Top 10 things to do in Cape Town according to the locals

I remember being a little girl and traveling with my mom and dad across the world to Cape Town, South Africa. My mom, dad, and brother were all born there and as a child I would go back often. Some of my most amazing memories came from trips there with my family. Fast forward eighteen years and I was going back to Cape Town for the first time as an adult. I knew this trip would create a whole different set of memories and I was excited to be able to explore a different side of this amazing city.

There is so much to see and do in Cape Town that the city can be a little overwhelming, and with all of the press that South Africa has been getting lately, it can also be a little scary. It is important to stick to the safe spots but you also want to get a taste of what this amazing place has to offer and so I was happy to find out I still had plenty of cousins in the city that helped guide me around.

Here are the top 10  things to do in Cape Town according to the locals

1. Head to the top of Table Mountain

While this might be on every tourist website, it was also the first activity recommended by the locals. Once you see the views from the cable car and from the top you will understand why. The views of the ocean from the top are incredible and you can even see Robben Island. While our visit the skies were mostly clear, it was also very neat to see the clouds rolling in. You truly feel like you are on top of the world.

2.  Hike Lions Head

 

The scenery in Cape Town is incredible and one of best ways to see it is on a hike up Lion’s Head (Table Mountains little brother). It is a difficult hike but seeing the views of the ocean and of Table Mountain along the way are definitely worth it.

3. Take a stroll to the V&A Waterfront

The Waterfront is one of the few places we found were you can eat ocean side and also offers some great local shops. It is a great spot for fresh seafood and all of your souvenirs.

4. Visit the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

My cousin is a local tour guide and she said this was her absolute must for guests. The garden is home to a large collection of African plants and offer some beautiful trails and sculptures.

5. Take a drive along Chapman’s Peak

 

This was by far my favourite part of the entire trip. The views along the coast were truly breathtaking. From the deep blue and turquoise green waters to the deep red rock formations it was an incredibly special place. I honestly believe this is the most beautiful place in the world.

6. Take a day trip for some delicious wine

We spent a day driving along the coast up to Stellenbosch. The farms there are spectacular and the wine is so full of taste. Wine in Cape Town dates back to 1659 and Stellenbosch is the second largest producer in the town. We dined on delicious food and went through some delicious flights. This is an absolute must when visiting.

7. Take a photoshoot in Muizenberg

Muizenberg is by far one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Cape Town and one of the things that makes it so unique is the beautiful rainbow houses along the shore. Take some pictures in front of the homes and dip your toes in the water. Just be careful, the sharks hang out on this side.

8. Indulge in a South African Braai

If you don’t know what Braai is, well it is a traditional South African BBQ as we North America’s call it. I was lucky enough to be invited over to my cousin’s house to enjoy this delicious home cooked meal, but if you are visiting Cape Town and don’t have family you should probably still spoil your taste buds. Take a trip to the Backyard Grill and Lounge. Located in the artsy Woodstock is this distinctly South African eatery complete with live entertainment.

9. Take in the art in Woodstock

Speaking of the artsy area of Woodstock, a real treat is walking around and taking in the local graffiti that covers the street. The artists have truly prettified the sides of the buildings and it is amazing how you can find the most beautiful artwork in the most unexpected places.

10. Swim with the penguins at Boulders Beach

Ok, this may be a locals favourite, but if you are in Cape Town this is a must. As a child I remember visiting this beach every trip and getting up close and personal to the penguins. It is really special to see the babies and families in their natural habitat.

Tips for making the most of your trip in Cape Town 

Cape town will always have a special place in my heart and I hope to be able to experience the beauty of it again some day but again it is very important to be safe in this city.

  • The best way to get around is via uber or renting a car. Try to avoid cabs because the locals say they can sometimes rig the prices
  • You can either use the Rand currency but most places do accept debit and visa
  • Know the areas that you are visiting and don’t walk around at night alone
  • Some of Cape Towns top restaurants book up months in advance so make your reservations ahead of time
  • Be prepared for the weather. Bring layers, you can experience all four seasons in one day.

I hope that you all get to visit this magical city soon.

Happy travels my friends,

xo

Mia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Moments that will want to make you book an African getaway with G adventures

What you might not know about me, is like most from Canada, I am a first generation Canadian. Both of my parents are originally from South Africa. As a young girl, I would go back to visit every other year. Yet as I grew older, life got in the way. The trips back to visit slowed down and eventually stopped. It has been eighteen years since the last time I visited South Africa. Eighteen years since I had seen my family, eighteen years since I had experienced the beauty of Africa, and eighteen years seemed far too long.

A different way to travel to Africa 

This time around though, I wanted to do things a little different. i wanted to explore parts of Africa that I had never been to before and so instead of trying to navigate this country on my own, I decided to do a group tour.

I have done group tours in the past and I feel like they are an amazing way to travel. Firstly they help you get from point A to point B safely. They provide you with excursion ideas and help you set up everything that you want to do. It is also an amazing way to connect with like minded travellers.

I decided to travel this time round with the Canadian company G Adventures. I will get more into this decision a little later on as well as in a follow up blog, but in the meantime I wanted to focus on the amazing experience.

The adventure was 9 days with stops at the Kruger National Park, a private game reserve, and Zimbabwe. During that time I had a chance to get up close and personal to a family of elephants and soar above one of the natural wonders of the world. It was truly a once in a life time trip with memories that will last forever and I am excited to share some of the top moments with you. 

My top 10 moments with G adventures

1) Staying in an adorable guesthouse

Johannesburg definitely gets a bad reputation, but I had the most amazing experience there, particularly at our adorable guesthouse, Malikana. This family run spot had the most amazing wooden deck patio that overlooked a little animal farm. I watched the springbok jump around while drinking my morning coffee.

The best part of our time here was when we were treated to a home cooked South African Braai. Our host Suki cooked us different kinds of traditional meat with pup and veggies on the side and traditional desserts.

2) Driving the Panorama Route

On our way to the Kruger National Park, we drove one of the most scenic drives I have ever seen. The Panorama Route connects several cultural and natural points of interest and offers spectacular views. I was blown away by the depth and beauty of Blyde Canyon. I have seen the Grand Canyon before, and this spot would definitely give it a run for its money. I was also stunned at the amazing views from God’s Window. From this spot, you really feel like you are on top of the world.

3)Muluwa Lodge 

When we went to visit the Kruger National Park, we had a chance to spend two nights at the adorable Muluwa Lodge. The moment we arrived, we were greeted by their resident giraffes. Our quaint tents overlooked the bush and we had a chance to have morning coffee with the impalas. It was absolutely stunning.

4) Driving in the Kruger National Park

 

As a young girl, I remember some of my most fond memories taking place at Kruger, one of South Africa’s largest parks. Now it was time to make some new memories. The first thing that I noticed during our drive was the smells. The fresh spring air lingered on the tip of my nose.

Despite some rainy conditions, we were so spoiled on our first drive. Not only did we spot the big five (lion leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo) we also saw a pack of wild dogs. This is an extremely rare sighting as there are only 180 wild dogs left in the Kruger. It was amazing to see the family of dogs running around and playing with each other. A truly special moment.

5) Staying at  Karongwe Portfolio 

 

After experiencing Karongwe, I cannot suggest a private game reserve enough. Not only were we driving around the bush in an open truck, but we also had a tracker following footsteps and we could go off roading to get even closer to the magnificent animals.

We experienced some amazing moments like a family of elephants walking across our path, three cheetahs out of the hunt, a leopard munching on dinner, and drinking coffee with the hippos. Those were just a few of the highlights.

As for the actual resort, it was something straight out of a movie. Our accommodations were stunning, complete with an outdoor shower, beautiful patio to sit and watch for animals, and a gorgeous pool to cool off after a long day. I treated myself to an amazing massage during our stay and had a chance to experience a delicious outdoor BBQ .

6) Learning about cheetahs from the pros 

During our stay at Kerongwe, we were treated to a talk from a researcher from the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Cheetah Metapopulation Project. We sat through a lecture learning more about cheetah behaviours as part of the National Geographic project the Big Cats Initiative. I also found out that a portion of our money was going towards this project and helping keep cheetahs safe in the wild. Just one of the many reasons I loved traveling with G adventures.

7) Experience the local culture 

 

The second half of our trip took place in Zimbabwe visiting one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls. Before even heading to the falls though, we got to experience the town of Victoria Falls. We went to visit the local market and try some unique foods.

Then we had the chance to have a local meal at a homestead. We sat down with our amazing host Flatter and met her extended family. She made us a traditional Zimbabwean dinner with produce straight from her garden. During the meal she shared with us what a daily life is like and taught us more about the traditions and cultures in Zimbabwe. It was a truly special experience.

8) Take a walking tour of the falls 

Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, but just walking around doesn’t do it justice. There is so much incredible history here and it was amazing to learn all about it on a guided tour. We learned all about the falls, how it was discovered by David Livingstone, how the locals refer to it as ‘The Smoke that Thunders’, and how you can hear the falls 40KM away. Those were just a few of the incredible facts. It was also amazing because we got to see the falls from sixteen different angles.

9) Experience the falls from the sky 

Seeing the falls from the ground is one thing, but seeing the falls from above will take your breathe away. I had the chance to take a helicopter ride above the falls and it was a truly magical experience. You could see the entire length of the water fall and the beautiful colours of the Zambezi River. 

10) Bring out your inner daredevil by living on the edge 

Our last stop in Victoria Falls is not for the faint of heart. We went swimming at the very top of the falls at Devil’s Pool. After thousands of years of erosion, several rock pools formed around the falls, one of them at the very top. We were able to actually swim in a pool above the falls and even take in the views from the very edge. It was exhilarating.

Why G Adventures 

This trip with G adventures was one of those that was too incredible to be true. From learning about local communities, to watching a leopard pounce at a water buck each day offered new and unforgettable experiences. A reminder of how beautiful this world truly is.

The reason I loved traveling with G Adventures, was their focus on responsible tourism. I have travelled with other companies in the past, but this was the first one that organized local excursions, worked with local companies, and helped us really learn about the places and the people we were visiting.

I later had a chance to learn about their Ripple Score program, which monitors how much of our money stays in the local communities. I was excited to find out that on my trip in particular, 100% of the money stays locally. Not only did this trip give me something incredible, but it felt good knowing that I was able to give these communities something back in return.

I will have more on G Adventures in a later blog post, but in the meantime if you would like to learn more about their Kruger and Victoria Falls trip visit their website; https://www.gadventures.com/trips/explore-kruger-and-victoria-falls/5747/

Happy traveling my friends,

xo

Mia

 

Top places to visit for fall hiking

Now that the smoke from the wildfires has cleared,  it is time to get back outside and enjoy the beautiful outdoors before the rain starts. The fall weather is already in the air and before we know it, the leaves will start changing colours and create a whole different kind of beauty in B.C.

My absolute favourite thing to do outdoors is go for a hike. There is nothing in this world that can compare to looking out over the top of a mountain, seeing beautiful glacier lakes, and breathing in the fresh air. Now add in the changing fall colours, and you have a picture perfect outdoor activity. 

Don’t know where to start when it comes to your fall hike? Well I have a few ideas for you,  especially since I have officially reached my one year mark living out in B.C.

Top 5 day hikes near Vancouver

Here are my favourite five hikes that also aren’t too far from Vancouver that I have discovered so far.

1) Garibaldi Lake

 This one is my absolute favourite hike in B.C. because it holds a pretty special place in my heart. This is where I got engaged and let me tell you, with the beautiful lake and greenery at the top, it was the perfect spot. When you get to the top you can opt to pass through Taylor Meadows, which I highly recommend. Stop and smell the trees and the beautiful flowers on the path before making your way over to the lake. When you see the lake for the first time, you will stop in your tracks. It is a beautiful deep blue. The colour will stun you, even on a cloudy day.  Take a walk around, there are plenty of benches that look out on to the lake and scenery.

Difficulty: This hike was a little more difficult than I thought it would be. It is 9KM up to the lake and it is all slightly uphill switchbacks so be prepared for a bit of a burn.

Pro tip: Go early! A lot of people know about this beautiful gem and so it can get pretty crowded. We started our hike at around 6am and it was perfect.

2) Joffre Lakes

 If beautiful glacier lakes, endless trees, and waterfalls are your thing, then make your way out to Pemberton for a day of hiking Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. The first lake is  an easy 5 minute walk and its crystal blue colours and mountain views will truly be spectacular. Guess what? Somehow it only gets better from here. Each lake sparkles in the light, and the hike to the top has you twisting through all of the colours of fall. 

Difficulty: This hike has moments were it is a really steep climb but over all pretty balanced. It is long so prepare to spend all day but I would say it would be medium difficulty.

Pro tip: Just like Garibaldi, it can get really crowded so go early. Also, while I found the second lake the prettiest of them all, I would highly recommend taking the time to explore all three. Each one of them is slightly different but absolutely beautiful.

3) Dog Mountain

Looking for an easy hike really close to Vancouver but also offers spectacular views? Then Dog Mountain is the spot for you.  This hike is located on Mt. Seymour. It will take somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half to make it to the top. Don’t let the short hike fool you though, the views from the top are spectacular. You get the full city on one side and the mountains on the other. There are plenty of picture perfect spots along the way, included a cute little lake.

Difficulty: This hike can get a little muddy since it is a pretty narrow path, but it isn’t too difficult. If you love hiking, you will make it to the top no problem.

Pro tip: pack a little picnic for the top of the mountain and stay to enjoy the views from one of the rocks at the top.

4) St. Mark’s Summit

St. Mark’s Summit is also pretty close to downtown and on the Howe Sound Crest Trail. I love this hike because it truly offers a little bit of everything. There is a beautiful meadow about half way up the hike. Once you get to the summit you are in for a real treat. It is a pretty steep hike, making the vertical views from the top both frightening and majestic. It is amazing to look down at the blue ocean. You will honestly feel like you are on top of the world.

Difficulty: This hike once again has its moments. Be prepared for a fairly steep hike and quite a few switch backs near the top. Again another medium hike.

Pro tip: This is an awesome hike because it isn’t too crowded and offers some amazing views. It is also a dog friendly hike so it is a great date for you and your pup.

5) Lynn Loop 

For those that really want an easier hike with beautiful views then this is the spot for you, especially in the fall months. Take moments to breathe in the fresh air and marvel at the beautiful large cedar and hemlock trees. Just be careful of aggressive bears along the trail. It seems to be an issue lately.

Difficulty: This 5km hike is quite easy (there is just one little steep part that will get your heart pumping). It is a great hike if you don’t have the full day.

Pro tip: Since the hike is a pretty short one, put some time aside for the other beautiful spots in the area. One of my favourite stops is the suspension bridge. Less busy than the Capilano bridge and definitely worth the views.

There you have it, some of my favourite hikes to discover this fall. I would love to hear if your top hikes made the list or if you have some others that I should give a try. In the meantime I hope you all get outside to enjoy the beautiful fall weather.

xo,

Mia

My first Women Who Explore getaway fuelled by Hippie Snacks

This summer, I was able to experience one of the most amazing, gratifying, and incredible experiences of my life. I was able to host my first getaway for Women Who Explore. Let’s take a step back real quick and find out more about the Women Who Explore community. The group was founded by two sisters and was created for women to feel comfortable and safe while exploring the great outdoors.

Women Who Explore Getaways 

Recently, the team started to great getaways all across North America. The getaways are for amazing women to get together and check things off their bucket list in a non-judgemental and affordable atmosphere. The getaways have included everything from dog sledding in Alberta to a week long road trip around Iceland. Not only do these getaways allow you to experience a once in a life time opportunity, but they also allow you to meet eight strangers that soon become life long friends.

My bucket list getaway this summer was a surfing trip to Tofino B.C. I arrived in Tofino and greeted by a room full of amazing women ready to have an amazing weekend. We spent the first day of our trip getting to known each other a little bit better, went for a delicious dinner, and then had an early night to get ready for the adventurous that awaited us the next day.

Starting the day with delicious breakfast provided by Hippie Snacks 

We started the day with our delicious Hippie Snacks Granola. Hippie Snacks is a local BC company made with whole food ingredients and taste delicious. The company got its idea in 2005 and came up with the name Hippie in celebration of the 1960’s movement of eating natural foods and keeping real foods in our diets. They have several tortilla chips, granola, and snacks.

Their Maple Quinoa was the perfect start to the morning to get us set for our fun filled day. You can really taste the natural ingredients in the crunch in the ancient grain granola filled food. After a breakfast fill of delicious food and great conversation we were ready for our adventure.

Stop #1: A secret hike 

The first stop of our day was searching for a hidden plane wreck on a hike in the Pacific Rim National Park. The Royal Canadian Air Force Canso crashed shortly after takeoff on February 12th 1945. The remains of the plane still sit on the side of the hill in Tofino. The plane was amazing, still main intact despite the crash. We stopped for plenty of pictures before making our way back to the house.

Snack time with Hippie Snacks 

At the house, we grabbed some organic Hippie Sesame Snacks. Don’t be fooled by the size of these snacks. They are full of flavour and will definitely get your energy up again. They are made with crunchy white and black organic sesame seeds and sweetened with coconut sugar. Satisfying and nutrient packed we were ready for the next stage of our adventure weekend.

Surfing the waves in Tofino 

Our next stop of the day was to the beach where we met with the team from Tofino Surf Adventure. We went through a quick on land lesson with the girls before hitting the waves. It was amazing because it was such a mix of experience, but every single one of the girls had a smile on their face and got up on the board. It was amazing to be on the water and take in the beauty of the beach around us. By the end of the day I must say all the ladies were pretty darn good surfers. 

From strangers to friends 

The whole weekend was amazing. From going on beautiful hikes in the Pacific National Rim to trying our hand at surfing some of the best waves in Canada we had so much fun. Yet the best part of the whole weekend was getting to meet 8 strong, beautiful, and incredible women. These women come from all backgrounds, ages, and stories and what started off as a room full of strangers quickly became a room full of friends.

I am so thankful for my Women Who Explore family who have taught me not to be afraid of the outdoors. They have taught me not to be uncomfortable in unfamiliar territories. They have taught me to open up my heart, and soul, and go out and explore.

Why Sooke is Vancouver Island’s Hidden Gem

I have visited Vancouver Island on several occasions, but most of my trips have taken me to shorelines of Victoria or Tofino. I had never hard of a town called Sooke, that is until my boyfriend planned a surprise getaway for the two of us. Not knowing much about the town, I didn’t really know what to expect on the trip.

About Sooke 

Photo credit; Connor McCardle

If I did have any expectations, they would of been blown right out of the water. Sooke turned out to be the most quaint, beautiful, and relax place I had ever visited. Known as the place where the rainforest meets the sea it offers so many hidden gems just waiting to be explored. From beautiful hiking trails like the Juan De Fuca trail and ocean front homes it is where you go for ultimate tranquility, and with few hotels it is a lot less busy then some of the other spots on the island.

Where to stay

photo credit; Connor McCardle

As mentioned, there are very few hotels and motels in the area so we turned to airbnb to find the perfect spot to stay for our trip. I highly recommend this because you never know what adorable spot you will find. We stayed in a cute cottage right on the ocean. We ate all of our meals right above the water, searched for whales right from the window, gazed up at the milky way, and fell asleep listening to the waves crashing against the rocks below. It was truly a little slice of heaven.

What to do

Day 1: Potholes, Markets and Stars 

Day one of our trip took us to the Sooke Potholes, a very easy hike that takes you alongside the Sooke River. Gaze at the rivers unique rock formation that was formed from the last ice age millions of years ago. The park has several trails and all of them are beautiful. We followed the river to  a secluded rock pool and beach. We daringly jumped in to the freezing water and hung out on the beach.

On the way home form the potholes, we saw signs pointing to the Country Market. The market located at Otter Point Road runs every Saturday from May to October and it is absolutely adorable. Explore the local artists and taste some delicious fresh local fruits. Pick up a homemade piece of jewellery as a souvenir.

Living in the city, I sometimes forget that stars even exist in the sky. Away from the lights and pollution, the Sooke sky offered a perfect canvas to star gaze. We stayed up well past my bed time and gazed at the Milky Way. We even caught a glimpse of Mars.

Day 2: Rainforest hikes and river floats 

The second day of our trip took us on a little drive to explore some of the beautiful rainforests hikes in the area. We made our way through the trees of the Juan De Fuca trail down to Mystic Beach. On the beach you will find beautiful rock formations, forests on either corner, and a small water fall in the centre of it all. It truly fit its name, mystic to say the least.

A little bonus, about an hour and a half from Sooke on the way to catch the ferry in Nanaimo we discovered floating on Lake Cowichan. Hundreds of people cooling off in the water on their floaties. While we didn’t have our donuts on us, we did jump in. Definitely plan to come back to get the full experience.

Just a few weeks ago I had no idea Sooke existed, now it has become one of my favourite spots in B.C. It is calming and beautiful and truly a small hidden gem on a giant island.