thrilled by the whale breeching that we hardly cared about diving with sharks anymore. Well, maybe not that excited, but you get the point. It was an absolute dream come true and such a special gift.
Once the boat arrived at our diving spot we dropped the anchor, the cage, and the chum to start attracting sharks. We threw on our wetsuits and before we knew it our boat was surrounded by massive Great Whites.
Here’s how the cage diving works since most people we talk to are interested in the details. The cage floats about 2 feet above water and maybe 8 feet below. You hang out inside the cage with your head above the surface while the guys on the boat lure the sharks in. They use a foam cutout as a seal decoy and a tuna head on a rope. Once a shark is coming close they yell for you to get underwater to see them. You hold your breath, sink down, and watch as these magnificent animals swim right next to you and attack the decoys. We saw 12 different sharks during our time before we had to get out of the freezing cold water. It was such a blast. Before you ask, yes, you feel really safe in the cage (but you do sometimes realize your foot has accidentally slipped through the bars).
Shark diving was the perfect way to end our time in Cape Town, but we truly had no desire to leave. The place stole our hearts in much the same way that Lucerne, Switzerland did. In fact, it’s now a close second behind Lucerne as the top city we’d want to live in outside of America. The lack of a ski season keeps it from being a coin toss between the two.
Our entire trip was coming to a close and the cheapest flight home to America had a layover in Dubai. We’ve always wanted to see this extravagant city in the desert so we made it a two day stop to give us a little more time. Besides seeing the craziness of Dubai, another major reason we wanted to extend the stop was to visit my friend, Sim, and his new fiancee, Jill.
Dubai near the northern tip of UAE on the Arabian Gulf
Let me tell you about my friend Sim…he’s a pretty big deal. We went to LSU together but we’ve probably hung out more since we graduated than we did in college. Our quality time usually centers around mooching travel perks off of each other. He’s stayed at my place in Colorado several times to go rafting and skiing while I’ve crashed on his floor in Hawaii (for 3 weeks!) and now Dubai. It’s a very Simbiotic relationship (pun and misspelling intended).
Why is Sim in Dubai you might ask? If your answer is oil…you’re way off. He is the co-founder of a website called dubizzle.com (check it out!) and has been living in Dubai for seven years running his company. To describe it simply, it’s Craig’s List for Dubai…only done WAY better. Sim now has 70 employees and their site is expanding to other major cities all over the Middle East. I was very proud to see what my boy’s gotten up to in all this time away from home.
Sim’s offices in Media City of Dubai
Sim showing some guy thigh in a popular Dubai magazine
Dubai is known for its extravagant building styles and creative architectural ideas. We loved simply driving around and looking at the uniqueness of this city. In many ways the place feels like a movie set. The main highway is lined on either side by incredible skyscrapers but there’s very little depth to it. If you went a few blocks behind those buildings you would basically find yourself in the desert.
Common skyline in Dubai
We drove around Palm Island to see the extravagance first hand
Our first night in town happened to be the 4th of July so Sim threw a party at his house for a bunch of ex-pat friends living overseas. We had a great time meeting people from home and drinking classic American beer we haven’t seen in a really long time (what 4th of July party is complete without Bud Light?).
Our second 4th of July in a row away from home!
On our final night we went out to and had a ball listening to a great band while eating a scrumptous 3 course meal.
Us wilth Jill and Sim out to dinner
The Burj Al Arab in the background….watch out for flying golf balls!
We were sad our time with Sim and Jill was so short, but we made the best of what we had. We’re ready for Sim to sell his company, make his fortune, and move back to Cajun Country so we can see them more often. But after 13 months of being away from the motherland we were thrilled to get back to the comforts we know. It’s time for some family reunions in Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia before we make our way back to our home in Colorado. “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (let the good times roll).
To see all of our pictures from South Africa click here!