Shark diving with great white sharks in South Africa. As seen on Discovery, Animal Plant, Shark Week, and just about any television program featuring sharks. The catalyst for my trip to South Africa. The day when I would come face to face with the historic predators has arrived.
The day began with a 3 hour drive from Cape Town to Gansbaai, home of Shark Alley, the infamous stretch of Atlantic Ocean where the great white sharks congregate. We have a brief safety instruction (“keep all fingers and toes inside the cage” and “vomit over starboard side of the bottom deck”), and on to the boat we go! We face a turbulent 15 minutes en route to Shark Alley, and all I can think is “This is so fun, and we haven’t even begun!”
We all suit up in 7mm wetsuits, and the first group dives into the 55ºF water…fun fun fun. 20 minutes later, the group has seen exactly zero sharks. Just when we think the day might be a bust, a large Great White goes for the bait! A formidable mouth of razor shark (#punny) teeth explodes out of the water, colliding with the shark cage and grabbing the bait before it can be yanked away. The shark and the bait do quite the tango, flipping the shark on her back and giving more than one extreme photo opp to those in the cage and the rest of us on the boat.
Unfortunately for Sreetham, Nikki, Amanda and I, we are not in that group. Rather, we are in the 5th group. By which time, the bait is “so 2009” to the sharks. As we wait in the oh-so frigid water temps, all I can think is, “Let’s get this over with.” Classic thought I have while on vacation, wondering why I signed myself up for whatever particular arrangement I have found myself in. 15 minutes later, the captain calls it and the lot of us climb out of the cage, teeth a chattering. As I am climbing out of the cage, my numb foot misses a rung of the latter, compromising my balance and sending me right over the edge of the cage. The sharks suddenly have new bait to take an interest in. I see a gray mass rapidly approaching from behind…and…my alarm went off.
Not only did I not see any sharks whilst in the cage, but a seagull pooped on me. Not only did a seagull poop on me, but we entirely missed the braii (traditional South African BBQ) Zara had invited us to, due to the long bus ride back to Cape Town and general lack of punctionality of the day. C’est la vie!
Table Mountain Take 3
With a too recent memory of freezing cold water and long bus rides, we decide to spend the next day hiking up the iconic Table Mountain, one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Our first two attempts at the hike were thwarted by wind, fog, rain and generally fickle weather. But today is bright and sunny and hike Table Mountain we shall! 2.5 hours of conquering nature’s stairmaster culminates in an ostrich stew for lunch and a panoramic view of Cape Town.
We take the cable car down and head to Camps Bay, where I try to pick-up a game of beach volleyball (rejected) and instead decide to brave the frigid waters for a dip. In my attempt to body surf a wave, I instead get dragged under, tossed about and spit onto the shore, with half the ocean floor in my bathing suit and a donation of my Oakleys to the Atlantic Ocean. You’re welcome, Atlantic Ocean…enjoy the lifetime warranty. I buy another pair of sunglasses to prepare for the next step of the journey where the sun will surely be shining…the other half of the catalyst for the South Africa trip, the safari!
Every trip has highlights and lowlights. The safari was simultaneously the highlight and lowlight of our trip. We wanted animals. We came for animals. We got animals. We saw everything from the Big 5 (elephant, water buffalo, rhino, lion, leopard) to every variation of antelope known to South Africa to an owl eating a scorpion! I petted a cheetah and got licked by a hyena; highlight indeed.
We also spent ~40 hours in a truck, with a very confused tour guide who was actually a chef (at a 1 star restaurant) posing as a tour guide. Holla to the lowlight.
Throughout the safari, I longed to get out and touch the animals, or at least get close enough for that sense of thrill I’m constantly searching for. Even though the safari missed the mark on adrenaline pumping activities, it was incredible to see all the animals I’ve seen from thousands of miles away on T.V. to within 10 feet. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words:
The Sad, but Fancy End
After getting back from the safari, we promptly cancel our last night at the hostel in Cape Town, in lieu of a 2 bedroom suite at a 4 star hotel in Cape Town. If we’re going out of Cape Town (much to all of our dismay), we’re going out in a hell of a lot of style.
We spend the last two days in Cape Town getting massages, eating fancy meals, and lounging at the beach. Did I mention our 2 bedroom suite at a 4 star hotel was ~$150 and fancy dinners with drinks, appetizers and entrees ran us ~$20USD? That is what happens when you have a first world city in a third world country. Other things we did in our last two days:
Old Biscuit Mill. The most amazing marketplace, full of unique jewlery, delictable local foods, and very attractive South Africans.
Lion’s Head. Unfortunately, the top half of the mountain was blocked due to a Red Bull race. As I was vowing to never again drink Red Bull, I met the most charming little old man, who taught me the history of Cape Town (from British to Dutch to Freeeedom), as well as local botany (I know all the plants on that trail).
Mad bargaining to both buy gifts whilst not running out of cash.
Unfortunately, time ran out and we had to leave the wonderful city of Cape Town and incredible country of South Africa. I’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to travel to many countries, with a wide array of cultures, landscapes, languages, foods and atmospheres. I’ve fallen in love with many of those destinations, but I always left looking forward to returning home. Never have I traveled to a city I could envision permanently returning to, to make a life for myself. Until Cape Town.