15th Dec 2012 3:48pm | By Brian Murphy
A free six-week holiday in one of the most amazing countries in the world? Yes please!
As the winner of TNT’s travel blogging competition, I found myself in the enviable position of taking an all-expenses-paid trip to South Africa, sponsored by the South Africa Youth Travel Confederation.
This meant an epic journey from Cape Town to Soweto, taking on such tasks as shark diving, bungee jumping and conservation projects.
My mission was simple: give everything a go and let you all know what it’s like. So here are some the highlights of what really was the trip of a lifetime.
I touch down in Cape Town with the sun shining and just the gentlest of breezes blowing.
That means one thing – the notoriously weather-sensitive cable car atop Table Mountain is up and running, so I waste no time in heading straight to this iconic world wonder.
Once I’m at the peak off this iconic landmark, I take the Skeleton Gorge hiking route, which means scrambling over waterfalls, streams and giant ladders on my way to some spectacular views over the city.
Do it yourself: Park entrance £3.40; cable car £14.70.
The next adventure on my list is shark diving – I’ll be in a cage but I’m feeling a little queasy as my boat departs from Hermanus.
Maybe it’s butterflies or perhaps I don’t quite have my sea legs yet, but I know this is a treat – the waters here, an hour’s drive from Cape Town, are famous for being among the world’s best for whale watching.
So, when we arrive at Shark Alley – an area of sea between two densely populated seal colonies – I volunteer to enter the water first, eager to get off the rocky boat.
I don a wet suit and climb into the cage. The water, carried by Antarctic currents, is freezing.
I bob up and down while the crew throw lines of bait to the sharks and then duck underwater.
There’s a Great White Shark only metres away and with the worst possible timing, my seasickness suddenly returns with a vengeance.
The cage, latched firmly to the boat, rocks backwards and forwards in a sadistic motion.
A puking disaster seems imminent and it’s only with sheer force of will that I make it back on to the boat before throwing up over the side.
I sink to the ground and peer into the water, wondering, do sharks eat vomit?
The answer it seems is no … but fish do. Yuck.
Do it yourself: Shark cage diving costs £100 with Marine Dynamics Shark Tours.
A few days later I head north along Route 62 on a five-day tour of the Garden Route, a lush and green stretch of the south-eastern coast of South Africa.
One memorable stop is Ronnie’s Sex Shop.
This was once a normal bar until Ronnie’s friends got drunk one night and decided to add the word ‘sex’ between ‘Ronnie’s’ and ‘shop’ on the wall outside.
Almost overnight it became a compulsory stopping point for bikers, tourists and anyone willing to donate a bra to hang behind the bar.
Things gets even more surreal when we drive on to Oudtshoorn for a spot of ostrich riding – what else?
I find my trusty steed standing perfectly still in the middle of a dusty paddock with a bag over its head, safe in the belief that if it can’t see me, I can’t see it – an ostrich’s brain is one-quarter the size of its eye.
I hoist myself up, tuck my legs beneath its wings and hold on tight.
As the bag is removed and it bounds around the field with me on top.
Not a mode of transport I’d chose every day, but an experience for sure.
Do it yourself: A five-day Garden Route tour with Cape To Addo Safari costs £330.