I had the opportunity to travel to Cape Town, South Africa for business and it was was a tremendous experience!
First and foremost, this was a work trip. If you’ve traveled for business much then you know that they are 95% work hard and 5% play hard, so the trick is to make the most of the 5% and try to experience a new place as best you can in a limited time. I had a full Sunday free, which is sometimes more time than you’ll find on work trips. To make it even more meaningful, that Sunday (April 27th) was the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s first free election and the day they now celebrate as “Freedom Day.”
A few take-aways:
- Sightseeing – South Africa truly is a breathtakingly gorgeous place, so it is no surprise that tourism has become its #1 industry. I highly recommend you get outside of the city and take a tour through the countryside, such as the Franschhoek Valley and Stellenbosch Mountains, and down around the Cape of Good Hope. You can find very reasonably priced 1/2 or full day guided tours. There is also a hop-on-hop-off bus system that has various routes through town. I took the Red Tour route, which included a stop at Table Mountain, which is a must-experience stop (the gondola ride up and down is the quickest way to see it).
- Sunsets – Being on the west side of the cape, Cape Town gets some spectacular sunset views. Try to get a somewhere with an unimpeded ocean view, especially if it is a night with some high wispy clouds, and you’ll be blown away at the sight. I recommend the beach at Camps Bay starting 30 minutes before sun down.
- Nelson Mandela – They still love Madiba, and his image is everywhere. Unfortunately, I don’t think that my generation of Americans fully grasps how much he did for South Africa. Study his life and the Apartheid he helped overturn, you’ll be inspired.
- Food – You can find some really good food in Cape Town! Seafood is especially good, as you would expect from a coastal town, and I found some really good sushi and shellfish. But they also have really good land meats as well, including some native animals that we don’t see much of in the US. I tried beef, springbok, crocodile, warthog and ostrich.
- Wine – South Africa has been making some of the worlds best wine since the 1650’s, but due to boycotts of the Apartheid it did not return to the global market until the 1990’s. Try the 2011 Aspect Merlot, this 2013 Du Toitskloof Cellars blend, or the 2012 Kanonkop Kadette blend.
- Socioeconomics – There is huge gap in social standing that you’ll immediately see. The rich areas are very rich, the poor areas are really poor, and I found almost no resemblance of a middle class. It was pretty sad to see thriving tourist areas, and directly down the road find a large Shanty Town. Where I was primarily in the tourist areas, it was clear that there is a whole other side to Africa that is still developing.
A few pictures from my trip: