Last month, I had the pleasure of making my first trek to South Africa, and last week I wrote about the safari portion of the trip. If you missed it, you could read about it HERE.
If you’ve never been to South Africa, I highly recommend starting in a place that is somewhat familiar yet interestingly different – exploring the wonders of Cape Town! The city has stunning natural landscapes, delectable and diverse cuisines, and many activities for visitors of all. It’s also a sophisticated city with a wealth of historical sites, café culture, and lively nightlife. So, I think what I liked most was that there is something for everyone to love about Cape Town!
If you can’t get to Cape Town directly, flying into Johannesburg and taking an inter-Africa flight on a local airline like AirLink is an excellent option. The next day, we walked back across the street and boarded our Airlink flight. After a long overnight flight (15 hours from Atlanta, more from BNA), we arrived around 4:30pm, so we decided rather than rush to another flight to Cape Town, we would just stay the night at the Intercontinental Hotel across the street (we literally walked across the street with our luggage cart and they took it from there). Not only were the accommodations incredibly comfortable, but the food in the restaurant was also exquisite. As a Virtuoso property, we received amenities like complimentary breakfast and a $100 hotel credit, among other things. Fun fact: even for a flight less than 2 hours, they actually serve FOOD (a sandwich and drink). They also require you to power down your mobile devices for the duration of the flight, and they are VERY serious about that.
Cape Town was established by the first Dutch settlers in 1652 and featured an eclectic mix of museums and galleries. Its Mediterranean climate reminds me of Southern California. It’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts (hikers and cyclists alike), foodies (with an incredible food scene and cape Winelands nearby), and folks interested in experiencing the great cultural melting pot.
V&A Waterfront has an assortment of Outdoor cafés, vibrant nightlife, and shopping, with a much smaller version of a London Eye-type Ferris wheel. It is also the departure point for trips to Robben Island. The Two Oceans Aquarium also houses over 3000 sea creatures, a swing bridge and clock tower, the Watershed (a craft market by local artisans), a Food Hall, various restaurants, and a mall.
Robben Island is Cape Town’s version of Alcatraz – it’s where political prisoners were traditionally sent, Nelson Mandela’s best-known. The last prisoner was released in 1996, and since then, Robben Island has become a museum and World Heritage Site.
Table Mountain is South Africa’s most celebrated landmark and can be seen from all directions. If you get to the summit, you are lucky because only 30% of folks visiting Cape Town end up going due to weather. When it’s windy – which is often – and shrouded in clouds – locals call this the “tablecloth” – they stop the gondolas to the top. If the weather is good on your day of arrival, I highly recommend summiting early in your trip. If you wait too long, you may never have a clear enough day to make the trek.
If you are in good physical condition and have a sense of adventure, you can even climb the 3500′ to the top. For the less adventurous, there are several well-marked trails at the top once you disembark from the gondola! Not only is Table Mountain impressive for its breathtaking 360-degree views, but it is an essential sanctuary for fynbos vegetation (ground cover peppered with fiery pink proteas and herb-like plants) and wildlife. It’s an incredibly biodiverse home to over 1500 species.
The best way to explore the Cape Peninsula is a small van private tour with expert local guides. Along the way, we saw the Monkey valley resort (an adorable enclave of cottages with thatched roofs), Chapman’s Peak. We stopped for a delicious coffee and a little shopping at Noordhoek Farm Village.
One-stop everyone MUST make is to the southernmost tip of the African continent. It is filled with beautiful proteas, herds of grazing antelope, a random ostrich, and mischievous baboons (who love to eat said proteas, by the way).
One of my favorite stops on the tour was Simon’s Town, a village filled with quaint Victorian facades overlooking False Bay. It is also the home to a well-known colony of adorable African Penguins on nearby Boulders Beach. These precious creatures mate for life and protect their friends. One of them is always a scout. They used to be called jackass penguins because they bray like donkeys.
Muizenberg was the most popular surfing beach on the Cape in the ‘60s and the iconic beach huts are the subject of many ad campaigns promoting the Cape Peninsula region. They are one of the most instagrammable spots on the Cape.
Well, that’s it for this week. There’s just WAY too much to tell about Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula, so stay tuned for next week’s blog when I show you the best places to stay in Cape Town and all the fantastic foodie things there are to experience in Cape Town and the Cape Winelands!
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