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.

 

Advertisements

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.

cape.agulhas.3

 

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.

Fairview.3

 

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.

 

Wake up on Table Mountain – New 7 Wonders of Nature

Surprisingly, very few people are aware that you are able to sleep on top of Table Mountain. Imagine going to sleep with a canopy of stars above you and then waking up with the city beneath your feet? overseers-cottage-large1

The Overseers Cottage is part of the Hoerikwaggo Trail and you are able to rent it for a night or a weekend.

Why not gather your friends together for an opportunity which will leave all your friends and family back home envious of the awe inspiring experiences you are having whilst volunteering in Cape Town? The cottage falls within the within the Table Mountain National Park.oversears-cottage-jpg

The cottage is self-catering and is as comfortable as the Aviva Volunteer House. It is a renovated stone cottage with a large fireplace and gas-heated showers. The bedrooms consist of two x 4-sleeper bedrooms and four x 2-sleeper bedrooms and can accommodate up to 16 people. It has a braai area so you are able to enjoy a wonderful South African tradition of cooking your steaks on a wood fire whilst gazing at the stars.  The best thing is that it is fully equipped – just bring your food – AND – you can hire portage if you do not want to carry your own backpacks as you will need to hike there.  Naturally the portage is for a small fee.

The rate is very reasonable at approximately R2,700 for 6 people and about R400 per person for additional adults.

Now what are you waiting for?  Speak to Megan, our Volunteer Coordinator, and get the weekend planned!

 

 

Balule Wildlife Conservation Project – Part 2

There were far too many highlights during my three week stay at Paradise. One of the major events that left me with sleepless nights occurred two weeks into my stay.  Spencer returned from one of the lodges clutching a box which he told me was my project for my final week, in his words I was to “keep it alive”. Inside the box was a cloth which I carefully unwrapped to find a tiny baby squirrel.  Its eyes were barely open and it easily fitted into my hand when I made a loose fist.  After a degree of “faffing” by the men, the sensible woman in camp (did I mention I was the only woman there at the time??) dismantled a biro and used the tube with thumb over the end to create suction to make a feeding device.

Unfortunately at the time the only thing we had suitable to feed him was a protein shake and ended up being the inspiration behind the squirrels name, Arnie, after ultimate muscle man Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Thankfully Arnie took to the strawberry flavoured protein shake and the new feeding device, although he expressed no opinion to this new name.  For the next week I constantly had a squirrel attached to me, usually down my cleavage (well it was warm down there and meant my hands were free). In just a week Arnie flourished, he became hairy, especially his tail. He even started to eat mashed up bananas and he loved to be touched and would lift up his arm so you would scratch him in the right place. I was worried about what was going to happen to Arnie when I left, but the men about the camp assured me they would look after him and after watching them with him, I felt secure.

We had many close encounters with the wildlife during my stay; being approached by two male white rhino; watching a herd of 30-40 elephants come to the dam for a drink 15069040_1256464067743513_5083334806709702438_oand play; seeing two male elephants fighting; occasionally being mock charged by various elephant who disagreed with having their photo taken; watch Spencer flee from the tracker seat at the front of the Landrover to the back after coming across a rather upset and trumpeting lone elephant at night (we did get close); have three male lions walk right next to usaviva-volunteer-balule-conservation-22 in what suddenly felt like an overly open and exposed game viewing Landrover.

We witnessed a male lion following a female lion one evening looking like they intended to go mate. We sat in camp with solifuges (sun spiders) and scorpions running around our feet and watched a large black mamba snake rear up out of the road as we drove past. We were stopped by a family of jackals and being amazed by the boldness of the juveniles who walked up to us to get a better look; 15493329_1283381658385087_103040995881605297_oseeing elegant giraffe stare at us through lone eyelashes and getting close to herds of buffalo, impala and zebra.

We had chances to glimpse hippos in the dams and river and caught a rare day sightings of a pair of civets and the list could go on and one. aviva-volunteer-balule-conservation-21

There are many things that I will miss about Balule and Paradise Camp, that will forever stick in my mind such as hearing the leopards and lions calling whilst we sat around the camp fire, the spectacular storms, the millions of stars on a clear night, the wildlife and of course my baby squirrel.  But what will really last a lifetime is the education provided by Spencer and his team and the dedication they offer to keeping wild areas wild, protecting the creatures that live there. 12234992_996786050377984_5857198991547250773_nSadly man can destroy an area in a matter of days but to conserve it takes lifetimes. Thankfully there are people like Craig Spencer and his team doing such work. Thank you guys for an unforgettable three weeks.

Nikki Williams