TEFL South Africa Adventures: Climbing Table Mountain

South Africa TEFL intern, Ross, explores the jaw-dropping scenery of South Africa.


Starting Point: Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Chosen Trail: Skeleton Gorge
Elevation: 1084m
Start time: 10:00am


Starting the climb…

Setting off nice and early on a train to the city, the weather was pretty much perfect for a hike up one of the world’s most impressive of mountains. Table Mountain provides the staggering backdrop to the city of Cape Town has many different trails to hike. You also have the option of taking the cable car up if you’re not feeling too energetic.

As we set off from the beautiful Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, we were faced with an extremely steep start to our hike, along a dirt track followed by what seemed like an endless number of steps. Thankfully this part of the trail was very shady, beneath the cover of indigenous trees that surrounded the gorge we were hiking alongside. This part of the trail is not for the faint of hearted.

Flower in the National Botanical Gardens

Time for a shower!

The trickle of a waterfall at the top of the gorge was a welcome break as well as a shower for myself! I even decided to top up my drinking water from this supply of fresh water as it was running so clear. From here we ascended the rather hairy wooden ladders, which took us to a bunch of fallen rocks we need to scramble over. This is much more interesting and a lot more fun than the countless steps we tackled earlier.

Natural pool near Table Mountain, South Africa

As we emerge from the cover of the forest, we eventually come across a beautiful reservoir named the Hely-Hutchinson. Some of the group took a swim in its dark and cool water, I was more than happy enough to sit on the rocks with the frogs and paddle my feet while the sun warmed my skin. This is an area of outstanding beauty and I recommend anyone who takes on Table Mountain pays it a visit along their way.

View from the ascent to the top of Table Mountain, South Africa.

Onwards and upwards

From here we head back up the mountain after a well-deserved rest, trekking through the lush and floral landscape until we reach the plateau. Before we get to this point however, it’s worth mentioning how deceiving this mountain can be. There were many times when we assumed that we couldn’t possibly climb any higher, but don’t be fooled! The plateau itself is a welcome level surface stretching some 3 kilometres from side to side. Up here we find the Maclear’s Beacon, a mound of rocks built in 1865 to assist in measuring the curvature of the earth.

The Maclear's Beacon on Table Mountain

Plant on the side of Table Mountain

We made it! Now to get back down…

The final push along this stretch leads us to the end point for us (or the starting point for many others) where the cable cars transport passengers up and down the mountain. A quick coffee and a snack in the mountain cafe is essential before we make our way back down in the cable car. I would also strongly recommend getting the cable car back down after hiking up unless you are feeling extremely adventurous. My thighs were giving me all sorts of trouble so I would not have liked to entertain walking back down to the bottom, even via one of the shorter routes available.

Summit of Table Mountain

Time for a well-deserved meal – Nando’s!

What a sense of achievement though. I really do love that feeling you get after a good hike when your body feels broken, pushed to the limits & you simply can’t wait to have a good meal and a cold drink to recover. And that’s how we ended our day – a more than extravagant meal at Nando’s Long Street in Cape Town. It was the first Nando’s I’ve had in over a month so I went all out and probably ordered too much food. It was an amazing meal though and very much appreciated by my body after the ordeal it had been put through!

Group of South Africa TEFL interns hiking up Table Mountain

Our hike ended around 16:00pm so we clocked between 5 and 6 hours of hiking time. I’d highly recommend the Skeleton Gorge trail for anyone who is keen on hiking but doesn’t want anything too dangerous or anything too basic. The scenery is unbelievable and the area is very safe, plenty of tourists (although not too many!).

There’s nothing quite like the sensation of feeling on top of the world, where the air is silent and everything feels so peaceful. That’s just what you get upon Table Mountain, especially on a perfect day like today.

View of Table Mountain

TEFL South Africa Adventures: Teaching in Masi

Getting to grips with being a TEFL teacher


Three weeks into my internship and I feel that I’ve really settled into the routine of my school and I’m thoroughly enjoying every minute of it.

When I started out at the Ikhaya Labantwana creche in Masi, I had a class of 21 students; a relatively reasonable number in comparison to the younger class downstairs of about 50 children. However, some from downstairs have moved up to my class and we’ve taken on some completely new students taking the total up to 33.

To help learn all their names I spent my first week writing all of their names on their worksheets and going around the class every morning testing myself. The the kids found this pretty funny, especially when I’d pronounce their names incorrectly or mix them up completely! The likes of Natasha, David and Anita were pretty easy to get to grips with, but when it came to Simamkele, Ncubeko and Hlumelo I needed a little help from my teacher (or Missy – this is what all the kids call her, so I’ve adopted it too). I’ve found that it’s essential to tweak my accent in order to correctly pronounce most of the Xhosa names as the language uses clicks and different sounds not found in the English language.


Wall of names in a classroom

All present and correct


My role every morning is to take the register and go through the date and the weather with the whole class. The class stand in a circle and one student first counts all of the girls, then the boys and finally the total number of boys and girls together. The class count together in chorus and then practice how to write the number in chalk on the floor. One girl in particular, Natasha, has very advanced English ability for her age and is always the one to lead the group and tell me the correct date. I do try to elicit the correct answers from other students before I get to Natasha however, to avoid any kind of favouritism!


Classroom teaching chart in South Africa

Working the room – TEFL style


I spend the rest of the morning helping out each table with their tasks for the day. Depending on the daily curriculum they have maths games and puzzles to do, letter-writing practice, colouring, painting and role play activities. It can be really hard to dedicate any length of time to one student in particular as every child is highly demanding of my time. They are so keen to show me their work and to have me help them, but I have to try to make sure I get around the class the best I can.


Paintings by South African students


South African students colouring in shapes

Sssh! Quiet time


Storytime is easily one of my favourite parts of the day. The children understand that they need to be quiet and pay attention while I’m reading and I absolutely love to see how they respond to my storytelling, even if they don’t understand every word. The day soon wraps up when lunch is served and finally the class all settle down to a nap until their parents collect them later on in the afternoon.

This week I worked on a little project to improve their ‘Helpers Chart’. The class helpers are different each day and all help to tidy up, distribute fruit at break time and organise hand washing after the toilet routine. I decided that the helpers chart needed a little more colour as it was just simple black pen on white paper and the children showed great enthusiasm when I presented them with the finished result!


TEFL intern with his class of students in South Africa

Bring on Monday!


Already I feel this experience has been incredibly rewarding. There’s nothing quite like that feeling when you get through to a child and see an improvement from the day before. Although these guys can be quite a handful at times, they have very quickly stolen my heart and every weekend I look forward to Monday to start another week with them!

TEFL South Africa Adventures: Introducing Ross

Getting to know Team TEFL South Africa

A 3 hour car ride to London, one 11 hour plane journey to Johannesburg and one 2 hour plane journey to Cape Town, and a quick 45 minute taxi to Fish Hoek and my teaching experience in South Africa has begun.

After such a long journey, the first thing on my agenda after initially checking out the volunteer house is definitely to grab a quick shower and freshen up. It’s hot here, mid to upper twenties hot.

The rest of the first afternoon is all about getting to know the other volunteers who can be found pretty much all over the place, some of whom are still at their projects.

TEFL intern Ross with fellow interns on a beach in South Africa

Then Mandy arrives to give us the guided tour along with some helpful local knowledge and advice. I’m already starting to feel at home.Once we’re all settled its time to really relax, have a nice first dinner together, and perhaps a few drinks… okay, we had a little welcome party!

What’s great is that everyone seems to be getting along really well with each other, it’s also a really good mix of people from around the world. We have Brits, Canadians, Aussies, Brazilians and one girl from Lesotho!

Discovering Masiphumelele

The next day we have to be up pretty early as we’re having a tour of the township, Masiphumelele.

This is where Mandy lives, so she’s our guide for the morning. The people here are really friendly, and there’s a real sense of community in this village of houses made from sheets of metal and wood.

Tour of Cape Town TEFL School with Mandy

We’re shown the school (which I’ll be starting teaching at on Monday), library, community centre and finally we stop for lunch at the house of a lady called Nonni.

And if you ever get a chance to try the traditional dish Chakalaka, I highly recommend doing so!

Finding My Cape of Good Hope

Saturday we decide to set out to find the Cape of Good Hope. Here’s where you really get a chance to see the power of the Atlantic ocean.

We hike up the rocky mountain on what’s the southernmost tip of the continent, and along the coastline until we find the most beautiful beach you can imagine.

Hats, water and sun lotion are essentials on a day like today as this place is pretty exposed with very little shade.

TEFL intern Ross at Cape of Good Hope

Nighttime is Party Time

In the evening we decide to check out the local nightlife. A quick Uber (yes, Uber is a thing here) into the village of Kalk Bay and a place called Brass Bells is recommended to us, and another called Cape de Cuba.

Nighttime view of beach with a sparkler in foreground

Neither bar disappointed for good drinks and great atmosphere. Then we Uber’d over to Muizenberg to a fab little bar called Oroboros, which has the best cocktails I’ve tried in a long time!

As my first weekend in Cape Town draws to a close, it’s time to relax.

I’ve met some amazing people, got to know my new town and country and actually already started to get a bit of a tan!

Now I need to prepare myself for my first day of teaching tomorrow.
Let’s hope I remember everything I learned from my online TEFL course and that my class like me!

– – Ross

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