When I first decided that I wanted to go volunteer in Africa, I researched a TON of volunteer programs, and finally found one that not only sounded amazing, but affordable and legitimate as well. I had never heard of the town called Muizenberg where the IVHQvolunteer program took place in South Africa, so had to do some research to see where exactly it was, and what there was to do there.
What I found wasn’t exactly helpful. Since it’s a rural area and not a huge tourist hot spot, there wasn’t much information online. My idea to find and interview local bloggers in South Africa had worked for my Cape Town locals guide, but I wasn’t able to find anyone who lived in Muizenberg. I also tried contacting a previous volunteer from the program, who gave me some information via email, but it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for.
Luckily, when I got there, I experienced a plethora of places and activities that were suggested by locals and the volunteers who had already spent from one week to over six months in the area. The small, beachside town is absolutely adorable, and really gives you a different perspective on South Africa that you wouldn’t get by only staying around Cape Town. Our volunteer house was only a few blocks from the beach, and although I felt relatively safe staying there, I always abided by the warnings to never walk around alone, especially at night (a volunteer got stabbed and another got robbed at machete-point).
If you’re going to Muizenberg, and especially if you’re volunteering with IVHQ and Dreams to Reality, these are the places you should definitely check out, and will probably end up going to with the other volunteers anyway!
You’ll immediately recognize the iconic multi-colored changing huts that line the beach in Muizenberg, and make for a perfect Instagram post. When I went in August, it was cold since it was winter there, but that didn’t stop me from learning how to surf! Just kidding, there was a really hot IVHQ surf program volunteer who insisted that he teach me so I couldn’t really say no, even though someone had gotten bit by a shark the week before. That’s right, there’s sharks. Great White Sharks. But you’ll probably be Ok.
Townships are a bit shocking to see at first, but they are considered completely normal to live in by locals. They are made up of tin shacks that people live in and also work in, and often have many little restaurants and bars. Most of the kids that I volunteered with at the primary schools in Muizenberg lived in these one room homes with their families. You can schedule a tour, or if you’re volunteering, you’ll be taken on one during orientation. You’ll get a glimpse of the culture, and the opportunity to purchase some original paintings and jewelry!
You’ll end up going to Kalk Bay on Wednesdays if you’re volunteering because that’s where everyone goes to do karaoke at The Brass Bell. It’s essentially a shit show, but it’s the one place that you’ll get to meet all of the volunteers from the other houses as well as young locals and backpackers. Don’t be surprised if you feel like you’re back at a college dorm party (with an epic view).
If you have time, try to visit Kalk Bay during the day – it has a ton of cute and cheap shops and boutiques. Take the train to get there with the other volunteers, but take a cab home at night because the train tends to get a bit sketchy.
Did you know that there are penguins in Africa? They live just thirty minutes south of Muizenberg, and you can take the train or a cab to get there. If you do take the train, be aware that it’s a 45 minute walk from the station to the park unless you can flag down a cab, but that’s not likely. When you get there, check along the boardwalk as you walk to the beach because the penguins tend to run around and nest in the bushes. There’s a small fee to get into the park but once you get to the beach, you’ll see all of the cute little penguins waddling around!
Cape Point is the southern most tip of Africa with a millions points of view. If you’ve ever looked up Cape Town or South Africa on Instagram, you’ll definitely see a ton of photos of Cape Point. Make sure you bring your GoPro for the 360 degree money shot selfie!
This place is insanely popular. I’m not just talking about with the locals, but if you Google it, you’ll get a ton of hits, PLUS it was on the list of things to do that my local Cape Town blogger Baydu recommended as well. It’s a bar with an insane Sunday funday…but it’s located in one of the townships, meaning you’re in for a full on authentic experience of food, fun, and potential crime. Not to scare you, but a few volunteers got things stolen on more than one occasion…they were also drunk though, so just make sure you don’t get hammered and leave your stuff laying around because it’s definitely worth the experience.
Its real name is “Blue Bird Garage”, but to all the volunteers and locals in Muizenberg…it’s called Friday Market. And it is awesome. It’s a massive space right next door the IVHQ Albertyn House (39 Albertyn Road), that people spend half the week setting up for the big market on Friday evenings. It has fresh food from various cultures that is cooked in front of you, live music, drinks, and jewelry and clothing if you can afford it. It’s where everyone hangs out of Friday evenings, so definitely check it out!
This is the number one place you’ll go to for food, drinks, and most importantly, free WIFI! It’s a cute, modern pizza/Italian joint on the beach that loves its customers as much as it loves making food. It’s only a few blocks away from all of the IVHQ volunteer houses and typically groups of volunteers will go there together to relax and use the Internet. The food and drinks are fairly cheap and it’s open late too! (10pm). Food ranges from R80 ($8) to R130 ($13)
This place is super chic, and doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the rural surf town (literally located on “Surfer’s Corner”), but I absolutely LOVED it. They have a glass-enclosed patio so that you get a breathtaking view of the beach and mountains while you feast on super cheap yet super fancy Artisan food. And of course…there’s free Wifi if you ask for a pass.
So, chances are that you’ve probably already seen or heard of the excursions you can take from Muizenberg like shark cage diving and 2 to 3 day safaris. I would definitely recommend them, just not with Cape to Addo. I won’t go into details, but they suck, so if you hear about them. Don’t go. Instead stick with a local guide who isn’t interested in just taking your money. My friend Conrad does safaris (but will be leaving soon for the States), or you can just ask around locally when you get there and get some great recommendations.
Oh, and the shark cage diving is completely safe, I swear. And the safari is more like driving through a zoo, but you still get to take awesome pictures with lions!
Since writing this post, Muizenberg experienced a devastating wild fire that destroyed a lot of the environment and many homes. I started a charity called HeartSleeves.org that was originally intended to send brand new T-shirts to the kids I volunteered with in the schools, but now a portion of those proceeds will go to relief funds for the fire victims. Please purchase a shirt or make a donation and share my charity on social media! I’d really appreciate it!!!
Alyssa is a self-made, full time travel blogger who loves adventure and typically travels the world solo. She's been to 53 countries and 6 continents so far, and believes she has mastered the art of chasing waterfalls, traveling solo, wine drinking, and making budget-traveling look good. Curious to know how she started this career? Check out the About section above!