PMGY volunteer in South Africa participants are based in the Observatory – better known as ‘Obz’ by the locals! Home to South African’s oldest Astronomical Observatory, this is Cape Town’s most bohemian suburb; an arty district. During the day, this road is home to various boutique shops, restaurants and cafes. However, at night, the street comes to life, with an awesome night life supplied by various bars and clubs, pubs and pool halls!
The opportunities in Cape Town during your time off are endless, you may well struggle to fit everything in! Whether you want to stay in the city or explore the Western Cape, there really is something for everyone.
Participants generally volunteer on a Monday-Friday basis and the weekends are free to relax or travel further afield. As our volunteers will testify, the wider travel opportunities are extremely important to the whole experience and it is something we certainly recommend. Our local team are able to arrange activities, transport and accommodation but please note this is usually an independent experience outside of the core program.
THE V&A WATERFRONT
Located in the heart of Cape Town’s working harbour, the Victoria and Albert Waterfront offers visitors an abundance of experiences. It is one of Africa’s most visited cultural and historical hubs, set on the edge of a natural, historic working harbour with the iconic Table Mountain as its backdrop. You will find a range of restaurants, shops and hotels surrounding the highly impressive marina. There is usually live music being played throughout the day. The Waterfront is close to Cape Town Stadium and is definitely worth a look!
Situated in the City Bowl, Long Street is the main hangout spot in Cape Town and is famous for its bohemian feel. Many of the backpacker hostels are located on Long Street and it’s the main place to go if you want to experience Cape Town’s exciting nightlife. Once the vintage clothing shops and designers alleys are closed, attention is turned to the plethora of bars, restaurants and clubs lining this iconic road. In the summertime locals and foreigners explore out onto the pavements at sidewalk cafes and party on the rooftops.
One of the most popular attractions in Cape Town is Table Mountain. It stands 1000m above sea level and the summit can be accessed via cable car. If you’re feeling energetic then you can always trek to the top! The journey takes around 1.5 hours. It is a challenging trek but the views from the summit are truly spectacular. The cable car is weather dependent so don’t rely on it to take you back down to the bottom! There is a restaurant at the top, it’s quite pricey but if you took the trekking option it’s a nice place to sit and relax.
Used as a prison right up until 1996, this Unesco World Heritage site is preserved as a memorial to those such as Nelson Mandela who spent many years incarcerated there. You can go on a tour which includes a walk through the old prison (with the obligatory peek into Mandela’s cell), plus a commentated bus ride around the island. You will see the lime quarry in which Mandela and many others slaved and the church used during the island’s stint as a leper colony. The ferry departs from the Nelson Mandela Gateway beside the Clock Tower.
HERMANUS - WHALE WATCHING
Hermanus offers some of the best shore based and sea based whale-watching opportunities in the world. Every year from July to November hundreds of Southern Right whales find their way to Walker’s Bay, making the town the whale-watching capital of South Africa. The whales, which spend the winter feeding on plankton in Antarctic waters, come up to the relatively warmer waters of the southern Atlantic to calve and breed. The holiday town of Hermanus has its share of boutique shops, art and craft studios and of course excellent restaurants.
CAPE OF GOOD HOPE
Also called Cape Point, this 77.5 sq km section of Table Mountain National Park includes awesome scenery, fantastic walks, great birdwatching and often deserted beaches. Some 250 species of birds have been spotted here, including cormorants and a family of ostriches that hang out near the Cape, the most southwestern point of the continent. There are many bus tours to the reserve but, if you have the time, hiking or cycling through it is much more rewarding. Bear in mind that there is minimal shade and that the weather can change quickly.
BOULDERS BEACH PENGUINS
Cape Town has no shortage of amazing beaches but Boulders Beach offers something extra special. Home to a colony of African Penguins, they have to be the most famous penguins in the world with up to 60,000 visitors a year! Penguin viewing is made easier by boardwalks that traverse the beaches and an information centre. The story of this penguin colony began in 1983 when a pair were spotted on Foxy Beach at Boulders. Abundant food and breeding sites meant the population has soared and visitors are drawn to their cute waddling ways.
The more popular and impressive wildlife safaris are located towards the north, near Johannesburg. If you have the time and budget to spare it is worth making the journey to Kruger National Park (the largest protected wildlife reserve in South Africa). You will need around 4 spare days to make the trip worthwhile and most trips include an afternoon safari, a sunrise walking safari and a night drive safari. If you want a cheaper and a more convenient option nearer to Cape Town then the Garden Route Game Reserve is a great alternative.
FRANSCHHOEK & STELLENBOSCH - WINE REGIONS
The area is exceptionally beautiful and the quality of wine and food in the wine estates is stupendous. Franschhoek is one of the loveliest towns in the cape, one of the world’s gastronomic capitals and the centre of one of South Africa’s main wine growing regions. Only an hour from Cape Town it’s a great place to chill out, relax and of course wine-taste. Neighbouring Stellenbosch is only half an hour away with its vast array of wine estates to visit. There are an approximate 160 wineries in the Stellenbosch area alone.
SHARK CAGE DIVING
Approximately 2.5 hours out of Cape Town is Gansbaai. This small town has been made famous as one of the only places in the world where you can dive with Great White Sharks. Tours to Gansbaai depart daily and it is usually an early start! Once you have arrived and had some breakfast it’s time to grab your wetsuit, get on the boat and head across the bay to ‘shark alley’. The next few hours will be spent ‘interacting’ with the sharks in the special cage or on board the boat. This is a once in a lifetime experience and is definitely not to be missed.
There are several amazing weekend trips to get involved in during your time with PMGY in South Africa. Travelling over the weekends is a huge part of the experience as it gives you the opportunity to explore the country with fellow volunteers on the program.
With PMGY volunteers being based in the urban environment of Cape Town, they are usually able to organise trips independently without the need for our team to travel with them. There are many travel agents based in the city who can provide affordable and reputable weekend trip options to our volunteers, and they also allow for you to meet other travellers in South Africa. As a result, we have found participants to prefer the flexibility to explore all the opportunities available to them once they arrive in Cape Town rather than pre-organising trips only for people to want to change these plans once they arrive. You can therefore book weekend trips locally based on your budget, travel preferences and once you have met other volunteers on the program.
We have outlined a couple of popular weekend trip options to give you an idea of some of the trips you can get involved in during your time with us. We recommend participants do not make any firm commitments until they arrive in South Africa as participants will ausually travel in a group and our team are a great resource to help you make plans!
GARDEN ROUTE WEEKEND TRIP
INCLUDES - PRIVATE TRANSPORT, ACCOMMODATION, BREAKFAST & ACTIVITIES
This trip explores the Garden Route on an action packed itinerary, stopping at all the best highlights the area has to offer. Wander along the Garden Route – a piece of paradise on the Southeastern coast of South Africa. Search for members of Africa’s Big 5, walk along forest footpaths, canoe and interact with African wildlife, all in one exciting itinerary.
DAY ONE - CAPE TOWN - OUDTSHOORN
It’s an early morning departure from the volunteer house as we set off from Cape Town along with the rugged landscapes of Route 62, the longest wine route in the world! Along this famous country road, you’ll capture the beauty of high mountains, twisting passes, vast Karoo plains, vineyards and orchards. Stop at one of the many farm stalls along the way to sample local delights before arriving in Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world and home to the fascinating Cango Caves where your next adventure awaits.
Delve deep underground to the magical Cango Caves’ limestone chambers, alive with drip formation stalactites and stalagmites and remnants of Khoikhoi paintings. The easy-going Heritage Tour you will embark on will allow you to test the cave’s acoustics and gain insights your guide provides into the formation and dripstone evolution. You’ll spend the evening in the quaint town of Oudtshoorn.
DAY TWO - OUDTSHOORN - SEDGEFIELD
Those seeking a meaningful experience can rise early and join rangers on an optional Elephant Bush Walk. You’ll have the opportunity to walk alongside three rescued elephants, in their own natural environment. These gentle giants were orphaned when their parents were poached in the north of South Africa, they were then transferred to Buffelsdrift, bringing their boisterous personalities with them. During your walk, you are free to take pictures galore and ask your rangers any questions you wish.
Then, you’ll take to the water for a leisurely afternoon canoe along reed-lined river banks in Wilderness. It’s not until you stop paddling and let the gentle current guide you. Thereafter, you can take a visit to the lush forests of the Tsitsikamma area which provides picturesque photo opportunities. The evening is your free time to soak in the slow town ambience of Sedgefield.
DAY THREE - SEDGEFIELD - CAPE TOWN
Your journey today will start with spotting some of Africa’s wild animals from the back of an open 4×4 vehicle in a malaria-free private game reserve. Search for giraffe, white rhino, kudu, lion, elephant, zebra, to name a few. An experienced game ranger will be on hand to lead the game drive. After this, you will stop for lunch on the way back to Cape Town where you will enter life under the shadow of the incredible Table Mountain.
WESTERN CAPE WEEKEND TRIP
INCLUDES - PRIVATE TRANSPORT, ACCOMMODATION, BREAKFAST & ACTIVITIES
Day tripping simply does not do South Africa’s Western Cape justice and, like all good tasting plates, this weekend trip delivers the very best of the region – from Cape Point, Winelands, Whale Coast and to the Tip of Africa; Cape Agulhas. You will taste local wine, biltong and chocolate, enjoy an optional kayak, meet penguins at Betty’s Bay and visit Clarence Drive.
The history, hospitality and the sheer diversity of flora, fauna and cultures in the Western Cape, together with a landscape that dramatically transforms with every curve of the road will take your breath away!
DAY ONE - CAPE TOWN - CAPE POINT - STELLENBOSCH
It’s an early morning departure as we curve along the infamous Chapman’s Peak Drive to Cape Point. On arrival, we will hike to the lighthouse through Cape Point’s fynbos for views of Africa’s most southwesterly point. You will then have a chance to chill like a local in Kalk Bay and take some time to grab a drink at a seaside pub or check out some of the bohemian shops in the area.
We will then continue onto Muizenberg where you can witness the colourful beach-huts and some surf spots. The day will finish with you tasting your way through historic Stellenbosch. Hip artisan foodie stops for a chance to taste local treats like ‘droë wors’, rusks and dried fruit, Stellenbosch will not disappoint.
DAY TWO - STELLENBOSCH
Kayamandi will be the first port of call for the day as we visit an elder’s home for a colourful slice of Xhosa culture and taste magwinya (vetkoek) and chakalaka. It will then be time to rehydrate as we raise a glass with an MCC tasting of the first bubbly ever produced in South Africa.
We will then make our way to Franschhoek to take in the farmers’ market and explore the charming streets dotted within the restaurants. It’s then time to hit the road for the last time of the day as we aim for sunset at Cape Agulhas – the southernmost tip of Africa where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet.
DAY THREE - CAPE AGULHAS - HERMANUS - CAPE TOWN
Listen to the sound of crashing waves as you hike the dramatic winding cliff paths in Hermanus. Look out for dolphins and the rich birdlife while surrounded by lush fynbos. This area is also known for spectacular land-based whale watching from June to November.
Now it’s time to explore Hermanus, or if you want to adventure a little further then optional activities can be arranged such as whale-watching cruise (Jun–Nov) or sea kayaking. This part of the trip will take the coastal scenic route, stopping to visit the Betty’s Bay penguins and back to Cape Town in the evening.