See why South Africa’s Mother City, Cape Town should be added to your travel bucket list.
Now that your location is chosen, to make the most of your stay, plan ahead. There is much to cover. Travelling with companions? Choose well, it could make or break your holiday.
1. The V&AWaterfront
The V&A’s slogan “Come and spend the day with us – there is just so much to do, so much to discover”, is exactly that. The V&A Waterfront comprises residential and commercial property with fine dining hotels, retail and leisure escapes.
On our first night, we allowed the local musicians to serenade us under a starry moonlit sky. With the water close enough to dip our toes into and the fleeing seagulls squawking, we allowed ourselves to succumb to the aromas from the cosmopolitan restaurants.
A hub for retail therapy, husbands, be warned, rather head off to the Cape Union Mart for all the latest gadgets and if your wife has still not returned from the shopping centre, grab a craft beer until she finds you.
Begin the day by watching the seals from the deck. Make your way across from the Waterfront area via a pedestrian swing bridge to the Victorian Gothic-style Clock Tower, an important focal point in the Waterfront’s urban design. The Clock Tower Centre features a quaint shopping area for genuine African artefacts and paintings.
V&A by day
V&A at dusk
2. The City Walk
Make time for the City Walk from the gardens down to St George’s Mall, Waterkant , up to the Fan Walk and then to St Andrew’s Square. From Green Market square, a tip, purchase exquisite sterling silver jewellery and scrolls of painted work. It is good value and the vendors will be happy to pose for a selfie with you. The City’s history is rich, the architecture unique yet humbling.
3. Cape Point
Too tired to drive? Definitely consider a good tour guide. Standard terms and a generous tip would apply. The mountain of information of a local guide is worth every cent. A good guide will take you on a scenic route of coves and beaches and slices of land brimming with flora and fauna. The Cape Point was named the “Cape of Storms”. It commanded respect by sailors for its navigational landmark and menacing storms and perilous rocks. The wind can be biting and the waves furious, easy to imagine the shipwrecks of the past. The lighthouse is an imposing structure and can be reached by way of the Flying Dutchman Funicular. Satiate your hunger at the Two Oceans Restaurant. View the two oceans, from more than 800 feet high, where the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the warmer Indian Ocean waters meet. “”Veni, vidi, vici”. You will be glad you did.
4. Robben Island
Visiting Robben Island is a priority for obvious reasons. Our own anti-apartheid hero, Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on that island. Rough seas, small boat, the passage was not smooth for me. I vetoed the seat high on deck and settled below, only to find myself across two children (6 and 8) from Calcutta, I quaked inside but feigned braveness. Wear comfortable shoes, the walk to the island is long, the prison enclosures stark, bare and cold. The single plate, cup and standard prison issue grey blanket spoke volumes. Fortunately the bus ride around the island was brief, the sighting of the rabbits happy, it was a triumph of human spirit indeed.
5. Groot Constantia
Wine connoisseurs head out to the Groot Constantia, a national monument reputed to be South Africa’s oldest wine producing “elysian” state for internationally acclaimed wines by poets and royalty. Like Napolean Bonaparte, you too, can have your bottles of wine shipped home.
6. Table Mountains
The summit of the mountain offers stellar views as the sun’s rays blanket the city. Even more glorious, watch the clouds drift past and darkness set in 1089 metres above Cape Town. Savour the mountain air, indulge in gourmet cuisine and stock up on memorabilia at the Shop at the Top. Remember to mark this momentous occasion by purchasing postcards franked with the Table Mountain Stamp.
7. Cable Car
Either hike up to the mountain or like more than 26 million people, experience the 360° views of the Cape Peninsula from the wheelchair accessible Cable Car. It is the easiest way to get to the top of the Mountain. The more audacious may be inclined to abseil down the mountain.
8. Garden Route
Generally a forest poor country, loads of rainfall contribute to the lushness of the Garden Route, a 300km stretch of coast famous for its widespread indigenous forests rich in plant diversity. Look out for gems like Knysna, a picturesque holiday town in the heart of the Garden Route. On the other side of the mountain, Oudtshoorn’s Cango Caves stalactites will appease the children’s sense of adventure.
9. Mariners Wharf
While away the afternoon at Mariners Wharf, famous for its fresh fish and chips. Mind the greedy seagulls, they snatch the food out of your hands. Superstition has it that if a bird poops on you, you are destined for luck. That may be true because we were blessed with a long slash of rainbow that had everyone reaching for their cameras. Legend has it that Boulders Beach, is the home to about 3000 inquisitive waddling penguins, close enough to touch.
10. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
For the nature lovers, the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens offers concerts, restaurants and a Vida e caffé for the best espressos and quality coffee and delectable treats.
11. Shark Diving
For the adrenaline junkies, Gansbaai is the shark capital of the world, with as many as 95 types of sharks. Book the ultimate shark diving experience and tick that off your bucket list.
12. Cape Fur Seals
For something, relatively safer, consider diving with the gleaming colony of Cape Fur Seals in Hout Bay.
13. Endless beaches
A lazy day’s bus tour had us hopping through Cape Town in search of good food and white sandy beaches. Lunch was consumed at a popular seafood eatery. Hidden in the hills, we found sprawling, extravagant residences amidst Cape Dutch houses, Forget Hollywood’s glamorous, from Clifton to Camps Bay, Cape Town’s beautiful elite comes out to play.
14. Timbuktu Café Restaurant
If the night is still young, amble along on a walk about. Watch for the sparkly fairy lights over a suspect gate, which is the quirky Timbuktu Café Restaurant. It is full to capacity of interesting objects, pictures and an eclectic collection of seating smothered in drapes. The jazz is loud and good, the weather cold enough for sherry and warm enough for wine. Do yourself a favour, skip the food, rather opt for the ambience and sundowners.
15. Authentic South Africa Braai
Dip into succulent strips of marinated meat soaked in secret sauces and fired over an open braai and experience a true South African braai which has been endorsed by all the young and trendy, local and international and Cape Town’s, own chef Siba Mtongana.
Since Cape Town is best explored in the hop-on-hop off, family-friendly sightseeing red city bus, we caught an open top double decker bus, and discovered the history of the museums and Signal Hill. For your more lengthy drives, spot the King Proteas, our national flower reigning over his floral kingdom. Identify our national bird, the blue cranes. Discover the legends and stories associated with landmarks by listening to audio applications onto your mobile device.
Cape Town can be visited almost any time of the year, with summer being with the peak season.
Our holiday ended far too quickly. We returned with renewed bonds, firm friendships and our other highlight, my German friends discovery of Baileys Irish cream liqueur, the sweetest assault on the senses, rich indulgent whisky combined with Belgian chocolate.
South Africans, for an affordable budget, think local.
Local is lekker and Mzansi is therapy on the doorstep.
For our international visitors, South Africa is a warm sporting “Rainbow Nation“, eleven official languages, almost perfect weather, wild coastal waves and instagrammable views. Yes, The Mother City is allowed to brag.
The Cape Wheel and the Mountains in the background.