I loved my trip to southern Africa. In 2008, 36 Kellogg Students, 2 Spouses, our Dean and his wife traveled to southern Africa for our 2 week field visit. Prior to our trip, we spent ten weeks learning about South Africa, Apartheid, the BEE, South African businesses and got a taste of its culture. This included various speakers, a visit to the South African consulate and a group dinner to a local South African Restaurant, Harambee. This was honestly is still the most rewarding global travel I’ve competed to date. I learned a tremendous amount of information and came to appreciate the culture and lifestyle of its local people.
Here are highlights of our trip:
Jo’Berg, South Africa
We stayed in the Garden Court Hotel in Sandton by Nelson Mandela Square with nice clean rooms, although we spent the majority of our time at the hotel bar. The breakfast spread was huge with a mix of western and local foods and the pool (from what I hear) was nice for a hot afternoon. The gym is a bit small with two treadmills. It was here that I watched the fall of Bear Stearns on CNBC while running sprints one morning.
The whole Kellogg group took a field trip to the Apartheid Museum. This is where we experienced load shedding at the museum and weren’t able to watch the short movie. Eskom, South Africa’s power supplier, had to enforce load shedding back in 2007 and expected to last for about 5 years. Load shedding occurs when there is insufficient power capacity to supply the demand. To avoid a national black-out, Eskom must increase the supply (running all power stations at max capacity) and reduce demand (electricity is reduced/interrupted for specific times). So, we walked the museum hallways in darkness with only the little light coming in from windows. Needless to say, we finished the museum much earlier than expected.
We only spent 1.5 days here which was actually enough if you want to cram everything into your visit. We had one really full day of extreme sports including canoeing, zip lining, gorge swinging, rappelling and of course bungee jumping!
If you have a chance, check out the craft market behind the hotel. You can trade pencils for jewelry - they'll take anything. Their kids don’t have pencils to write at schools and the merchants will literally take any writing utensil and trade it for things. I bartered for two elephant hair bracelets for the pens from our hotel.
Capetown, South Africa
The Green Craft market is a fun bargaining adventure. You can definitely get products down 50-75%. Get as many $1 earrings as you can! I wish I had bought more since they are nice hard metals like gold/silver/bronze and designs that aren’t very common in other parts of the world.
Take the Cape Point Tour, but do NOT wear a dress/skirt. The whole tour is very windy and it will blow your skirt up! Trust me, I think I flashed the entire class when we were taking a picture by the merging of Atlantic and Pacific oceans. (See the pictures below to get a sense of the wind!) I also loved the penguin beach. All these little jackass penguins (really, they are called that!) run around and play. I could watch penguins for hours! They are so cute, kissing and chasing each other. Plus, the scenery by the beach is breathtaking.
The Fisherman’s Warf is a fun shopping area with a huge indoor craft market. We had good fun with the “teabag” art – I’m left with a coaster set souvenir just because we thought it was really funny to buy used teabags. The rest of the Warf area is not very unique to Africa with a Nike store and other main name brand chains. However, it’s something to do if you want to kill some time.
Two things I regret not having time for and/or planning better for are Table Mountain and Robbin Island. I wanted to hike Table Mountain but we just didn’t make enough time in our schedule. Several of our mornings were taken up with meetings for the class project. Sometimes, they close the top if it’s too foggy so I feel I really missed out. The other major miss was Robbin Island. It was closed while we were there because the one ferry was broken. We’ll know to book this far in advance since tickets sell out several weeks ahead of time.
As far as eating is concerned, “Savoy Cabbage” was hands down the best restaurant of the entire trip. They are famous for the tomato tarte which is quite delicious. However, if you don’t eat gluten, you will unfortunately have to pass on this treat. The prices were really reasonable as well. Each of us spent $30 for the meal inclusive of appetizers, main dish, deserts and lots of wine.
All-in-all, Southern Africa is amazing. It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be but we probably made smart choices and traveled as a group well. I wish there were more experiences where you had traditional tourism paired with service opportunities. I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to visit CIDA and the orphanage, create a project on cause and charitable marketing, and really immerse in the cultures of the lands we visited.