Cape Town Part 4: Shark Diving & Hermanus

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, the purpose of our trek to the Waterfront on Tuesday ended up being to book either a short stay at a game reserve, or a shark diving expedition. Marlon and I are both very assertive and astute decision-makers, and certainly never spend upwards of 10 minutes trying to weasel some glimmer of a preference out of the other; so deciding between the two options was a pretty easy and straightforward process.

Actually, it was a tough decision. Pat, having done both, recommended the shark diving and ultimately that’s probably what swayed us. Hundreds of reviews for Sharklady Adventures, Inverdoorn Game Reserve, and Aquila Private Game Reserve span the spectrum from terrible to raving, and leave the average for each at a solid 4 out of 5. I don’t think there was a bad decision to be made, but we were quite happy with our choice and felt well taken care of by the folks at Sharklady.

The safari would have been an overnight trip, so as the shark diving was two-and-a-half hours away we thought we might as well spend a night outside of Cape Town anyway. We asked about staying in Gaansbai, the town whence the dive trips set out, but were informed that we’d be better off staying in the town of Hermanus– through which the bus had to pass anyway–instead. Initially we were offered a room in Sharklady’s own “cottage,” but after reviewing the other options the woman at Sharklady was kind enough to arrange our stay at Harbour House Hotel. (Which I would highly recommend!)

We got picked up from Pat’s early on Wednesday morning and set out on a really beautiful drive east from Cape Town. I’ll admit to nodding off for part of the trip, but spent a good deal of it admiring the scenery (and enjoying the South African Deep House, of course). We were given a small meal at the shop, which was plastered both with photos of some of their celebrity clients and posters about how people are killed far more frequently by household items like chairs and toasters than by sharks. Celebrity clients include Brad Pitt, Prince Harry, and my girl RiRi (HAPPY EARLY BIRTHDAY BABYGIRL!!!).

rihanna sharklady

Our cheeky guide Lance gave me hard time for my sunburn and heckled the Kiwis a bit before launching into a quick (but thorough, rest assured) safety briefing on proper cage behavior; and before we knew it we were sailing (…figuratively) across the cold, choppy sea to prime shark-watching waters. Though this isn’t the best time of year for shark viewing, we saw about eight at our boat. They were smallish (8-12 feet long, if memory serves?), but still impressive, especially when they swam no further than arms’ length from you in the cage. Our cage never got bumped (though that does happen), and I really never felt scared. It was crazy to watch them jump from time to time for the bait, but for the most party they were just really graceful.

on the road to gaansbai

on the road to gaansbai

#STYLIN

#STYLIN

the water was absolutely frigid, even in a full wetsuit, and the wind made it pretty chilly on board as well. we sought refuge behind a bench up top haha. that's the second group, waiting for their command to submerge themselves.

the water was absolutely frigid, even in a full wetsuit, and the wind made it pretty chilly on board as well. we sought refuge behind a bench up top haha. that’s the second group, waiting for their command to submerge themselves to see a shark.

seagulls too like chum.

seagulls too like chum.

south african flag

BOOM. shark.

BOOM. shark.

BOOM. another shark.

BOOM. another shark.

the cold, choppy waters of gaansbai

the cold, choppy waters of gaansbai

We were fed a delicious (vegetarian!!) stew at the shop and shown the video that was made of the jaunt, then whisked back an hour in the direction of Cape Town, at which point we were dropped in Hermanus. It was a quaint, sleepy little town, but (especially after three nights on an air mattress, haha) it was a nice place to rest up, have some good food, and take in some more lovely scenery.

pre-dinner lounge sesh

pre-dinner lounge sesh

cookin up a braai at the harbour house hotel

cookin up a braai at the harbour house hotel

harbour house bougainvillea harbour house tree

when you see these solar-powered, shell-filled mason jar lights at my house pretend like you think it was my idea, alright?

when you see these solar-powered, shell-filled mason jar lights at my house pretend like you think it was my idea, alright?

harbour house hotel

i really loved the art they had hanging up?

i really loved the art they had hanging up?

the hotel by morning

the hotel by morning

taking a walk around hermanus

taking a walk around hermanus

hermanus view 2 hermanus view 3 hermanus view 4 hermanus view 5 hermanus view 6 hermanus view 7

do you see our little buddy?!?!

do you see our little buddy?!?!

we'd later learn, on table mountain, that this is a 'dassie,' and that it bites. we were also told its closest relative is the elephant, but are inclined to challenge that.

we’d later learn, on table mountain, that this is a ‘dassie,’ and that it bites. we were also told its closest relative is the elephant, but are inclined to challenge that.

WE REALLY LIKE EACH OTHER!!!

WE REALLY LIKE EACH OTHER!!!

and mar hermanus 2 hermanus flowers hermanus rocks hermanus mar splash hermanus hermanus sea hermanus waves hermanus birds hermanus grass

back at the sharklady office in hermanus, where we got picked up and taken back to cape town.

back at the sharklady office in hermanus, where we got picked up and taken back to cape town.

while marlon slept on the way back, i stayed alert and saw a baboon. also, any chance cole haan or frank&oak gives me money for this picture?

while marlon slept on the way back, i stayed alert and saw a baboon.

Cape Town Part 3: Lion’s Head Hike

We hiked to Lion’s Head on Tuesday, after our promenade walk . I’ll admit to being oblivious to this peak/hike previous to our journey (an Italian fellow on the plane from Johannesburg to Cape Town was the one who informed us [maybe just me?] of it), but had put in my request to hike the more famous Table Mountain early in the planning process. While we did make it to Table Mountain on our final evening in town, we did so by way of the cable car and I think this ended up being a better arrangement for our purposes. With a couple extra days I would have gladly devoted a full day to the lengthier, more strenuous trek up Table Mountain and a sidetrip to the nearby Kirstenbosch Gardens, but we had a pretty action-packed schedule as it was and the more condensed Lion’s Head hike suited us perfectly.

This hike we were able to tack on to the tail end of our day, when Pat and a few of his friends got off work. We wouldn’t have really wanted to go any earlier, actually, as everyone was feeling pretty hot even at dusk (and we brought… AN bottle of water. One of the small ones. Hahaha.); and we summited just in time to catch another phenomenal sunset. Round trip I’d say it took us around two hours, and there were a couple moderately taxing parts. I believe the path splits at one point between a slightly longer but more leisurely route and one that involves some chains and ladders. Amazingly, we saw a number of dogs on the trail– some all the way at the top! Of course, it is possible for dogs to climb ladders… (wait for the dismount on that, it’s worth it).

The afore-mentioned Italian had mentioned that the rock formation that is Lion’s Head “really does look like a lion’s head!”. I never really thought so, but it was a very beautiful and scenic hike anyway.

view of table mountain from the start of our hike

view of table mountain from the start of our hike

the shadow of lion's head

the shadow of lion’s head

precarious parking

precarious parking

lion's head panorama looking up lion's head table mountain from lion's head table mountain 2

twelve apostles

twelve apostles

going up lion's head lion's head flowers dead tree twelve apostles 2 lion's head tree lion's head path lion's head rocks lion's head view

we took the risky route

we took the risky route

going up

i'll admit to choosing this largely because it's the only real evidence of my dreadful sunburn haha. PLUS there's such a handsome guy next to me...

i’ll admit to choosing this largely because it’s the only real evidence of my dreadful sunburn haha. PLUS there’s that handsome guy next to me…

we made it!

we made it!

me mar pat lion's head

shadows lengthening

shadows lengthening

lion's head sunset on top of lion's head

photo cred to marlon

photo cred to marlon

And Marlon also had some more pics from the sunset at Clifton 2nd in my first post so… here they are. Delayed gratification.

me mar sunset

on our warming rock.

on our warming rock.

me mar rock(Of course, on this snowiest of snow days it’s hard to believe this was just two weeks ago!!)

snow day 1 snow day 2

Cape Town Part 1: Seaside Drives & Sunsets

Oh hey there! So much for that comprehensive music research initiative leading up to Gov Ball (not to mention Gov Ball itself… or any of the other million things that have happened in the eight months since my last post…). I guess I’m just not the blogger I once was. (Probably not a bad thing, really.)

I guess all it took was a tiny little excursion– involving neither Ollie nor America, as it happens– to get me to dust this old thing off. A few months back Marlon told me of a friend of his working in Cape Town who’d been strongly suggesting he come for a visit. Sure, it’s a little far and the ticket might be a bit expensive (it wasn’t even!), but he could get there and “live like a king on the Rand”; and he’d have a free place to stay and personal tour guide. Naturally I saw fit to invite myself (…kidding), and with some assistance from my parents in the form of an early Christmas gift we went ahead and booked our tickets in early November.

The two-and-a-half months between then and the trip flew right by, and before we knew it our departure date of January 17 had arrived. Turns out we picked just about the best possible time to go– not only was it the height of summer in Cape Town, we skipped out on a good portion of one of the worst winters our continent’s seen. Not to mention, the always favorable Rand was trading at a particularly good 11-to-the dollar during our stay (only for the interest rates to be adjusted and the exchange somewhat normalized the day that we left!).

We flew South African Airways, which not only offered the cheapest tickets, but at 21 hours provided the quickest flight available. The route took us first to Dakar, Senegal for a “technical stop;” which we learned entailed being stripped of your blankets for landing (no matter how deep your sleep) and then sitting around for approximately an hour while some passengers disembarked, others boarded, and the plane was refueled. This proved to be more vexing on the return trip, on account of exhaustion and foodlessness, but I suppose I’m getting ahead of myself. Oh and they’re required to spray a pretty terrible anti-yellow fever spray throughout the cabin before leaving Dakar that will be sure to penetrate any shirt or scarf you hastily try to put in place as a makeshift gas mask. Those Americentric maps will have you believe that once you’ve crossed the Atlantic the lion’s share of the journey is behind you, but the truth is that Africa’s enormous and the flight to Johannesburg takes just about as long as the first leg. The total journey from DC to Joburg takes 17 hours.

After clearing customs and rechecking your bags in the Joburg Airport (oh, and letting the poetry of these posters wash over you:)

it’s a quick two hour flight to Cape Town! Bada bing, bada boom. Pat was there to pick us up when we arrived just after 10 pm on the 18th, and he was able to keep us out late patronizing Tjing Tjing Bar then COCO as a clever and effective way of combating our jet lag.

tjing tjing

Pat lives in an area called Sea Point (technically a suburb lying just east of Cape Town, but for all intents and purposes part of Cape Town), and indeed we woke up to this gorgeous view:

sea point view cape town

We made the first of what would be many stops at the neighboring Bootlegger Café for a quick flat white and croissant, and then Pat whisked us off on a scenic coastline ride. We made a stop at the Hout Bay Market, continued along the beautiful Chapman’s Peak Drive, made a pitstop to sneak a peak of some penguins at Boulders Beach, checked out the colorful changing rooms in Muizenberg, then hurried home in time to rush off to Clifton Second beach for sunset. (Alas, I have only Instagram photos of that last bit, having been reluctant to get sand in my new camera. #sogauche.)

lion's head: the view from the other side of pat's apartment. we hiked this a few days later.

lion’s head: the view from the other side of pat’s apartment. we hiked this a few days later.

outside the hout bay market

outside the hout bay market

hout bay market sculpture

hout bay market snoekies hout bay market fish

at the biltong stand at the hout bay market. apparently the customer here is a famous rugby player haha. can anyone confirm/deny?!

at the biltong stand at the hout bay market. apparently the customer here is a famous rugby player haha. can anyone confirm/deny?!

biltong (far superior jerky [so i hear] made of exotic animals like kudu and ostrich) is one of the crown jewels of south african cuisine, it would seem. even i had a TINY piece of the ostrich biltong on offer here.

biltong (a type of jerky made of exotic animals like kudu and ostrich that allegedly puts anything found in the states to shame) is one of the crown jewels of south african cuisine, it would seem. even i had a TINY piece of the ostrich biltong on offer here.

hout bay flags hout bay market

making our way along chapman's peak drive

making our way along chapman’s peak drive

chapman's peak drive 2 chapman's peak drive panorama cape town mountainmar and ang chapman's peak drive chapman's peak drive 3 chapman's peak drive 4 chapman's peak drive 5 chapman's peak drive 6

taken from the car. word on the street is you can ride horses on that beach. chapman's peak drive 7

in search of penguins on boulders beach

in search of penguins on boulders beach

boulders beach flowers boulders beach flowers 2

true story, the official name for these guys is 'jackass penguin.'

true story, the official name for these guys is ‘jackass penguin.’

boulders beach 2 penguins marlon boulders beach

'heyyyyy!'

‘heyyyyy!’

boulder's beach 4 outside boulders beach

caught the slightest glimpse of a baboon from a bus later in the trip

caught the slightest glimpse of a baboon from a bus later in the trip

muizenberg beach-- a great place to surf and home to iconic colorful changing rooms.

muizenberg beach– a great place to surf and home to iconic colorful changing rooms.

pat mar and ang muizenberg

the three of us, complete with salad and wayfaring stranger

changing rooms 1 changing rooms 2 seagulls 1 muizenberg surfer muizenberg seagull

view from the car on the way home

view from the car on the way home

the clifton beaches are a perfect place to catch the sunset, with the majestic twelve apostles looming behind and the whole area taking on a yellow hue as the sun sinks lower and lower

the clifton beaches are a perfect place to catch the sunset, with the majestic twelve apostles looming behind and the whole area taking on a yellow hue as the sun sinks lower and lower

sunset stairs beach party

brought some virginia bubbly for the occasion.

brought some virginia bubbly for the occasion.

clifton 2nd 2 clifton second sunsetFrom there we grabbed a drink at Caprice before heading to a fantastic sushi dinner at Sevruga on the Waterfront.

waterfront ferris wheel