Photos from my first eight dives in the Seychelles

Photos from Hermanus and Camps Bay

Even more Cape Town

Some more photos from last week.

Cape Point

Photos from the beautiful Cape Point. Did a great bus/bike day trip with daytrippers.co.za, cycling was a great way to take in the beauty of the Cape of Good Hope at a nice pace. Highly recommended!

More Cape Town

Some more photos of Cape Town

Sharks!

My real reason for wanting to visit Cape Town was to go to Gansbaai and see Great White sharks up close. Thanks to the excellent Marine Dynamics tour I got closer than I though possible to these amazing creatures.

Cape Town

Photos from beautiful Cape Town

Wine Tasting Tour

Some photos from the trip around Franschhoek

Rubyfuza

Photos from Rubyfuza 2012

Old Mutual Building

Some photos of where I’m staying for most of the time I’m in Cape Town

Bye Cape Town, Hello Seychelles

I’d a fantastic last ten days in Cape Town and have really enjoyed my first week in the Seychelles (apart from the weather funnily enough!).

Hermanus

I hired a car and headed east along the coast to Hermanus for my penultimate weekend in Cape Town. I’d been that way before on the shark diving trip but hiring a car meant I could go down the coast instead of the more direct route. I’d highly recommend it, the scenery on the coast road between Strand and Klienmond is stunning! I had to stop the car so many times just to take in the view.

Hermanus itself is a seaside resort town, though unlike most it’s actually busiest in the local winter as it’s one of the best places in the world to go whale watching – you don’t even need a boat as they swim so close to the shore. Alas it’s the wrong time of year so I didn’t see any. A great excuse to come back though!

On the Saturday I had a braai with some relations, a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon and so interesting to hear about Africa from people who’d lived there practically all their lives.

Camps Bay

For my last week in Cape Town I’d booked a stunning looking apartment in the posh part of town, Camps Bay. And stunning it was, a beautiful studio apartment half way up the mountain overlooking the sea. I’m sure you’d get blasé if you lived there all the time but I really enjoyed every sunset. It was a great place to spend my final week and I’d go back there in a heartbeat

Rust en Vrede

For my final weekend I went with some friends to a wine farm called Rust en Vrede that boasts South Africa’s top rated restaurant. Alas I didn’t get to eat there as I had to go back and pack for my plane. The wine was fantastic though, the best reds I’ve tasted here and six of them are on order for when I get back! (Lal, sending to yours, no drinking till I get there!)

The Seychelles

So on to the last big part of my trip. The flights here were great but when I arrived the guest house I was staying at had lost my booking. Thankfully there was space and it wasn’t very stressful so I didn’t have to run round looking for a place to stay. It’s so humid here that I don’t know if I’d have coped coming straight from Ireland. Thankfully Cape Town got me used to the temperature so I only had to get used to the humidity. The weather is a change too, it’s been quite bad and rainy, reminds me a lot like the weather at home apart from the temperature.

Diving

Wow! What an amazing place to dive. The water temperature is 29C and there’s so many beautiful fish and coral to see. I’ve done eight dives and really enjoyed every one. Have begun to learn how to use my camera underwater properly, and thankfully been able to rescue some bad shots on the computer. Really looking forward to what I can see, count and take photos off the next four weeks.

GVI

So tomorrow I head into the GVI camp to start my volunteer work. I’m looking forward to the diving but a little nervous about what camp life will be like given the rainy weather and humidity. However it ends up turning out I’m determined to enjoy it as much as possible! I’m not sure what connectivity I’ll have when I’m in there so this could be my last post till I get back. I’ll leave you with some of the underwater photos I’ve taken so far.

Cape Point

Last week was a bit of a strange week. I found out on Tuesday that an aunt of mine had died and it was very odd to be so far from family at a time like that. It was pretty sudden and unexpected and it’s still a little hard to believe that she’s gone. RIP Aunty Dympna and my thoughts are with everyone in the family.

Cape Tour

The week was mostly dedicated to work and attempting (only slightly successfully) to give my liver & digestive system a bit of a break from going out all the time. A friend of mine did a Cape Tour while she was here and really enjoyed it so I decided to give the same company a go. It’s a combined bus and bike tour with daytrippers.co.za and I can really recommend it. Alexei the guide was knowledgable, laid back, friendly, and drove the bus with a trailer full of bikes really well. It’s a great way to see the cape as I hope you can see from the photos. I really enjoyed being able to stop where I wanted and go at my own pace and there’s no real danger of getting lost as there’s not too many roads or turnings. The scenery is stunning and it’s a great way to spend the day as you get to see seals and penguins as well.

Table Mountain

I finally made it up Table Mountain after three weeks of being here. The original plan had been to walk up on either Sunday or today (Monday) but those both fell through so I just got the cable car up on Sunday afternoon. As you’d expect, the views from the top are stunning (photos to come later today or tomorrow). What really struck me was how at certain points on the top all you can see are blue skies. There’s nothing on any horizon that’s higher. No mountains in the distance like you’d normally see.

Kirstenbosch

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are a wonderfully beautiful and fragrant part of Cape Town. Nestled the other side of Table Mountain from the city they’re a must visit as it really is such a relaxing and graceful place to walk round. I went with some friends for the Sunday Summer Sunset concerts. It was fantastic to chill out on the grass and listen to a couple of bands play as the sun set behind the mountain. Just the sort of thing Sundays were made for!

This week

This week I’m going to go tandem paragliding, see if I can scare up a few people to try out a highly recommended restaurant, visit Hermanus, and move to my place in Camps Bay for my last week (!!) in Cape Town. Hard to believe how fast time seems to be passing, am having a great amount of fun though!

Sharks!

Am so happy because this week I got to do what I really wanted to do when I came here and see Great Whites up close. Hopefully you can get an idea from the photos here and the videos here and here of just how beautiful these creatures are and how close you can get to them when cage diving. It was meant to happen on Friday but bad weather coming in meant it got moved to Wednesday instead and I’m very grateful I have the kind of job where I can move things around and go do fun stuff at short notice!

The trip was with Marine Dynamics, who are really involved with shark conservation and trying to build a better understanding of how Great Whites fit into the marine ecosystem. They are a non-profit who run shark tours to pay for research. They have a superb, powerful, custom built boat and a friendly, enthusiastic, and knowledgable crew. I would highly recommend going with them if you’re ever in the area and wanting to do this. If you’re in the area, even if you’re scared of sharks, you should go do this anyway as it really is mind-blowing to see them so close.

Rest of the week

As well as an awesome Wednesday I’ve had a fun rest of the week too. Had dinner in the lovely Miller’s Thumb again on Monday night, a great place with great fish (yes I ate fish again, it’s that good!). Post shark drinks on Wednesday at &Union, really nice beer and great craic. A great selection of various african dishes at Africa Cafe on Thursday night, also highly recommended. Fun house party on Friday night and a great day on Saturday visiting a couple of food markets and another wine tasting with Austin Fagan, a Dundalk native who’s working for a consulting company called Unboxed Consulting out here. Saturday night’s fun involved some bars on Long Street where the city centre night life is here in Cape Town and today I had a good look round the South Africa Museum. They’ve a great marine section and were also showing some stunning photos from last years Wildlife Photographer of the year competition.

I didn’t realise I’d done so much till I typed it out! No wonder I’m feeling a bit knackered now. Looking forward to next week though! I want to do a cape tour, visit Robben Island and make it up Table Mountain when the weather is suitable. Have to fit work in at some point too!

First Week

Have had a superb first week in Cape Town, it’s been everything I expected and more. It’s a really laid back place, everyone I’ve met has been friendly, and the weather has been amazing. I’m really looking forward to exploring it as much as I can the rest of my time here.

The trip here

Coming from Dublin via Dubai worked out well (especially since I took Business class from Dubai to Cape Town). Flying Emirates all the way rather than having to take a budget airline to London first just made everything easier. The airport isn’t too far out of town and arriving early afternoon means everything was still open to get the basics in.

The apartment

I’m really happy with the apartment I’ve got for the first couple of weeks. It’s not in the greatest part of town but it is near some fun places and has great air conditioning. That last bit is very important given how hot it’s been. The building itself is lovely as you can see from the pictures. I still need to find out where the gym is, I better do that quickly though given how lovely and cheap the food is.

The Conference

So the main excuse to come down here was to go to and speak at Rubyfuza, a South African Ruby conference organised by Marc Heiligers from Mad Mimi. There were a few others like me who arrived before the conference started so it was nice to have people to hang out with straight away.

My talk was second on the first day, right after the keynote, so I felt a bit of pressure but it turned out pretty well. The talk was well received and it was actually nice to get it out of the way early so I could enjoy everyone else’s talk. The conference was extremely well organised, the talks were all good and a nice mix of local and overseas speakers. There was a time limit of 20 minutes per talk which I’ve never seen before and I now think every conference should have.

On the Saturday following the conference we had a Code Retreat moderated by Corey Haines. It was excellent fun and learning and well worth doing. I’d highly recommend it for any developer if you get the chance.

The Wine Tour

This was the most fun day! Many thanks to our drivers Glenn Roberts and Garren Smith. They took a chance on a bunch of random developers they’d only just met at a conference and brought us to four vineyards around Franschhoek and a lovely place for lunch. I’ve never been on a wine tasting tour before but I’m sure this won’t be the last one. The vineyards are much smaller than I’d imagined so I found it a little amazing you could just drive along the road past one after the other and just pick one you liked.  (They’re still big places of course, just not as big as in my mind). There was much laughter and lots of very, very nice wine.

This Week

This week it’s mostly work except for Friday when I’m taking a trip to do the thing I really wanted to do in South Africa – See Great White Sharks!

Underwater Photography Course

Click to see more photos from the course

One long term goal I have is to publish a book of underwater photographs and so another thing I want to do on the trip is learn about underwear photography. I love my Olympus E-PL2 and happily enough it has an official underwater housing so I’m bringing that with me and hope to get some good shots. Bringing a camera adds another complication to watching your depth, buoyancy, air, your buddy, and the survey work I’ll be doing in the Seychelles so I wanted some tutoring and practise before I left.

So in early January I had a fantastic time at a one day underwater photography course given my Maria from Ocean Visions. The course was divided into two parts and limited to two students so you get to ask everything you want. In the morning we went over some camera basics and how to use aperture, ISO and shutter speed in various different situations underwater. In the afternoon we got in the pool and took a load of test shots to put what we’d learned in practise. I wanted to learn some basics and also try out my camera and housing before I head away and the course was fantastic for both.

It’s been a while since I’ve actually dived so I was a bit all over the place to start with but I’m glad I did it there rather than first time underwater on my trip. I’ve put some example shots up and I highly recommend this course if you’ve an interest in underwater photography. It’s aimed at non professionals with non SLR cameras and I’m sure I’ll get better shots thanks to what I learned.

Flying south for the winter

I’m very, very excited to be going away on what should be an amazing trip. In a weeks time I’ll be in the air on the way to Cape Town via Dubai. I’m going to be in Cape Town for all of February before heading to the Seychelles early in March to do four weeks volunteer diving for GVI. VERY, VERY, EXCITED. I’m working while I’m away so this blog will be part travelogue and part about how that works out for me.

Work

I feel incredibly lucky that I work somewhere were I can take four weeks in a row off to do volunteer work. I work for a “virtual” company in that we have no central office, instead we “commute” to a online chatroom. If I hadn’t told them I was going way they might not have noticed any difference! Cape Town is only two hours ahead of the UK and one ahead of Europe where the rest of my colleagues are scattered around so there’s not going to be a big disconnect. The Seychelles are four hours ahead of the UK but as I can shift my day around however I want so hopefully won’t be a problem either.

The biggest issue I could have is internet connectivity. Data roaming is out because of the crazy cost and I can’t get my 4S unlocked from O2 yet as I haven’t had it long enough. I’m bringing a unlocked 3g phone and will get local SIMs but I’m hoping I can find enough coffee shops, co-working spaces, and the like that it won’t be a problem. I’m actually interested to see if I get a bit more productive because I don’t have the normal distractions of my day to day life going on.

Cape Town

Since seeing hammerheads and black and white tip reef sharks in the Galapagos a few years ago I’ve always wanted to see great whites in their natural environment. Gansbaai, about 2 hours from Cape Town is one of the best places to see them and since I’ve wanted to visit South Africa for a long time too I’ve had my eye out for an excuse to go. One finally came up in the shape of RubyFuza, a great looking two day Ruby conference which I’m really looking forward to attending and speaking at. (For those non-techies reading this, Ruby is the main programming language I use). Settling in and attending the conference will probably take up most of my first week and then I want to do as much as possible in the four weeks (three weekends) I’ll be in Cape Town before heading to The Seychelles. The checklist is:

  • Cage dive with Great Whites
  • Some sort of wine tour
  • Table Mountain
  • Robben Island
  • Cape Point
  • Anything else I can fit in…

I’m looking to have as much fun as possible so will most likely answer yes to any cool sounding invitation. I’m also really looking forward to being in a city having lived in a little town for so long now. I’m staying in an apartment in the city except for my last week when I’ve a place in the gorgeous looking Camps Bay booked. Originally I’d planned to spend a month in Cape Town working and avoiding going back to the dark & rainy Northern Ireland weather and then a couple of weeks on holiday. As I’m crap at holidays and didn’t just want to wander aimlessly I looked around for volunteer work and up popped the GVI Seychelles Marine Conservation Expedition which was exactly the sort of thing I wanted to do.

The Seychelles

The checklist for The Seychelles is:

  • Diving
  • Diving
  • Diving
  • Diving
  • Diving

That’s pretty much all I want to do when I’m in The Seychelles! Due to how the flights worked out I get there six days before the GVI course begins so I’m going to make sure I’m as prepared as I can be by diving int the morning and working in the afternoon & evening.  Once I’m actually on the GVI expedition there won’t be any internet or phone coverage so I’ll only be able to update this blog when we come into town on Sundays. Wondering if I’ll get internet withdrawal!

I didn’t really think ahead when I was booking my flights, so I’m back in Cape Town for a few days after the GVI expedition finishes then back home. Hopefully I’ll have missed the rest of winter by then!