From August to December, we traveled (mostly) overland from Egypt to South Africa. That’s the entire length of Africa. We visited 11 countries, saw all the animals, and brought home about a pound of desert sand in our bags and shoes that we’ll probably never be able to get 100% rid of.
It was by far one of the most awe-inspiring continuous trips of my life. I’m so glad we committed to exploring Africa in depth on our 20 month honeymoon.
When we finally arrived in Cape Town, Tim and I rented a car to explore the Cape Peninsula. Sitting at this view point, near the southernmost point of the continent, feeling the cool wind, smelling the salt from the sea, and taking in the expanse of ocean in front of me, I realized how far we’d come.
- Day 1: Orange River
- Day 2: Cedarburg
- Days 3-6: Cape Town
- Day 7: Fly home!
Dates: November 29 – December 5, 2018
We had crossed the border into South Africa from Namibia, spending our first night at a lodge near the Orange River. We had just visited the Fish River Canyon in Namibia that morning. With the border crossing, it had been a long day. Our night on the Orange River was primarily just an overnight stop en route to Cape Town further south.
Thankfully, the next day’s stop was much more rewarding. We stayed on a beautiful vineyard in Cedarburg, about 4 hours away from Cape Town.
This was our last full night with the group we’d been traveling with on our Tucan Travel tour, since we’d be arriving to Cape Town the next morning. To celebrate, we all signed up to partake in wine tasting and a buffet dinner at the vineyard.
When we checked in, Tim and I opted to upgrade to a room instead of camping. Each room was named after a different kind of wine. Ours was merlot! The beautiful rooms had tasteful wine-themed decor, like wooden barrels as nightstands.
After settling in, it was time for the wine tasting. Some types were familiar, but others were new to us, like the delicious pinotage and unique rooibos-infused ruby vermouth. It was a deliciously fun time.
The next morning we had one last drive in the Tucan truck, a quick four hours to Cape Town.
Tim and I redeemed Marriott points to stay at a hotel, and we really appreciated having a bit of luxury after 2 months of a mix of camping and basic rooms.
That night we got together with our travel group for a final dinner at Marco’s Africa Place. They had great food and live music. It was a fun last meal together.
Cape Peninsula Road Trip
The next morning Tim and I rented a car and ventured out to explore Table Mountain National Park and the Cape Peninsula. Cape Town is sandwiched between the ocean and the mountains, making it incredibly scenic. Our drive south along the coast was beautiful.
Chapman’s Peak Drive to Hout Bay
We drove along Chapman’s Peak Drive to Hout Bay, a small fishing village known for its large Cape fur seal colony. We took an short and cheap (less than $10 USD) boat tour to the colony, where we saw hundreds of fur seals swimming in the ocean and frolicking on the rocks.
From there we ventured to the Cape Peninsula, part of Table Mountain National Park. The entrance fee is exorbitant, but well worth it for the wild coastal cliff views we had as we drove south to Cape Point.
I hoped to see some of the shipwrecks along the coast, but we didn’t have enough time to do that hike. We did, however, see several zebras and ostriches (including babies!), as well as cheeky baboons.
At Cape Point, we hiked up to the lighthouse and took in the views overlooking where the Atlantic and Indian oceans converge.
We then drove down to the sea level to check out the Cape of Good Hope – the southwesternmost point of Africa. It was buzzing with visitors taking pictures with the sign, but we enjoyed just walking around on the rocky shoreline just checking out the views.
From there we left the Peninsula and headed to Boulders Beach, home to a colony of endangered African penguins. We first checked out the public beach which is free to visit, and we did see a few penguins putzing around.
We then decided to pay to enter the actual protected colony reserve, where visitors can observe hundreds of penguins splashing around the beach. We stayed for a little over an hour, enjoying the cute antics of these awkward little birds.
Muizenberg Beach and Table Mountain
Our last stop of the day was to Muizenberg Beach to see the colorful bath houses. I found the beach to be a little sketchy and the bath houses underwhelming. We didn’t stay very long!
Before returning the car, we tried to visit Table Mountain, but the funicular was closed due to foggy and windy weather.
After we returned our car, we headed back to our hotel to relax for the evening. The next morning, we got up early to catch the ferry to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were jailed before the end of Apartheid.
Everyone who visits the UNESCO-designated island can take a bus tour of various sites before touring the jail houses themselves with a former prisoner. The bus tour was interesting, but it was difficult to see everything due to the number of people on the bus.
The jail house tour was incredibly fascinating, however. Our guide, Ntando Mbatha, brought us to the very dorm room he shared with dozens of other prisoners. Here, he told us about why he was imprisoned and what life was like there. Sadly, he also said that he doesn’t like having to give tours here to support himself. Since he was in jail during what would have been his early career years, he feels this is his best option, even if he hates having to return to his former place of captivity. This made me even more grateful to him for sharing his story with us despite having to revisit the trauma.
District Six and Bo Kaap
After the morning tour, we returned back to Cape Town by ferry and explored a bit more of the city. We grabbed a delicious lunch at the V&A Market, a food hall with many restaurants.
We then visited the District Six museum, which chronicles the story of the residential community that was forced out of their homes during Apartheid in the 1970s.
The museum itself is visually interesting. A map on the ground shows the old neighborhood, and former residents have written their names where they lived. The building is an old church and one of the only buildings to avoid demolition in the area. I recommend taking a guided tour if you visit. We did not, and it was hard to glean the most important bits of information from the lengthy explanations on the displays.
After the museum, we quickly stopped by Bo Kaap. Bo Kaap is famous for its colored houses. The story behind it is truly inspiring. South Africa has a nasty history when it comes to slavery and racism. In the 1700s, the Dutch colonizers brought slaves from Asia (notably Malaysia) to Cape Town.
When the slaves were emancipated, they moved into rented homes in this neighborhood. While leasing the homes, they had to keep them painted white.
Eventually more people were able to buy their homes. To express their freedom and ownership, they painted their homes in bright colors.
Lion’s Head Mountain Hike
The next day, our last in Cape Town before our midnight flight, we decided spontaneously to hike Lion’s Head mountain.
This is one of the most popular hikes around Cape Town, thanks to its amazing views and easy accessibility from the city center.
It takes about 3-4 hours up and down again. It’s challenging in a fun way – there are even chains and ladders to assist the climb up. If that’s not for you, though, there’s an alternative route that ascends more gradually.
Once at the top, you get incredible views of Table Mountain (which was amazingly not shrouded in fog this day), the city, and the ocean.
We absolutely loved this hike and it was a great way to wear ourselves out before the long flight back to the US.
Leaving Africa after 3 whole months felt rather surreal. We had traveled the continent tip to tip. We learned so much about the many people and cultures, saw the Big 5, and experienced some major adventures like white water rafting in Uganda and quad biking in Namibia.
It was time to close this chapter, for now at least. After a month of rest at home in the US, we would embark on the next segment of our journey – 5 months in Central and South America.