This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
The day I got to Cape Town, the New York Times ran a huge story about how the city is running out of water, and a friend who lives there posted a photo on her Facebook page of empty grocery store shelves that had been quickly stripped of their bottled water. The South African city is indeed about to go dry. So what is it like for a tourist like me to go there? How does a visit to a city facing a dire environmental emergency work?
I had booked the trip to the second-most populous urban area in South Africa back in July, when I saw a crazy deal on Ethiopian Airlines. At the time, I had no idea that I’d be encountering an environmental crisis. As the date approached, I became more mindful of the situation there. Months of drought coupled with poor management put Cape Town in the position of declaring April 12 to be Day Zero — the day the pipes would shut down and all water would be rationed, doled out in limited quantities at distribution points throughout the city. Long lines would be expected and violent chaos was feared.
I just wanted to see some penguins.
It didn’t take long after landing at Cape Town International Airport (CPT) to get the message that saving water is a priority. In fact, I didn’t even make it to the terminal before seeing a sign: on the jetway, I was encouraged to help save water.
Messaging was consistent in the terminal. First, I couldn’t miss the point at the immigration checkpoint.
There was more signage at baggage claim and even an artsy display approaching the exit. 1L, in case you’re wondering, is not a gate number, but one liter — South Africa uses the metric system.
The hotel got the message too. Checking in to Protea Hotel Cape Town Sea Point (booked with only 10,000 Marriott Rewards points per night) I was greeted with a sign in the lobby and a slip of paper with my key.
In the room, there were even more reminders.
And of course, the pool was among the first casualties.
Almost every restaurant acknowledged the crisis, usually in the bathrooms.
In fact, almost every bathroom, no matter how remote, encouraged limiting water.
I never found it difficult to find bottled water and there didn’t seem to be any price gouging. Sometimes signs were posted limiting the amount per purchase, but that was never for quantities of 1 liter or less.
Still, some stores were running low.
Fun Fact: I lost one of the water bottles I bought to a baboon!
But the headlines were serious. Day Zero was all over the local papers.
Even the SCUBA dive shop was doing its part. When I returned to the shop, no showers were allowed at all.
With all of this happening all around me, I was glad to do my part. I did not take a shower until a quick on-off on my last day. My travel friend and I implemented an “If it’s yellow, let it mellow” protocol for the toilet and used hand sanitizer as a substitute for soap-and-water when appropriate.
Know before you go.
News and deals straight to your inbox every day.
Aside from the 75,000 points welcome bonus, Amex recently made huge improvements to the Business Platinum Card, including the fact that you will now earn 50% more points on purchases of $5,000 or more, earn 5x on flights and eligible hotels at Amextravel.com and cardholders will receive a $200 airline fee credit each year.
- Welcome Offer: Earn up to 75,000 Membership Rewards® points.
- Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 and an extra 25,000 points after you spend an additional $10,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership.
- Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
- Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
- 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
- Enroll to get up to $200 in statement credits annually by getting up to $100 semi-annually for U.S. purchases with Dell. Terms apply.
- Get one year of Platinum Global Access from WeWork. With this membership, you can access 300+ premium, inspiring workspaces in 75+ cities. To get this exclusive offer, enroll between 2/15/2019 and 12/31/2019.
- Terms Apply
- See Rates & Fees