After accidentally being in foreign countries on two of our friends’ birthdays, we decided to start doing it on purpose. Enter the “Birthdays Abroad” initiative! Because there’s no better way to celebrate getting older than rousing a group of your best friends to go tear up a new country or city.
This idea has taken us to Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nashville, Nicaragua, Cancun, Miami, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and for Krista’s birthday: South Africa! It was going to be hard to top coming face to face (or tail to man bits) with majestic whale sharks, aka slurpy bois, on Chris’s birthday.. but we never shy away from a challenge!
The first of many gifts was Chris’s diamond status earning him (and by extension Sean & I) international upgrade certificates so we flew from Detroit to Paris in Delta One style!
From that first champagne toast on, the options we cued up had us in a constant state of anticipation. First, cage diving with great white sharks! Their migratory patterns have them passing through the bay near Gansbaai conveniently around my October birthday. And thanks to all of our praying to 6lb 8oz baby shark (do do doo), there weren’t any Orcas in the area to chase them away!
Fun Fact: Orcas (killer whales) are like the pubescent boys of the ocean and will eat just about anything in their path; if one of those happens to be a great white, the chemicals emitted when they die signal to other great whites for hundreds of miles to avoid the potentially hazardous area.
They didn’t ask me if I wanted to add some birthday sprinkles to the chum bucket for luck, but we didn’t end up needing it. Chum-Master Flex did the lord’s work and attracted three different great whites to our boat over the course of the day, as well as numerous bronze whalers! And while the water was cold as shit, it gave us more opportunities to rotate into the cage as the faint of heart on our boat self-selected out. Who really needs to feel their hands anyway?
I could have stopped there and been happy but that’s not who we are, so adventures ensued! Most of our scuba diving excursions got cancelled due to the weather (wind is the worst!), but we did get to wriggle into that sexy neoprene on one fine morning. On the way out to the dive site, we almost got thrown from the boat as our captain slammed on the brakes. He’d sighted a giant leatherback turtle for the first time in 10 years of captaining and once I saw it, I quickly forgave the whiplash. Later underwater, we were privy to some giant kelp forests, a shipwreck, and adorable but shy sea doggos (seals).
Hiking Lion’s Head in the afternoon to catch the sunset over Table Mountain & the 12 Apostles was another ‘must-do’ on our list. We monitored the weather like hawks for a day where the views wouldn’t be thwarted by the sneaky table cloth (clouds condensing over the mountain obscuring much of it, like in the bottom right).
As luck would have it, the conditions were perfect on my actual birthday, so I got to turn 29 *literally* on top of a mountain. The trail was rather precarious for my lack of coordination, so it didn’t bother me that we didn’t stay for sunset. My brother thought I was crazy for going to Nicaragua, but the fact that he had hiked down this trail in the dark on his visit the year prior had me questioning his judgement of danger.
My obsession with elephants set my heart on rounding out our excursions with a safari. But just like no good childhood birthday party is complete without some of the attendees getting jealous, so too did I have to be a good birthday girl and share. Chris really wanted to go see the penguin colony, his favorite animal, at Boulders Beach so we did that instead (eight hours of driving and the price tag of the safari “had nothing to do with it”).
Instead of going through a tour company, we had our besties at the hotel front desk hire a driver to take us… good thing because we got our fill of penguins after 15 minutes. Wanting to get our money’s worth out of the charter, we had our guy drop us at his favorite, and the oldest, wine estate in South Africa, Groot Constantia, on the way back!
Deciding to enjoy the tasting at the bar, for efficiency of course, and being naturally inquisitive, friendly people turned into getting two tastings for the price of one, at least two wines “not available for tasting,” and a birthday champagne toast! The staff was generously compensated 🙂
In between the fun of our bigger excursions we enjoyed catching some ocean spray on a few coastal runs, like our namesake would imply.
And it just so happened that the rugby world cup was going on while we were there, with the South African team in the running. We had fun pretending like we understood what was happening until our three half brains combined into something smart enough to figure it out, very contrary to the cricket matches I still can’t wrap my head around.
There was obviously tons of pan-African food consumed and perhaps some of the most intricate drinks I’ve ever had, courtesy of our favorite establishment, Cause & Effect.
You probably think that’s where the story ends, but you’re wrong! We also ventured up to Zambia & Zimbabwe to take a bath with the Devil at Victoria falls, a story we’ll recap someday soon.
29 was my most unreal birthday yet, and we have no plans of stopping! Unfortunately, the coronavirus has sidelined Chris getting caked by Steve Aoki at Ultra Croatia, but I still have my hopes set on turning dirty thirty in a TBD foreign land.