After writing our final exam on Friday afternoon, we threw our bags into Tom’s Defender and headed to Table Mountain. Dominic and Donal had hiked up earlier in the day, and we arrived with just enough time to get last-minute tickets to ride the tram up. Once atop the mountain, we found winding trails leading to various viewpoints, and we meandered along with smiles of pure bliss; likely a result of both relief from being done our exams, and the natural euphoria of finally experiencing Table Mountain. About half the programme’s students had arrived to take in the stunning views from the summit, 1 089 metres above Cape Town.
The sun set as we huddled for warmth in the line for the last tram down. We had a dinner party to attend! Rushing back to Baxter Hall, we quickly changed our clothes and loaded the bus to Gold, a restaurant that combines authentic African dining with live entertainment. As we entered the dining room, our jaws dropped; the décor was a kaleidoscope of bright fabrics and vibrant place settings. The evening was a flurry with great conversation, laughter, and discussion of “where to next?”. Promises were made that we would all reconvene again. We headed out dancing, and then slowly made our way back to UCT, with a final stop at Jameson Memorial Hall where we reflected on our time as a group.
We vacated our dorm rooms the following morning, and Anda and I boarded the sprinter van to join the small group heading to Aquila Private Game Reserve. Located a few hours outside of Cape Town in Touws River, Aquila is home to the big five, as well as myriad other animals such as springboks, ostriches, zebras, giraffes, and baboons, which graze and roam the 10,000-hectare conservancy. Champions of eco-tourism, Aquila does not just offer visitors safari experiences; it also hosts guests in its lodge and adjoining cottages. Numerous amenities include swimming pools, a spa, and a large dining hall perfect for warming up after a morning out on safari.
Our safari host, Taylor, was keen to share his knowledge of each animal and helped us to understand the initiatives underway at Aquila to rehabilitate wildlife and introduce various species back into the wild. We saw hippopotami, African elephants, zebras, wildebeests, buffalo, and lions. We were cautioned against leaving any items in the safari vehicle upon exiting for mid-safari refreshments, as the baboons are skilled thieves. Such a warning reminded me of our lovable yet mischievous black bears back home.
The safari was the perfect end to a phenomenal, albeit too short, time in South Africa. The people I had the privilege of meeting and the places I experienced made for the trip of a lifetime, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to the University of Cape Town through London School of Economics. My friend Anda shared an Ernest Hemingway quote that resonates; I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy. Until next time, South Africa.