6 Highlights from 6 weeks in Cape Town, South Africa with WiFi Tribe
Buckle up, pals! This is a long one!
I've been in the states for only week and I am still riding the high that was the last 6 weeks in Cape Town, South Africa with my beloved WiFi Tribe.
In December of last year, I organized a 16 day multi-city European Christmas market trip for my family that took trains, planes and other automobiles from Florence > Lake Como > Salzburg > Nuremburg > Frankfurt > Brussels > London (there's a blog I started for it, I swear). After my fam headed back stateside, I continued on for my first bit of truly solo travel (from London > Amsterdam > Luxembourg > Zurich > Budapest) before heading back to Frankfurt to catch my flight to the other hemisphere.
I've said it once, and I will say it again (and again, and again) SOUTH AFRICA completely exceeded my expectations. I was so happy to spend 6 weeks in this wonderful country as my second chapter with WiFi Tribe. (My first WiFi Tribe Chapter was Santa Teresa, Costa Rica last August! 6 Highlights from that trip here!)
*A Note about the Water Crisis:
We spent 6 weeks in Cape Town during one of the city's more difficult times. As you may know, Cape Town is on its way to becoming the first city in the modern world to potentially run out of clean water. There are a lot of factors that have contributed to the water shortage and subsequent water crisis. From rapid population growth to climate change, an ongoing drought and lack of infrastructure like desalination plants, it's no surprise that water conservation was going to be absolutely necessary. You can read more via these articles on GroundUp and New York Times.
On the bright side, I feel like this is a reminder that people, especially travelers like myself, need. So, yes, we had to cut our showers down to less than 2 minutes, and to let yellow mellow instead of flushing every time. We need to be conscious of our impact on the planet and realize that the resources we take from granted, aren't guaranteed. Thankfully, Day Zero gets pushed back further as natives and travelers alike use their water wisely. If you're considering making a trip to Cape Town, don't let the water crisis hold you back. You can absolutely enjoy the city and all it has to offer while being cognizant of the issues at hand.
So here it goes! My 6 Highlights from 6 Weeks in CPT!
1. Color & Culture
My first impression of Cape Town was that it felt very Californian. Ocean views, an active harbor, trendy restaurants, yoga spots and vegan eateries, beach culture with plenty of surfers and kite surfers... not to mention, the weather felt so much like home after freezing my booty off in European winter. When chatting with one of the yoga instructors at the studio I went to (shout out Wild Thing!) she said she hears that Cape Town has a lot of similarities to San Fransisco. "They've got Alcatraz and we've got Robben Island!"
The Robben Island Tour helped to really put Cape Town and its history into perspective. A small island off the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island is only a short ferry ride away from the V&A Waterfront. The tour starts with a guided bus around the perimeter of the island showing the jail itself, the school, the graveyard and the church (more than a few couples were getting married there that day!). The second half of the tour is lead by a former inmate, which is not only a psychological mind trip but a totally sobering experience. Our guide was arrested as a political prisoner at age 19 and was sentenced to 25 years. Prisoners labored for long hours at the stone quarries, making blocks of stone that actually served no purpose, but instead were carted and dropped to the other side of the island for no reason at all. It was during these long hours in the sun that the prisoners regardless of class, education, background or crime committed, banded together to educate one another. Political figureheads like Nelson Mandela and others created classrooms out of bathrooms and helped others to consider a positive future and overcome apartheid. Being on Robben Island was a reminder again that this separation of people based on the color of their skin was NOT that long ago, and although there has been significant progress to the positive, evidence of apartheid and the result of separation between communities, their cultures and the opportunities given to the people of South Africa are still apparent. Doing this tour is a reminder that history should not be forgotten, but learned from.
On a brighter note, we also got to explore the vibrant community of Bo Kaap. Most noticeable for its candy-colored buildings, this residential area has a funny history. Bo Kaap is home to the Cape Malay (or African Muslim) people. One of our first tour guides in Cape Town was a born and raised South African who dispelled some major Bo Kaap myths right off the bat: the reason the houses are colorful is that the community wanted more traffic. No cultural phenomenon, no reason behind the colors, just simply wanting to drive traffic and tourists to the neighborhood. He noted some of the tours will tell you that the colors were a celebration of liberation after apartheid, or that the colors would match the boats of the fisherman in the bays, but both of these are embellished stories. Instead, it's as if the people of Bo Kaap knew that Insta-Tourism was a thing... before it was a thing. Guilty as charged! I got my bubblegum pink Bo Kaap photo op one of the first weekends there.
2. Hakuna Moscato
To say I love wine tasting would be a major understatement. My vino obsession started during study abroad in college (1 month in Florence, and 4 months in Rome). I am a member of a wine club in San Diego (shout out Carruth) even though I am only in town for a few weeks here and there. I am also a foodie at heart and love a good pairing. Before I left, I knew that South Africa’s wine country was not to be missed. Luckily, Nomad Cruise hosted a Digital Nomad Wine Tasting Meet-Up and a whopping 50 nomads from all over joined in on a three-stop wine tour at some of Stellenbosch’s finest vineyards and wine farms.
Seriously you could have told me I was in Santa Barbara or Napa and I would have believed you. Vineyards are flanked my beautiful mountains and the vineyards we visited (Vergenoegd, Asara and Boschendal) were an absolute dream. The wine tastings were super informative and the wines we tasted were unlike anything I’ve tasted in Italy or California. (We tried a white cab sauv… I bought it instantly). Besides the wines being top-notch, I am a sucker for the kind of environment, conversation and straight up good times that wine tastings create. To be with such a large group from all over the world while sharing and comparing pinots ranks this weekend high on my list of experiences while in Cape Town.
Although I didn’t get great photos of them, it would be a missed opportunity to not touch on my new beverage of choice (besides my first love, wine) — Gin & Tonics. My dad’s, and for a while my sister’s favorite drink is a G&T, and while I always liked them, they carry a connotation of being an old man’s drink. Not anymore. Cape Town was recently named as the G&T capital of the world, which I learned on our last weekends’ Gin Tasting Tour. Not only is the gin DELICIOUS, but Cape Town is on to something that (mark my words) you’ll see on the shelves of Trader Joes in the next year or year and a half. Read: Pink Tonic. This magical, girly, fresh pink soda is TO DIE FOR. It is flavored as a combination of rose and cucumber and makes the perfect summer drink, almost like a South African version of an Aperol Spritz. I could literally bathe in this pink tonic and would be stoked on life. Getting a case of the stuff delivered to the states ASAP (Fitch and Leeds, can I be your brand ambassador yet??)
If you’re visiting Cape Town, go try one at Roast & Co. They serve them in huge glasses and aren’t shy with the Gin. Wink wink. Plus the outdoor patio area is adorable and the happy hour deals can’t be beat.
It seems absolutely silly to go all the way to Africa and not go on a Safari. I got to go on not one, but two Safaris during my 6 weeks. Our third weekend in Cape Town, we booked a weekend Safari along the Garden Route, west of Cape Town. The tour was in Oudtshroon and included a stop at an Ostrich Farm, an INCREDIBLE elephant rescue, a super depressing Zoo, and a day-long Safari (with a night in between at a Backpacker’s hostel).
By far, my best animal experience in Africa was hanging out with 3 beautiful elephants at Oudtshroon Elephant Experience. Five of us met with the guides and took the elephants out for their afternoon walk and feeding. The elephants we spent time with are rescues, living at Oudtshroon Reservation to stay safe from poaching. Our guides were amazing at letting us get up close, personal, and extra snuggly with the elephants. I LOVED it and could have stayed there all day long, watching them walk around, drink from the watering hole, and eat pumpkins, pears, and apples by the basket-full.
Our Safari was super interesting as well. We got to see rhinos, wildebeest, zebra, and plenty of springbok but ended up in the safari van driving for 2.5 hours around acres and acres of land to no avail. As you can expect, when you’re on safari, there is no guarantee that you will see wild animals because you know, they’re wild. Which is why I am so glad that I went on the second safari at Chobe National Park.
My biggest trip of the 6 weeks was with a smaller group of WiFi Tribers to Victoria Falls in Zambia/Zimbabwe and Chobe Park in Botswana. The amount of animals that we saw in this trip was probably more than I could ever anticipate. We did two different river cruises and went on a pretty incredible safari with every african animal you could imagine: zebras, giraffes, rhinos, crocs, hippos, birds (meh), elephants (my fave) and one sleeping lioness under a tree at the very, very end. Needless to say, if you go to Africa, definitely go on Safari. When I go back, (not if) I would LOVE to do a multi-day camping safari where I could actually get out from the Safari van. #goals
4.Trip to Vic Falls
As I mentioned above, the weekend trip to Victoria Falls (though on the expensive side) was totally worth it. In Cape Town, we were most definitely sheltered in a little bubble that didn’t make it feel really like Africa at all. THIS, among with many other reasons, is why I love being in a place for longer than a standard ‘vacation.’ You get such a better sense for a place when you can really get outside of your comfort zone and see something you’ve never seen before. For me, that was Victoria Falls.
Vic Falls is the LARGEST waterfall in the world at over 300’ tall, and sits right on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The border crossing experience alone is an experience as you literally get into a little aluminum boat to ride over to the other side, and are required to get passport stamps on both sides each time you cross.
On our best day in Vic Falls, we started with a swim at Livingstone Island. Livingstone Island is a little plot of land that legit sits on what feels like the end of the world. You get to this tiny little island by boat, and then can swim at the very edge of the falls in Angel’s Armchair or Devil’s Pool. The water levels were too high to do Devil’s pool when we were there, but Angel’s Armchair was just fine by me. Vic Falls is also home to one of the worlds largest bungee jumps. Check that one off the bucket list, with a GoPro video to boot. Told my mom the story about the Australian girl whose bungee snapped only after I made my jump.
Lastly, our weekend in Vic Falls was one of my favorites based solely on the awesome accommodations that we found. We started at the backpacker’s paradise that is Jollyboy’s Hostel, then made way to our second stop, which would have been tent camping at the Waterfront hotel. Except for the fact that when we arrived, it was pouring buckets and buckets of rain. We all agreed (and got a discount on account that it was slow season) to upgrade our rooms to ‘family room’ style villas with the most killer drone photo potential. Totally worth it in retrospect.
5. Stellar Views
If you’re a hiker or outdoorsy person, Cape Town had no shortage of hiking possibilities. The 12 Apostles, as they are called, are the 12 peaks around the Cape Town Coast including Lion’s Head and Table Mountain. We conquered both, and I can honestly say that these were the kind of hikes that make you question your athletic abilities. If you’re in Cape Town for any amount of time, I highly suggest you do both hikes, and if you have the chance to, try Lion’s Head for sunrise. Waking up before the sun and getting to the best 360 degree view is worth the 4:30am wake up call.
Getting to the top of either Table Mountain or Lion’s head gives you an idea of how the city is oriented. We got to stay in Seapoint, a more neighborhood-y suburb of Cape Town that was the midway point between downtown/the waterfront and the oh-so-instaworhty picture perfect beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay. I loved Cape Town for a lot of the same reasons that i love San Diego. You can have big city and intimate neighborhood within a 10 minute uber ride. Cities also offer you the opportunity to try new and innovative bars, restaurants, coffee shops, workout classes, aka all the things that I love.
Being right on the ocean also gives you an opportunity to see the city by boat. We book ended our trip in Cape Town with a Catamaran tour at the beginning and a Pirate Boat (should out to the Jolly Roger) at the end. Something about looking back on the cityscape from the water is super magical, especially during sunset.
Lastly, the views from Kirstenbosch Garden are pretty incredible. I highly suggest checking out the treetop canopy bridge and camping out for the most perfect photo-op, which I did for at least an hour with @girlgoneabroad.
You’re probably sick of hearing about them from me by now, but I cannot emphasize enough how much I love the group and the family that I have found with WiFi Tribe. We had a grand total of 25 people with us in Cape Town, and after just 6 weeks colliding and coworking together, I feel as if I have known these people for years, even decades. WiFI Tribe attracts the best of the best of the nomad community and really curates a group of members that work hard, play hard and travel harder.
Cape Town was my second chapter with the Tribe, and going there directly after my first bit of solo travel, I remembered right away why this group is a good fit for me, my business and my lifestyle. Although I have covered it before, here are 6 new reasons why I’ll keep coming back to WiFi Tribe:
- …to do things that I probably wouldn’t do as a solo traveler. Safety is always something I am cognizant of when I am traveling abroad and being able to travel with a group gives me enough of a security blanket to go to spots I wouldn’t totally feel comfortable going alone.
- …to learn about things that I had no idea about — with nomads from all walks of live, in all different stages of their business and from all different backgrounds, you invariably get to learn things you may not have known otherwise. I got so much value out of the various informal ‘skillshares’ and felt as though I was a student again (nerd alert), and a total sponge for new information.
- …to feel like I finally have coworkers. I started my business before I graduated USD. Although I have had internships and on campus jobs, I never truly had any kind of coworker experience. Motivation is totally contagious and working alongside other professionals, even if you’re not working on the same project, keeps me more accountable to a standard work schedule and keeps my productivity at an all-time high.
- ...to remind myself that I am only 24. In Costa Rica, I was the youngest one in the tribe, and in Cape Town I was the second youngest. Although I am the oldest of the siblings and the cousins in my family, I forget that 24 is actually young, and that I have got so much more of the world to go and see!
- …to grow as an entrepreneur and business owner. I would say roughly 75% of the Tribe is self-made, and one of the coolest experiences was seeing one of my housemates get the news that he successfully sold a proprietary software he uses in his business to Live Nation. To share in his success over lunch was a lightbulb moment for me. How lucky am I to be able to learn from those I get to travel with?
- …to lean on a community of people who subscribe to and affirm my lifestyle choices. I don’t have to explain what a digital nomad is to this group. I don’t have to explain loving not having a car, or not having an apartment, but instead prioritizing travel for as long as is feasible. They get it, because they are doing it too. The more I travel, the more places I want to go, and the more I get to be with WiFi Tribe, is the more I want to keep meeting others who prioritize this lifestyle choice. As the world and the workforce changes, I think more and more people will become a part of this digital nomad community. How lucky are we to be at the forefront of that?