July 4

Shucking in Style with Cape Town Helicopters

By Xinay De Vries on July 4, 2024

I had anticipated my maiden voyage in a helicopter to be somewhat daunting, if not a bit, for lack of a better word, "choppy". Well, I'm happy to report it was one of the smoothest rides of my life, no pun intended – topped off with some of the best food I've ever had! After my day spent heli-hopping from the !Khwa ttu Nature Reserve to shucking oysters in Saldanha Bay, I can firmly say I have a new appreciation for my hometown

Cape Town Experiences helicopter

Helicopters are my new preferred form of travel!

Flying High, Literally!

The day started much like any other except with an undertone of excitement and nerves. I arrived at the headquarters of Cape Town Helicopters with what I hoped was an air of professionalism. An air which was most likely shattered upon my slipping headfirst into the front seat of the helicopter. But I digress, despite the clumsy start to the trip, the rest of the day was one my most memorable ones.

View from helicopter

Our stunning view from the helicopter

!Khwa ttu Nature Reserve

There was a flurry of excitement as our sleek black helicopter landed at !Khwa ttu Nature Reserve. We were greeted with warmth and smiles as several members of staff rushed forward to photograph themselves in front of the helicopter.  

As a self-proclaimed history nerd, visiting !Kwa ttu Nature Reserve was utterly fascinating to me! At the risk of sounding a little cliché, it was almost like taking a walk through time.

What is !Khwa ttu Nature Reserve?

!Khwa ttu is a celebration of the heritage and culture of the Khoisan people of Southern Africa. It's all about getting back to nature and creating an appreciationnot only for your fellow man but the idea that, if you look after the land, it will look after you. 

Thanks to the staff's efforts, the surrounding land is now bursting with the area's natural vegetation and former inhabitants, such as spring hares and caracals returning. 

!Khwa ttu sign

Welcome to !Khwa ttu Nature Reserve

Our Warm Welcome

As we walked through the entrance, we were greeted by our fantastic guide, Nunko, who started us off with some delicious non-alcoholic buchu tea, which he jokingly referred to as a "brandy".

With a large smile and great enthusiasm, Nunko went on to explain the many benefits of the buchu herb. Since it is a potent anti-inflammatory, often referred to as the "miracle herb", it has so many health benefits for chronic conditions such as arthritis.

Neil meeting Nunko

We received such a warm welcome!

A Walk Through Time

With the "brandy" warming our bellies, we were guided through three exceptionally well-crafted and captivating exhibits. The first featured a round table reminiscent of the map table from Dragonstone in "Game of Thrones", which invited us to meet our ancestors. The idea behind this was to emphasise that, since humanity started in the same place, the Khoisan are everyone's ancestors.

The second exhibit transformed into a classroom where we learned about the five different kinds of clicks used in Nunko's mother tongue, making for a truly humbling experience. As South Africans, learning about the San was a deeply connecting experience and instilled a sense of pride in being born South African.

!Khwa ttu Cape Town Experiences Tour

Learning a new language is a serious business

Gather Around The Campfire

The final exhibit was an immersive journey into the San's way of life. We were guided through various engaging displays, including examples of animal tracks in the sand. One room featured a large screen covering an entire wall, showing a typical day for a San tribe. 

The footage, captured with one of the last existing Khoisan tribes in Botswana's Kalahari Desert, was incredibly vivid. With the lights dimmed and the screens showing the tribe gathered around a campfire, dancing and singing, it almost felt as if we were there with them, sitting around the campfire. 

!Khwa ttu immersive exhibit

Gather round the campfire, everyone!

Cupid's Origin Story

The rest of the exhibit was equally as engaging. Speakers played the typical sounds of the bush throughout, transporting us to a different place and time. Nunko guided us through the fascinating courting ritual of the San, which, to my mind, sounded like Cupid's origin story.

Men were given small bows with porcupine quills to be used as arrows. And then, when a man was interested in a woman, he would shoot her with the quill to express his interest. If the woman was interested, she would keep the quill; if not, she would simply remove it, leaving it for the man to retrieve and use elsewhere.

!khwa ttu immersive exhibit

Learning about the Khoisan Cupid

Eau de Bushveld

I'm sure many ladies can agree that we all have a signature scentthat perfume we just can't get enough of. Interestingly, San women were also perfume aficionados, blending a thoroughly modern concept with their own traditional twist. Using abandoned tortoise shells, they would gather their preferred scents from the surrounding flora to create their own signature perfumes, which they stored in the shells.

!Khwa ttu tortoise shell perfume

Eau de tortoise shell

Food, Glorious Food

Our final stop on this fascinating journey was the restaurant, where we taste-tested a few of their signature dishes. I must admit that my palate is not the most sophisticated, and I can be somewhat "fussy", to put it nicely. However, I'm happy to report that the food we were served was so delicious that even my hard-to-please taste buds were in bliss.

We enjoyed mouthwatering potato cubes with fermented chilli mayo and short ribs so well-seasoned and cooked that they practically melted in my mouth. My favourite, however, was the "Askoek" and its accompanying butter. Askoek, meaning ashcake, is a nod to the traditional way the bread was cooked, and it was served with self-made honey butter and butter infused with a hint of beef fat. I'm not ashamed to admit that my love for this dish was expressed with appropriate sound effects, and I reverently closed my eyes. 

!Khwa ttu restaurant

We started off our culinary journey with some delicious 'askoek'

Shucking Oysters in Saldanha Bay

Our last stop for the day was a restaurant in Saldanha Bay, where we were treated to some of the best seafood I've ever had. The only other experience that was equally memorable and delicious was at a small toes-in-the-sand restaurant in Mozambique. It was an experience I thought would be hard to top, but luckily, I was wrong. We were again greeted warmly as I – gracefully, I would like to believe – hopped from the helicopter. 

Mussels and oysters with Cape Town Helicopters

The firepit where our delicious meal would be cooked!

Bottles of Bubbles in the Bay

Several bottles of bubbly awaited near the fire pit where our delicious meal would be cooked. It was a very hard day at the office indeed! 

With a glass of bubbles in hand, because it's always five o'clock somewhere, the final stop in my journey with Cape Town Helicopters was underway. The atmosphere around the fire was jovial and filled with laughter and some truly hilarious dad jokes courtesy of our excellent pilot, Neil. An atmosphere, I might add, that was the perfect place for me to try an oyster for the very first time. First times can be very nerve-wracking, but luckily, they were very gentle with me.

Champagne glass in Saldanha Bay

What can I say? It was five o'clock somewhere!

My Very First Oyster...

If you're somewhat nerdy like me, when you hear the word "oysters", two things probably come to mind. One is their reputation as an aphrodisiac, a questionable reputation in my opinionAnd the other is the hilarious scene from "Friends" where Joey Tribbiani mentions slipping on the oyster Phoebe threw over her shoulder.

Our chef shucked the oyster himself, adding some Tabasco and a wine-infused concoction, which name I sadly cannot recall but will likely dream about. With everyone watching – no pressure – the oyster was handed to me, and with cheers to the camera, I tipped the shell back, chewed and tried to keep the look on my face as contemplative as possible. I'm not sure I succeeded in that endeavour since my first taste of an oyster was, I'm happy to report, delicious! The food that followed was equally mouthwatering – a very happy day for my taste buds. 

Xinay first taste of an oyster

The moment it all changed for me...

Flames, Fun, and Gourmet Feasts

The rest of the afternoon was filled with jokes and laughter. One particularly memorable moment was when our chef, with, in hindsight, a mischievous glint in his eye, formed a triangular shape with his hands. He then leaned over the fire and blew through the gap, sending a gust of air which naturally prompted a slew of, to keep things PG, adult-themed "blow" jokes, which I won't be repeating here, so allow your imagination to run wild with that one.

Once the laughter and jokes faded a little, we were served yellowtail covered in a delicious lemony paste that was Masterchef-worthy. As someone who has consumed nearly every season, I think I can safely make that assertion. I'm not sure how many people know about Marshall's quest to find the best-tasting hamburger in "How I Met Your Mother" – a search that spanned years. He had stumbled across a restaurant serving what he claimed were the best burgers he ever tasted. He was unable to locate it again, so for years, he tried every burger he could find, hoping to recapture that unforgettable taste. I'm Marshall in this situation, and the hamburger these mussels.

The mussels were served in a sauce so good that, after finishing the accompanying vetkoek, I shamelessly sipped it straight from the bowl to savour every last drop.

Mussels in Saldanha Bay

My mouth is still watering just looking a the picture

Your Quest for the Best Seafood Ends Here

After my day out with Cape Town Helicopters, I can safely say that helicopters are not only my new preferred form of travel, but I can now with confidence say that I know the best place in Cape Town for some delicious mussels. 

Save yourself the years of trial and error that Marshall had to go through, legendary as it may be, and get in touch with our Travel Experts today for your own heli-hopping adventure!

X Rhino Africa Consultants

Plan your African Safari today

Let's explore Africa Opens our enquiry form

Opens our enquiry form


Based on 3000+ reviews


You May Also Like

About the author 

Xinay De Vries

Born and raised in South Africa, Xinay is no stranger to all the amazing possibilities Africa has to offer. She's a self-proclaimed bookworm and coffee addict with a yen for bubbles and rosé, so you'll often find her exploring the streets of Cape Town looking for the best cup of coffee or glass of wine. With a passion for travel and her home country, she's determined to get others to love Africa as much as she does!

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}