Time of Year: May 2017
Places I Visited: Cape Town, Johannesburg, Kruger National Park
Hotel Names: Holiday Inn Cape Town City Bowl, Holiday Inn Sunnyside Pretoria, Kruger national park, Berg-en-Dal Restcamp
Highlights: Table Mountain, Kruger National Park, Robin Island, Cape Town Bucket List, Cape Point, Long Street, Fleur De Cap Winery, Long Street, District 6 Museum, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden & Cape Town Company Gardens, Three Rondavels, Gods Window, Lesedi Cultural Village, Rosebank Flea Market, Lion and Safari Park Johannesburg
My trip to South Africa was not my usual backpacking adventure. I took a course at Stockton University called South Africa Now by Professor Melakew Lakew and his assistant who has now taken over the class Professor Robert Barney. This course brought to light hardships South Africa faced, the lives of citizens and their government as well. The course also involved a 3-week trip to Ethiopia, South Africa, and Johannesburg. Hands down one of the best memories that I had from my college courses. This blog will contain some fun touristy things along with some volunteer work we did by visiting secluded villages.
Of course, since it was apart of the curriculum, this was all planned with the school, we had to pay for it but they organized everything with the flights, tours, food, hotels, etc. However, it was a very well organized trip, informative and fun with room for free time as well. Our first stop was in Ethiopia for our layover. Ironically our Professors brother met us there so we were able to stay there for a night in a hotel and made us a homemade Ethiopian meal and even gave us a small bag of spices to take with us. We then went to South Africa, specifically Cape Town; we were there the majority of the time. We visited the University of Cape Town, which has a beautiful campus overlooking a large mountain in the back.
Here are the rest of the highlights I would recommend for Cape Town:
Table Mountain: There is an option to hike- even though its difficult I highly recommend, or there is a lift that you can take that will show you another side of the mountain. My recommendation is to hike up the mountain, at the top there is a cafe and some amazing views, and then you can take the cable car down.
Robin Island Tour: This was such a different experience. You learn about Robin Island and get a personal tour by actual ex-prisoner. They give you an experience like no other by their own stories and their experiences living there.
Cape of Good Hope: The most south-west point of the African coast, Some amazing views here.
Long Street: Many shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars. If you’re looking to get a tattoo, check out Cape Electric Tattoo. There is a nightclub called Fiction that is absolutely amazing, they have a whole night dedicated to early 2000s songs. Just be cautious of Long street at night, there are a lot of people on the streets and with any city you want to be cautious of your belongings. My phone was stolen one night here-completely my fault as I was not paying attention, hence why I am emphasizing this.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden & Cape Town Company Gardens– Near Table Mountain, great place to walk around for the day. There is a large lawn to have a picnic, enjoy some ice cream, some yoga, etc.
Fleur du Cap Wine Tour- Amazing, large winery- detailed tour, cheap, amazing wine selection and can even be shipped back home for a reasonable price, highly recommend
Cape Town Bucket List– THIS IS A MUST MUST MUST. A few friends and I wanted to cage dive with great white sharks, however, it was the only time they were not seen for a week so that was a no go. We found a place where you can swim with wild seals. It was amazing. It was my four friends and I on a personal small little boat with a captain and co-captain. They told us everything we needed to know and gave us a once in a lifetime experience. This is 1000% a must-do.
District 6 Museum– An old church located in the center of that was converted into a museum and memorial for those affected by the apartheid. Something to check out if you really want to understand one of the biggest hardships South Africa has faced and the immediate and personal effects of citizen. Featured in the photo below, Noor Embrahim, lived through the Apartheid and published a book about his life. A good easy read for someone who wants to understand more about this time in South Africa. Link to his book is here.
We then drove up to Kruger National Park and stayed there for a few days. This was the place where it takes about 3 hours of driving around in the car to spot a single elephant and then another 2 hours to spot giraffes, however when you do come across these wild animals it is really cool. We stayed in a little hut and was made buffet dinners with local food and would sit in a circle around a fire and have a few beers and talk with some locals.
On our drive to Johannesburg, we stopped at a few places, the Three Rondavels, and Gods Window. Really amazing natural landscapes you have to see. There is also a Lesedi Cultural Village where tribes put on performances and give backgrounds of rituals, a little lesson in languages and so much more, you may even get to try an earthworm.
Lion and Safari Park in Johannesburg– They have an option where you can play and go see lions up close. There is a safari ride and then you can play with different age groups of lions.
Rosebank Flea Market Sunday Market in Johannesburg: This indoor market has every little thing you can think of from art, souvenirs, and clothing to food and snacks.
Some of the side work we did while on this trip was visiting churches and schools to distribute books and toys we brought for the kids. Umkhombe kaNowa Gospel Ministries, one of the first places we visited, was a church that housed orphans; some of the people I met here were some of the most grateful and nicest people ever. I am not the most religious person, but to experience a church service, some songs sang to us, and to be graced with such gratitude was beyond me. I cried three separate times, not out of guilt or sympathy but just pure bliss. The fact that I was there, able to provide such a simple commodity and to experience it first hand of priests blessing the toys and books brought was just such a surreal experience. Heideveld Secondary School is a place where they have afterschool basketball programs for kids. Embizweni Daycare was a very surreal experience of day-to-day life for people who live in Soweto. This place was very hard to understand and take in. It was a very small daycare about one room for about thirty or more children with a low ceiling and made up of thin wall like material. The conditions here in general are extremly poor and not a lot of people can witness it first hand.
If you would like to find out about donations to any of these schools or churches, please feel free to reach out to me or to Professor Barney who is in charge of the course South Africa Now and still currently teaches this at Stockton University. They will take donations on their annual trip to South Africa and are currently raising money as well.
Professor Robert Barney’s email if interested: Robert.Barney@stockton.edu