Hiking with Lions: An Active Trip to Cape Town

Cape Town is a city that loves the outdoors.  While other places may attract visitors with fancy shopping and trendy clubs, Cape Town prefers to keep it natural.  She shows off her beaches, mountains and countryside whenever the opportunity arises.  In fact, the Mother City is a place that inspires you to take in the Great Outdoors.

Hiking is an ever-popular pursuit among Cape Town’s active visitors and residents.  There’s no shortage of windy paths through the Helderberg or Cederberg Mountains.  In fact, mountains are so predominant that Table Mountain is practically synonymous with the city.  But perhaps the best hike of all is up Lion’s Head, Cape Town’s “little” mountain.

Compared to Table Mountain, Lion’s Head looks unimpressive.  The views from the top, however, are anything but.  The trek up Lion’s Head is something that can be done in just a few hours, as opposed to the full day commitment other mountains demand.  You might hear that it’s more of a walk than a hike, but this is an understatement.  It’s a real hike that gives you a chance to test out your rock climbing skills if you choose, or opt for the gentler path around the top.

The beauty of Lion’s Head is the 360 degree look at Cape Town it provides.  As you make your way to the top, you alternate between views of the Twelve Apostles mountain range over Camps Bay, the shiny water surrounding Robben Island and the slick skyscrapers of downtown – all the elements that make up this complex town.  And once you reach the tip of the Lion, it’s Cape Town views on steroids!

So, go on.  Book your flights to Cape Town and enjoy Cape Town’s outdoors!

Top Ten (Underrated )Things to Do in Cape Town

It’s no secret that Cape Town is a great city to visit.  Once again it was voted the top travel destination in the world by TripAdvisor.  It’s been named the World Design Capital for 2014 and its centerpiece, Table Mountain, has officially become one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.   There’s a lot going on here.

But while travel blogs and travel guides may sing their hymns of Camps Bay, Long Street and the V & A Waterfront, there are far more things to do in Cape Town that seem to slip under the radar.  Here are ten of the best, most underrated things to do on your next trip to the Mother City.

Blouberg Beach

Skip the high prices of Camps Bay beach and head west to Blouberg.  It’s all of a 15 minute drive from the city centre and, once you’re there, you’ll have one of the longest beaches in the country to yourself.  Blouberg Beach not only runs uninterrupted for miles, it’s also got that quintessential postcard view of Table Mountain.  There’s a paved path that runs most of the way along it that’s perfect for biking, rollerblading or skateboarding.  Forget the crowds of Clifton beach, Blouberg is a laid back beach where it’s not uncommon to walk for twenty minutes without seeing anyone else.  Small bakeries, restaurants and bars are tucked in here and there and charge half the price of places on the other side of town.

Wine Farms

Ok, the wine farms of Cape Town are not exactly a secret.  In fact, they’re a major draw for tourists from around the world.  But the secret is that visiting a wine farm does not have to be an expensive, tour bus affair.  The roads in and around Cape Town are well maintained and renting a car is easy.  Once you’re away from the tour guide inflated prices, you’ll find that Cape Town wine farms are cheap to visit.  In fact, many of them, especially on your way to Hermanus, are completely free.  Others, like Alluvia in Franschhoek subtract the cost of the tasting from any wine bottles that you choose to buy.  And you don’t need a guide to show you around.  Most wine farms offer complimentary maps of the surrounding farms and will give you honest recommendations on which to visit.


No, not the one in Pennsylvania.  In fact, this Philadelphia couldn’t be more different.  The tiny farming town of Philadelphia lies just outside of Cape Town – about a half hour’s drive from the center of town.  It’s a picture perfect place, surrounded by green rolling hills (that are covered in wild flowers in the spring).  It’s also a Mecca for art lovers.  The two streets that make up the town are loaded with the work of local artists.  The few quirky restaurants serve homemade pancakes and delicious tea.  This is the perfect place to spend a weekend morning.


Melkbos is the place to be for seafood lovers, surfers and visitors who want to break from the norm.  Melkbos is a small town just west of Cape Town that remains true to its (largely Afrikaanse) South African roots.  Instead of hotels and fancy bars, you find seaside-cottages-turned- restaurants.  The hugely long beach offers one of the best surf spots in the area.  And, it seems impossible to leave without meeting at least half the locals.

Simon’s Town

There’s more to Simon’s Town than penguins.

Most travel guides will mention Simon’s Town as a great place for lunch after you visit Cape Point.  However Simon’s Town is more than just a pass-through spot.  Aside from its famous African penguins (which are hot on the tourist map), Simon’s Town is a real, traditional South African town that’s worth visiting for a few days.  The little cafes are more than just cute – they’re filled with patrons who have lived in town their whole lives.  This is an area of Cape Town that forces you to slow down.

Water Activities

For a city that’s surrounded by the ocean, there aren’t many tourists who come here for the water.  That’s because the water in Cape Town is sent up straight from the Arctic.  It’s cold.  Really cold.  But if you can find a wetsuit and brave the waves, you’ll find that Cape Town waters are some of the best in the world for surfing, diving and kite boarding.  In fact, Blouberg Beach is considered the world’s best kite boarding spot.


Woodstock is an area in a constant state of change.  What was recently a don’t-go-there zone has quickly become a popular place for artists, collectors and coffee drinkers.  Aside from the acclaimed Saturday market at the Old Biscuit Mill, Woodstock can easily keep you entertained with its array of small sandwich shops and espresso bars.  It’s also the place to find designer chairs made from old suitcases, lamps made from old typewriters and paper machete sculptures of lion.  It’s definitely worth checking out.

Camps Bay in Winter

Camps Bay is a must-see in all travel guides about Cape Town.  Problem is, it knows it’s cool.   Prices are high, beaches are crowded and there’s an unofficial fancy dress code.  But in winter, after most tourists have headed home, a different sort of Camps Bay emerges.  This less congested Camps Bay allows you to take in the stunning scenery – the backdrop of the Twelve Apostles Mountains and the front view of the gorgeous sea.  It’s a place where the locals come out of hiding (in more casual clothing) and where most of the restaurants along the strip change over to their much less expensive winter menus.

Artscape Theatre

Right in the center of town, conveniently next to a public bus stop, is the Artscape Theatre.   From the outside it’s not the most impressive building, but inside you’ll find internationally renowned theatre for next to nothing.  You can watch big names like Jesus Christ Superstar and Phantom of the Opera for about R150 (that’s less than $20!).  Sure, you could see them at home, but for less than that?

Cederberg Mountains

This one’s cheating.  Melkbos and Philadelphia might be just outside of Cape Town, but the Cederberg Mountains are a little drive.  Still, if you have an extra day, they’re worth it.  The Cederberg Mountains begin about an hour outside of Cape Town.  They’re a beautiful place to hike, explore and discover real Bushmen paintings.  The only other tourists you’ll find there are South Africans, since most international tourists flock to the Drakensberg.  This means you will pretty much have the whole place to yourself.  There are plenty of places to camp, cottage and even a few luxury resorts scattered around that are just tempting to you to go visit.

Make your next trip to Cape Town one that strays from the beaten path.


Capetown to Cairo!

We made it!  Just arrived in Cairo after a day of police escorts and speed bumps, truly it was an adventure!  All is well.  Driving into Cairo we could see the Pyramids of Giza at a distance and it finally hit us- we’ve completed the epic Cape to Cairo overland adventure!

In celebration we’re off for some margaritas and tex-mex at Chili’s- the first hispanic food we’ve seen since December. Don’t judge, after being charged by gorillas, boogie boarding class 5 rapids, bribing cops in Nairobi, climbing Kilimanjaro, hunting with lions, eating all sorts of crazy food and surviving some harrowing experiences we need unlimited chips and salsa. Yum! :)

Any interest in overlanding?  Take the poll on our sidebar and tell us what you think!

Country Guide: South Africa

South Africa is not a small country, not only is it large in size but it also has a tremendous variety of things to do and see. The expected game viewing and safaris, the relaxing Indian coastline, beautiful forests, tasty food, a unique history of gemstones and apartheid all combine to make any trip to South Africa an unforgettable one.



You can think of South Africa like any other western destination in this regard. Plentiful ATMs provide you with cash which you’ll spend as if you were at home in Australia, Europe, or the USA. South Africa is not a budget destination but with a little work it can be visited relatively inexpensively.


If you are visiting only one or two places (such as Cape Town followed by a safari) then you’re probably fine flying between those destinations. If you want to spend several weeks taking in as much of the country as possible you’ll be best served by renting a car.  Independent travelers accustomed to using public transportation or the Baz Bus should be warned that neither represents good value and can be quite a bit more expensive than you’d expect. The only way the Baz Bus really makes sense is if you plan to spend a tremendous amount of time on the Garden route.


Take a look at the below list of places and activities and take a peak at what suits you best. If you are going to be driving the country it is probably best to make a loop of some kind. If Cape Town and the Garden Route are your thing then maybe stretch your trip from Cape Town through Addo Elephant Park. If you prefer to see the different indigenous cultures you might enjoy a loop from Johannesburg to Swaziland, Lesotho, and the Wild Coast. Of course, you can do it all. If you have the time, go for it all, but be sure to seek out free copies of the “Coast to Coast” and the “Alternative Guide”, local accommodation guidebooks published for backpackers and independent travelers. Both can be a tremendous help when you find yourself in a small “dorp”. Although shorter than “Coast to Coast”, we preferred the accommodation and other listings in Alternative guide.

The Safari:

If you’re going to South Africa for a safari, you should probably consider doing it yourself, in your own rental car. Be sure to read our Safari Guide which has some valuable tips on making the most of your DIY safari. Whatever you do though, be sure to relax and enjoy it and not spend every waking moment driving for animals.


Cape Town: A wonderful city to pass a week. Hike up and over Table Mountain (about 8 hours round trip depending on your route) from the beautiful gardens of Kristenbasch. Take a multiday wine tour through Stellenbosch and top that off with a nice Cape Malay meal at the waterfront so long as you don’t forget to make a visit to the the Cape Point.

Johannesburg: There are a ton of people here and so there is a ton to do. In town we highly recommend the World of Beer as a relaxing afternoon. The Apartheid Museum is another can’t miss if you’re planning to do anything in South Africa beyond game viewing. Do be sure to take in some sports while in town (or in Durban or Cape Town) such as Cricket or Rugby!

The Garden Route:  South Africans rave about the Garden Route as one of the must see’s of their country. The entire route, stretching along the Indian coast from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town IS stunning, but it is just that. If you’re interested in spending some time relaxing on the coast this is the place to do it, but don’t feel a need to push yourself to visit each and every place along the route…that’s not the point of the Garden Route. Some quick notes as you head east from Cape Town.:

If flying in, you’ll probably start at Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, or George, but you should plan to drive it yourself, do not visit the route as part of a tour.

If you’re into checking places off your life list then be sure to go to where the two oceans actually meet, Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa.

A can’t miss day will taking a ride on an ostrich and then the adventure tour at the Cangoo Caves, both easily reached from George

Activies abound, souch as paragliding and bunjee jumping as well as enjoying the crash of the waves and the hiking trails of the Tsitsikamma National Park.

If you want to tack some game viewing onto a tour of the Garden Route, then Addo Elephant National Park is probably your best bet.

Lesotho:  If you’re looking for a more traditional African experience, Lesotho is a must on your list. You’ll need a good roadmap. Drive into the Malealea Lodge, park your car, and just stay there. The lodge has camping and nicer rooms available. You will have a good experience.  Go for a hike and enjoy.

IMGP9736Swaziland: The curios are cheaper, the rapids are bigger, and you can get closer to the animals if you choose. Best to just base yourself one place, the Milwane Nature Reserve is probably best as they have a range of accommodation and nearby attractions. You can do your main game viewing here as well but it will be a bit more expensive than doing it on your on in South Africa.

The Drakensburg Mountains: Plenty of hiking available here but only if you can drive in on your own, the campsites in the central district of the park, near the amphitheater, are quite nice. If you are sticking to the Baz Bus route than the Sani Lodge will be your best bet. Unless you’re going during a holiday season you shouldn’t need a reservation.

The Wild Coast: Difficult to get to but if you’re willing to spend the time here, probably worth it. Don’t go just for the sake of saying you’ve been there, go if you’re willing to spend a week soaking up the wilderness of it all.

Blyde River Canyon: A nice, peaceful, and scenic area just west of Kruger National Park. After a few days in the safari vehicle this is a nice place to come and go for a hike or a bike ride. Plenty of B&B’s in the neighborhood, just choose one and relax.

Review: SANParks South African Wild Card

The decision to purchase the South African wild card park pass was an easy one. We were coming to Africa and we were told that within South Africa we could do our own game drives and safaris and not pay for an expensive tour or guide. With a little more research we realized that this would save us loads of money as compared to paying for these services in South Africa or elsewhere in Africa. With the SANParks Wild Card pass we were able to save even more money.

Before you decide to purchase the card be sure to do a little research on the park fees you’re due to pay without the card. For us, over 5 days in Kruger National Park, we were going to come close to the cost of the Wild Card. We figured, correctly, that if we used it even one more time it would break even and anything beyond that was effectively free. Ultimately it paid for itself more than two times over 6 weeks.

The card was easy to purchase and we did so when we first arrived at the campsite within Kruger National Park. Because we were foreigners the price was about three times as much as the locals paid, but it still made sense to purchase. At that time, the cost in South African Rand was about $250 for our “couple” pass and, considering thats what the fees at the Ngorongoro Crater worked out to be I think we made the right decision. Upon arrival at each park, we showed our card, they scanned it, and we moved on.IMGP9224

The pass was good at every single park in the SANParks system. This wasn’t only game parks but also historical and heritage sites such as Cape Point near Cape Town. The pass was also good at a few parks in Swaziland.

Additionally, the pass does give you 5% back every time you pay for lodging at the park. This is a nice feature but as we only had 6 weeks inside the country we didn’t realize we’d need to register the card in order to use it. Our last day in South Africa we went to use the R50 we’d earned (about $7) but couldn’t because the card hadn’t been registered.