Watch “ESSENCE Escapes”: This is How to Make the Most of 72 Hours in Cape Town
Photo Credit: Cori Murray

A few years ago, I interviewed Erykah Badu and asked her what made her travel to Tanzania and Kenya for a three-day photo shoot. Her response came fast: “It’s Africa. Anytime I can come, even if I stay in a building the whole time, I’m here.” That’s the mind-set I had when an invitation for South Africa’s Veuve Cliquot Masters Polo arrived in my inbox. I’d only have three days in Cape Town but just as Badu said, it’s Africa and I was in.

Landing within hours of the start of the Masters Polo, all exhaustion vanished once I hit the Polo Club of Val de Vie, a wineland estate about an hour outside of Cape Town. Warmly greeted by host Nomzamo Mbatha, a South African actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador, she welcomes me to the party that’s well underway. Wall-to-wall are South African celebrities, DJs and influencers. Through the kaleidoscope of bright hues and hats, I see a familiar face: Think Like a Man’s star Terrence Jenkins, who like me is experiencing South Africa for the first time.

A good night’s sleep has me energized for my first full day in Cape Town. I meet up again with Mbatha and Jenkins for a tour of Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela served 18 of his 27 years as a political prisoner. I was expecting a full history on Mandela’s life, however, I learn he was one of many wrongly imprisoned for fighting against apartheid. Robben Island also served as a leper colony in the mid-1800s and their graves are scattered throughout the island. The mental heaviness of the tour has me ready for a sundowner, the Cape Town version of happy hour. I grab a table at Life Grand Café for a front row seat of how South Africans wind down.  

With a day and half left, I head to the V&A Waterfront for shopping, people watching and eating (give me all the biltong). I spend several hours at the Watershed, a hangar size mecca of goodies designed all over Africa. The vibrant yellow stalls are chock-full of everything from fashion and jewelry to textiles and housewares. I find myself in need of everything and nearly succeed in buying all I want. That evening, I break away from the waterfront tourists for more local vibes across town in the Central Business District. A colleague says Cape Town’s burger artisan culture should not be missed and recommends Hudsons, the Burger Joint for dinner. Another friend says drinks are a must at Kloof Street House. I do both.

For my last hours in Cape Town, I save the best for last: the ubiquitous photo from Table Mountain. The last few days the Table had been covered with a “blanket” (clouds) and today the sky is the perfect shade of azure. But the wait for the tram up to the top has me weighing if capturing this picture for Instagram is worth missing my afternoon flight. I hand off my ticket and make a promise to come back. Until next time South Africa.

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