Welcome to the third and final part of the Cape Town diaries. This post covers a visit to Panthera Africa – a big cat sanctuary; hiking in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve; time spent in some of the tourist areas; dancing with Cape Town Swing, and finally, a take on this wonderful (yet sometimes troubled) part of the world.
If you missed my previous Cape Town posts you can read part 1 by clicking here, and read part 2 by clicking here. As always, thanks for taking the time to take a look. I hope you find something enjoyable or useful within the words. Without further ado, let’s get into what’s been happening…
My first visit to Panthera Africa was in 2016. I was travelling across South Africa on the search for somewhere to volunteer. My friend and yoga teacher, Yvonne, recommended them to me. I did my research, applied to join, and secured a two-week slot. At that point, they had been open 8 months. My brief yet incredible visit gave me a glimpse into a world I never knew existed and provided the start for my first book!
Panthera Africa is an environmental friendly sanctuary for any captive bred big cat, where they will be protected and prosper for the rest of their lives. Just as important, they’re an educational platform for creating awareness about conditions big cats face in captivity and how welfare and enrichment play a critical role in offering the best captive life possible. For more info I’d suggest a look at their website by clicking here. I also suggest watching the film / documentary ‘Blood Lions’.
PA are one of only seven ‘true sanctuaries’ in South Africa. There are strict rules surrounding this. There are many other ‘so called’ sanctuary’s in South Africa that are not necessarily doing good work with captive big cats. If you’re looking to undertake this kind of work / volunteering, please do your research. I fully recommend Panthera Africa.
My visit this time was short but no-less-special.
It was lovely to see how much the sanctuary has grown, both in terms of the number of big cats and also the environment itself. It has flourished! The centre runs an informative educational tour which costs less than £15 for 2 hours and gives an insight to some of the animals and the reasoning and history behind the sanctuary.
If you’re in the area I’d recommend booking a visit. (As does Trip Advisor…!).
Fernkloof Nature Reserve / Hermanus
Whilst visiting Panthera Africa, I also spent a little time exploring the surrounding area of Hermanus – a seaside town situated to the south east of Cape Town, still in the Western Cape Province. This area is famous for migratory Humpback and Southern Right whale watching (between June and October) as well as various beaches and restaurants. The coastal cliff path overlooking Walker’s Bay is well worth a wander and is signposted and accessible at various points along the route.
For the first time, I also hiked within the Fernkloof Nature Reserve – 60kms of walkways and trails that are free to access and lovingly maintained by the FNR (Fernkloof Nature Reserve) Committee, which consists of the local municipality, the Fernkloof Advisory Board and the Hermanus Botanical Society (BotSoc).
There are a number of (relatively – this is South Africa!) well-signposted-routes that take you to Lemoenskop outlook point, the Three Dams, Galpin Hut, the waterfalls and several other beautiful and photo inspiring locations. More and more areas seem to be getting added to the Reserve which now link uninterrupted reserve areas of coast to mountain. It’s a wonderful place to visit.
Back in Cape Town – kiting, surfing, dancing, touristing.
Back in Cape Town, I spent the next few weeks hopping between kitesurfing beaches of Table View, the surf beaches of Muizenberg, exploring the False Bay coast; spending time in the city centre, and finally trying out dance classes and social events with the welcoming Cape Town Swing.
The waves continued to be fun on the south side of the peninsula and I discovered a new (and quiet) area to stay called Glen Cairn overlooking False Bay. I also met the friendliest AB&B dog – Pepper – half retriever, half Malamute, who (when she wasn’t busy howling at the moon) seemed to want to move in with me :-).
In the city itself, the V&A Waterfront is worth a visit and seems to be getting better each time I return. The heritage sites and tourism landmarks make it exceptional and unique and, during the summer, there’s free music events happening – always offering a good vibe to sit and sip cold white wine.
Whilst on the subject of being in town, I’ve got to mention Cape Town Swing – a community organisation that shares swing dance, music and culture in the Mother City and beyond.
I managed to squeeze in a few lessons whilst bouncing around the Cape and, more importantly, a few of the social events happening. My dancing continues to need improvement (understatement!) but what fun Lindy Hop is. I’ve yet to see someone not smile who is dancing – whatever level they’re at!
CTS facilitate lessons through the week (Muizenberg / Observatory / city centre) as well as various social events (Cape Point Vineyards / Woodstock Brewery / Truth coffee).Similar to my experience of the Lindy Hop crew I met last year in Cornwall, which I’m looking forward to getting back to, people were friendly, welcoming, inclusive, and take the music, dance, culture and history quite seriously. Good vibes with good people.
So, what is it about Cape Town…
That’s it for another season. What an adventure it has been! I count myself extremely fortunate to be able to take an extended holiday and I hope I’ve captured some of that experience in these posts.
It feels strange to return to the same place on holiday (this being my 7th visit to Cape Town) and I occasionally find myself questioning my decision to re-visit. But, this adventure has reinforced my love for the Mother City and I fully appreciate why people come back year after year.
There is so much diversity in a relatively small area. And that’s just the Western Cape.
Yes, there are problems. Yes, there is instability. Should that stop you visiting, travelling, exploring, and trying to understand more? I’m not sure it should. I continue to rate South Africa as an under-rated country to explore and I am already excited to return – whenever that may be…
Thanks for reading!
PS. If you happen to wonder how I manage to take an extended break during the European winter to travel and explore wonderful places such as South Africa, take a look at my first book Adventures In Happiness – a true story of travel, change, and adventure. It will answer the first part of that question :-). The second (~WIP) will be all about how I kept the dream alive…