South Africa

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South Africa- An Eye Opening Travel & Volunteer Experience 

Cape Town = My Happy Place

I traveled to South Africa for a month long winter break  tour with my University in January of 2011. The experience was incredible. We took a 10 week class before departure, studying the educational policy and family dynamics, the role of youth in liberation struggle & the post-apartheid challenges.

One of the Townships we visited

One of the Townships we visited

Our month in Cape Town and weekend trip to Johannesburg flew by.The group I was traveling with spent 2 weeks volunteering around Cape Town- students were allotted to medical clinics, orphanages and townships. I Volunteered at St. Joseph’s home for Chronic Children on the HIV/aids ward. These young children were sick, but we often became lost in play – forgetting that their life prognosis differed from other healthy children in the world. Like any other child, they showed that same smile when hugged, the same laugh when being pushed on the swing and the same interest and curiosity while reading a book together. These children are beautiful, sweet, curious and most importantly – happy. I helped administer medicine during the day, and this is when I was reminded of their health (and when a child was bleeding and we had to take cautious measures for transmission safety). They greeted us every day with giant smiles and hugs- each child wanting our attention. We brought in donations of toys, yet we always found at the end of the day, the children most appreciated the basics- books, a ball, a stick to draw mud pictures on the blacktop. There was a slight language barrier with the children, although understanding basic German helped me better understand and communicate with the children who spoke Afrikaans (a Dutch derivative).  Two weeks came to an end too quickly, a 12 month old baby had taken her first steps with my assistance, children were working on “problem solving”, the permanent workers at the home were starting to pick up on child care practices we had been role modeling. It broke my heart to leave these wonderful children I had developed connections with, but I am so grateful we were able to touch each others’ lives.

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Onto the travel/itinerary…

Cape Town is Breathtaking- the mountains, the ocean, the animals, wine country– they truly have it all. Yet Cape Town is incredibly complex- having such a large divide between the very wealthy and extreme poor, who are living in conditions you can not even imagine until you have witnessed it first hand- having to walk a mile just for running water, dirt floors, tin roofs, electrical wires falling down, etc. However, even while being in these townships, the people are friendly and smiling, believing that tourists are the ones who spread the word about their poverty to bring them help.

Our itinerary was very different than that of one solely there for travel because our volunteer work broke up our time, but here is a compilation of all the activities you will want to squeeze in 🙂

– The beaches!!! Camps Bay & Clifton beaches were my favorite ( these beaches are right along the main road driving along the coast- there are also plenty of cute restaurants across the street from the beaches)africa11

– Day trip to Boulder beach to see the Penguins & visit the Cape of Good Hope (also hike to the lighthouse on the other side to overlook Cape Point).

An ostrich at the Cape of Good Hope

An ostrich at the Cape of Good Hope

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– Spending half a day at a township (we went to Mandela’s Township & Khayelitsha) (NOTE: these tours must be arranged as you are entering peoples’ homes and communities- look up tours online, or the name I provided at the bottom (Sedick) can assist in putting together a township tour. We had lunch at Malebo’s in the Cape Flats- definitely reccomend!africa3

– Climbing up (if you have the time) or taking the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain ( I suggest being there for Sun Set) AND/or Climbing up Lions Head

Lion's head; Picture taken from the top of Table Mountain

Lion’s head; Picture taken from the top of Table Mountain

– Visit the V&A waterfront for the views, shopping, eating and a sunset sail cruise. Make sure to check out the markets In addition to the stores. I bought some beautiful ostrich shell bowls here that are made by women in nearby villages.

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– Visit the Cheetah Outreach Center – a recuse center- where you can pay to pet cheetahs and learn more about helping to preserve their lives. There are less than 15,000 cheetahs alive world wide.

Save the Cheetahs!

Save the Cheetahs!

– Spend a day at a Safari! We went to Fairy Glen Game Reserve and were able to see elephants, rhinos, giraffes, wildebeest, lions, baboons, zebra, ostrich and more. While I am very eager to go on a 3 day Safari in both Kenya and Sabi Sans/Kruger or Botswana, this safari was a great first time safari since we were not in South Africa specifically for the safari itself.

So Peaceful.

So Peaceful.

Mating season has begun.

Mating season has begun.

Beauty! Lion cub in South Africa

Beauty! Lion cub in South Africa

Roaming African Elephants

Roaming African Elephants

This elephant was playing with the log- using his trunk to toss it up and roll it around

This elephant was playing with the log- using his trunk to toss it up and roll it around

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– Go Cage Diving with Great white sharks in the Indian Ocean!!! Not something everyone is willing to check off their bucket list, but it was AWESOME! My only regret is not having a go pro at that point in my life! We saw 3 that were all over 3 meters – thrilling 🙂 we went with the white shark projects and they will come pick you up in Cape Town (I belive it is about a 3 hour drive)

– Ride on an ostrich!! There are a few places listed online for ostrich riding.

– Take a day trip to Robben Island- where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Besides standing on many years of history, you will be exposed to the most beautiful, complete view of Table Mountain. Remember, South Africa faced the apartheid until the 90’s-Mandela plays such a huge role in South Africa’s history, becoming the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election.IMG_0437

– Visiting Stellenbosch / Wine Country. We went on a few different wine tasting tours- including  Groot Constantia (they have the best port I have ever tasted, infused with honey and other amazing flavored). We also visited the Asara Wine Estate, which is absolutely breathtaking. *** hire a driver if you plan on drinking a lot, it’s a bit of a drive, but SO worth it!

– Explore a Colored Community (this area houses those who are not white and not black; this is the appropriate term to use)

– Check out some of the museums in Cape Town (We visited the Jewish Museum, and there are many more)

– Check out the markets!

– Volunteer if possible! Or bring over crayons/paper, coloring books or other useful supplies to donate if it’s in your budget

– We took a weekend trip to Johannesburg, where we biked through the township of Soweto and had lunch; We also visited Constitutuion Hill and the Apartheid Museum. We stayed in Ghondi’s Hostel, which was my first hostel experience and I would definitely reccomend it. Jo burg however is not a place I would head back to.

– Good Reads before you go… : The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela and The House on Tyne Street by Lina Fortune (we spent a day with her in Cape Town- incredible lady!)

A huge Thanks to our driver Sedick OceantoOcean (Find him on Facebook!) We could not have felt safer! I can’t wait to get back to Africa!!!

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