Cape Town has had a long and turbulent history. With Apartheid still linger in the minds and hearts of its people. Transformation has led to the new ‘Rainbow Nation’, which can be experienced in the cosmopolitan city centre of Cape Town.
Flower sellers, business executives, parking attendants, office workers and shoppers all rub shoulders in a setting of both historical and modern buildings, backed by the city’s most famous landmark, Table Mountain. The colourful Malay Quarter, the remains of District Six, St George’s Cathedral, Government Avenue and the old Castle are historically significant, while world-class African and international restaurants tempt travellers with their culinary delights.
Although an African city, Cape Town has a European flavour but the city has comforts of First World standard.
Cape Town’s unique setting means that it can be enjoyed from various vantage points: Table Mountain provide breathtaking vistas over the city bowl and the Cape peninsula.
You can find many scenic routes along magnificent stretches of coastline and inland terrain leading to special places like Cape Point.
The city has four distinct seasons.
Summer – White sandy beaches, Autumn – Crisp colours, Winter – Ferocity of stormy seas in winter, Spring – Show of Cape ‘fynbos’ flowers.
From culture, history and scenery – to an unforgettable experience.
Cape Town is a special place with much to contribute towards its growing reputation as a favoured travel destination.
Cape Town Excursions
** Robben Island and Table Mountain
South Africa’s most widely known tourist attraction is probably Robben Island, seven miles (11 km) from Cape Town in the centre of Table Bay.
For nearly 400 years this tiny rocky island outcrop was utilised as a place of banishment, exile, isolation and imprisonment for numerous categories of people ostracised by society, ranging from political protestors to lepers.
During the years of Apartheid, Robben Island became synonymous with institutional brutality as numerous freedom fighters, including the island’s most famous resident Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned here for more than a quarter of a century.
The island is now a museum, symbolising liberation and the triumph of the human spirit. Regular island tours are conducted, lasting three and a half hours. The tours, which are guided by former prisoners, include a visit to the maximum-security prison on the island where an estimated 3,000 freedom fighters were incarcerated between 1962 and 1991.
** Capman’s Peak Drive lookout Chapman’s Peak
Chapman’s Peak Drive is one of the most spectacular coastal roads in South Africa, linking the seaside community of Hout Bay to the Noordhoek Valley along the Atlantic Coast, with breathtaking views from along the narrow, winding road blasted into the cliffs.
Constructed in 1915, the six-mile (9km) route took about seven years to complete and was built as a shorter, alternative route between Cape Town central and the South Peninsula. Many visitors use this scenic route to reach Cape Point Nature Reserve situated at the tip of the Peninsula.
** Penguins on Boulders Beach
A recommended day excursion from the city includes a trip through the southern suburbs and along the scenically beautiful False Bay coastline via Muizenberg to Simonstown, South Africa’s principal naval base.
Simonstown lies about 25 miles (40km) from the city and is a quaint town built around a naval dockyard, with well-preserved Victorian buildings, museums, sidewalk cafes and local legends to learn about. One such legend is about a dog called ‘Just Nuisance’ who ‘joined’ the British navy, becoming their mascot, when Simonstown was a British base.
A short distance from the town is Boulder’s beach, famous for its protected colony of African Penguins (formerly Jackass Penguin) that can be viewed from the boardwalks.
Transport: Metrorail suburban train from Cape Town’s central station; Admission: Boulders Beach Penguin Colony: R15 (adults), R5 (scholars)
** Cape Point
Most visitors to Cape Town are keen to make a day trip 40 miles (65km) from the city to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, not only to take in its floral diversity in what at first sight appears to be a bleak landscape, but to stand at the top of the towering promontory at the most southerly point of the Cape Peninsula (not of Africa, visitors must go further afield to Cape Agulhus for this).
From the viewpoint and lighthouse at Cape Point, reached via a funicular, it is awesome to watch the thundering waves crashing at the base of the cliffs 686ft (209m) below. The reserve itself is worth exploring, particularly on foot, for those interested in birds and botany. The restaurant at Cape Point has a terrace offering spectacular views.
Resident baboons here enjoy the spoils from tourists’ snacks – particularly their ice-cream; they can be quite aggressive. Because feeding of the baboons carries a stiff penalty, it is worth ensuring there are no free lunches for these hirsute scavengers!
** Cape Town township Township Tours
The N2 highway that connects Cape Town International Airport to the city is lined with townships, consisting of a mixture of shacks and solid buildings. During the days of apartheid, people of colour were not allowed to live in the white suburbs and were banished to areas away from the city. Township tours allow visitors to experience how the majority of Capetonians live in the townships that surround the city.
Guides, often residents, take visitors around to meet the people, see community projects, have a drink in a ‘shebeen’ (township pub) and shop for local crafts. Each township has its own colourful character, and despite their difficult living conditions, residents are generally hospitable and delighted to receive visitors.
Townships were once no-go areas for many people, but today a visit is becoming a popular experience for tourists to Cape Town.
Visit Langa, the oldest of South Africa’s black townships, established in 1923, or the newest and second largest in the country, Khayelitsha, which dates from the 1980s. Guguletu and Nyanga were set up in the 1950s.
Visitors are advised not to visit the townships alone; there are many tour companies that offer tours, including transport to and from the township areas. Contact the Cape Town Tourism Visitor Information Centre or its satellite, the Sivuyile Tourism Centre in Guguletu for information about tours, accommodation and entertainment in the townships.
** Bathing houses at Muizenberg Muizenberg
A historical beach-side suburb on the False Bay coast, Muizenberg is popular with families for its long, gentle-sloping beach, warm water, beautiful views, and activities such as mini-golf and supertubing. The beach is famous for its row of colourful changing houses and is a photo favourite from the mountain road far above. Muizenberg beach has also long been the preference of beginner surfers and several popular surf schools have been established at Surfers Corner, the closest side to the mountain. False Bay is known for its Great White Shark population, but a shark watch service is in operation to give warning to bathers and surfers. A scenic walkway below the railway line links Muizenberg to the next seaside village of St James with its tidal pool. The delightful fishing village of Kalk Bay is a few minutes drive away with its protected harbour, and its main street lined with fascinating antique and art shops, as well as cafes and restaurants.