5 Great Experiences on Study Abroad in South Africa
By Alexis Leslie of 09/16/18
My Big Five experiences in Cape Town.
Generally, the ‘Big Five’ refers to the five most difficult African game animals to hunt on foot. These include the lion, elephant, rhino, Cape buffalo, and leopard. In my case, however, the term has a come to have a different meaning. Here are my ‘Big Five’ greatest experiences I had while studying abroad in Cape Town.
I knew I wanted to celebrate my twentieth birthday by skydiving in Cape Town months before I even left the States. Luckily enough, two of my roommates and their brothers agreed to take the jump with me and the trip was booked. Skydiving is like nothing I have ever experienced, all I can say is that I truly believe that everyone should try and do it in their lifetime. I am so glad that I can say that I “dove into my twenties” in such a fun way.
2. The Garden Route
The Garden Route is a coastal drive that goes from the Western Cape where Cape Town is located up to the Eastern Cape. It is best to take this drive during Spring Break (late September) so you can see the flowers blooming.
Some common stops are the towns of Mossel Bay, George, Wilderness, Jeffreys Bay, Sedgefield, Knysna, and Port Elizabeth. Highlights are the Cango Caves, Tskiskama National Park, Bloukrans Bridge bungee jump (highest in the world), Addo Elephant Park.
You can either self drive, or go with a tour company like my roommates and I. If you opt for the ladder, take my word of advice and make sure you pick a reputable tour company.
3. Table Mountain Hike
If you like to hike, Cape Town is the place for you. I am not the most fit, but after a few lighter weekend hikes confident enough to take on the iconic Table Mountain. We took the Skeletons Gorge path for roughly 4/5 hours until reaching the top. The first hour was horrible, nothing but walking uphill, and I nearly quit and let my friends leave me behind (I should add, this is an urban park, and it is not safe hiking this alone due to crime or the unfamiliar environment). I am thankful they didn’t, because it got significantly easier with each hour. Our longest break was when we stopped for lunch at this reservoir half way. Once we got to the top, the mountain was empty. You see the mountain everyday living in Cape Town, and many tend to let it fade into the city’s background. I had a strange attachment to the mountain while I was abroad, and I am still shocked that I was able to make it to the top.
4. Weekend in Hermanus
Hermanus is sometimes called the whale watching capital of the world. Only about an hour and a half outside of the city, it is the perfect weekend getaway. 11 of my roommates and friends rented cars and stayed in this beach town for a few nights in October.
We were lucky enough to have our accommodation arranged by one of my roommates parents free of charge through the website LoveHomeSwap since they own a safari lodge in Kenya. Hermanus is on the Indian Ocean, and much warmer than Cape Town Atlantic coast so we enjoyed swimming each day we were there at a small beach about 3 minutes from our house. There is much to do on the towns main road, so we were okay with the fact that our pre-booked sea kayaking trip was canceled due to weather. However, our quad biking tour went off unhitched. That weekend is one I will never forget.
5. Thanksgiving Abroad
Thanksgiving is hands down my favorite holiday, and I was really bummed knowing I was missing the holiday back home and in the middle of taking exams. Knowing this, my 8 roommates (5 from Europe, Japan, and Australia) and I decided to throw our own Thanksgiving the day after on the 24th. Like a true family, we each cooked a dish and even tried to find a turkey.
We soon realized that turkey very rare to come by in South Africa, so we decided on rotisserie chicken instead. We also decided to do a secret santa between ourselves since we would all be leaving within the next week or two. It was so comforting to spend my favorite holiday with them.