Why this Canadian company gave me the best day of my life in South Africa

In Cape Town, I only speak in superlatives. This is the most epic city ever, I am the happiest I’ve ever been, this was the best day of my life.

I tend to be easily excitable but I swear this is all true.

Cape Town has everything. It has the glam and the grit, the ocean and the mountains, the wining and dining. It’s a mecca for the outdoors lovers, where sunrise hikes are a rite of passage, surfers ride the waves of the Atlantic, beach bums mingle with African penguins. Adrenaline junkies can go paragliding, skydiving, shark diving, or ziplining. Shopaholics are spoilt for choice, and wine enthusiasts are never left thirsty.

Cape Townians are good-natured and friendly, and everyone has a fascinating story to share. The views will take your breath away at every corner, with the city’s backdrop being one of the new 7 Wonders of Nature, Table Mountain.

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View of Table Mountain from Lion’s Head. (Kellie Paxian / Daily Hive)

The options are endless — I repeat, endless — so where to start!? Let’s get the lay of the land.

To take in Cape Town in all its glory, a tour of the peninsula is a non-negotiable.

You can rent a car or join one of the group tours, but if safety and comfort are your top priorities, our advice is to scrap the self-guided tours and crowded tour buses. Your best option is to go with your travel-experts-turned-new-best-friends at ToursByLocals. Headquartered in Vancouver, this proudly Canadian tour company offers an impressive 3,809 guides across 157 countries.

Vancouver to Cape Town is about as far away as it gets, but as a Vancouverite experiencing a locally owned tour, the comforts of home were impossible to miss. All ToursByLocals guides are vetted to ensure you are receiving the highest quality of attention, customization, comfort, safety, and knowledge as a visitor in a foreign destination.

I was also fortunate enough to experience ToursByLocals in Havana, and my guide Ernesto basically saved my life when I had no access to my money (learn from my mistakes with my tips for travelling Cuba).

Tours By Locals is an ideal option in destinations like Cape Town or Havana, where certain parts may seem out of your comfort zone, but they have a fascinating history and culture that you can only truly grasp through interacting with a local.

My ambitious bucket list prepped and ready to go, I embarked on a Private Cape Peninsula Tour with Allie, who came highly recommended. Just as Ernesto had in Havana, Allie started the day welcoming me with open arms and checking on what I was looking for out of the tour.

ToursByLocals allows the flexibility to tailor the tour to your needs and at your own pace, meaning you will not have to wait around for a group of random strangers to finish taking their selfies. That’s right friends, you can move on to the next stop when you are good and ready with all of your selfies.

Allie and I started our day by pulling up to Granger Bay, where we saw dolphins frolicking in the water, as well as a blow spout from a whale.

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Dolphin spotting at Granger Bay. (Kellie Paxian / Daily Hive)

Super casual.

But as Allie kept telling me, “you ain’t seen nothing yet, darling.” (South Africans always call you darling and it’s adorable).

PS — dolphins and whales are two of the “Marine Big Five”, as Allie taught me. Can you guess the others? They’re penguins, seals, and Great White Sharks, all of which are found around the southern tip of Africa. Keep reading and you’ll see Allie and I did pretty well on our marine safari!

From here, we cruised along the coastline taking in the sights of Sea Point and the oh-so-beautiful Camps Bay.

Did I mention Cape Town boast jaw-dropping views on every corner? Check out this stop on our tour with a backdrop of Lion’s Head and the Twelve Apostles. Swooning.

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Camps Bay, Cape Town. (Kellie Paxian / Daily Hive)

Side note: In case you couldn’t tell, one of the main perks of having a ToursByLocals guide is having your own personal built-in photographer. Do you know the number one question I get asked as a solo traveller? “Who takes your photos?” … Haaave you met Allie!?

Next we drove to Hout Bay, a fishing village where you can see Cape Town’s diversity of housing firsthand, from the townships to the suburbs. You will see a marina filled with boats posing against the spectacular cliffside, the best fish and chips in town, and fishermen hard at work slicing and dicing tonight’s dinner.

You will see giant fur seals swimming in the water, and potentially one on the harbour deck as a local tries to tempt you to take a photo with it. Allie advised not to pay attention to this because we don’t want to encourage the animal to be fed an unhealthy diet for entertainment’s sake. I knew then that he was my type of people.

We hopped on a ferry (there are three operators on the bay, and you can hop right on) and took the 40 minute cruise over to the seal colony of Hout Bay. Seeing the 6,000-7,000 seals on the rocks and surrounding waters was an incredible sight that was straight out of Our Planet — except here’s hoping they have a better fate than those ones did. Sad face.

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Seal Colony at Hout Bay. (Kellie Paxian / Daily Hive)

Okay moving on! Allie let me DJ as we cruised along one of the most scenic drives in the entire world: Chapman’s Peak. This dramatic nine-kilometre road connects Hout Bay with Noordhoek.

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Chapman’s Peak. (Kellie Paxian / Daily Hive)

We then approached the famed Cape of Good Hope, where Allie shared with me some insider info that Tours By Locals is known for. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the point where the Indian and Atlantic Ocean meet. It is, however, the southwestern point of the African continent, and an extremely majestic landscape.

Due to extreme wind and its position at the peak of the peninsula, the Cape is extremely windy and you can watch the low-lying clouds swirl and sculpt around the dramatic cliffside. The stunning national park is home to unique flora and one of the most terrifying types of fauna…

The baboon.

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Baboon at Cape Point. (Kellie Paxian / Daily Hive)

Honestly, good luck going to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point without a ToursByLocals guide. These baboons are not messing around. I saw one rip a lady’s cross-body purse right off of her, and another snatch a bag of snacks right out of a man’s hand.

Without Allie to advise and protect me, my latte would have been a goner for sure.

We made it out of there baboon-free, and Allie took me to my favourite stop of the day — one that I will be posting Instagram throwbacks from for months to come — Boulders Beach.

Home of the most hilarious, endearing, oh-so-elegant tuxedo wearers around, African Penguins are the star of the show at Boulders.

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Boulders Beach, Cape Town. (Kellie Paxian / Daily Hive)

Get your photo at the tourist-centric viewing point, but then get your ToursByLocals guide to direct you down the path to your own private little penguin oasis, where you can see the little guys playing on the rocks and the water without throngs of selfie sticks throwing you off. Just ensure to keep a respectful distance with the penguins, as with all wild animals.

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Penguins outside of Boulders Beach. (Kellie Paxian / Daily Hive)

I was already floating on cloud nine by this point, but the day wasn’t over yet. Allie used his expert navigation skills to ensure I got to see the last pitstop on my peninsula bucket list: the beach huts of Muizenberg.

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Beach huts at Muizenberg. (Kellie Paxian / Daily Hive)

We arrived just as the sun was setting, and having our toes in the sand as we took in the colourful huts on this popular surfers’ beach was the most magical cap to the day.

If you want to have a perfect day in a city of your choice, check off your entire bucket list, glean local knowledge, and make a great new local friend while doing it, ToursByLocals is the only choice.

Don’t forget they are located in 157 countries, so pick your destination and buckle up for the best day of your life.

Disclaimer: Tour was provided by ToursByLocals. All views and opinions are those of the author.