God left dis place a luong tahme agoo - Day One

Nobody likes turbulence. That's a fact. Turbulence that happens about 2am when high above Mogadishu is particularly troublesome; if you somehow made it to the ground, that'd be when the real fun began.

Despite this an hour of this, though, it's hard not to be excited. I'm flying to South Africa, Wee Mo is with me and, if the stars align properly, we'll see some great white sharks up close in six days time.

We touch down in Johannesburg at about 5am after around eight hours in the sky. Everyone feels like shit, none more so than the likes of us who have to hang around for a couple of hours before transferring to Cape Town. Having spoken to a number of South Africans about their country, though, the fact that not hanging around here in Johannesburg is a good thing; depending on who you listen to, there are parts of this sprawling city that are still virtually lawless. To back that up there's an area at the airport to check in your firearm… In nine months time the biggest city in this ex-colony will host the World Cup Final. Lord only knows what will happen.

We manage 30 minutes of weird half-sleep before getting on the next plane. Two hours of further semi-consciousness later and we're flying over a beautiful mountain range, overshooting the city into the Atlantic, making a U-turn and chasing the white horses back to shore.

Cape Town is undoubtedly one of the prettiest cities in the world, built around the famous peaks of Table Mountain (okay, so it doesn’t actually have a peak), Lion's Head and Signal Hill. On the journey to the hotel we pass a national park, right here in the middle of the city, which is home to Wildebeest and Zebra among other things. It's a bit better than Bellahouston.

Our hotel is, we are told, in a good location but too posh by half – we're a bit more worried about breaking or defacing the pastel finishings on the faux-antique furnishings than relaxing. Irritatingly, they've also put us in separate rooms, but then as the entire trip was built on a lie, that's hardly something to get too pissy about.

I'm here to write about sealife and the tourist industry around it. Wee Mo is nominally here to take pictures. More than anything, though, we're both here to have a good time in a country neither of us has been to before.

One thing that probably isn't ideal, though, is the jam-packed itinerary Cape Town Tourism has organised. While it ensures that we'll see as much of the country as possible in the week that we're here, it really cuts out the simple pleasures of walking around a place absorbing its newness, taking pictures and trying not to be mugged.

About and hour after we've dumped our bags, we're back out again, met by the overwhelmingly lovely A who is like your mum's scatty but entertaining pal who somehow used to make visits to dull things like the park a lot more fun. Our first stop is Table Mountain, a colossal double-check on Wikipedia trapezium that dominates the entire city. Millions of years ago, its peak was where the ocean lapped the shore; today that stands over 1600 above sea level. We don't get anywhere near enough time there before we're whisked away for a pretty average lunch in a quaint district known as Camps Bay. We walk off some of the food along the beach, most of which is spent looking over our shoulders after a tramp had warned us to take care of our cameras.

Suitably paranoid, crime is one of the first topics I raise with A when we get back in the car. Her answer is as astonishing as it is funny. “Listen, I'll tell you the truth. It's not right to say that there isn't a chance you won't get hijacked here, but the difference in Cape Town is that nine times out of ten, you'll survive.”

A couple of hours more driving around getting our bearings and we're dropped off at the Two Oceans Aquarium, which is almost completely unremarkable save for the penguins. We watch a couple of ridiculous macaronis doing nothing in particular and a lonely king penguin (the ones what are on the chocolate bars) mooch around up the back. We're just about to leave when a keeper comes in and sits an enormous mirror in front in the pen. As soon as the king sees the thing, it waddles over and stands, staring intently at its reflection.

Its funny for about three seconds before an overwhelming melancholy begins to hang heavy in the air. It's the first sad thing we've seen since arriving, but this is very much just the beginning.