South Africa Sports Tour Diary

South Africa is the destination of a group of 26 pupils from Years 10 to 13 and four members of staff on a combined netball and hockey tour that will also include taking in the sights and experiences of Cape Town.

We will keep this page updated with diary entries from the touring group along with photos.

Sunday 16th July

The tour began with a very early start, 3am at Manchester Airport. Despite this, everyone seemed in high spirits and we were quickly through security and on the plane. A short journey to Amsterdam, where we only had enough time to grab a quick snack before getting on our second flight. Unfortunately, we were all spread out across the plane, with most people sitting in the middle seat between two strangers. In true Withington style the girls didn’t complain and many of them made friends with their companions.

The flight seemed to take forever, when in reality it was only 11 hours and we landed in Cape Town just after 10.30pm. Arriving at our first hotel, The President Hotel, at midnight it was straight to bed for everybody so that we could be up early for our first excursion of the tour – Table Mountain.

Monday 17th July

Having arrived in darkness we had no idea of the scale of Table Mountain, which became evident as we took a short coach journey along the coast to the base of the mountain.  We took a cable car, which rotated 360 degrees so that we had full panoramic views, up to the top where we were able to take in the fantastic vista. Table Mountain is over 1000m above sea level, so it gave us amazing views across Cape Town and the coast.

We spent an hour and a half exploring, taking plenty of photos, including some of tour mascots Geraldine and Zoe. We admired the flora and fauna, but could easily have spent much longer there. Many of us also made our first gift shops purchases here. Mr Williams made good use of the school camera to document the scenery, including some interesting birds, and the cutest animal award must go to the ‘dassies’ – a small mammal called a rock hyrax whose closest living relative is, unbelievably, the elephant.

Back down in the cable car and with a pitstop at the waterfront to pick up some lunch, we made our way to a local school for a training session. It was fantastic to see the girls working together, many of them playing out of position or even in a sport they don’t normally play, with Table Mountain in the background. The session has left us all feeling confident about our first fixtures tomorrow.

Many of the girls braved the freezing cold temperature of the hotel swimming pool, before we have a bit of down time to relax and get ready to head out for our first meal of the tour.

Tuesday 18th July

Day two began with an early start so we could travel to Muizenburg Beach for a surf lesson. Once everyone was kitted out in their wetsuits we had a short lesson on dry land, learning the proper technique, before we headed into the waves. Everyone had such an amazing time, and most people managed to stand up on their board at least once!

Following lunch we headed to our first fixtures of the tour, against Wynberg Girls High School. The netball A team had secured a convincing win and the B team were drawing before the game was called off due to torrential rain. The hockey team had a great start to their match and were drawing 2-2 at half time. Unfortunately, being two players down in the second half allowed Wynberg to score another 2 goals and the game ended 2-4.

Wednesday 19th July

Day three began with a coach ride to the Langa Township, Cape Town’s oldest township. Here we split into two groups for a walking tour of the township, visiting a creche where the children were very excited to see us and a local artist’s studio. The artist demonstrated how he creates pictures out of local sand and several of the pupils purchased artworks. Lunch was the highlight of the morning as we were treated to a buffet of traditional food with the addition of some local music. The girls (and staff!) were in their element, all joining in with the singing and dancing, including a giant conga, and some of us even managed to have a go on the traditional instruments.

The afternoon was spent relaxing at the hotel, with lots of girls again having a swim in the cold outdoor pool. The day ended with a walk to the beach for sunset before heading back for dinner in the hotel.

Thursday 20th July

On route to our second hotel of the tour we had some free time to explore the Victoria and Albert Waterfront, a large shopping centre, where everyone took the opportunity to purchase some souvenirs. Our new hotel was situated on the beach, and upon arrival we managed to play some games and relax before heading out to our next fixture.

Our second hockey fixture of the tour took place in the afternoon, against the Springfield Convent School. Everyone played brilliantly, and we had several opportunities to score but unfortunately their goalie was phenomenal and made some absolutely cracking saves. Fantastic defending by our girls, stopping Springfield from scoring from a short corner, meant that the match ended in a goalless draw.

After the match we were provided with a lovely dinner and the girls had the chance to socialise with the opposition. It was really wonderful to see them all chatting and laughing, teaching each other slang phrases and taking selfies. Members of the school community were incredibly welcoming and provided all the girls with a pin badge to commemorate the match.

Friday 21st July

Another early start, with an hour-long coach drive to the Goedgedacht Trust Farm in Malmesbury. This is a charitable trust that works with the local rural communities providing education, support and aid to people in the surrounding area. We were given a tour of the farm, where we were able to taste many of the different things that they grow including herbs, lemons and olives, although these were olives grown for olive oil and so were not as pleasant tasting as we were expecting! The girls absolutely shone, once again, as we visited the on-site creche and we received the warmest of welcomes. The girls played games, danced and sang with the children. Everybody was quite emotional when it came to saying goodbye but we were buoyed by the fact that the girls’ fundraising efforts were going to such a fantastic cause as Mrs Roberts gave the principal of the creche the funds that the girls themselves had raised.

Our second netball fixtures of the tour were against local girls who have been supported by the Trust, and while we waited for them to arrive we played some mini matches amongst ourselves, with even the teachers taking to the court! We played two matches and it was fantastic that every single member of the tour group had the chance to play. There was some excellent play from both sides, with the Withington girls rotating positions and combinations every quarter. Withington were the eventual winners of both games but the whole experience was more important than the score in the end. We also donated some sports equipment to the trust, including balls and bibs, which were very gratefully received. The whole day was such a fantastic experience and one which will surely stay with both girls and staff for a long time to come.

Saturday 22nd & Sunday 23rd July

After a four hour drive east, during which we spotted a baboon at the side of the road, we arrived at the Garden Route Game Lodge and were all astounded that one of the first things we saw on arrival was a pair of elephants! We were served a delicious lunch in the restaurant, with birds flying around our heads and fantastic views over the reserve before we had some down time to enjoy the swimming pool and managed to catch a glimpse of the hippos in their waterhole. We departed for a dusk safari around 4pm in three groups, each in our own jeep and with a local guide to tell us all about the animals on the reserve. We spent two hours driving around and saw a wonderful array of animals including buffalo, springbok, blue cranes (the national bird of South Africa), white rhino and zebra. The highlight of the dusk safari was the lions, first spotted by our own Ava. The reserve has one male and three females, who were all sitting peacefully in the evening sunshine. One of the jeeps was even lucky enough to catch them prowling across a ford in search of their next resting point – the jeep made a very quick three point turn when they got too close! We also stopped for a drink and local snacks at sunset, which was so scenic.

A fabulous three course evening meal, after which everybody had an early night ready to be up for the dawn safari. We had thought nothing could top the lions, but there had been a sighting of cheetah just an hour before we set off and so most of the jeeps were on the lookout for cheetah. We were rewarded with some very up-close encounters with a mother cheetah, one of a pair that live on the reserve, and some groups also managed to spot the daughter cheetah a little later during the drive. We also had more zebra sightings, saw ostriches, water bucks, spoon bills and wildebeest, and the elephants. One group even managed to see the elephants just as the sun was rising which made for some fantastic photos. Unfortunately, the recent heavy rains meant that the giraffes were in an inaccessible part of the reserve and so we were not able to see them, but it is safe to say that everybody had an amazing experience.

Another long coach drive was next, this time to the coastal town of Hermanus, where we were able to pick up some more souvenirs from a local market. We had a brilliant dinner at Char’d Grill and enjoyed celebrating both Ava and Zara’s 15th birthdays with rainbow cake and balloons. From here, we will be departing on a whale watching tour in the morning, for which everybody is really excited.

Monday 24th July

The morning was thankfully bright and clear as we departed on our whale watching boat trip. We were so lucky to have been able to get very close to not one, but two southern right whales. The first repeatedly breached the water and came almost within touching distance of the boat, giving us excellent photo opportunities. According to the pilot, it was possibly communicating with the second whale, as the two began swimming side by side which is apparently very rare. Some of the group unfortunately felt the effects of the rocking motion of the boat, but what an amazing experience we all had.

It was a non-stop day for us as we went straight from whale watching to our penultimate fixtures against Bloemhof School. This school is renowned in South Africa for its sporting prowess, so much so that the England Netball team had been training at their facilities and unfortunately we missed them by just a day. Bloemhof fielded two very strong netball teams which gave us the opportunity to develop our defensive tactics. Although Bloemhof were the victors in both matches there was excellent play by both the A and B teams. On the hockey pitch Bloemhof took an early lead and were winning 2-0 at half time. Some rousing words from Miss Mottershead (and Mr Williams) at half time saw the team rally and they played with grit and determination in the second half resulting in an impressive 3-3 draw.

Following some delicious post-match refreshments, we made our way to our final hotel of the tour.

Tuesday 25th July

This morning was adrenalin-filled as we took to the water once again for a jet boating adventure, departing from the V&A Waterfront. Just outside of the harbour we made our first stop to admire a group of fur seals basking in the sun on a buoy. We were lucky to spot a small pod of dolphins who swam right up to boats and gave us a little show, and in the distance a humpback whale giving us a wave with its tail. Girls had the chance to rotate seats on the boat so that everybody had a chance to enjoy the up-and-down at the front and the splashing at the back.

Whilst picking up lunch at the waterfront we were delighted to spot the England Netball co-captains Natalie Metcalf and Layla Guscoth – Miss Mottershead and some of the girls took the opportunity to have a photo with them!

Then it was on to to our final fixtures of the tour, against La Rochelle Girls High School in the town of Paarl. In netball, the B team came up against very strong opposition who were clearly used to playing together as a team. Our girls, a mixture of Years 10, 11 and 13, did well to hold their own and produced a respectable score, playing some lovely netball and transitioning the ball beautifully through the court. The A team played their best netball of the tour and were fighting for every ball right from the first centre pass. Both attack and defence showed their skill on court today and came away with a very convincing win.

The whole team was pitch side for the final hockey match of the tour with a fantastic atmosphere and energy running through the team. It was a nail-biting match with a 1-1 score at half time (a disallowed goal would have made it 2-1 to WGS). Hats off to Hattie in goal who made some fantastic saves that kept us in the match, and through real teamwork and determination, we held on for a 2-2 draw.

A lovely dinner at a local restaurant, where end of the tour presentations were made to everyone, was a wonderful way to round off what has been a hugely successful sports tour to South Africa.

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