Some would call me strange, as many of my fellow travelers and friends like to travel alone, stay at a hostel, meet a lot of new people and be happy. I work in a different way, as I can do 3-5 days on my own, don’t necessarily meet a lot of fresh faces, but usually take home better photographs of the place and vibe, compared to traveling with friends. If I stay longer, or want to travel around the country, I mostly rely on group travel. Most of my friends just don’t go to these places and at the times I like to leave the country.
Group travel sounds horrible at first. You picture the big bus, 50 (mostly elderly) people getting out, shooting on their phones, tablets and compact cameras, just to turn around and drive off. It can be like that, if you don’t know what you’re booking, but since I found G-Adventures, Intrepid and others, these scenarios are far from true. You have small groups with usually not more than 15 people, which suits me, my style and usually leave enough place for photography and some alone time.
My now 8th trip with G took me to Africa. A three week trip through parts of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, ending in Victoria Falls Zimbabwe. Each will deserve it’s own little story.
Flying to Cape Town was easy, yet all in all it was a 19 hour journey for me. Tired and a little dehydrated, I arrived at my hotel in Kloof Street, which seemed to be a nice neighborhood with plenty of bars and restaurants. Some people still warned me and said it wasn’t safe. I never felt this way, but I can see why people would.
The first impressions of Cape Town were already great. Beside the nice weather, sun and quite hot temperatures, I got my first glimpse of Table Mountain and the great looking cityscape. I had 3.5 days on my own, before meeting my group and heading onto an 18 day tour north, so I tried to make the best of it by pre – booking a few tours for the first few days.
After dropping my bags in the room and chilling on the bed for a few minutes, it was already time to pack my camera bag and meet Ryan Torres of Cape Town Photography Tours. Ryan and I talked a bit beforehand and I booked his sunset tour, which would take us to some small beach town, where we’d shoot and have a small dinner, before heading off to watch the sunset and suck in the atmosphere while getting a few good shots. Plans change, especially when the weather is not playing along. It was way too windy, which seems to be normal in Cape Town. They call it the cape doctor, as the wind cleans the air in the area and therefore pollution is mostly not a problem. Ryan was cool about it and suggested a few other things. We agreed on taking two e-bikes out and ride along the other side of the coast, where the wind wouldn’t be as much of an issue. The idea was great, as it first took us through downtown and then over to the V&A waterfront, where we continued to Clifton and Camps Bay. The coastline is beautiful and you have a mix out of great scenery, landscape, street photography opportunities and really a very active bunch of people doing all kind of things down there.
After grabbing a bite to eat and resting my dehydrated body, we rode the bikes up to the base of Lions Head, one of the well known mountains surrounding Cape Town. We had a beautiful view over Camps Bay and the setting sun, which really kick started my “holiday feeling” and made me smile for the rest of the night. Ryan is really a very pleasant guy to hang out with. We didn’t nerd it out on photography and he had to deal with my dehydration cramps along the way, but he did a good job and I’m happy to have met him.
On my second day, I met Greg Hillyard of another Cape Town Photography Tours who took me around the wine lands. Greg’s a great guy and when I contacted him about the itinerary, I mentioned me liking beer better than wine. He changed the program quite a bit for me and we went by four different craft beer breweries instead of the three usual wine tastings. Yeah, you don’t need to understand that part! It was more of a philosophical day about photography and life in general, than shooting a great series of awesome pictures, but the area was really nice and I sucked a lot of memories into my brain. The vineyards are beautiful and a visit is almost a must when you’re down there! Part of the reason that I didn’t come back with a lot of keepers from that day was certainly my off day in creativity. If you are a photographer, you most likely know what I’m talking about. On some days you just don’t seem to have it in you.
Day 3 was planned way ahead. I definitely wanted to go to the Cape of Good Hope and see the landscape there. After two photography based tours, I chose the no. 1 rated tour in Cape Town, which was Robs Cape Convoy day tour to the Cape Point national park. Another early morning start, but it was so worth it. On the way to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope sign, we stopped at Scarborough Beach. I could have stayed there for hours. The pictures will tell you a bit of the story, but beautiful looking water and a great view on the coast and the waves rolling in. The kite surfers also had their fun and I’m a big fan of the salty smell you get near an ocean. Nothing better.
Cape Point itself is a viewpoint, where you can hike up a hill to the lighthouse and see the Cape of Good Hope from above. It’s a great spot for panoramas and you have a great view of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean fighting each other. Don’t forget your sunscreen though, I got burned a bit because I didn’t really think about it!
The second picture was taken just next to the sign at the Cape of Good Hope. I thought the lines of the different colored stones make it quite a special contrast, framed by a great sky and the waves.
Robs tour continued with more highlights. For lunch we stopped in Simonstown, a nice little beach town at the Cape peninsula, famous for good seafood and a nice harbor, as well as cool old buildings. Next door you find Boulders Beach, home of the Cape penguins. Beautiful little creatures, which you can watch for quite a while without getting bored. Robs tip was fantastic, turn right after the entrance for the lesser frequented walkway. We watched the tourists fight for spots on the other side, while having a bunch of penguins to ourselves!
I’ve met two American girls on my tour and I liked them quite a bit. Funny, entertaining and really nice to hang out with. Both had some cool jewelry on them, which was great to feature in two photos.
The second picture was taken at the end of our tour, at Chapmans Peak Drive. Beautiful place and what a view. We didn’t have the time to wait of course, but this must be one of the coolest sunset spots around. I’m almost sorry if it sounds like I’m using too many exaggerations, but all of this left quite an impression on me, something I haven’t had on a lot of trips lately.
Rob dropped us off at the V&A waterfront, which is a great place to spend quite some time in the later afternoon. Great food and bars, a nice shopping mall, music performances and the always present view on Table Mountain make it special. I was tempted to get on the Ferris wheel. Really tempted, but a beer and some food seemed to be the better alternative!
The last day in Cape Town was also the first opportunity to go up Table Mountain. The mountain is often covered in clouds, as you probably have seen on the pics, so visibility isn’t great or there at all. You need to go if the big cloud is gone! It took a while, as EVERYBODY had the same idea, but after over an hour of waiting in a line, I was rewarded with spectacular panoramic view over the city. I can only imagine how many good pictures you can actually take from up there or from the surrounding mountains (Signal Hill, Devils Peak and Lions Head), if you have time and weather is on your side. I should definitely go back and spend a week, hiking or biking up to these places and enjoy every sunrise and sunset.
3.5 days in Cape Town just don’t seem to be enough. I need to plan better next time, but I guess if you’re reading this, you would rather agree or be prepared for your own trip.
My group and I left the next morning to travel north. After several stops on the way, we reached Lamberts Bay in the evening. The town doesn’t have much to offer, beside Bird Island, which is filled with thousands of birds, and a nice little restaurant at the beach called Muisbosskerm. The birds are amazing. And loud. Another place where you can just sit and watch and shoot photos for hours.
For Muisbosskerm, which means mouse trap (I was told), you shouldn’t miss the place. They provide an all you can eat fresh grilled fish buffet and just keep food coming all night. I spare you the food pics, you can go on Facebook and see enough of them, but in addition to seafood en masse, you get to see a beautiful sunset.
My time in South Africa was too short and I only got to see a few places, of what is a very nice, friendly and beautiful country. It might not be the safest place on earth, but if you’re not careless and follow the advice of locals, blogs on the web and use common sense, you’re not really in danger. I’ll most definitely go back at some point and drive down the garden route, take a look at the other cities and visit Kruger National Park. But for now, the little taste has to be enough. It was a delicacy and as you tend to do with sweet and delicious things, you come back for more.
This was part one of a blog series about Africa. Part two will feature my first impressions of Namibia. If you want to take a sneak peak of the photos for the next blog entries, go to my website and check out the galleries. You’re welcome to contact me about any picture you see here or on www.gesele.com.