MESSAGE Cape Town *Video*
This is my second visit to Cape Town. It’s a physically beautiful place and a city rich in multitudes of cultures: from the current townships to the historic Cape Malay communities to the affluent sea-side residents. In short, there’s a lot to see here.
Here’re a few of my favorite picks to get a genuine feel for Cape Town.
MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Long Street. Long Street is party central. A strip of fun and feisty restaurants, bars, cafes and cool shops. If you want to see and be seen, Long Street is where you head.
EAT (Tasty Eats) – Cape Malay Food. My friend (and Acacia Africa tour guide) Jay made us all bobotie: a type of curry that has its origins in the South Asia immigrants to South Arica more than 200 years ago. Cape Malay is known for its coconut and chutney, to sweeten up your chicken and rice. Yum!
SEE (Must-see Sights) – Robben Island. For nearly 400 years, Robben Island served as a prison for those deemed dangerous by colonial and apartheid-era governments, particularly those opposed to Dutch colonialism of East Asia, British expansion in East Africa, and apartheid rule of South Africa and Namibia. The 518-hectare island was also home to those suffering from leprosy and mental illness.
I visited Robben Island during my first visit to Cape Town more than 10 years ago. I distinctly remember the tour of the island museum, visiting the infamous rock quarry where the prisoners worked and the isolated cell of its most famous prisoner Nelson Mandela. Mandela spent 18 years (out of 27 total years in prison) on the island. He was finally released in 1990.
This time round, I visited the Robben Island museum exhibitions at Cape Town’s Waterfront. In addition to the biographies of South Africa’s freedom fighters, there was an exhibit on the role of football (soccer) played in the lives of the prisoners, an obvious tie-in with South Africa as host to the World Cup last year.
Robben Island and the accompanying museum are important to see to truly understand South Africa then, and South Africa today.
SHOP (Gotta Have) – Springbok Biltong. I like biltong, which is basically dried meat with spices — like our American jerky. What I think is kind of funny is that South Africans love springbok biltong, and since their famous rubgy team is calls the Springboks, they are essentially eating their national icon. Funny! This is precisely the type of gift I like to share with my friends back home.
ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Table Mountain Sky Diving. The first time I was in Cape Town, I explored Table Mountain. After climbing it with friends, we all laid on our stomachs and peered over the side. If that wasn’t nauseating enough, I decided to get an even higher vantage.
Here’s me on my first (and only) sky diving adventure. I met my tandem partner because he’s the boyfriend of the girl sitting next to me on the 17+ hour flight from NYC to CPT. Obviously that meant he was well qualified for me to jump out of a plane with…at 17,000 feet no less!
Watch as I scream like a banshee, then squeal like a pig the whole way down:
Can’t see this video? Click on this link: Erin Skydives!
GIVE (Greatest Need) – Reducing Unemployment. South Africa’s unemployment rate has just reached nearly 26%. It is one of the highest unemployment rates in the world and the young (18-25) are the ones hit hardest. Tragically, 26% isn’t all that bad for South Africa. Historically, unemployment figures have reached as high as 31% and the lowest it’s ever been is 23%.
Considered one of Africa’s few (if not only) developed countries, it is hard to see how South Africa can continue to prosper with its unemployment rates remaining at these levels. You can see the national poverty it is causing – just visit any one of the 20+ townships that still exist.
ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Shark Diving. South Africa is known for its Great White shark population and what makes it a particularly fine spot for viewing is that the sharks are all juveniles and therefore congregate together. At least, this is what I’m told.
This trip I’m exercising some self-restraint and saving my daredevil tactics to solo border crossings. So no shark cage diving for me! I hear it’s amazing though (albeit environmentally unfriendly).
You enter a steel cage, hold your breath and submerge yourself in the ocean….and watch while the sharks swim around you. Supposedly eye-to-eye contact with the shark is possible = yikes! I think that’s the stuff nightmares are made of!