I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit nervous. Sure, I had travelled alone a lot in the past, and sure I’d been to Tanzania the year before to volunteer for a few months in communities that were less than touristy. But this was South Africa, and the barrage of travel advisories and my nervous father were not convinced of my safety there, nor did they let me forget it as I planned my trip.

Why did I insist on going despite everyone and their mother telling me not to? My previous summer in Tanzania did something to me that I can’t adequately explain without sounding cliché. I fell head over heels in love with it and truly feel I became myself while there. And even though South Africa was clearly not Tanzania, there was something that I loved about that first trip that I knew was distinctly African. The people, the pace, the mindset, the priorities, the light. I breathed it all in and knew that Africa was going to be “my place” from then on, so on my way back to Tanzania the following year, I scratched another persistent travel itch – South Africa.  

Is Cape Town Safe for a Solo Female Traveller?

I had always been intrigued by South Africa, partly because of its divisive colonial past and ethnic mix but also because of its varied landscapes, wildlife, and culture, which I knew were unique and beautiful beyond measure.

So off I went anyway, shunning the worry, dismissing the naysayers. I was on my finally way to Cape Town. Alone.

I stayed at The Backpack hostel because the online reviews stated that it was clean, safe and fun. It was all of that, but more importantly for me it had a great location – close enough to walk to the lively pubs and shops of Long Street but far enough away not to hear it. In addition, it had an amazing view of Table Mountain and was a 20 minute walk to the exciting waterfront. As as a sole female traveller, I’m big on location because I want to be close to the action when it suits me, but I also like quiet; I want nature, but I also need culture.

Is Cape Town Safe for a Solo Female Traveller?

Over the next week, I roamed the city and beyond with wild abandon and had an amazing experience. I wandered the streets of Cape Town and spent many a long afternoon down near the docks, exploring the harbourfront, visiting museums, cruising the markets, watching buskers, dining in great restaurants and enjoying beers on every patio I could find. And I never felt unsafe. In fact, I felt very secure and happily enveloped in a beautiful culture, surrounded by a kind proud people. I wasn’t an idiot though; I didn’t roam around after dark alone, but I didn’t miss out on any fun just because most my adventures occurred during daylight hours.

And I love to chat up locals whenever I travel to find out about the nuts and bolts of a place and what daily life is like. Every local I met in Cape Town was extremely friendly and actually rather forthcoming about South Africa’s history and where they hope to be headed as a nation. I know there is a large subset of the population whose perspective I didn’t get – the poor township areas that I didn’t get to see – but from those I did engage with, I learned  that more needs to be done and many want better for everyone.

Is Cape Town Safe for a Solo Female Traveller? photo by David McAughtry via flickr

I managed to get out of town as well, so that I could experience all of the beauty and nature the area is known for. I did a day tour a few hours up the coast to nearby Gansbaai to go shark cage diving with Marine Dynamics Shark Tours which was one of the most exhilarating (and frightening) experiences of my life. Yes, I know you’re in a secure cage, fastened to the side of a boat, surrounded by trained and licensed professionals, but until you have gigantic great white sharks circling your boat, ramming into the cage you are in because it is submerged in water, saturated with chum (fish guts to attract said sharks), all the while looking at you like you’re a piece of fried chicken, the few steel bars that separate you from them don’t offer much in the way of comfort. But I did it. And it was worth it. And I would recommend it to everyone.

I also did an amazing wine tour with Wine Flies. The full-day tour consisted of stops at three very distinct wineries and enough wine to make you forget about each one. I’m quite the wine lover but you don’t need to be a connoisseur to enjoy one of these tours. Obviously you learn a lot about the wine-making process, but you also get a chance to do some major cheese tasting, enjoy an incredible lunch, and see the beauty of the landscape. Thankfully, I had a great group of ladies on my tour and a guide who was as much fun as he was knowledgeable about all things wine, which made it the perfect day trip and one of my best memories of my time there.  

Is Cape Town Safe for a Solo Female Traveller?

Lastly, I spent an afternoon hiking up nearby Table Mountain, which is a beautiful landmark that I like to think looks over Cape Town and its people. A few hours up hill in the blazing sun after a full wine tour followed by drinks on the town was rough but well worth it, for exploring part of Table Mountain National Park, which also includes Signal Hill, the Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head allowed me to see Cape Town from an incredible vantage point.

Looking back, one week in Cape Town wasn’t enough to do everything I wanted, but it was just enough time to leave an imprint in my mind of how amazing a place it was, how welcoming the people were, how cognisant they are of the progress they’ve made unifying the country and how much further they need to go.

Is Cape Town Safe for a Solo Female Traveller?

Obviously my experience likely won’t mirror someone else’s to the last detail, but if you’re on the fence about going, don’t stay at home consumed by fear or doubt. Because if you never go, then, well, you’ll never go….

This is a guest post by Maia Williamson.

MW Headshot Maia  is an avid solo traveller and is interested in people as much as the places they inhabit. She prefers a backpack and anything off the beaten path for her adventures and loves to climb mountains, despite a crippling fear of heights. She teaches English as a Second Language at the college level in Montreal, Quebec, Canada and writes a travel blog in her spare time: Travel Means.