Some people fall in love with their partner without having ever met them. They just see the other person from the distance, hear stories about them, and realise they are in love. For me it was the same thing, but with a country. I fell in love with South Africa many years ago, in 2009. I had just come back home in Spain after studying in India for a few months, and I was moving to London for work a couple months later.
I cannot even remember how ‘The state of Africa’, by Martin Meredith, fell into my hands, but this book marked a before and after in my life. It is a dense yet fascinating recollection of the history of individual African countries, from the end of colonialism until now. Lots of dates, lots of historical events, lots of names of leaders and freedom fighters. In that summer that marked a big transition from living at home to (semi) independence, I devoured each page of this book. South Africa stood amongst other countries, due to its complexity. So many voices, so much pain, so much heroism. To this day I am still getting my head around it. After finishing this book, I read every book I found about the country, every piece of news, watched every movie, interrogated every South African I met. I had fallen in love with this beautiful and incredibly complicated country. Yet I never found the right time to go.
The opportunity finally comes in early 2017, when my sister Paula moves to Durban, in the east coast of South Africa. My former flatmate and fellow fearless adventurer, Vicky, will be my travel partner. We will be flying to Cape Town, rent a car and drive all the way to Port Elizabeth, following the famous Garden Route, and then fly to Durban to meet my sister.
Part 1 – Cape Town
We arrive to Cape Town from Spain via Doha. We are so excited we cannot sleep for the whole trip. We are also a bit nervous. South Africa’s safety record has a terrible reputation, and we feel we don’t have a good handle on what we can and cannot do. We will figure out as we go along. By now we have our faces pressed against the plane windows. As anyone who has been to Cape Town will know, the landing itself is spectacular. You cannot process so much beauty in one go. The city has the most beautiful, spectacular setting I have ever seen in my life. Cape Town lays between rugged, stunning mountains, and the wild sea. An ocean full of sharks and whales and penguins and god knows what. And if you go inland there are lions and giraffes and other animals that in Europe we can only see in zoos. The whole country is pure adrenalin. Years later, when I move to South Africa for work (life is full of beautiful, unexpected turns), that was one of the things that amazed me the most. I would be in an office, working in front of my laptop and meetings clients, and I would think ‘if you drive for 1-2 hours, you can find lions’. I found it magical, every single time.
From the airport we take an uber to our hotel, The Glam Guesthouse. It has a great location in Green Point (walking distance to the V&A waterfront, for those who dare), great views and a very unique sense of decoration, as per its name. There is a huge picture of Audrey Hepburn in our room. So big to the point of disturbing. But as all accommodation in our trip, the price is reasonable, it is very well maintained and very clean. The hospitality sector in South Africa is amongst the best in the world.
Our first stop is the above mentioned V&A waterfront, which has now become my favourite place to shop in South Africa. It is right by the sea, with great views of Table Mountain, and most cafes and restaurants have views of at least one of this great sights. The Victoria Wharf shopping centre has a variety of international and local shops – my favourite South African shops are Carole Nevin, for homeware with local designs, Poetry, for clothes, and Africology, for spa and beauty products. The V&A also hosts of one Cape Town’s best kept secrets, the Watershed, home to some amazing new South African designers, selling anything from clothes to shoes to jewellery. I can spend hours browsing through their collections. I love Galago, for shoes, and Pichulik, for jewellery.
Photo by Victoria Aróstegui
We spend the afternoon napping in Clifton Beach no 4, the best beach when the weather is chilly or windy, as it is protected by the mountain and rocks. It easily feels like being in the (African) Caribbean, except when you step into the freezing water. It is so cold that it hurts. No matter which day of the week we go, there are people enjoying the sun. On weekends you share the beach with lots of children who come for their surfing lessons, which also attracts sellers of ‘lollies’ or frozen ice candy.
We walk to Camps Bay, one of the most stunning beaches in the world. The beach itself is quite plain, but it has the 12 Apostles mountain behind it, which makes for an spectacular sight. I particularly enjoy it when the clouds are hovering around the peaks of the mountains and they look like they are being covered by a foaming wave. Camps Bay quickly becomes our favourite spot to watch the sunset, either at one of the many bars on Victoria Road or at the Bungalow, located on the hill between Clifton and Camps Bay. On Victoria Road, we like The 41 for sushi, Café Caprice for a lively, club like vibe, and Chinchilla for its rooftop view.
The next day we take a ferry to Robben Island, where Mandela was locked for 18 of the 27 years he spent in prison before the end of apartheid. No matter how much you have read on apartheid and Mandela’s story, it is still a sobering visit. The guides are all former prisoners, a stark reminder that there were political prisoners until 1991. One of the things that show more clearly what apartheid was trying to achieve were the different diet specifications for the different type of prisoners – Asian and coloured prisoners had a meagre diet, but ‘bantu’ (black) prisoners received half of what they others were eating. It is truly disgusting what human beings can do to each other, but what the rest of the trip will show us is the amazing resilience of the South African nation. South Africa has seen the best and the worst that humanity has to offer.
On a lighter note, our next day trip takes us to Stellenbosch. We join a tour organised by Wine Flies, which takes us to 5 different wineries. We spend our day drinking delicious South African wine, as well as trying local cheese and charcuterie. It is my first time trying boerewors (sausages) and what has now become my number 1 comfort food, biltong (in Cape Town, I fill my supply at J&M biltong). I have never been a fan of group tours, but this one is just fantastic. Very well organised, high quality food and wine (and generous servings) and the wineries are not just great because of their produce, but also the beauty of their estates.
Cape Town just seems to be an endless source of cool activities, and this time we are going to Cape of Good Hope. We got the number of an uber driver we liked, Eddie, and we ask him to take us all around the cape, stopping at the main sights. First we head to Boulders Beach, home of the penguins, by way to Fish Hoek. The whole day offers us stunning ocean views, but they are all quite different. The first leg of the trip takes us through one fishing town after the other, with neat beach fronts and shark warnings. This whole coast is home to many types of sharks, from Great Whites to Makos and Blue sharks (I recommend Shark Explorers for shark diving trips), due to, among other things, a high concentration of seals.
Boulders Beach, just after Simons Town, is home to a healthy colony of African penguins. I don’t tend to say this about animals, but these penguins are incredibly cute. They are picture perfect, with their black and white suits contrasting the big boulders, white sand and blue and emerald waters. We admire them until we have had enough, and continue driving towards the Cape. It actually is not Africa’s southernmost point (it is Cape Agulhas), but it definitely has been a legendary place for sailors and explorers looking for faraway lands. It is quite foggy and we cannot get a clear view, but you definitely feel you are somewhere special.
Photo by Victoria Aróstegui
We continue driving around the peninsula, back to Cape Town through Kommetjie and Hout Bay. Whereas in the east coast, beaches were relatively narrow, compressed between the road and the ocean, here they are expansive, and mostly empty. We finalise this scenic tour at Table Mountain, taking the aerial cableway to the top. Skies are clear and we get a fantastic view of Cape Town and Lion Mountain. We admire the city, feeling that we could jump and just fly over all this magnificence (which we clearly don’t do). To end a fantastic day, we have sunset drinks in Camps Bay and sushi at Willoughby and Co, in the waterfront.
It is important to note that we have only seen the pretty face of Cape Town. This city, like most large towns in South Africa, is also home to sprawling townships where, almost 30 years after the end of apartheid, some people still live in crammed, unhygienic conditions. In certain areas, they don’t even have access to electricity or running water. After all, South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world, measuring by income.
Part 2 – Garden Route
The day comes to leave beautiful Cape Town, and we make way to the car rental agency to get our car. We get a very serious warning – not to leave the windows open – not for car robbers, but for monkeys. With that in mind, we start driving towards our first stop, Hermanus, a weekend/ holiday town for Capetonians. The road there, bordering the ocean, is one of the most scenic drives I have ever been on. The road snakes between the ocean and the mountains, rugged, brown and green like in Cape Town. During the winter season, there are numerous whale sightings. Unfortunately it is not the right time of the year, but the views are breath-taking, and we see a few baboons on the side of the road.
We arrive to our hotel in Hermanus in the evening. We are staying at a lovely hotel, Sixteen Guest Lodge on Main. The room is bright and spacious, with a sea themed decoration. The initial reason to go there was to be close to the great white shark caged dives, but we have been informed that after a shark was killed by an orca, there have been no shark sightings for days. We are very sad about this as we were looking forward to seeing these amazing sharks for the first time, but what to do. During winter, Hermanus is also one of the best spots in the world to watch whales, when the southern right whales come to mate and breed. Given there are no sharks or whales to be seen, we make Hermanus a quick stop.
Our next stop is another seaside town, Knysna. We are staying in Abalone Lodges, a group of cozy wooden cabins overlooking the town. Here we are hit more than ever by how different this country is, safety wise, from the one we grew up in, Spain. The cuteness of the cabin is broken by metal bars in every window. We are warned by the staff to leave all our valuables in the safe (we had never used the safe in a hotel before in our lives). And every time we want to take something from the car to the cabin or vice versa, we have to carefully lock the doors of both. We don’t leave the doors open for even a minute when we are not around. In Spain being robbed is not that uncommon, but unlike South Africa, you would rarely feel that your life is at risk, so we are quite uneasy. Years later, when I move to South Africa, I am actually very comfortable, a combination of becoming accustomed to certain precautions and being surrounded by friends who are very relaxed. But right now this all feels very new and we are uncomfortable.
Following a very unremarkable dinner in town, we discover the following day that the best part of Knysna is actually the island. You cross a bridge and a security post, and suddenly you feel like you are in a Cape Cod resort. Cute shops, seafood restaurants and retired people leisurely walking to bakeries and grocery shops. A harbour with a few small, well maintained boats. We were not planning on spending much time here, but we still enjoy this small paradise for a few hours.
We now head to Jeffrey’s Bay, a surfers paradise during the right season, which now feels quite eerie and empty. Our hotel, Beach Music, is right by the beach. The coast has suddenly become tropical and humid, and life more real. Hermanus and Knysna were cute coastal towns, whereas in Jeffrey’s Bay there is a town centre where the shops and some homes are, flanked by a huge township. This township we will have to cross to go to the seaside restaurant they recommend us for dinner, Walskipper, and we will have a delicious but hurried seafood plate, to make sure we can drive back to the hotel when there is still daylight. It might be safe for all we know, but we still feel like we don’t have a good understanding of what is sensible and what is not.
In the morning we go to an empty beach, leave after we feel unable to relax, only to be asked for money by a parking warden. We know he is a warden because his cap clearly states ‘offical parkin wardn’. The southern Spanish in me, who was born in a town full of ‘unofficial’ parking wardens, refuses to just give him money. I argue with him that I highly doubt the council would give him a cap with spelling mistakes. After he becomes aggressive, we pay him, only to be approached by another ‘official’ warden, who is actually wearing a shirt that seems semi-official. We curse, give him money and leave. This was not our favourite stop of the trip.
We quickly forget about this because we are thrilled about our next destination. We are going to Elephant Addo Park, a few hours’ drive from Port Elizabeth. It’s the first time we go on a safari and we have bouts of child-like excitement. On our way there we stop in a small town for tea and rusks, one of our new passions. Rusks are a dry, hard biscuit, eaten by the Boers during the Great Trek and other travels that would require them to store food for days without any refrigeration. Rusks are so dry that seem to be able to withstand any weather. They are strangely addictive, especially with coffee, tea or hot chocolate. We cannot remember the name of the town, but it could be any in the borders of the Great Karoo, a large semi-arid expanse that covers part of the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape. The houses and the decoration of the café don’t seem to have changed in the past 50 years. The whole town is quiet and empty, like out of a Hollywood cowboy movie, and we feel like we have gone back in time.
After a few exhilarating hours, driving up to the natural park, half expecting to run into all sorts of wild animals, we arrive to our lodge, Gorah Elephant Camp. The lodge has huge luxurious cabins, with simple but very elegant, safari inspired, decoration, and a massive terrace with lounge chairs overlooking the park. We can see the wildlife from here and we don’t think life can get any better. That same afternoon we go to meet the elephants as they come back from their day out. I had seen elephants in India quite a few times, but the ones here seem much bigger. They are just enormous, with old, wise faces. Then we see giraffes. We almost start jumping in excitement. Once we are able to calm down, we go for dinner. The meals are served in the main cabin – large servings of meat, watered with delicious South African wine.
The following day brings us even more joy. First we visit the park, driven around by a guide. It’s a natural reserve, and therefore the animals’ natural environment, but it is so big you cannot always get lucky seeing all the animals. We see herds of elephants, zebras, impalas and some other minor wildlife. Later on the day, we go to a private game reserve. It’s a bit like cheating, but we get to see lions, hippos, rhinos, buffalos and giraffes. The lions make a big impression on us. They are lazily resting, and only wake up from their slumber when the car gets close. They look at us and I can feel their charisma. Yes, they have charisma, just like sharks. There is something with animals who know they are on top of the food chain. They are majestic and slightly scary, as we are in one of those safari cars with no doors. The driver says the lion only sees one big thing and we are not in danger, but it is still a bit daunting. We finish a day full of emotions with a ‘braai’ (South African barbecue), and the park drivers telling us how the country is going to the dogs. By now we have learnt that every South African has a very different perspective on their country, and views differ so much that you would think you are in different countries. The next day we say goodbye to all the animals and travel to Durban, the last stop of our trip.
Part 3 – Kwazulu-Natal
Durban is very green and tropical, and some of the suburbs look a bit like Hobbiton, in Lord of the Rings. My sister Paula is living in a leafy suburb, Westville. It doesn’t look like Hobbiton but has nice houses and big gardens. Apparently also an increase in crime. We stay near her apartment, at The Whitehouse Bed and Breakfast, where we get a room inside a big private house with a pool.
In the morning we pick her up and go to the seaside. She has been quite busy with work (she is working at an HIV clinic in Umlazi, the largest township in the city) and it’s the first time she gets to see the beach. We rent bicycles and ride by the sea side. We go past the uShaka Marine Park (we visit it another day, I highly recommend it), the decadent but still active casinos, and many restaurants, where we stop for a drink. We don’t have long as we are driving to Umkomaas that same evening, a hotspot of shark diving.
The whole South African coast is a dream come true for shark lovers, from the colder waters around Cape Town to the Kwazulu-Natal coast, where currents from Mozambique warm up the waters. We are going to be ticking off a big item in our bucket list – a baited shark dive. As it name says, bait (dead, bloody fish) is thrown in the water, lots of sharks come, and you can enjoy being surrounded by them for as long as your oxygen allows you to (or until the sharks decide to leave). Both of us have dived many times but this is the first time we do this type of dive.
We stay in Umkomaas Guest House, one of the loveliest stays of our trip. The owner, British but living in South Africa for years, is incredibly helpful and welcoming, makes us feel at home, and even offers to drive us to the diving school, Aliwal Dive Centre, the following morning. Vicky and I are very excited for our first baited dive, and my sister will be diving for the first time (not the baited dive), so also lots of excitement on her side. Once I see that the teacher Paula has been allocated, Charlie, is very sweet and patient and perfect for beginners, I switch focus to our dive. We are told to remove anything shiny, and to not move our hands under water while the sharks are around, as they might mistake them for fish in distress and bite them.
As every dive I will do in South Africa in subsequent years, conditions are tough. I am used to diving in South East Asia, where the water is warm, weather is hot and sunny, and the boat rides are an opportunity to chill and tan. Here its cold and windy, water is even colder, and the boat ride is so bumpy that we are told to grab hold of anything or we might fall overboard. Soon it starts raining, and by the time we get to the diving spot we feel both seasick and miserable. One of the dive guides jumps in the water with a big bucket full of bloody fish, and starts taking some of it out of the bucket so the blood gets in the water and attracts the sharks. Within minutes we have dozens of sharks next to the boat, circling the bait in a feeding frenzy. It is time for us to jump. All the discomfort from the boat trip is forgotten and we take a second to think about what we are doing. This is either very stupid or very exciting. Probably both. We jump in the middle of the shark activity, feeling exhilarated. Once we stabilise inside the water and have a good handle of our buoyancy, we appreciate what is in front of us, with our hands firmly against our body.
It is difficult to describe such an spectacle for someone who hasn’t tried it. But it is by far one of the best things I have ever done in my life. Seeing all the sharks swim around us, admiring them from up close, not from far away and for a few seconds, like it happens in most dives, is just beautiful. They are amazing creatures. The bait attracts dozens and dozens of blacktip sharks. We don’t feel fear, as it is clear from the beginning that the sharks have no interest whatsoever in us. They are very focused on the fish, and barely pay us any attention. Soon we recognise some of them thanks to scars and other marks, and we see how their circles around us become smaller, as they feel more comfortable with our presence. After what feels like hours or minutes, we are told we have to go back to the boat. There are still a few sharks around and we leave unwillingly.
Our next dive, in contrast, is actually quite uneventful. Visibility is not great and we don’t see much, despite our hopes of encountering tiger or bull sharks, frequent visitors to the area. Still, it’s my sister’s first dive and she is managing very well. Especially after we tell her that the average dive doesn’t include such harsh conditions. She definitely is a natural, and very brave, most people would not try diving for the first time in a shark infested area. I am very proud of her.
We go back to Durban the next day, this time staying at Rostalyn Guesthouse, overlooking Umhlanga beach. We rest before our next adventure, walking by the seaside, drinking copious amounts of roiboos tea (I think it is clear by now that we quickly become ‘passionate’ about local treats and drink/eat them like there is no tomorrow before the leave the country) and – of course – visiting the shark museum. Durban’s Shark Museum is a little known but informative place, full of families with children. They have a good archive of shark related news in the coasts of South Africa (mainly related to shark attacks) and there is even a live exhibition of the insides of a shark, where a local biologist opens a shark that was caught on the nets of a fishing boats. Lots of children from Johannesburg seem to love it.
Photo by Victoria Aróstegui
The next day we are doing a day trip to Lesotho, to the Sani Pass. We have booked it through Roof of Africa Tours. Our driver picks us up at our hotel, and while we drive through the midlands of Kwazulu-Natal, he lectures us on why Zulu men cannot be faithful. By the time we get to Underberg, the last town before we start going up the mountain, he feels comfortable to share much more controversial opinions (in our view). The road starts snaking up, and there is fog everywhere. We have gone from tropical Durban, to cold mountainous weather, humid and rainy. Crossing the border is quite easy, and we continue going up the steep, uneven, road. The driver is very skilled and we are thankful we didn’t choose to drive ourselves here. Unfortunately the fog makes us miss some of the best views, but at the same time we get a real feeling of being in the ‘Kingdom of the Sky’. We arrive to a smoke filled hut for an introduction on local culture. Everyone is wearing the traditional blankets, and quite understandably, as it’s freezing cold. We have lunch at the Sani Mountain Lodge, the ‘highest pub in Africa’, where we meet a few tourists that are bravely driving themselves up the mountains, before we head back to Durban. It is been a brief, albeit interesting introduction to a new country.
Vicky has to head back to Europe, and we sadly part ways. I will be staying with my sister for a few more days in Durban, which will give us time for a few more adventures. We have heard amazing things about the Drakensberg mountains, and we want to see them for ourselves. So we rent a car and drive north, through Kwazulu-Natal’s rolling hills. It is a lovely drive, with South African music as soundtrack and pit stops in roadside cafes for tea and rusks. We are staying at Cathkin Cottages in Champagne Valley, in the central part of the Drakensberg mountain range. The room is small but cozy, and we are a short drive away from the hiking trails.
The next day we wake up early for our hike to Cathedral Peak – even then, by the time we start ascending, there are already a few South Africans on their way down. Early has a whole different meaning here! The mountains are stunning. I am more of a beach/ ocean person, but the Drakensberg is something else. The mountains are incredibly beautiful, rugged, seemingly the remnants of old volcanoes, but very different from the volcanic landscapes I am used to in South East Asia. Here the land is old, and the greenery seems secondary to the mountain, not the dense, overpowering vegetation of the tropics. The shade of the clouds can change the landscape completely, and after every climb, we take time to quietly admire our surroundings. It takes us a 5-6 hours round trip, and after a day outdoors, we have a warm, tasty dinner at the Champagne Castle Hotel. In the morning, before we head back to the coast, we have a wander around Bergview Estate, a relaxing forest with waterfalls, perfect for a mini-hike.
Part 4 – Cape Town
South Africa has one more amazing surprise prepared before the end of the trip. One of the many white shark diving agencies I have been in touch with for the past weeks, White Shark Diving Company, emails me, the sharks are back! Luck has it that Paula and I are spending the weekend in Cape Town, so we are more than ready to go to Gansbaai the following morning. It’s a 2-3 hour drive and will require us to wake up around 3am, but we would do anything to see the great whites. We arrive to the dive centre sleepy but very excited. It will not be proper diving, more like getting inside a cage hanging from the side of the boat, and holding our breath when as go under water when the shark gets close – and he will come because they will be throwing bait in the water. I am not a big fan of these artificial encounters, but this is a once in a lifetime experience.
After a briefing, we jump into the boat, and head towards the spot where they last saw the sharks. Once they start throwing bait in the water, it can take anything from 1 minute to 4 hours until the sharks appear. If they appear at all. We wait for a couple hours, and start getting cold. We keep looking at the water, hoping to see at least one shark. Some of the other people on the boat make small talk, but not us. We are focusing every thought, every bit of energy, on attracting the sharks. Finally, after what seems like hours, one of the crew members starts shouting. A large shark has arrived!!
We put our wetsuits on in a matter of seconds and go quickly towards the cage. Just seeing the shark from above is mesmerizing. They are such huge creatures yet so graceful. We anxiously wait for our turn to get inside the cage. Once inside, most of our body is covered by the water, and we are told to grab hold of it with our fingers and toes, which are actually hanging outside the cage. I am concerned that the shark might bite them but apparently it doesn’t happen. We are also warned not to let any extremities out of the cage, as a) the shark is much quicker than us and b) even if we are not his usual food, given there is so much bait around, he might bite us to see what we are, before realising he doesn’t like us. I submerge myself underwater and look at the shark through my dive mask. Some people might think this is an scary experience, but is actually one of my most peaceful memories. I have seen great whites so many times in movies and documentaries, I feel like I am looking at an old acquaintance. I stare at the shark as he comes and goes around the cage, sometimes getting very close, inspecting us. Like the lions, these sharks have charisma. They are fierce, but not menacing. I can see scars from fights or hooks. Visibility is not great but he is so close I can see his face very clearly. I am in peace. This is the perfect ending to one of the best, most intense and memorable trips of my life.
Arranging the trip:
- Hotels: We booked everything through Booking.com, except the Gorah Elephant Camp which was done directly through their website https://gorah.hunterhotels.com
- Car: There are many rental agencies in Cape Town, but I recommend booking in advance
- Getting around: We used Uber at all times, it was very safe and convenient
- Wine tasting trip: We booked it online with Wine Flies https://wineflies.co.za
- Trip to Lesotho: We booked it online with Roof of Africa Tours https://www.roofofafricatours.com
- Diving in Umkomaas: We booked in advance with Aliwal Dive Centre (we were required to pay a deposit) through their website https://aliwalshoal.co.za
- Diving with white sharks: We booked in advance with the White Shark Diving Company through their website https://www.sharkcagediving.co.za
- Books to read
- I write what I like, Steve Biko
- Always another country: A memoir of exile and home, Sisonke Msimang
- Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee
- My traitor’s heart, Rian Malan
- The lion sleeps tonight, Rian Malan
- Long walk to freedom, Nelson Mandela
- Born a crime, Trevor Noah
- An imperfect blessing, Nadia Davids
- Somewhere over the rainbow: Travels in South Africa, Gavin Bell
- Melusi’s everyday Zulu: There is Um’Zulu in all of us, Melusi Tshabalala
- Dark star safari: Overland from Cairo to Cape Town, Paul Theroux
- The last train to Zona Verde: My ultimate African safari, Paul Theroux
- The state of Africa: A history of the continent since independence, Martin Meredith
- Africa: Altered states, ordinary miracles, Richard Dowden
- Don’t lets go to the dogs tonight, Alexandra Fuller (takes places mainly in Zimbabwe but gives great context of recent Southern African history)
- Films to watch
- Poppie Nongena, Elsa Joubert
- Cry Freedom, Richard Attenborough
- Tsotsi, Gavin Hood
- Vaya, Akin Omotoso (available on Netflix)
- Kalushi, Mandla Walter Dube (available on Netflix)
- Catching feelings, Kagiso Lediga (available on Netflix)
- Invictus, Clint Eastwood
- District 9, Neill Blomkamp
- Disgrace, Steve Jacobs
- The harvesters, Etienne Kallos
- Moffie, Oliver Hermanus
- Fiela se Kind, Katinka Heyns
- Blitz Patrollie, Andrew Wesells (available on Netflix)
- Trevor Noah’s comedy shows – Son of Patricia, Afraid of the dark, You laugh but it’s true (available on Netflix)
- Queen Sono (TV show available on Netflix)
- Blood and Water (TV show available on Netflix)
- Women travellers
- I have always felt very safe and comfortable as a woman in South Africa, but we should not forget that the country has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, so precaution should be exercised (Disclaimer: I come from a culture where unsolicited flirting and open displays of male attention are common, which might make women from other cultures uncomfortable)
- I have never had any issues, but South Africa has one of the highest rates of (violent) crime in the world
- Exercise extreme caution, especially at night, and always ask local people what is safe and not safe to do
- Some basic rules make life easier:
- Take uber, avoid local taxis in bigger cities
- Don’t have the phone in your hand when waiting for uber in the street
- Don’t have the windows down and the phone in your hand when driving past certain places
- At night, taxis don’t always stop for traffic lights for safety reasons
- Always have your doors locked when you are inside the car and double check your car is locked after parking it (thieves are using jamming devices)
- Many parkings have informal security guards – it is always a good idea to give them a tip
- Be mindful of your belongings at all times
- Don’t walk at night (even short distances)
- Walk during the day only if you have been told it’s safe
- Use the safe at home / hotel
- If you are alone at the beach, be alert of who is around at all times
- Don’t leave your belongings unsupervised when swimming in the ocean
- Warmer months are great for beach time, but winter months are better for shark breaching, whale sightseeing and some incredible diving (the Sardine Run)