When I heard there was a penguin beach in South Africa, I just knew I had to make it there to see it for myself. Its formal name is Boulder’s Beach, located in Simons Town, South Africa. There is a boardwalk that leads to another small area called Foxy beach where you can get the best penguin views. Apparently in the 1980’s, colonies of African Penguins settled here. I couldn’t pass up a day at the beach with penguins in the backdrop, so at last we made the journey. Although we weren’t able to get super close to them because they are kind of insane and aggressive, it was 100% worth it.
A few days before heading to the penguin beach, we went shopping in South Africa’s version of China Town. Coincidentally, I found some Penguin Onesies. Our group decided that they were absolutely essential for our day with the penguins. The tourists weren’t sure who to capture photos of honestly. The onesies were a real hit!
Hanging out in Simons Town with penguins and topping it off with ice cream at the end made for a great day. Im not sure where else in the world you could get this exact experience. If you find yourself in Cape Town, make it a point to go spend a day with these guys!
Early on in the trip, we had decided as a group that we wanted to take a township tour. As we drove along highways, we could see the township settlements from a distance and we had become eager to learn more about them. After doing some research on townships, I found that that the best way to experience and learn about them more was to take a tour with a certified local guide.
Under the Apartheid, townships were settlements that housed and quite literally isolated non-whites from white communities. Following the Apartheid period, many townships have progressed and developed into middle-class and wealthy living communities in all different parts of South Africa. Our guide explained to us that the meaning of a Township is no longer regarded as a derogatory term for the reason that townships have made rapid progress in political, racial, and economical aspects.
He explained that some areas within the townships have not moved forward as rapidly as others. As a community leader in this township where he grew up, him and his peers are continuously striving to re-build the environment of the townships into a place where the community is given equal opportunities and access to education, food, housing, jobs, medical awareness, and care to thrive; things that we often tend to take for granted but that are so critical to our quality of life. I remember him saying that ever since they had implemented preventive health care clinics, educational materials, and resources within the township that the rate of HIV infections had decreased by at least 50%, and that the overall health of the community was trending in a positive direction. As a nurse, this gave me all of the feels. It shows you how much of a significant difference instituting such measures and resources can positively impact undeserved communities and populations. The progress they are making here is amazing. The township has developed its own community center, art instillations, hand-made goods, markets, a police station, and health clinics.
I went through a plethora of emotions as we toured the township that day. There was such a contrast in one single township, from homes made from scrap metal to renovated apartments, and full sized homes that were fenced off with luxury cars parked outside. They were all part of the exact same township, some homes in far better conditions than others. When I asked the guide about the drastic contrast, he answered that the township is a continuous work in progress but can often be set-back due to lack of resources from the government, and the fact that some people are not as motivated and driven to take action in moving their community forward.
When I asked him about the reason for such extreme differences in housing here, he explained that the wealthy class members of the townships had strived to become educated, and find prestigious careers; but they did not want to separate themselves from the community which they grew up in so they built their homes within the township. The newly established apartments were reserved for those who had been living the longest in the township such as elders and senior citizens. Ultimately, our tour guide explained there was a long wait list of some sorts where you had to wait in order to upgrade to apartment style living from the scrap metal type shacks unless you could afford it or met the criteria.
The people in the township were really welcoming, warm, and kind enough to let us walk through the inside of their homes. Our guide explained that at any one time, one small home may have to fit 4-6 people in one singular bedroom as a result of overcrowding due to migrants coming in from dangerous or severe undeserved areas and family expansion. He explained that while conditions have improved, the townships could use a lot more funding to improve the quality of life here.
Despite the struggles that the people of this township have endured, you could feel a real sense of community and warmth between them as they interacted with each other and with us.
What I loved about this township tour, was it’s authentic nature and our opportunity to interact with the people here. Second to that, our money for the tour went towards funding further development for their community. You get a real-life glimpse of what life is like in a township. While I may have not learned it all in just a couple of hours, it was a revealing and humbling experience. I have very few pictures of our tour here, simply because I didn’t want to make this a photo op spectacle, but more of a personal experience where I could actively engage in this environment, the history here, and the people around me. Thank you for your kindness and hospitality. Lots of love to the Langa Township in Cape Town, South Africa.