10 Things to do in winter in Cape Town

When I wake up to the wind whipping through the frail branches of the trees in my neighbour’s yard and I hear the jingle of our outdoor wind chimes, I know it is going to be a cold, wet windy day or possibly just a cold day.  The icy on-shore wind, the north-westerly, usually brings rain but often times, our little suburb is missed.

At work, once the “off duty” volunteers surface, the smell of baking is often experienced in the volunteer house. With laughter and chatter coming from the kitchen and a delicious smell wafting into the office, we know it is going to be a good day.  We know that the volunteers are going to make a large pot of coffee, take their warm cake, grab blankets and settle on the comfy couches to watch FRIENDS series for the umpteenth time.  This television series never seems to get old.

However, there is plenty to do in Cape Town during the winter months.  Winter has her advantages like winter specials, discounts, fewer tourists, no long queues. Ask anyone and they will tell you Capetonians do not like the rain, but I beg to differ.  There is nothing like the rain over a weekend to ensure your body and mind restores to full capacity by vegging in front of a log fire and binge watching your favourite television series, reading a book or snoozing now and then. For the adventurous type, the brave, the bored, we have a list of 10 great ideas to help keep you entertained in winter on those rainy or cold days.  When the sun breaks out and the temps rise to the lower 20’s celsius, we know where we will find you but winter is always a challenge.  Here goes:

Chasing Waterfalls

We have a wonderful Hiking Club which our volunteers use to experience those trails which are unfamiliar to everyone other than the locals. The hidden crevasses, the gorges, the huge mountain cracks and caves and above all, the stunning waterfalls. Despite the rain (and it won’t rain all the time), some hikes are a must, simply due to the wet pine needles filling the air with that forest, earthy aroma that makes being outdoors refreshing and when you reach your destination, the brewing of that cup of coffee to warm your hands, feels like the ultimate reward until you really check out the view from the top.

The great thing about a cold hiking day is that warm shower when you arrive home, changing into sloppy weekend gear to spend the night indoors.

Feasting Experiences

I would not call it binge eating if you want to try a couple of different dishes at different restaurants or markets, especially if you share a dish between yourselves. Cape Town and surrounding areas have the most amazing culinary delightful places to eat and if you plan accordingly, you can make a whole day of it – a sort of treasure map of eating. To make it more exciting, using different modes of transport to get to your various destination points. Two favourites with our volunteers are the Old Biscuit Mill on a Saturday morning or the Bay Market in Hout Bay. There is so much to sample, to eat, to buy, that you can spend an entire morning feasting and working up those taste buds for more.

Whale Watching

Winter is the ideal time to go whale watching. The Southern Right Whale head to our shores for birthing and it is not only in the bays and inlets of Hermanus and Gansbaai you will see these whales, but should you decide to kayak out in Table Bay when the sea is calm, you will see breaching whales in the bay too.

Wine Pairing

A favourite of all volunteers, especially in winter where you can sip wine in front of a huge fire. Wine pairing is the best – juice of the grape and food to line the tummy and there is not one, or two but if you choose your tour operator well, you can go on 5 wine pairings.  Let me tell you, you will be singing on the bus home and possibly munching on some of the homemade eats you bought at a wine estate or two and as long as the song is not “She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain” I don’t think the others will be too phased whether you sing in tune or out of tune.

City Rock

For the energetic volunteers, those wanting to try something new or something old,
then head to City Rock on the outskirts of Cape Town in the Paarden Eiland industrial area – Uber will deliver you there just fine.  They have various classes and even if you have never climbed a wall (not the mental one of frustration), they will show you the “ropes”. They even have yoga classes so there is no excuse not to visit them and give them a try, especially when those muscles need stretching after a couple of lazy days in a row.

Museums

Let us skip this one.  Joking! The South African culture and history has some rather interesting highlights from the arrival of the Dutch, the Khoi San (Bushmen) to the tearing down of District Six and rehoming thousands of families who had lived in the area. A chance to visit the South African, District Six, Gold and Holocaust Museums should not be missed and the winter is the perfect time to explore.

Scuba Dive at the Two Oceans Aquarium

If you have a PADI certificate and really would like to try something totally different, we recommend you try scuba diving in the kelp forest at the Two Ocean Aquarium.  Just for interest and in case you did not know, they also have a PADI course for those you would like to learn to how to scuba dive. Yes, right there in the middle of the city.

Go to a Samoosa cooking class in BoKaap

Now how about THIS for something different. This experience is not simply a cooking workshop, it is a guided tour of the historical heart of the BoKaap.  You will also get a full course traditional Cape Malay  meal with the family after your workshop. Now is your time to eat like a local. The scent of the spices alone – coriander, ginger, cinnamon, cardamon – will be teasing and tantalising your taste buds until your tummy has consumed all that your tummy is able to cope with. 

At the BoKaap family home you will learn how to mix Masala, fold the Samoosas and learn how one should balance the delicate flavours of a Cape Malay curry. And just this alone will have you drooling. Over a glass of faloodah which is a traditional, lightly-scented milk drink, you will be hear stories of how the food, history and religion are interwoven in the BoKaap culture. Speak to us and we will help you book this experience with the local tour guide.

Make chocolate Macaroons with Lindt Chocolate Studio

Say no more, you had me at Chocolate!

The Lindt Chocolate Studio has many classes and if I had my way, I would do them all. Chocolate macaroons, cupcakes, fondant pudding and a scrumptious chocolate fondant cake, dripping and oozing of chocolate. Not only do they have these classes but they also have a 5 Senses tasting experience where they pair their chocolate with wine, coffee or tea.

 

Go Drumming

If the rain has been relentless for a couple of days on the trot, then we suggest you join an African Djembe Drum & Drumming Circle to bang out all that frustration. Touareg Trading, an African artefacts shop located on Longmarket Street, hosts free exciting drum circle sessions every Saturday from 3pm to 5pm. It is all about getting together with people from all walks of life and making memories while tapping out afro beats in a warm and welcoming setting.

And so, dear peeps, this is a list of 10 exciting experiences you should at least try when you are in Cape Town – no matter the time of year. Watch this space as we will be bringing you a lot more interesting suggestions of things to do whilst in Cape Town.

 

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The Mountains Are Calling – Part One

Aviva Volunteers, in partnership with Trailblazers Hiking Club, are launching new hiking (including overnight hiking) packages and excursions on some of our most beautiful peaks and trails surrounding the greater Cape Town area – whilst you are volunteering with us.

Climbing the table_2

Towering 1086 meters over Cape Town,  Table Mountain is the most dynamic playground for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts alike. Whether it be summer, winter, autumn or spring – the mountains are always calling you. Trails run the length and breadth of the mountain, offering more than 900 different routes (counting all climbing routes as well) with hiking opportunities for all levels of experience and fitness. If you have a passion for nature, hiking or simply being outdoors, then make sure to pack your hiking boots, day backpacks, hiking poles, flasks and other handy gadgets to ensure you have a memorable hiking experience whilst you are in Cape Town.

Table Mountain is a firm favourite with volunteers where they enthusiastically tackle Platteklip Gorge on their first climb (hike) up the Table.  It is steep with lots of boulders and it is a long hike if you are not used to hiking. So many will hike up but will catch the Cable Car down after having cool beverages from the restaurant and having experienced a 360 degree incredible and magnificent view from the top.

Another firm favourite with volunteers is Lion’s Head. They usually conquer this with ease despite have to climb ladders and stairs with a firm grip on chains. Climbing the lion_2 But they do it with ease and are elated when they reach the top as the view is spectacular. You may get the one volunteer who decides the best way down is quickly achieved on her backside which she did with an unfortunate bump or two on the way down and then be at the mercy of volunteers for weeks on end with butt jokes being thrown around. She survived and we threatened to give her a helmet if she went up again. All in good fun though. Don’t think you will climb Lion’s Head once – you will climb it a lot more especially those sunset hikes or moonlight hikes on a perfect summer evening. Note to yourself: pack a head torch.

When you are issued with your personal trip planner username and password, we will be uploading documents on all the hiking trails (including costs) which you will be able to book and pay in advance.  At Aviva Volunteers we always simplify your life and take the stress out of planning.  And that my dear volunteers, is what makes us so special. You are always welcome to email us should you wish to find out more information before this is launched on our website.  Happy Hiking ….. the mountains are calling so you must go!

 

 

 

 

When it rains in Africa

One has just got to love Capetonians when it rains in Cape Town and especially when there is thunder and lightning to accompany those wet little droplets falling from a gun-metal coloured sky. Photographers race to their cars and drive to the beach front hoping to get that perfectly timed shot of lightning bolts flashing towards the earth and sea. Mother nature did not disappoint us and neither did the photographers on this particular occasion.

For those who do not know, Cape Town is under serious water restrictions at the moment due to a severe drought which almost crippled our economy. Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but when Government ignore the seriousness of the situation and locals have to contend with a mere 50 litres per person a day for everything, it does feel like a crippling situation.

Back at the Aviva Volunteer House, management stepped up to the plate and had a borehole set up with huge water tanks and filters to keep the showers flowing and the toilets flushing and the pool filled. In all the time I have been working at the Volunteer House, I have never seen so many empty 5 litre bottles which once contained fresh mineral water. The ongoing heatwave left everyone feeling dehydrated and it was a concern that the water from the taps was not pure enough for drinking purposes, although some volunteers drank it and said it was fine and they never got sick. We shudder to think what happens to those empty plastic water containers as they cannot be reused for long periods of time.

As winter approaches, we are hopeful for long rainy days, dams and reservoirs filling up to capacity and our lives (with water) returning to normal.

 

Unique Features on Cape Town & the Western Cape

A popular misconception (even amongst locals) is that the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean meet at Cape Point. The reason for this misconception is that the water which washes the shores cape.agulhas.4of False Bay are warmer than the cold water of the Atlantic on the western seaboard of the Cape Peninsula.

A unique feature when visiting Cape Point is that you are standing at the most South-Western tip of the African Continent. The waters are warmer on this side due to the strong south easterly winds blowing the waters being carried in the warm Mocambique current, towards the shore. So whereas we have a warm current which is sometimes blown inland, it is mainly the cold Benguela Current which washes our shores in Cape Town.

Another unique feature when visiting Cape Town is to take a trip to Cape Agulhas. cape.agulhas.1Now THIS is where the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean meet and just like various spots around the world where you can be in two places or two time zones at one time, here you can have one foot in the one ocean and the other foot in the other ocean. Just because you can.

But don’t let your venturing spirit stop there.  There is so much more to see and do, places to eat, activities to partake in, history to read up on and your first dip in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean. cape.agulhas.2Take photos for your friends – they will be so impressed that you not only stood at the most south-western tip but also the most southern tip of the African continent.

Even the lighthouse has a distinct fact – yes, you are right – it is the most southern lighthouse on the African continent! Let us know when you are volunteering with us, and we will arrange a trip for you where you can stay overnight and return the next day. Our travel desk has a great way to do this AND which will give you an opportunity to see more interesting places along the way.

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High on a Hill ….

Was a happy goat herd – lay ee odl, lay ee odl, lay hee hoo ….  Fairview.1Now that I have either got you singing that song from The Sound of Music or humming it, I would like to tell you about our Feature of the Month – Fairview Wine.  I kid you not, this is the place where you can spend an entire day and never get bored.

Situated in the Paarl area, a mere 1 hour drive from Cape Town on the N1 national road, lies Fairview Wine where you are able to experience heaven on earth. The mission of Fairview has been to create a fully sustainable farm and with over 900 goats, they employ conscious farming techniques by collecting the goats droppings to recycle into compost and the result?  Good quality produce! Charles Back has received numerous awards and the latest to his ever-growing awards was being name Farmer of the Year in 2017.  So you know – visiting this Farm – you will be in great hands and enjoy culinary delights and wine that you would never experience back in your hometown. Fairview.5 Fairview are agriculturally driven and are able to supply their restaurants with farm fresh eggs, goat and cow cheese, and fresh organic meat.

Just so you know I am not kidding let me tell you about the goats.  

Kidding season is at Spring time – September and October – and when visiting the farm on a Saturday or Sunday, you are able to play with the kids. During this time, you will notice that there will be limited goat cheese on the shelves at the supermarket and this is because during this time, the nanny goats are taking a well earned rest and producing nutrient nourishing milk for their kids to drink. Fairview.6 I did not know that, did you? As the saying goes …. You are never too old to learn!  I am definitely going to book a spot during kiddie season, that is for sure! And then to top it off, you have Goat Yoga in the summer with all the little kids having a great party around you whilst you are stretching into a pretzel.

The Goat Tower has a history that one should never fail to mention.

Way back in the 80’s when Charles Back visited Portugal, he was inspired by a beautiful tower in the garden of a wine farm that after a couple of months after returning home, the iconic Goat Tower was built. Now, when visiting Fairview, you will see the skywalk bridge which allows the goats to roam from the tower area to the other side of the garden where a playground has been built for them. I think I will stay here forever! Seriously now – how cute are those goats? So chat to our travel desk and let us arrange an afternoon of culinary pleasure, delightful wine and a day where music and food will have you kidding around until the sun goes down!

We would like to thank Fairview for use of their images.

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Essential Apps when Volunteering in Cape Town

You have arrived in Cape Town – let the adventure begin.  Today’s topic is all about essential apps for both Android and iOS systems which have been designed to make your travelling experience a whole lot more stress-free. Most of these apps have been designed in South Africa to the tech-savvy cell phone user who are loathed to use any paper of getting around a new city.

So let us explore the one’s which we feel will come in handy whilst you are in Cape Town.

The wonderful thing about CityMap2Go is that you do not need data connection to use this app.  citymaps2goOnce you have downloaded the map from City Maps 2 Go, you will be able to use it when you are offline. So you can navigate a city without wi fi connection. You will be able to look up restaurants, place of interest and find anything of relevance as you would have as a digital map user. There are 2 versions – one which you can purchase and the other is free.

 

 

TripIt

This is such a useful organising tool for all your travel documentation such as your flight details, hotel check-ins, rental cars etc and it is especially helpful should you be volunteering in Johannesburg and Cape Town. tripitYour flight details will give you gate information, how long your flight will take, convenient telephone numbers etc. And, TripIt will synchronise with other travel apps.

We have had volunteers whose flights had been cancelled and they never received the notification from the airline.  Imagine their shock when they arrived at the airport only to find they were stranded? This app will alert you to changes in your plans due to cancellations, delays or gate changers and that will make it much easier for you to notify Aviva Volunteers of the changes.

MyCityBus

Coming to Cape Town?  Then this should be the first app you download.  Though you will receive the paper version of the bus routes in the documentation section of your MyTrip, volunteers should always have this app myciticapetownhandy when using the bus system. The greatest aspect of this app, is not only the bus routes, but you are able to see the bus timetables, your current card balance and has a fare calculator.

Even if you intend using Uber, always keep this app handy on your phone so you are never left in a position where you have no transport.

 

 

VoiceMap

You will discover when chatting to our Travel Desk after arriving at the Aviva House, there are free walking tours in the City.  If you download VoiceMap voicemapthough, you will be connected to at least 30 walking tours – all audio and all you need is your smartphone and earphones. And then ….. explore the city at your leisure.

If you need a break, the app will be paused and once you open the app again, it will automatically reconnect you where you left. To make it more fun you have several tours to choose from – historical, comical, fantasy, sci-fi themed tours and you can discover more than one area other than the city. Muizenberg, for example.

Zomato

zomato.restaurant This is a food website and app and it find the best restaurant, cafes, pubs and bars in the city.  Actually, you can use this app in any city so it will end up being a nice addition to your smartphone. Information and photographs are shared by food lovers community and their comments will guide you in making the best possible choice for having a great meal and a fabulous time.

Last but not least, let us tell you about an “awesome” app which is yet another South African development.  awesome.capetownThis is the first location-based travel app developed in South Africa.  You have 4 colour-coded options – Red is for specials, Blue is for Events, Yellow is for promotions and Green is for news. So if you are looking for a good pizza deal or what is hip and happening over the weekend, this app will give you the low down on what you are looking form.  A handy tool on this app is a currency converter and emergency numbers.

So there you go Volunteers ….. we also do our best to look after you whilst you are staying with us. Give us some feedback when you are here as to how these apps helped you.

 

Does Volunteering Change or Shape your Life?

Job Opportunity for Primate Carer.  by josie du toit

Who could not love these wonderful little critters?  You have to be honest – you cannot resist such a cute face.  Could you?

The Vervet Monkey Sanctuary was established in 1989 after seeing the need for an organisation to provide a sanctuary for the Vervet Monkeys and to holistically investigate what was in fact happening to this indigenous primate of South Africa.  During the past decade the Foundation has developed a unique rehabilitation progam that has helped revolutionise the way in which primates are rehabilitated. Their enclosure designs are now utilised in similar primate projects. Fundamentally, the Foundation has saved and improved the lives of more than six hundred vervet monkeys. AVIVA-Volunteer-Vervet-Monkey-Project-01The foundation has also achieved many firsts in the rehabilitation of this primate species with the aid of volunteers, gap year students and primate carers.

Situated in the attractive subtropical garden town of Tzaneen, with a colourful profusion of indigenous and exotic flowers and vegetation. An above average summer rainfall and temperate climate all year round ensures that everything grows here in great abundance – nuts, avocados and other vegetables, fruits (especially citrus fruits, mangoes, bananas and litchis), coffee, tea and cotton. Close by are extensive emerald green tea plantations and the surrounding mountain slopes are heavily forested with timber plantations of pine and blue gum.  Tzaneen is the second largest town in the Northern Province and is situated in the foothills of the impressive Wolkberg (Cloud Mountain), the northern reaches of the Drakensberg Mountain range. The town is the commercial center for the district with 80 000 people residing in its area of jurisdiction and 650 000 people residing within a 30km radius. To this day, the Vervet Monkey project remains a popular project with our volunteers, some who do this project and then come to Cape Town to do the popular African Penguin Rehabilitation project. So when the Vervet put out an advertisement for a Primate Carer, it was natural for us to share this on our Facebook page too and two days after appearing on Facebook, I received a message from one of our past volunteers who said, and I quote “I would just like to thank you for sharing the Vervet Monkey Foundation link to their job opportunities.  I applied yesterday and then had a Skype interview with them today and they have offered me a role as Primate Carer.  This means I will be moving to South Africa very soon and I am super excited! I am very grateful to you for sharing that link, meaning my life is going to change! This is going to completely reshape my entire life, all thanks to you for sharing that link! Thank you so much.”

This is not the first time, a volunteer has used their volunteering experience to make big moves in their careers. From volunteering on our African Penguin project, some volunteers have achieved great careers with Zoo’s in both the United States and the United Kingdom. These volunteers came to South Africa knowing they wanted to study and work in the field of wildlife conservation or marine conservation (but were not entirely sure), fell in love with the idea whilst volunteering on their project and then went on to study and working to fulfil their dream. We are so proud of all our volunteers.

Despite what many people have said on the internet about a Gap Year experience, our volunteers have only had good experiences and have carved out success in their lives