We couldn’t believe it when we crossed into South Africa, our last stop before heading home! Ah! We had about a week to explore a bit of the west coast of the country. We ended the trip in style with lots of wine, beautiful hiking, and, of course, animal activities!
Our first stop in South Africa was at a a family-run winery/camp ground called Highlanders. The owner Sparky (who hilariously has a dog named Ben) organized a wine tasting for our group. We enjoyed our first foray into South Africa’s wine region and had a great time relaxing at what was surely one of the most beautiful campsites of the trip.
The following day we arrived in the heart of wine country: Stellenbosch. We had a great time exploring the quaint town but the real highlight was going on an all-day tour of three local wineries. Each one was slightly different but all were delicious and in absolutely beautiful settings with amazing views of wine country. We definitely felt like we got our money’s worth on this wine tour when at the final winery, our guide purchased six bottles of wine for the group to share and we ended the day with silly photo shoots in the vineyards.
Last stop: Cape Town. Rolling into town on our big yellow truck was bittersweet as it signaled an official end to our tour in Africa. Thankfully, we had three more nights to spend in the city after unpacking all of our things from the truck and most of our friends did, too.
On our first afternoon, we opted to hike up Table Mountain to see views of the city. There is also a cable car option, but we were feeling sporty and in need of some exercise after lots of wine in Stellenbosch. The hike took about two hours and was pretty strenuous as it was a straight climb up! However, the views from the top made it totally worth it. We had some friends take the cable car and meet us for sunset which was spectacular! Any visit to Cape Town would be incomplete without this iconic stop.
Boulder Beach Penguin Colony
The following day we took the train about an hour out of the city to Simon’s Town, home of the Boulder Beach Penguin Colony. The town itself was super cute, but the draw was seeing hundreds of African Penguins. This trip did not disappoint! There is a boardwalk for visitors to see the penguins but we were feeling adventurous and were able to get away from the crowds by climbing over some small boulders to get to a more secluded beach area. We saw tons of penguins – including some sitting on hatching eggs!! – and got to watch them swim around us. It was magical!
Scuba Diving in Simon’s Town
We capped off our time in Cape Town with one last scuba dive with Pisces Divers! We traveled out to Simon’s Town again which ended up being a slightly dramatic journey. Our train stopped running about 30 minutes into the hour-long ride and we had to hop off, find a nearby shop with wifi, and call an uber to make it in time for the boat! We arrived about 15 minutes late and thankfully were still able to dive! The water was cold but we were loaded up with gear including wet suits, booties, gloves, and hoods to make sure we could withstand the 50-degree temperatures.
The first dive was through a kelp forest where we were on the lookout for sevengill sharks, among other sea life. I was absolutely terrified about the prospect of seeing these massive sharks and spent a little too much time researching the likelihood of a shark attack the morning of our dive (unlikely). I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed when we left the water without having encountered them. Regardless, the kelp forest was really cool and we did see some small, harmless pajama sharks and some other interesting fish! It was a great dive!
The second dive was my favorite we’ve ever done – a seal dive! We took the boat over to a seal colony and spent about 30 minutes under the water where seals dive in and play. The guide told us that we would need to “entertain” the seals to keep them around, so we spent the time waving, rolling around, doing flips, and whatever else we could to keep their attention. The seals were really curious about us and eager to play, and we were able to get so close and interact with them a lot. It was the most amazing diving experience and something we will never forget! Check out this video of John and see how close the seals get to us:
Our last three days in Cape Town were filled with goodbyes to the group we spent over a month traveling with. People started to trickle out as soon as we arrived in Cape Town, but we still had a good size crowd around to celebrate our last night with dinner and drinks before we flew out. Traveling with this group was amazing. We met so many awesome people from all over the world who made our time in Africa so memorable and gave us a new kind of travel experience – one with a group. We hope to stay in touch with these friends and look forward to visiting them in their cities in the near future.
In addition to saying goodbye to these people, we also said goodbye to our adventure. Sure, it’s not quite over, but leaving Cape Town marked the end of our wild international travels and signaled a slow return to our real life. It was hard to say goodbye (I may have shed some tears over our last sunset) but we know travel is an important part of our lives and something we will continue to do as much as possible. We are so lucky to have been able to take this trip and to still have a few months of travels around the US in front of us. Stay tuned for more about our US adventures and reflections from nearly 9 months on the road!