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.




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.



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.




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.


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.




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.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


Balule Wildlife Conservation Project Part 1

Testimonial by Guest Blogger, Nicola Williams ….

Located in the Balule Nature Reserve, the aptly named Paradise Camp is a slightly rustic but comfy, camp, it even has flushing toilets and showers, open air of course; no doors or walls but a stick screen to provide a degree of modesty from human eyes, the wildlife on the other hand are free to stop and stare or you’ll be joined by a millipede or two or some other creature as you go about your business! There is also electricity when the sun shines (which thankfully was often during my stay) thanks to the odd solar panel, what more do you need in paradise? 13731781_1146047932118461_7192078559983034925_o

Paradise Camp is proud to claim that it is one of the only camps to not have a fence surrounding it, meaning that all creatures great and small, friendly or fierce are free to roam where ever they please (quite rightly too!). One evening, after returning from an excursion into the local town of Hoedspruit, we discovered that the creatures of the area certainly do exercise their right to roam.

As we got out of the Landrover we could see a light from the game viewing tower. The Research Assistant called to us to warn us that the camp appeared to have some new guests.  We all made it up the tower and listened and sure enough you could hear the tell tale sound of branches being broken punctuated by the deep tummy rumbles of an elephant located just behind the left hand toilet (why, oh why hadn’t I gone to the loo in town???).12485991_1025306984192557_7547421732433862336_o

As we continued to listen we could another elephant, this time near one of the cabins, so going to bed AND going to the toilet were both out of the question, may as well make ourselves comfy on the tower.  Another elephant could then be heard near the car park. They had obviously heard about Craig Spencer’s fabulous cooking skills over the camp fire (he’s won awards for his skills so I’m told), or maybe they felt sorry for the Research Assistant whom we had abandoned in camp, or maybe it was those irresistible marula trees that had brought them into camp either way the weren’t in a hurry to move so we sat and enjoyed their company.

I stayed in one of the five wooden cabins on stilts that are scattered in the bush and made sure that every evening I monitored my intake of water due to the proximity of my hut to the toilets and all creatures great and small right to roam rule. The other two main buildings (very open and wooden sums them up best) are the game viewing tower, the perfect location for a drink as the sun goes down and it provides a stunning 360 degree view over the bushveld out towards the Drakensberg Mountains, and which accommodates the kitchen beneath it. Then there is the office where the ever so slightly eccentric scientists, rangers, researchers get their work done.

I should really make a formal introduction of Craig Spencer who heads up the team of highly qualified people.  Craig is the scientist (yes a slightly mad one) who analyses the data, writes the papers and does other important scientific things.  He has a number of degrees behind him a wealth of experience in the conservation of wildlife that is best explained by the man himself.  12374774_10153651663279473_6397391258382530311_o

Spencer is a lean, tanned, enchanting eyed, charismatic character who is passionate about the protection of wildlife. In my opinion the world needs more people like him to ensure a secure future for our wildlife.

There are a number of aspects to the research and work that goes on at Balule.  There are basic things such as maintaining roads (put a saw in my hand and I am a happy woman removing trees from our path!); erosion work; monitoring boreholes to check ground water levels are not being affected by the various lodges; monitoring the need (or lack thereof) of water holes, to more in depth research such as identifying elephants in the area which they collaborate with other researchers to establish movement patterns, herd sizes etc; tree monitoring to establish how much damage to trees is done by elephants which will hopefully prove the idea that elephants are environmental moulders 15895716_1311735108883075_8744824296453161362_orather than environmental destroyers; and finally game counts which are carried out almost daily and will hopefully cut out the need for disruptive and expensive aerial game counts and give more accurate information on the number and composition of mammals of Balule, and then can be used as a future way for counting game in other areas.  This data will be given to the head warden so he has hard facts behind future management policies.  Spencer says it will take five years to collect all the data he needs.

My adventures in Camp Paradise will continue …..


Super Sunsets in Sizzling Summer

I was listening to experts last night, giving their advice of the El Nino effect on the world – some are mild and some are severe. Apparently they know when a severe occurrence will happen. So why no warning? Why could I have not been told to expect one of the hottest summers we have experienced in Cape Town for the last number of decades in order to prepare a wardrobe befitting to the unforgiving African sun and heat as well as to stock up with a dozen fans all aimed at my body to keep me cool? Seriously, one fan does not cut it for me. I have so far, gone to great lengths to keep my body temperature chilled from time to time:

  1. I store my wet wipes in the fridge. They are so cold when I wipe the gazillion beads of sweat on my forehead, I am in my element. Downfall is that I go through enough packets to keep the manufacturers happy.
  2. I freeze a face cloth to wrap around my neck.
  3. I top up my hot water bottle with cold water and freeze it. One would think I had just invented the most ideal ice pack – it is that good.

The only blessing is that we have water in Cape Town to do such things and make ice. Other parts of the country are not so fortunate and though I feel for those people in the small towns where the taps have run dry, I feel for the horses, donkeys and livestock the most. They are dropping like mosquitoes who have flown into a room recently sprayed with Raid. It is tragic. I wish I could buy feed and make sure their water troughs are filled to capacity every day. I wish I could hose them down to keep their bodies cool. I wish it would rain.

Before getting off track even further, back to Cape Town. One cannot concentrate in such heat and that is a sad state of affairs as who does not want to work! With the volunteers out of the house, I thought of moving my computer to the edge of the pool and working from there. Note to self: bring laptop to work tomorrow. I wonder if someone would be so kind as to invent a waterproof laptop with an attachable Go Pro?

The only good thing about this hot weather is that we have the most beautiful aviva.cptsunset.1sunsets and watching the sun slip down into the sea whilst socialising at one of the various restaurants at Eden on the Bay, sipping chilled wine or beer or fancy cocktails with brightly coloured umbrellas, is just another superb evening in paradise.

Barcode: 01301968  Title: Table Mountain at sunset  Province: Western Cape  Location: Cape Town  Notes: Copyright by South African Tourism (1/713) Table Mountain Pristine beaches, sheltered by bays and secluded coves encircle the majestic might of Table Mountain which towers 1086 m above the Mother City. Table Mountain is also a World Heritage Site which boasts 8 500 species of wildflowers  Keywords: Western Cape, Table Mountain, Places of Interest, Mountains, Sea and Beaches, Large Formats  Photographer: Hein von Hšrsten  Original File Name: CF70083C.JPG  Copyright Owner: Copyright SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM

And I hear some of you say “But I am not volunteering in Cape Town, so it does not affect me”, to which I will remind you that all our volunteers, no matter where you are volunteering can experience staying at the AVIVA Volunteer House and enjoy the sights and sounds of Cape Town. All you need to do is pick the option Cape Town Week …. and your wish will be our command.