Between mingling with penguins and swimming with sharks, thirty-one Oundle girls played a total of twelve matches over sixteen days of a packed and exhilarating hockey tour of South Africa in July.

Landing in Cape Town, the girls trained at Stellenbosch University before meeting players at the first of six schools. The first two matches against Paarl Girls School saw the only defeats of the tour, but the  teams’ losses were compensated for by the fantastic setting of the pitch halfway up a mountain with beautiful views.

Back in Cape Town, they enjoyed two entertaining games against Reddam House, winning both, followed by two winning games at Pinelands High School.

Just outside Cape Town the teams played at the Langa Hockey Club in the Langa Township. The Club had some very talented players, and the matches benefitted from a good audience of local children.

The Cape region and spectacular backdrop of Cape Town offered many opportunities for adventures off the pitch. Even the faint hearted braved the Cape Canopy Tour, zipping across eleven different lines through gorges and waterfalls.

Weather conditions meant they could not get out to Robbin Island, and so they made a detour to Boulders Beach where African penguins toddle among the sun bathers and provided many photo opportunities.

A trip up Table Mountain was ticked off their bucket list of must-see destinations for the spectacular views of the Cape peninsula.

Further along the coast at Hermanus, they had the chance to choose either shark cage diving or whale watching. While most chose to go out in the bay to see the many whales, some bravely took the plunge into sharky waters where they saw a rare seven gill shark.

A flight north took them to Pretoria and Johannesburg, where they had two super competitive games against Pretoria High School for Girls, and a final set of games against Krugersdorp High School.

Presentations to all the host teams included cased balls and shirts to two opposition team members.

A visit with the Winnie Mabaso Foundation near Johannesburg offered cultural engagement, where the girls learned about their work supporting vulnerable and orphaned children, especially those affected by HIV. It was really a day of fun, and the hosts got them involved in a range of activities with the children, from sewing and football to dancing.

Finally, a visit to South Africa would not be complete without a safari at a bush lodge. Venturing out on both dusk and dawn trips, they saw a variety of animals in the wild, including lions, rhinos, and hippos.

Overall, the two teams scored 62 goals and conceded only 12, but the real goals were won sharing the joyful spirit of competition with fellow hockey players on foreign fields.

Contributions by Avery (D)