giraffe south africa

Backpacking Photo of the Week – Why Did the Giraffe Cross the Road?

Whilst on a game drive in South Africa we were greeted with this tall fellow crossing the road in front of us. Comic responses welcomed in the comments…

giraffe south africa

backpacking in cape town

Alive with Adrenaline: Backpacking in Cape Town, South Africa

A trembling and slightly irrational sense of positivity hits you when you arrive at Cape Town International Airport. Why? Because you know it’s one of those places that won’t let you down…. And it’s true; South Africa’s hippest and arguably most popular city is a richly rewarding destination for the wannabie Springbok.

To start with, it’s a wild place – not remote in the traditional sense – but the landscape really jumps out at you. Table Mountain is unmissable, rising up behind the city and enthroning it in ancient sandstone. There is one the of the world’s largest commercial ports here, as well as a thriving  multicultural CBD, genuine markets flogging African wares, magnificent sunshine, and a great beach side BBQ scene (a funky daytime option for many Cape Town restaurants). It’s also the site of Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment (on Robben Island). It’s where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic (Cape Point) and just if it couldn’t be more interesting, Great White sharks appear from time-to-time to add that essential streak of danger to the surf perfect waters.

backpacking in cape town

You can quite easily spend a whole day or two cruising down the Cape Peninsula, soaking up the beach bar culture, catching a bit of surf down on the postcard perfect Camps Bay, and ogling at the of the lush exclusivity of the Cape Town hotels. More affordable Cape Town accommodation is found on the outskirts of the city centre. Don’t be put off by numerous signs advertising ‘Guest Houses’ – they are often very well run and can offer a safe and economical alternative to a hostel or hotel.

Cage diving with Great White sharks

Talk about jumping in at the deep end…. The morning after picking up a brochure in a bar I was on a boat, jetting out of Gansbaai Bay (about 2 ½ hour drive from central Cape Town) and out into the Atlantic with a bunch of people I’d never met before – about to come face to face with something I’d never really thought I’d come face to face with, ever…. a Great White Shark.

I was lucky on the day I went, the weather was perfect, not over cast or stormy, but a clear blue sky. Fantastic. The underwater visibility was excellent; we could see a good distance below us and around. There was someone keeping a watch for approaching sharks, and giving us direction such as ‘ down and to your left’ – at this point everyone in the cage would take a deep breath, go underwater and look to our left, just in time to see the stealthy predator making its way to the bait set out for it. Wild.

cape town, south africaSky diving in Cape Town

Alive with adrenaline, I signed on for another sort of equally terrifying diving…. The local airstrip is about an hours taxi drive outside of Cape Town and after a few short hours of induction, I was in a small light aircraft rising to 9000ft. Then you connect yourself to your tandem professional and jump. Easy as that. I’m not sure exactly how long we freefell, but it felt around 45 seconds. The parachute deploys and you calmly enjoy the rest of the way down, either with chatter as you can now hear one another, or in silence – best to absorb the view and feeling – and to catch your breath – it all happened so fast. On a clear day you can see the whole of Cape Town; Table Mountain and the mountain range and Robben Island. Spectacular.

5 things not to miss in Cape Town:

  • Diving with great white sharks
  • Taking a cable car up Table Mountain
  • Visiting Nelson Mandela’s cell at Robben Island
  • Crawling the beach bars and surfing the white foam waves in Camp’s Bay
  • Drive down to Cape Point to see the line where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet

cape town harbour

This is a guest post from Hugo Davison at


Suburbs and Safaris in Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg, RSA (commonly referred to as ‘Jo-berg’ in the Republic of South Africa) is the third largest city in South Africa. The first thing that should be understood about Jo-berg is that it is not your usual tourist destination. You wouldn’t come here, buy an ‘I heart Jo-berg’ t-shirt and have your picture taken with a crowd of locals. It’s not that kind of place. The streets of its CBD are wisely advised as off-limits to all travelling foreigners and therefore accomodation in Johnannesburg is better sought outside of the heart of the city, where a safer bed can be found. It’s here, on the outskirts of Jo-berg, where I found two wildly different experiences: one in the dust filled tracks of the South African bush and the other in the glitz and beguilement of one of Jo-berg’s top after-hour attractions.


Rhino and Lion Reserve – ‘The Cradle of Human Kind’:


Situated around under an hours drive from the outskirts of Johannesburg, the Rhino and Lion Reserve is, at first glance, similar to game reserves found all over South Africa. But there are two main differences here.

Firstly, this is the only reserve in Africa set within ‘The Cradle of Human Kind’ – where the oldest human skeletal remains in the world have been found. Secondly tigers are bred here, part of a unique worldwide conservation program to rehabilitate Bengal tigers back to their native India.

Jump in a car (or take your own) and drive through the reserves vast bush land. See wild antelope, springbok and wildebeest, catch a rare glimpse of the secretive leopard in a conservation enclosure, race a cheetah in the reception area and finish the day off with impala sausages on the braai (South African barbecue). Excellent.




Fourways suburb – Monte Casino:


After a full day of hardened sun in the South African bush, head back towards Jo-berg for a night in Monte Casino.

You’ll need to head to Fourways, a suburban area 10 miles north of Jo-berg. Monte Casino is a vast complex set in a replica of a huge medieval castle and houses a quite astonishing spectacle. Walking through the castle ‘streets’ you look up and see the sky – only it’s a optical illusion – you are actually inside and there is a roof which is expertly lit to mimic the real sky outside. It’s a superb fantasy. ‘Streets‘ of restaurants and bars, with top storey windows and washing hanging out leads you to an open ‘piazza‘ where people flock to listen to live music before entering the delights of the opulent casino to make their fortune for the night. If the casino doesn’t do it for you there’s also a cinema, a theatre (currently showing Riverdance), and a number of top quality nightclubs. As far as Johannesburg hotels go, there are some of the best housed under the castle’s bewitching roof, you can stay at the SunSquare Montecasino for a reasonable price.



5 things not to miss in Johannesburg:

1.  See leopards and tigers at the Rhino Lion Reserve
2.  Party the night away in the magical Casino Monte Carlo
3.  Have a traditional South African braai
4.  Visit the oldest human residence on earth – The Cradle of Human Kind
5.  Get adrenaline kicks in Gold Reef City – a theme park set about the 19th century gold rush in Johannesburg

This is a guest post from Hugo Davison as part of a series provided by