Locals Know Best: Secluded Waterfalls & Ostrich Encounters in South Africa

Heather O’Keeffe is a student at Case Western Reserve University and an ISA Featured Blogger. Heather is currently studying abroad with ISA in Cape Town, South Africa.


Getting away from it all offers the most picturesque panoramas
Getting away from it all offers the most picturesque panoramas

I came to Cape Town to get the Capetonian experience: to really live and breathe in a another country and experience South Africa in as much it’s entirety as eleven months will allow.

The only way to do this is to break away from the guidebooks, tourist traps, and other Americans. This is not necessarily an easy task, but so far I think I’ve had some luck.

After a week of orientation and registration five of my new friends and I hit the open road out of Cape Town. While we were still six Americans, it still felt as if we had escaped the hoards of international students being toted from place to place.

Our trip was a blast and was only enhanced by the local advice we accepted. The owner of the hostel we stayed at practically planned out half of our trip. He sent us to an amazing restaurant where we all indulged in ostrich, which is so good. The next day he gave us a coupon to a local, sustainable ostrich farm. That was such a cool experience; We learned heaps about the incredibly weird bird, helped baby ostriches, and got to ride an ostrich!


My friend Ryan rides an ostrich!
My friend Ryan rides an ostrich!

My favorite part of our trip was 100% due to the local knowledge and kindness of the hostel owner. No guidebook or brochure ever mentioned a waterfall hidden within the folds of a canyon. I could have stayed there all day long, floating in the refreshing pool listening to the roar of the waterfall and climbing higher and higher up the canyon walls, plummeting into the pool beneath.

There is nothing like scrambling up a cliff and jumping into a secluded waterfall
There is nothing like scrambling up a cliff and jumping into a secluded waterfall

The waterfall was gorgeous, peaceful, and tucked away from the tour buses, souvenir shops, and glitz and glam of the tourism industry.

When it comes to a foreign country, guidebooks can only get you so far. At the end of the day locals know best. They know the hidden gems and local hangouts. Their cultural knowledge is far vaster than the anecdotes offered by travel sites and books.

My advice: the next time you travel anywhere, domestically or abroad, ask the waiter for the local delicacy, pester the concierge for out of the ordinary sites, and question your new friend about the on topic cultural dialogues. You’ll get a better, more authentic, and certainly more unique taste, understanding, and experience of wherever your travels take you.

Author: Heather O'Keeffe

Oringinally from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin Heather is currently a sophmore majoring in Biomedical Engineering and minoring in Sports Medicine at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Except for the occasional Netflix coma, Heather prefers to be busy. In her life sports and traveling reign supreme. Her favorite memories include playing soccer with local kids in Istanbul, listening to English fans chant while walking to the Bernabeu, swimming through rapids in Norway, and coaching Aussie Rules in Queensland. Heather's life long goal is to work, in any capacity, for the Olympics.

3 thoughts

  1. I am from South Africa, and I have done ostrich riding. It is really awesome and how their necks bend is super weird, and that you cannot hold onto there neck when you ride them makes for an interesting experience. Thanks for sharing, and the area you visited is fantastic and the people are super friendly.

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