Sunday, April 6, 2008

‘On Assignment in Africa’ – an update from the original 2AFRIKA, INC.’s Director of Operations, Dominik M. Zakrzewski


Today is my last day in South Africa (for the moment), in Cape Town. I’ve spent four glorious days here and the city got under my skin - in a good way. I arrived and drove past the informal townships allowing me to see the ugly side. Yet my driver was the kindest person ever, showing me that everything has two sides to it. I stayed at the much talked about V & A Waterfront as well as in the middle of the city itself. I took in the whole peninsula and saw things my eyes couldn’t have dreamt about. South Africa and Cape Town especially, is the ultimate destination. Cape Town is a melting pot, a smorgasbord of tastes, people, languages and all walks of life.

Staying at the V & A Waterfront reminded me of being in a theme park. It removes you from so much and is really solely a tourist destination. It’s a safe way to stay out until late at night but it’s not the real Cape Town. The second two days I stayed within the city. The thing about Cape Town is that it is not a city that goes full steam 24/7 like New York. Monday through Friday it’s a commercial center to many and safe to walk anywhere. After working hours the stores start closing and only a few patches on certain streets remain open. On Saturdays mostly everything starts closing by 3pm. People here are not workaholics – they have a life! The sun is shining and you can eat al-fresco nearly every day. Why would one want to be stuck in an office here? South Africans live life at a different pace!

I keep hearing from people that the City is not safe at night. No, you won’t get killed but you will be solicited many times over by people with questionable intentions. Nearly the whole economy here is based on tourism - tourists also are targets for beggars or people who needlessly want to help you get somewhere. A lot of streets in the city feature many bars and restaurants next door to one another. Usually those places are fine and there are many policemen watching the streets all the time. You’re never left alone, just avoid alleyways. Like with any big city one should remain street-smart - to avoid Cape Town would be a shame.

In the evenings many people please the city and reach for the suburbs like Green Point, De Waterkant or Sea Point. It’s best to take a taxi to and from your intended destination as there is virtually no public transportation, and taxi rides are inexpensive. These suburbs started to sprout up many cafes, restaurants and bars. All of them have a view of the ocean, maybe this is why it’s more laid back here. Cape Town - the inner city is mainly used for commercial purposes but has contained entertainment.

Cape Town is very much like California. No one walks here. The distances are too great so driving is the only way to go. Not at all like Manhattan where you can either walk or take a cab every few blocks. Everyone has a cell phone here. It is a safe city provided you don’t look for trouble. For example, while walking today (I took a lengthy walking trip - not something I would ever do again) someone who saw me somewhere yesterday (or claimed he did) started to walk with me and chatted. What he wanted I’d rather not imagine but I simply told him that I would like to walk alone as I’ve been walking all day and am quite tired and not in the mood to chat. He went away without a problem. People will see you during the ‘after-hours’ and try to get your attention because you’re foreign and thus they assume you have money. Ignore them and you’ll be fine.

The best way to do Cape Town is for about 5 or 6 days and arrange a couple of tours to fill in at least three days to really ‘get’ the city. Cape Town has excellent tourist facilities and you can get information virtually everywhere. Info Centers are as common in Cape Town as yellow taxis in NYC. There’s an option to hop on a “topless bus” that will take you throughout the whole city for about two hours - but you can hop on and off. So if it’s between ‘business hours’ on a week day then you pretty much can go where you want to go, hop on and off and don’t need a taxi. Guided tours, as arranged by us, are the epitome of getting to know this City. On my full-day Cape Peninsula tour our guide took us to the southernmost tip of Africa. Because some of the other passengers in a vehicle took forever to join us at one of our breaks we skipped the tourist part of Boulders Beach (famed for the penguin colony that resides there) and went to a public part. We save R30 and got closer to the penguins than we actually could have in the tourist part.

With a tour like this you feel like you’re with a friend showing you around. I hiked all the way to the top in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and had a great moment of solitude but then had to run 2 miles in about 15 minutes down the slopes of Table Mountain. Mountains and hills - Cape Town is full of them. This is why it’s not really a walkable city. You’ll be tired as the whole city surrounds Table Mountain. You see it all the time, there’s no escaping it, and after three days you feel like you can’t escape its shadow.

I’ll be leaving the Mother City tomorrow morning and just want to point out a few important matters before I go. There are many places to change money (even hotels will do it for you at the front desk), all hotels so far were able to provide an international adapter plug for my laptop, food and beverages are inexpensive as are taxis. I found Hout Bay to be the most inexpensive location to buy souvenirs. Hout Bay is a small village from where you take a cruise to Duiker Island where you will be feet away from the seal colony. This country and this city and its surroundings really are a whole world in one.

Tomorrow I check out at 5:30 am to make my British Airways/Comair flight bound for Johannesburg where I will once again revert to Nationwide Airlines for my flight to Livingstone - Zambia. I’ll cross the border at Kazangula into Botswana where I am spending two nights at Chobe Safari Lodge before I return to the Victoria Falls and the Royal Livingstone on the banks of mighty Zambezi. My visit to this incredible part of the world will end at Madikwe Hills Game Reserve at the ultra-luxury Mateya Safari Lodge.

I miss New York City. I miss my friends and miss everything that I thought that I hated about it. I am excited to leave the atmosphere of the city and stay in the middle of nowhere. I feel like I’ve changed a lot yet again. I feel like I escaped a cocoon that I’ve been in and tasted new flavors, good and bad.

As is customary here at the Original 2AFRIKA, INC., we are always on the look-out for new and innovative Safari products for our valued passengers – and usually, we time these ‘on-site’ inspections to coincide with visits to properties that are already featured in our Safari Collection to be sure that the standard of requirements that we set have enhanced themselves to suit our Collection but most importantly, our passengers.

Each day (or at least each day that he is internet accessible), Zakrzewski will be writing his evaluation reports on the day’s activities, emailing them to me, and I will be posting them. The title of this Blog will be ‘On Assignment in Africa’ – an update from the original 2AFRIKA, INC.’s Director of Operations, Dominik M. Zakrzewski.

I do hope that you will follow the trail and enjoy the newfound information that Zakrzewski has to share on a regular basis.

For further information on this informational Blog post or any other Safari in the Original 2AFRIKA Collection, visit us on the web at

The Original 2AFRIKA, INC. remains committed to Corporate Social Responsibility in Tourism.

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