Cape Town mornings come straight from a movie. The sun peeks over the rocky waves of mountains and the oceans wind slaps you fully awake. They are confusing, as you’re unsure whether you love them or hate them for waking you up. They are unplanned as we have no clue what new thing we will see. Except today, we knew what we would see. It was reserved for penguins, no hiking, no diving, no mountains, just a beach full of African Penguins yelling their hearts out into the ocean.
The plan was simple a City Sightseeing tour bus would take us around Cape Town, and eventually, Simon’s Town where we could get off and see the little flightless birds. Before that we needed breakfast our stomachs took us to a beach cafe where everyone sorted through menus and ordered their hearts content. Breakfast was great, a larger than normal piece of toast covered in avocado and scrambled eggs and a cup of South African coffee. As we looked at the beach and finished waking up we could see the first bus slowly speeding down the twisty South African roads. We walk over to the stop and I go redeem our tickets expecting a new bus to come and pick us up as the sign read “Bus Pick Up Every 20 Minutes Beginning at 8:50am”. As soon as I attempt to redeem our tickets the ticket lady expresses a hint of concern. We missed our bus the penguin tour is specific, it leaves early to make it to Simon’s Town an hour and a half away. Calmly the ticket lady has a solution. She tells us “Take an Uber to 81st Long St, that’s the next stop if you can beat it their then you can still get on”. Somehow we make it and get on the bus.
As we drive out of the city and into the mountains. The bus tour guide starts informing us of all the wonderful things we get to see. While we knew our tickets had other parts included we only truly wanted to see the penguins. The first stop is the Cape of Good Hope, it’s the southernmost part of South Africa and is the last land base before the vast Indian Ocean. We soon find out that we will be allowed to explore for three hours. Three hours of either hiking, adventuring into the mountains, or watching wales dive into the ocean. We choose to adventure into the mountain, we take secret paths, crowded corners, and long walkways until we get as far south as we are allowed to be. You can see everything.
The Cape was surrounded by mountains, waves crashing into the their rough edges and the bluer than life waters reflecting back your mesmerized look. As we leave we get to see ostriches and baboon mommas with their babies. At Boulders beach there were the penguins! We got to hear them sing and we found out there was a special beach where we are allowed to swim with them. After running and searching everywhere we find the beach but unfortunately it is pinguinless. My day to lead was full of twists and turns. It felt like our day was produced so that everything that could be confusing would occur.
Missing our bus, regrouping in a new spot, adventuring out and ensuring that everyone made it back was a leading experience I couldn’t have expected to embark on. The day had a lot more hiccups that I could write about but all those hiccups are what a leader had to be ready for. I can see a leader needs to be ready to react to a change before it could even happen. I am excited to once again lead around the mountains that stand tall above everyone’s heads, but for now we have to pack.
Sharks are apex predators that have been living in the oceans for millions of years. Armed with rows of razor sharp teeth and swift speed, few would want to face their gaze. Today, twelve of us came face to face with one of the most feared creatures in the world.
The day started as usual with early morning food runs and discussing the day’s activities. Fear was still in the air and a few were still unsure what to expect. The drive to the False Bay in Simon’s Town was filled with scenic views of mountain ranges and beaches. As we approached our destination, the tension grew. We were greeted with a few light refreshments and a waver affirming we were doing this at OUR own risk. Then, we were off.
A 25 min boat ride brought us with in yards of a small island filled with thousands of brown fur seals. We watched and took pictures as they surfed the waves, flopped their flippers, and napped on shore; a comforting view right before group 1 had to prepare for the water.I would be going first. As we suited up, they placed a 2x6x6 steel cage in the water. No turning back. Suddenly, we heard, “SHARK LEFT.” Group 1 raced into the cage, I followed third just in case there was a malfunction with the cage the first two would figure it out. We took one last breath of air and submerged ourselves into the deep blue. There in front of me was the apex predator.
I could see his stream line body swimming across the cage with a sea of pink jellyfish in the background. At this moment, there was no fear. There was only respect as I was only an observer and he was a king. We all came back up for air and everyone’s faces were filled with joy. This was an experience of a lifetime.
What I like about this group is our diversity. Not only in culture, but in what we study as well. As an Animal Science and Biology major, today I was able to share some of my knowledge about some of the animals we saw and the ecosystem. One lesson I think everyone learned is how much humans are affecting the ecosystems and their wildlife. Hearing someone tell you about the impact pollution has on the world may not grab the attention of many people. But, seeing first hand a baby seal struggling to remove a plastic ring around its neck is a sight few can ignore. Luckily, we have people like the Apex Expeditions team who are committed to preserve our wildlife. They ventured closer to shore to help save a seal who would have surely met it end. As we make our way back home, I hope this story allows us to be more aware that our actions do have consequences.
Today was our 3rd day in Cape Town, and we visited table Mountain, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world! I went in today with the mindset that we would be hiking up a long, fairly easy trail but boy was I wrong.
Our trial consisted of climbing up the mountain for a total of 3 hours with very thick and heavy fog and we could barely see the trail up in front of us. Not to me mention that the rocks were slippery from the rain and condensation from being so far up in the clouds. It was one of the most mentally and physically challenging things that I have ever done, but our group persevered and made it all the way to the top!
The feeling was unmatched, to know that we did that collectively as a group was amazing. We encouraged each other along the way, took breaks when necessary, and finished strong. Later on in the night we ended up having a meaningful discussion about communication, misunderstandings, and being more engaged with each other as a group.
Today was our second day in Johannesburg! We started out our day eating delicious breakfast at our hostel and then we headed Lebo’s Soweto Food tour which was the best experience so far for our group and I! We were able to sing together, learn more about Soweto, be able to wear traditional jewelry and headware, cook 5 traditional dishes, and appreciate the resources the world offers us to make this planet a better place. We had so much fun and the staff was so inviting I thought about actually visiting or living in South Africa in the future!
We headed to Maponya mall which was super exciting to see to because it was similar to an American Mall but with some different stores, overall we felt like the mall was a familiar experience but we enjoyed seeing everything After we were able to go to a shopping strip in Sowato where we were able to find beautiful patterned and colorful clothes, jewelry, paintings, and hats! They were such a bargain and we were all pleased to experience it! I have so much appreciation for the South African public I love how friendly, happy, and beautiful they are!
Today we took time to go look at castle of good hope. It held slaves when Africa was being discovered. Today we also took time to do community service. We went to a after school program where we played and worked with children of the community. This was really special to me because I worked so hard to get us community service. It was worth it!
Arriving to Cape Town:
Today we left Joberg, which also meant leaving our favorite driver Si’mon. He was so helpful, and we had a very warm goodbye. We traveled to Capetown and were overwhelmed with the amazing Airbnb and view that awaited us! We settled in and ordered Indian food which was delicious. Because of the open space and accommodations, we were able to bond and watch tv together. Although the day was not filled with sight seeing or activities, we enjoyed the new scenic views of capetown and the stark difference between Joberg and Capetown. Both the people and the environment is different from the other city we left. I’m excited to see what the rest of our trip has in store!
Several realities are unrealized in the cocoon of our homes. We concern ourselves with the happenings in our surrounding. Yet, we also draw a line among what deserves our concern and what does not. Why is an injustice taking place on a different continent less important that an injustice taking place next door? When we see a person, do we see color first or do we see a human first? Why is the practice of superiority a dominant social construct? These are the questions we bar ourselves from pondering.
On our 4th day of the trip, we visited the Constitution Hill of South Africa. Constitution Hill is a former prison facility in South Africa, which captivated revolutionary individuals the likes of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and Fatima Meer to name a few. The brutality and sheer horror embedded in the walls of the prison showed us the cost of freedom and the courage that goes behind it. We were given a thorough tour of the entire facility and were educated on South African history and the proceedings leading to the end of the apartheid government only 25 years backs. We walked through the fresh history of South Africa, the people of who still carry the memories of humiliation and pain stemming from discrimination and brutality.