Roller coaster-like screams took over all of us, followed by relieving laughter as the plane leveled out from its rapid ascent. I looked over at the pilot, who had an ear-to-ear grin. “It’s always a pleasure to fly with people who are willing to have some fun,” he cackled over the radio, glancing down at the beach below that only 60 seconds earlier we’d been buzzing 100 feet off the deck. Myself and the videographer were on our way to the Grootbos Nature Preserve near the town of Gansbaai, which can be reached via a 2-hour flight from Cape Town or a much more fun and scenic 40-minute private flight: we flew over the Cape Town vineyards and orchards, we got a lesson in dune ecology, and we got a heck of a view of Table Mountain just after take-off.
In lieu of going shark cage diving (which was postponed until tomorrow due to 15-foot swells), a group of eight of us—including Grootbos owner and founder Michael—went for a beachwalk near town. This was not a romantic stroll: the surf was pounding against the limestone bluffs, sending foam and seaweed bits high into the air, showcasing the ocean’s raw power. Michael took us by a cave that had been occupied since ancient times, and where now researchers from Stanford are excavating layers of the residents’ “trash”—bones, seashells, and ash—by digging up the sand.
We returned early in the evening and Michael invited us—that is, Adél and I, Adél’s colleague Dean, plus the cameraman, videographer, and production manager that were spending the day with us—to dinner with his family at his house. While the lodge’s 5-star kitchen would undoubtedly serve up a fine meal, Michael insisted that while in the country I experience a proper “braai”– a South African BBQ, which they told me would involve much better meats and sides than we do here in the US. With the help of what seemed like a bottomless glasses of red wine, we chit-chatted the night away over tasty steaks and sausage, with conversation going silent only once so that we could admire the sunset and beautiful coastline from Michael’s back porch.