Friday, December 12, 2014

Honeymoon: Hermanus, Gansbaii, and the Winelands of South Africa

After 5 nights in Cape Town we were ready to move on to our next destination, Gansbaai. The drive to Gansbaii was just over 2 1/2 hours with great views of the coast along the way.  On the top of Christian's wish list for our honeymoon was a visit to Shark Alley, located off the coast of South Africa famous for it's great white shark population. Christian has always been fascinated by sharks, and I was excited  to help him tick this off his bucket list. 


But before making our way to the sharks, we decided on a stop at Hermanus. This is a famous town at the sea and is one of the only places you can whale watch from land. The sea was very rough the day we arrived so we were told not to expect much, but about 15 minutes after arriving we saw our first whale sighting. 
 The whales were a bit further out than normal due to the weather but we were still able to see a lot of action. 

 After a few hours of whale watching we headed to Gansbaii. We spent the night and were up early in prep for the big event- shark cage diving.

To be totally honest, I wasn't bothered by sharks. My husband on the other hand was a bit more worried that I was when we were in preparation for dive.

 After signing our lives away in waivers we were ready to head out to Dyer Island, where shark alley is located.

The shark team boat and our cage being loaded.

 Although it was hot, because the water was so rough we were given lovely ponchos to help with the spray from the sea. 

Then we arrived and they loaded up the bait and got us into our wetsuits. I was actually more frightened of the seagulls surrounding the boat than the sharks. 

We were told that sometimes boats go out for 4 hours and you don't even get to see a shadow of a shark. We learned throughout the trip that when you are relying on mother nature for entertainment you may have to wait awhile, but within about 20 minutes the 1st of 4 sharks we saw that day appeared.

 That's me giving a thumbs up! The water was cold but the wet suits were amazingly warm. 
 Shark cage diving is not what you expect it to be. First, the visability in the water was only 1 meter. This meant that you could only see the sharks right when they came up to the cage. But when those large beasts are right in front of you and their tail hits the cage and makes it shake, you really realise how thankful you are for that small bit of steal protecting you from them. We saw more from the boat than in the water, but I am definitely proud to say I survived the dive! 

After our day at sea we packed up the car again and headed to Stellenbosch. Located in the capital of the winelands Stellenbosch is famous for it's many wineries.We stayed in Stellenbosch but did a winery tour around the wine circle stopping at Boschendal in Franschoek first.

 The views were amazing and the wine was even better!


 Someone was proud of his German Riesling heritage! 

We ended up doing a wine and chocolate tasting under a giant oak tree at the vineyard.

Bottles of wine in this area are some of the best I have tasted and are about $5! Needless to say we got our drink on. 
 Chris and me in the vineyard

 After Boschendal we headed towards another vineyard called Mont Rochelle- owned by Richard Branson.

We then continued on back towards our hotel in Stellenbosch through the winelands.

The views did not dissapoint! 

 The wineland tour took just over 5 hours, but for people who really love wine you could easily spend 2-3 days checking out different wineries. We were just looking for a taste, and were happy with the time spent there. We knew our highlight of the trip was just around the corner- Kruger National Park. Stay tuned for the final honeymoon blog on our 3 day/night safari!
Until next time, we will see you on the internet. 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Honeymoon: Cape Town, South Africa Part 2

Today it snowed in Scotland. I have to admit I don't think I was fully prepared for it. I know it's December and only 15 days until Christmas, but having just been in South Africa in 80 degree weather has ruined me this winter. I am slowly starting to understand why people hibernate South during the winter months, and I think I become more and more accustomed to winter sun on a regular basis! Missing the warm weather I thought it would be a good to think back to 3 weeks ago when we were wearing flip flops and lathering on the sunscreen.
Today's post is more on our time in Cape Town. As I was a horticulture major in Uni, I always love visiting botanic gardens around the world. Kirstenbosch Gardens are located right in the heart of Cape Town and are famous for their canopy walk through the garden.  

 We spent a couple hours wandering around the gardens, which also had some animal wildlife including these Spotted Eagle Owls.

It's amazing how well they camouflage themselves into the tree.

As it is springtime in South Africa, there were lots of beautiful flowers in bloom. 

The gardens were situated at the base of Table Mountain. It really was a fantastic location for the gardens and easy to access as it was in the heart of the city. 

We had decided that we wanted to spend 1/2 a day doing a township tour, and opted for a guided tour with a local driver. Our first stop on the private tour was Bo-Kaap neighbourhood. Their has been a major gentrification shift in this neighbourhood since the Apartheid so the neighbourhood is quite up and coming and the houses are beautifully painted in multiple colours.

We learned on the tour that back when their was slavery it was illegal for people to paint houses. The slaves decided to silently protest by painting houses bright colours. It is hard to believe that what is now such a vibrant neighbourhood had such tragedy not that long ago.

We then drove into an area called District Six.

This now field use to be home to 60,000 South Africans who were forcibly removed during the Apartheid regime. For more information on the Apartheid you can click  Here 

We then spent a few hours walking through the townships and meeting local children and residents. For those of you who may not know what townships are they are villages that are made up of mostly 1 room houses with tin roofs and no running water within the house. I decided not to take photos out of respect as I really didn't want to come across as offensive. We were happy to know that half of the money we paid for our tour went to funding a local community centre within the Langa Township we visited. The people were so friendly and the kids seemed to enjoy our visit the most. Christian also ate local food made on the side of the road.

 The cook was so proud of her stall and said I requested I take a photo to remember the visit. I would recommend anyone visiting South Africa to visit a township. It is a very humbling experience and really put things into perspective of how lucky we were to be able to live the way we want to.

One other place I was interested in visiting was Robben Island.  We took a 45 minute boat ride to the island from the harbour and the seas were very rough.

Robben Island is the "Alcatraz" of Cape Town. It is famous for housing political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela.  

This was the islands quarry where Nelson Mandella and other political leaders worked and met weekly.

This is the building that was "maximum security".

We were given a tour by a former inmate who guided us through the prison and cells.  

We were shown the cell Nelson Mandella was imprisoned in for 19 of his 27 years behind bars.   

 Again it was a place I feel like you should visit if you travel all the way to Cape Town. There are no prisoners on the island anymore, I even found this little turtle on my way back to the boat.  

The 45 minute ride back to the mainland was a lot more fun because I may have made friends with the captain and sat in the wheel house. 

When I watched him steering the ship with his foot while playing on his phone I then knew why the ride out felt so bumpy!  

We also visited Table Mountain during our trip. Did you know that there is so much cloud cover they refer to it as a table cloth?

View of one of the stadiums used during the world cup. 

We travelled to the top of the mountain via cable car.

When we got to the top it was freezing with so much cloud cover you couldn't see anything!

We really got the best views on our way up and down in the cable car. 

Cape Town kept us busy for about 5-6 days. We then headed to Hermanus and Gainsbaii for shark diving and whale watching followed by the Winelands. More to come shortly on those locations!  

Until next time, we will see you on the internet.