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Cape Town Tours: Visit South Africa’s Mother City
For many people, a trip to the gorgeous South African West Coast is an experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. This iconic city is a combination of history, cultural vibrancy and with plenty of nature all around, it is also scenic. People flock to this city in the hopes of seeing where much of modern South Africa first began. They picture themselves visiting the mountain, the castle and then spending time exploring the waterfront, taking in the sights and smells of the city. There are few cities in South Africa that are so loved, and you can explore it all when you sign up for a Cape Town tour.
With so many things to do in Cape Town you want to make sure that you have the very best sightseeing opportunities and that you are able to be a part of the excitement. Cape Town tourism is on the rise and with more people looking to visit the city, more tour options have become available. Affordable tours, taking you to the most popular places as well as showing you a few of those off the beaten track areas, allow you to have the best opportunity to get a proper feel of the city and the surrounding areas.
From stunning Cape Town beaches, Cape Town wine tours, Cape Town Peninsula tours and historical attractions to incredible nightlife, there is a lot to do with your time in the city. Attracting people from all over the world, a visit to this popular city can really change the way that you see South Africa.
Planning a visit to Cape Town? You need the right tour!
If you search for Cape Town tours, you are likely to have plenty of options jump out. But while there might be many options to choose from, not all of them are going to be offering you the same experience. You need a tour that suits your expectations and which will allow you to see exactly what it is that you have always dreamed of seeing.
Tours are the best way to see Cape Town. They take you to all of the right places, and with the relaxed vibes that come with not having to drive yourself around, you can expect to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience, immersing yourself in the tour.
If you are planning on travelling to the Cape on your own planned holiday, or as part of one of the many Cape Town holiday packages, you will have the option of signing up for a tour. With so many things to do in Cape Town, and often not a lot of time to do it, you might just find that a tour of the city and surrounds such as a Cape Town peninsula tour is the best way to take in the city.
Cape Town tours are not just about sitting in a comfortable vehicle, driving around and seeing the sights. They also include getting out there and experiencing the spectacular nature that surrounds much of the city.
The attractions in Cape Town often include a trip into the winelands on a Cape Town wine tour and time spent in the water off the coast. MoAfrika has created a number of interesting tour options which allow guests to walk away with the ultimate experience and many happy memories. The Western Cape is well known for its wine production which means that Cape Town wine tours have been put on the tourist map. The stunning green winelands offer a calming environment in which to taste some of the wines that have helped make South Africa a respected producer. The Half Day Winelands Tour and the Full Day Wine Route Tour are ideal for those wanting to get a real feeling for the area.
For those looking for adventure, Cape Town has plenty to offer. The Full Day Whale Route Tour, the Peninsula and Cape of Good Hope Tour and the Shark Diving and Viewing tour are packed with excitement and are a wonderful way to enjoy an adventurous tour when you are in the Cape.
But it is really the Cape Town attractions that you see when on a Cape Town Peninsula tour that have made Cape Town a must visit destination. With so much to see and experience in the city itself, you will never be bored. Your tour will take you to all of the most interesting places, giving you the opportunity to see the city and all that it has to offer. With so much to see in the city, it is always best to take a few days to explore. MoAfrika has the Best of Cape Town Tour and the Half Day Cape Town City Tour, visiting the city’s landmarks and showing people what this iconic place is really all about. There is never a dull moment when you are part of a tour, with the guide keeping you entertained while sharing their valuable knowledge.
From whale watching and diving with sharks to drinking some of the best wine, Cape Town is a must. MoAfrika has some of the most affordable tours to this city, you can contact us today to select a tour and indulge yourself in a scenic journey through one of the countries oldest cities.
Where do you start when writing a guide to the top attractions of the spectacular Cape Province? In the cosmopolitan City Bowl that offers visitors an overwhelming choice of entertainment; or the Cape Peninsula tour with breath-taking scenery that rivals the most beautiful destinations in the world; the charming suburbs and beach towns that hug the coastline along the southern-most tip of Africa; the windswept beauty of the western coastline and the warm-hearted people who welcome you in their distinctive brogue; or Route 62 that takes you on a magical journey through the wonderland of the Cape Town wine tour winelands route?
We’ll have to take it one step at a time.
THE HISTORY OF CAPE TOWN
The Cape Town metropolitan region is the second largest city is South Africa and the legislative capital of the country. It is world-famous for its striking beauty, international harbour and, of course, incredible landmarks such as Table Mountain, Robben Island, Signal Hill and Cape Point.
It is hard to pinpoint the cultural ethos of Cape Town as it is one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Its cultural heritage has been heavily influenced by the tens of thousands of immigrants and expatriates that came to its shores many decades ago and stayed. Today, Cape Town is a major tourist destination, many of which fall in love with the city and return to make it their permanent home.
The city of Cape Town came to be in the mid-1600s when the Dutch East India Company established a settlement in what became known as Table Bay (the flat plain at the feet of Table Mountain) as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to East Africa, India and the Far East. It quickly outgrew its original purpose, becoming the economic and cultural hub of the Cape Colony. It was the largest city in South Africa until the gold rush era saw hordes of its inhabitants leaving to seek their fortune in the Witwatersrand Basin (now Johannesburg).
The first European to mention the Cape in historical records was the Portuguese explorer, Bartolomeu Dias, in 1486. He named the peninsula the “Cape of Storms” in direct reference to the treacherous voyage around the tip of Africa and its menacing rocky shores.
By late 16th century, many Portuguese, French, Danish, Dutch and English ships were stopping over in Table Bay enroute to the Indies, either seeking shelter from the perilous storms or restocking their dwindling supplies. The Portuguese trade merchants were the most regular visitors to the Cape shores; trading tobacco, copper and iron with the Khoikhoi (Bushmen) in exchange for fresh meat.
The Cape settlement lacked adequate infrastructure as there was a dire shortage in this period of skilled and manual labourers. This prompted the Dutch East India Company authorities, under the directorship of Jan van Riebeeck, to import slaves from Malaysia, Indonesia and Madagascar. Many of these became ancestors of the first Cape Coloured communities (Coloured referencing the mix of races). The Dutch settlers were also responsible for introducing exotic crops such as grapes, apples and citrus which had a lasting impact on the province’s agricultural market.
Britain orchestrated an aggressive campaign to capture Cape Town in 1795 but they conceded defeat and the Cape was returned to the Dutch by treaty in 1803. British forces occupied the Cape again in 1806 following the Battle of Blaauwberg and Cape Town was ceded to Britain. It became the capital of the newly-formed Cape Colony and attained its own independent parliament and a locally-accountable Prime Minister.
Under British rule, scores of inhabitants that were descendants of the Dutch settlers left the Cape and embarked on the Great Trek to the northern regions of South Africa where they sought to establish an independent nation. They became known as the Voortrekkers, characterised by a unique dialect that became known as Afrikaans (the birth of the Afrikaner population). This dialect evolved from the Dutch vernacular of South Holland, and incorporated words used by the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Madagascar slaves.
Up until the mid-1940s, Cape Town was racially inclusive although inhabitants were segregated more often on gender. When the National Party came into power in 1948, the Group Areas Act was imposed that had devastating consequences for the multiracial harmony of the city. Non-European residents were forced out of areas that were declared Whites-only districts and relocated to far less desirable locations such as the infamous District Six, the Cape Flats and Lavender Hill. Under the apartheid regime, the Cape was considered a “Coloured labour preference area” to the exclusion of “Bantus” (Black Africans).
Oppression and victimisation wore down the spirit of the non-White nation and led to years of bitter struggle and resistance, led by the great Nelson Mandela. Running an underground struggle movement and classified as a terrorist, Nelson Mandela was captured, tried and incarcerated on Robben Island along with other members of the movement. They endured insufferable hardships on the desolate, windswept island until their release. The first democratic election heralded the dawn of a new democracy and the abolishment of racial segregation.
SCENIC WONDERS OF THE CITY BOWL
The most recognisable landmark of Cape Town is the majestic Table Mountain. This distinctive mountain is characterised by near-vertical cliffs and a flat-topped summit, with Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head on either side. The thin strip of cloud that often smothers the summit is affectionately known as the “tablecloth”.
Below, at its feet, lies the so-called City Bowl. This vast plain is a natural amphitheatre, created by the hills that flank it on both sides. It includes the central business district of Cape Town, the harbour, the Company’s Garden and the old residential areas that were home to the Dutch settlers. The City Bowl lies nestled between Table Mountain and Table Bay, a natural tranquil bay on the Atlantic Ocean that offered seafarers protection when the great Cape Storms raged.
Signal Hill is a landmark flat-topped hill that together with Lion’s Head looks like a lion sphinx. This strategic hill played an important role in the history of Cape Town, particularly in the 16th and 17th centuries when Cape Harbour was a busy port and radio signalling had not yet been invented. Sentries used signal flags to communicate weather warnings and anchoring instructions to ship captains and a time ball was used to relay the precise moment of 1pm Cape Mean Time.
The guns on Signal Hill were used to notify the public when a ship was in trouble and inhabitants needed to be on stand-by to assist if there were casualties. Three guns would be fired from Chavonnes Battery, followed by a single gun in answer from Imhoff Battery.
The Company’s Garden in the City Bowl is a spectacular attraction and rich in natural, religious and architectural history. The garden was originally established by the Dutch East India Company as an agricultural hub to grow produce for the ship crews. South Africa’s oldest cultivated pear tree is found there aswell as a rose garden created in 1929. A few of the many attractions in the Company’s Garden include historical buildings, museums, places of worship and an internationally-renowned art gallery.
The Company’s Garden is close to the Houses of Parliament and the Slave Lodge, once the residence of the slaves that were imported from Malaysia, Indonesia and Madagascar as manual labour to build Cape Town. The Iziko South African Museum is located close to the gardens and features one of South Africa’s only two planetariums.
The Planetarium is housed in the South African Museum and offers astrology enthusiasts an armchair view of celestial travel. The night sky is recreated inside the domed auditorium so you can visit it even when the weather is grotty. Audio-visual tapes create an extraordinary experience in this celestial theatre.
The Iziko South African was founded in 1825 and is located in the historic Company’s Gardens. It houses more than one-and-a-half million specimens of scientific importance, including a collection of fossils almost 700-million years old. There is also a collection of stone tools made by tribal inhabitants 120 000 years ago. It’s worth a visit even if you’re not an archaeological enthusiasts as the museum highlights the biological and cultural diversity of South Africa.
Places of worship worth a visit are St George’s Cathedral (seat of South Africa’s Anglican Church) and the Great Synagogue. There is also a Holocaust Centre nearby. Standing sentry in the garden is a statue of Sir George Gray, the Cape Colony’s governor from 1845 to 1862. There is also a statue of Cecil John Rhodes and the Delville Wood Memorial Garden that commemorates South Africans who lost their lives in the brutal battle.
When you find yourself in front of a terraced row of brightly coloured homes, you’ve found Bo-Kaap. Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, this delightful suburb is situated on the slopes of Signal Hill overlooking the central business district. It is the epicentre of the Cape Malay culture in Cape Town and a visual and gastronomic treat for visitors.
Bo-Kaap dates back to the 1760s when it was established as a settlement for slaves that were brought to Cape Town by the Dutch East India Company to build Cape Town. Many of them were skilled tailors, carpenters, shoemakers aswell as builders. They became known as the Cape Malays and enriched the city with their unique culture.
Steeply cobbled roads link the colourful houses that are a mix of Cape Dutch and Georgian architecture. The Cape Malays leased the houses from the Dutch authorities and there was a strict rule that all the houses had to be painted white. When the rule was lifted and the slaves were allowed to buy their properties, they celebrated their freedom by painting the front of their homes with brightly coloured paint. Many of the families living in Bo-Kaap today are descendants of the original slave community.
The oldest building in Bo-Kaap is in Wale Street and has been turned into a museum. The Bo-Kaap Museum provides visitors with a glimpse into the life of a typical Cape Malay family. After a visit to the museum, enjoy all the area has to offer which includes exploring the Islamic Kramats (shrines), the Auwal Mosque and the food and craft markets where you can sample authentic Cape Malay dishes.
A ten-minute walk to the centre of the city takes you to Greenmarket Square, one of the oldest market squares in South Africa. It was created in 1696 at a site where a burgher (Englishman) watch house was erected. Over the years the market square served as a slave market, a produce market, a parking lot and lastly a flea market. It is surrounded by a number of heritage buildings, including the Old Town House.
NIGHTLIFE IN CAPE TOWN
There is no shortage of restaurants and clubs in Cape Town for those who like to burn the midnight oil but Cape Town’s most famous party street is Long Street, located in the historic heart of the City Bowl. Long Street stretches along more than 20 blocks in the central business district and its rich history dates back more than three centuries.
The street is flanked by historical Victorian-era buildings dating back to the early 1800s and is a colourful blend of antique stores, ethnic restaurants, trendy shops, backpackers’ lodgings, retro clubs and noisy bars. Victorian verandas with ‘’broekie lace” features stand alongside Muslim Mosques and modern, art-deco buildings.
At the top end of this famous street is the Long Street Baths. Once frequented by the “sailors and their ladies” in a notoriously seedy part of town, the baths have been upgraded and now boast a heated swimming pool, smart changing rooms and Turkish baths with steam and dry-heat rooms. Long Street Baths dates back to 1908, although the Turkish bath section was opened later in 1929.
Restaurants along Long Street cater for an array of tastes, from authentic Zulu cuisine to popular eateries serving traditional Cape Malay dishes. The area attracts a bohemian crowd that favours the art and cultural outlets by day, and a diverse mix who descend on the street in droves seeking a wild party at one of the many nightclubs.
Foreign tourists are cautioned to visit Long Street in a group and with someone who has local knowledge of the area as, with any inner city destination; Long Street attracts its fair share of unfavourable characters. Long Street is well policed and help is close on hand if you do find yourself in a difficult predicament. Spiking of drinks is a huge problem so be careful.
If you are not interested in the late-night clubbing scene, Long Street is extremely popular as a daytime destination; enjoy the delightful coffee bars, exotic restaurants, historical bookstores and buildings.
Traffic on Long Street is one-way in the uphill (southwest) direction, while the parallel Loop Street carries downhill traffic. The number 101 MyCiTi bus runs the length of Long Street on its way from the Civic Centre to Gardens, with five stops along the street.
Camps Bay on the Atlantic Seaboard is also hugely popular as a night-time destination for party people. It attracts a slightly more elite crowd, who favour the more pricey cocktail bars and chic seafront restaurants. One such establishment is the Bungalow Restaurant situated close to the Clifton beaches. This plush restaurant attracts a classier crowd who like to sunbathe at the pool on scattered daybeds, or sipping decadent cocktails on an outdoor deck overlooking the sparkling Atlantic Ocean.
Camps Bay is not all posh and snotty, with many of the establishments happy to welcome visitors who arrive sandy and scruffy after a long day on the beach. Try Dizzy’s Café just off the seafront promenade for its laid-back atmosphere and delicious pub grub.
A TOUR OF THE ATLANTIC SEABOARD
A leisurely tour of the Atlantic Seaboard takes you from the V&A Waterfront and the bustling suburbs of Green Point, Mouille Point, Three Anchor Bay and Sea Point along a narrow winding road through the upmarket suburbs of Fresnaye, Bantry Bay and Clifton. The road opens up to a spectacular vision of breath-taking beaches and vertical cliffs as you pass through Camps Bay and Llandudno along a scenic mountain pass to Hout Bay.
The Atlantic Seaboard is the millionaires’ belt of Cape Town, particularly as it attracts a large number of international investors. Stunning restaurants flank the narrow main road, Victoria Road, which gets quite congested in the summer holidays but this can be avoided by taking the higher road that leads out of the City Bowl and hugs the side of the towering western-side of Table Mountain.
The Atlantic Seaboard basks in glorious sunlight for the majority of the day and visitors enjoy spectacular sunsets as the sun sinks down into the ocean late in the evening on hot summer days. Shoreline restaurants and trendy cocktail bars are packed with a cosmopolitan mix of patrons while young children and families enjoy the palm-lined white beaches directly below them. This magnificent seaboard is commonly referred to as the Cape “Riviera” and boasts the most beautiful backdrops of Lion’s Head and the Twelve Apostles.
The major attraction on a tour of the Atlantic Seaboard is the Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront which is located in South Africa’s oldest working harbour, the Table Bay Harbour. This incredible development attracts more than 23 million visitors a year and comprises a diverse mix of restaurants, shopping outlets, upmarket residential and commercial real estate and internationally-renowned hotels.
The V&A Waterfront was named in honour of Prince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria, who visited the Cape Colony harbour in 1860 as a 16-year-old Royal Navy Midshipman in HMS Euryalus. He made a lasting impression on the Dutch settlers and the tribal chiefs, being the first member of the Royal Family to grace the Cape’s shores.
A popular tourist destination at the V&A Waterfront is the Two Oceans Aquarium. This incredible venue showcases over 3 000 marine animals found in the two great oceans that flank the southern tip of Africa, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
The aquarium boasts an impressive number of interactive display galleries that include the Atlantic Ocean Gallery, Indian Ocean Gallery, I&J Predator Exhibit, the Sappy River Meander and Kelp Forest Exhibit. As you walk between the galleries, visitors of all ages are enthralled by the sight of sharks, penguins, seahorses, jellyfish and a vast collection of fish species.
The Two Oceans Aquarium plays a critical role in South Africa’s oceanic sustainability and is proudly a certified platinum member of the Heritage Environmental Rating Programme, which is the highest level of recognition in an internationally-acclaimed eco-labelling programme. It was designed to provide visitors with a window into the two mighty oceans that meet at the southern tip of Africa and celebrates the remarkable geographic feat that one city shares two oceans.
The suburb of Three Anchor Bay is the site of a small anchorage in Table Bay. The name originated in the 1960s and refers to the anchors that secured chains that stretched across the bay as a defensive strategy during the British invasions. The site is recorded in history books as Drieankerbaai.
A promenade running the length of Three Anchor Bay to Clifton and is hugely popular with joggers, walkers, dogs and families. Saunders Rock at Sea Point has a small tidal pool and there is a tiny beach nearby that is popular with sea kayakers. The old Sea Point municipal pool is massive and a favourite destination for locals. The most popular beaches to visit along the Atlantic Seaboard are Clifton and Camps Bay. These beaches are broader while some of the other beaches are more an ocean front than a beach.
Clifton attracts international jet setters and fashionistas with the latest designer costumes and sunglasses. This exclusive suburb has four beaches that are divided by massive granite boulders and its turquoise water and white sands have been honoured with blue flag status.
Llandudno is an upmarket neighbourhood, boasting one of the most photogenic beaches in Cape Town. The current in the bay is quite strong so be careful if you’re brave enough to dip your toes in the freezing water. If you fancy going a-la-natural then you can clamber across the large boulders at the end of Llandudno beach and visit Sandy Bay, which is Cape Town’s infamous nudist beach.
Your tour of the Atlantic Seaboard ends in Hout Bay which is a protected harbour with spectacular mountain surrounds and views of the Holland Hottentots Mountains in the distance. Visitors descend on Hout Bay throughout the year for delicious fish and chips at the harbour, a walk around the local market or just for a stroll along the pier to view the fishing boats. The more adventurous take a boat ride out to sea to view the mass of Cape Fur seals that congregate on rocky outcrops jutting out the cold ocean or whales that come into the bay in the mating season.
The drive from Hout Bay to the beaches and suburbs of the South Peninsula takes you over one of the most spectacular passes in the world, Chapman’s Peak Drive. The road is flanked by vertical cliffs on your right and magical turquoise waters on your left that sparkle in the glimmering sunlight. You’ll drop down into a quaint valley with suburbs like Noordhoek and Kommetjie that boast a wide, expansive beach. You’ll also find the famed Cape Point wine estate nestled in the valley. Your journey ends with delicious fish and chips at Fish Hoek beach and a walk along the seaside walkway.
TOUR OF THE SOUTHERN-MOST TIP OF AFRICA
The rocky spine of Cape Town that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean at the most-southern tip of Africa is known as the Cape Peninsula. The peninsula is 52 kilometres long and starts in the northern suburb of Mouille Point. The most famous attraction on this south-western extremity is Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope.
Standing on a high point on the tip of Africa you can see where the warm Agulhas current (reddish water) that runs along the east coast of South Africa meets up with the cold Benguela current (turquoise blue water) of the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast of South Africa. This phenomenon is created where water from the cold depths of the Atlantic Ocean wells up against the warmer water of the Indian Ocean. The two oceans converge at a point named Cape Agulhas, about 200 kilometres to the southeast of the tip of the peninsula.
At certain points in time over the past 5 million years the Peninsula was actually an island, created during the interglacial global cycles when sea levels rose. The last time it was an island was 1.5 million years ago. In historic periods when sea levels dropped significantly the Peninsula was merged with the mainland with an expansive sandy area formed between the craggy mountains and the flat countryside, which is now referred to as the Cape Flats.
These geographic landmarks fall within a protected nature reserve known as the Cape Peninsula National Park which is internationally renowned for is rich biodiversity. A large part of the nature reserve is untouched and contains rare fynbos (fine bush) vegetation that has given it natural heritage status. Rare Silver trees occur naturally on the granite and clay soils of the Peninsula, which were planted by the early European settlers. The Disa Uniflora, also known as the Pride of Table Mountain, grows in this area and is a showy orchid that blooms under waterfalls and along streams.
Apart from a slightly irritating scourge of Chacma baboons in the area, the most common mammal you will see in the reserve is the rock hyrax or dassie as it’s known to locals (das meaning badger in Dutch). This cute creature looks like an overgrown guinea pig and lives in family groups in rocky outcrops where you’ll find them sunning themselves. Interestingly, the closest living relative to the Dassie is the African elephant based on DNA profiling.
The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula. It is commonly mistaken as the southern tip of Africa when in fact the southern-most point of Africa is Cape Agulhas, about 150 kilometres to the south east. The Cape of Good Hope marks the point where a ship begins to travel more eastward than southward when travelling down the western coast of Africa. The famous Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias called this intersection of the two oceans Cabo das Tormentas, meaning Cape of Storms.
Bartolomeu Dias, a nobleman of the Portuguese royal household, was tasked with leading an expedition to sail around the southern tip of Africa in the aim of finding a trade route to India. Dias discovered the Cape of Good Hope on the return voyage in 1488 when he was forced to abandon his attempt to reach India when his crew refused to go further.
Although the first attempt by Dias to reach India failed, the discovery of a passage around southern Africa was significant. For the first time, Europeans realised they could trade directly with India and parts of Asia, bypassing the overland route through the Middle East.
Today, the incredible scenic wonder of the Cape of Good Hope is an integral part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, the smallest but riches of the world’s six floral kingdoms. The main type of flora you’ll find in this protected area is fynbos (fine bush) vegetation that is endemic to the Cape Peninsula. South Africa’s national emblem, the King Protea, is a member of the fynbos family which includes the sugarbush, tree pincushion and golden conebush species.
The Cape of Good Hope is home to at least 250 species of birds, including one of the two mainland colonies of African penguins. You’ll also find a selection of antelope including Bontegok, Eland and the Red Hartebeest. Attentive visitors might spot four elusive Cape mountain zebra that usually graze on the Smitswinkel Flats.
The Cape Peninsula offers visitors many vantage points for whale watching, specifically the southern right whale that is most commonly seen in False Bay between June and November. Other species include the humpback whale and Bryde’s whale. Seals, dusky dolphins and killer whales are often seen in the bay.
TOUR OF THE SOUTHERN PENINSULA BEACH TOWNS
The quaint suburbs that line the narrow, winding road from the Cape Peninsula to the Cape Flats have retained their historical character and are relatively unaffected by commercial and real estate development. Old heritage buildings, vintage shops and top-notch restaurants aswell as residential homes and two historic harbours hug the shores of False Bay, with the Cape Peninsula Mountain creating a magnificent backdrop.
First stop is Simon’s Town, once home to the Royal Navy and today home to the South African naval base. The town was named after Simon van der Stel, an early governor of the Cape Colony and is rich in naval history.
The town grew as a strategic naval point in the early trading days offering protection for ships at a time when sailing around the peninsula was a perilous expedition in the winter months when the Cape Storms raged. Most times the captains of ships would push on to Table Bay harbour because they knew their men preferred the burgeoning town to the quiet solitude of Simon’s Town but this decision often had devastating consequences for their crew.
Simon’s Town grew as it earned a reputation as a safe alternative to Table Bay harbour, sheltered from the violent northwest gales. Beautiful old buildings and historical monuments capture the history of the town and an enjoyable activity is the iconic one-mile walk through the centre of the town that takes you along St George’s Street to the East Dockyard Gates.
Today Simon’s Town is a hive of activity with a permanent naval community based there and it attracts hordes of tourists who delight in popping into its quirky shops and excellent restaurants. A favourite destination is the harbour centre with a choice of restaurants overlooking the quite bay where cheeky seals flop around among the yachts.
Locals are particularly fond of Boulder’s Beach which is often the only beach one can visit when the wind is howling. The small beach is protected from the wind by massive granite boulders and is home to a protected colony of African penguins.
Formerly known as the Jackass penguin because of its distinctive bray, the African penguin is the only species of penguin found on the African continent. They first came to False Bay in 1983 from Dyer Island, attracted by the vast amount of fish in the bay. It is estimated that in the 1910s there were approximately one-and-a-half million African penguins but a century later they are now listed as an endangered species. Commercial fishing, marine pollution and the destruction of their natural habitat has reduced their numbers to a mere 26 000 breeding pairs left in the world.
Boulders Beach has a wheel-chair friendly boardwalk that takes you over the dunes and dense vegetation to a delightful beach, Foxy Beach, where you can get really close to the penguins. The best time to visit is in January when the juvenile birds are moulting.
Moving on, you’ll pass through Fish Hoek which is somewhat of a retirement village, although it has grown in popularity as a holiday destination. The beach at Fish Hoek is fabulous and the water is a lot warmer than on the Atlantic Seaboard. It’s a popular hangout for families, surfers and kayakers.
The next town you will pass through is Muizenberg, the surfing capital of Cape Town. Sights along the way include Het Posthuys (the old Post Office), Rhodes’ Cottage and the site of the Battle of Muizenberg. The home of Cecil John Rhodes has been preserved as a living museum and is open to the public. He spent his retirement years at his holiday cottage and died here in 1902.
Hey Posthuys is one of the oldest buildings in South Africa, dating to circa 1742. It was built by the Dutch East India Company as a toll-house to levy a tax on farmers passing through to sell their produce to ships based in Simon’s Town. Muizenberg gets its name from one of the early postholders, Sergeant Muys (meaning mouse). The building has had a chequered past, serving as a police station, stable, brothel, hotel and a private house before it was restored in the 1980s to become the local Post Office.
The historical site of the Battle of Muizenberg commemorates a small but significant military excursion in 1795 that lasted three months. The remains of a defensive fort started by the Dutch and completed by the British is found at the site, and cannons from that era are mounted at Het Posthuys, the Muizenberg Park and on the station platform.
The grave site of Abe Bailey is also found at Muizenberg and is maintained by the Muizenberg Historical Conservation Society. Bailey was one of South Africa’s early and most important mine magnates. Bailey’s thatched cottage is found close to the railway line and is now owned by the South African Navy. There are many other heritage buildings in Muizenberg that once boasted a large Jewish community, one being a house designed by the brilliant architect Sir Herbert Baker.
Muizenberg beach stretches all the way around from False Bay to the Strand, a distance of 20 kilometres. The Zandvlei Estuary enters the ocean in Muizenberg, and is one of the most important estuaries in South Africa for fish spawning.
TOUR OF THE SOUTHERN SUBURBS OF CAPE TOWN
The Blue Route Highway takes tourists from the southern coastal towns to the southern suburbs of Cape Town that were once the agricultural hub of Cape Town. One of the most popular tourist destinations is Constantia, where one will find the world-famous Groot Constantia homestead and its impressive gardens and vineyards.
The estate originally belonged to Governor Simon van der Stel who was granted it by the visiting Commissioner of the Dutch East India Company in 1685. During the 18th and 19th centuries it was divided into six farms, on each of which there still stands a fine old Cape homestead. The estate was named after Constantia, daughter of the Commissioner Rijckloff van Goens who made the original grant.
Van der Stel built a simple country-house there in 1692, without gables and with small casement windows. He lived permanently on Constantia Estate after his retirement in 1699 until his death in 1712, upon which the estate was divided into three parts and sold. The parts were called Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Bergvliet.
Groot Constantia is a massive property (193 hectares) and became world-renowned as a wine estate when it was passed on to Hendrik Cloete who re-established it as a wine estate; he planted new vines to replace the neglected plants and built a new wine cellar which was regarded at the time as being one of the best in the Cape.
Over a period of 14 years, he expanded the homestead and gave it a new appearance. The row of buildings in front of the farmstead on the western side is known as the Jonkershuis complex, as this was where the Jonkheer (oldest son of the farm owner lived). Some say that the building complex originally served as a slave house and stables.
The farm was passed down to successive generations and eventually purchased by the Cape government. A massive fire in 1925 destroyed the homestead and an architect was later commissioned by the South African government to recreate it as it was in its glory days. The Groot Constantia homestead is now a museum and has been refurnished with pieces that showcase the exemplary craftsmanship of that era.
Klein Constantia is a portion of van der Stel’s original estate that was bought by Pieter de Meyer, together with Bergvliet Estate. He built a simple house on the property that was allegedly used as a guest house for van der Stel. In 1968, the estate was purchased by the state and incorporated back into the adjoining Groot Constantia estate.
Bergvliet is a suburb that lies on the opposite side of the highway from Constantia and was formerly a large property owned by Simon van der Stel and part of the original Constantia farm. The original farm was later developed as residential suburb for South African soldiers returning from World War II.
The next suburb you will pass through is Wynberg, an early Dutch settlement originally laid out on the estate of Klein Oude Wynberg. Its name was derived from the vineyard laid out in 1658 by Governor Van Riebeeck on the farm Bosheuvel (since renamed Bishop’s Court) which was located on the slopes of Wynberg Hill. In 1809 the Colonial government acquired the land from Andrew Tennant for the purpose of erecting a military camp. By 1826 this consisted only of a military hospital, a set of tumbledown huts serving as barracks, and a ruined provisions store.
In 1831 parts of the military camp were laid out into residential plots and sold to the general public, while one stand each was granted to the Dutch Reformed Church and the Anglican Church respectively. The sales gave impetus to the growth of the village and before long prosperous Capetonians were using it as a location for their country villas. Wynberg also became a popular holiday resort for British officials on leave and by 1840 over 100 visitors from India were living both in Wynberg and in neighbouring Kenilworth. At that time its streets were lined with rustic cottages interspersed with handsome houses.
By the 1850s this influx of Indian visitors had dried up and the village had entered a period of decay. The Wynberg area was regarded as having one of the healthiest climates in the Cape and, in 1861; the colonial authorities chose it as the site for a military sanatorium. The Cape Town suburban railway line from Salt River was extended to Wynberg in 1864 and the area grew as a residential development.
By 1876 Wynberg boasted a number of good state schools, a number of churches, and chapels of various denominations. The area received an additional boost when Wynberg Camp was established. This was a military camp for serviceman and the area attracted an influx of shopkeepers who serviced the base.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens lies nestled at the eastern foot of Table Mountain and is a major Cape tourist attraction. It is one of nine national botanical gardens in South Africa, comprising five of the country’s six different biomes. It was founded in 1913 to preserve the country’s unique flora and a strong emphasis is placed on the cultivation of indigenous plants.
The Botanical Society Conservatory is a large exhibition of plants from a number of different regions, including savanna, fynbos, karoo and the tropical landscapes of the north-east regions. The focus outdoors is on plants native to the Cape region, with spectacular displays of Proteas taking pride of place. Several walking trails lead visitors to the base of the mountain and the more intrepid explorers can hike to the top of Table Mountain up a ravine called Skeleton Gorge.
This popular hiking trail was also known as Smuts’ Track as Prime Minister Jan Smuts regularly enjoyed excursions up this route to a contour path that leads through forests to Constantia Nek to the south. The same contour path can be followed to the north for many kilometres and it will take the hiker past the famed University of Cape Town to Rhodes Memorial which lies on the slopes of Devil’s Peak.
Another upmarket suburb along this scenic route is Newlands; located at the foot of Table Mountain, it is regarded as the wettest suburb in Cape Town due to its high winter rainfall. It is home to a number of prestigious schools, the Newlands Cricket Ground and Newlands Rugby Stadium, and the Newlands Forest. The historic Ohlsson’s Anneberg Brewery is located in this elite suburb.
The magnificent Newlands Forest is incorporated within the Table Mountain National Park and is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy scenic walks and runs through the surviving remnants of the indigenous afro-temperate forest and endangered Granite Fynbos and pine plantations. The Liesbeek River runs through the stunning suburbs and is home to an endangered frog species called Sandellia.
TOUR OF THE CAPE WINELANDS
The Cape Winelands is the largest wine producing region in South Africa and one of the most popular tourist destination in the Cape Province. It includes most of the vineyards in South Africa that falls in a geographic area known as the Boland (meaning uplands in Afrikaans.
The Cape Winelands is divided into six main wine regions; including the regions of Breede River Valley, Coastal Region, Klein Karoo and Olifants. In the Western Cape wine belt, unique tours of wine estates in Constantia, Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Robertson and Wellington are the most popular.
Constantia Valley wine region is located at the base of the Cape Peninsula mountain range and boasts some of the oldest wine estates in the country. Other heritage wine routes include the Stellenbosch wine region that dates back to 1971, and the Franschhoek Valley wine region that was established over 300 years ago. The Cape Winelands was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in 2004 in the Cultural Category.
The first pressing of grapes happened in 1659, under the supervision of Jan van Riebeeck who was a Dutch Commander and the first Governor of the Cape. His mission was to establish a provision station for ships from the Dutch East India Company and the potential of growing grapes in the Cape caught his attention.
The Dutch settlers first attempts at winemaking were largely unsuccessful, although Jan van Riebeeck heaped praise on the first bottles of wine produced. The wine did however catch the attention of Dutch merchant traders who noticed that crews on ships from the wine-producing Mediterranean countries suffered less from the dreaded scurvy, which was put down to their wine consumption. The merchant traders took up the consumption of Cape wines long before the European wine traders did, supplementing supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables from the Company’s Garden with barrels of wine.
Simon van der Stel arrived in the Cape two decades after wine was first produced in the Cape and tackled the fledging wine growing industry with a lot more enthusiasm than his predecessors. As a wine enthusiast and experienced viticulturist, he established the foundations of what would become Stellenbosch in 1679. He later expanded his wine-making enterprise on his own estate in Constantia.
Wines produced on van der Stel’s estate in Constantia made the long sea voyage to Europe and soon became highly sought-after by Royalty, under the label Vin Ordinaire. From its earliest origins as an antidote for scurvy, wines produced in the Cape finally gained international recognition.
The success of the Cape Winelands gained momentum when thousands of Protestant Huguenots, fleeing from persecution in the 17th century, arrived in the Cape; bringing with them a sound knowledge of viniculture. The Huguenots settled in the Franschhoek, Paarl and Drakenstein regions, where they were allocated land for growing grapes and producing wine.
In the 1800s, the Vin Ordinaire produced in the Cape suffered a backlash when inferior quality wine flooded the market. The local wine drinking market was unsophisticated and international demand was erratic. Apart from wines produced at the Constantia vineyards, the local market suffered from uncontrolled planting of vineyards, surplus stock and poor quality winemaking skills. The final blow to the Cape winemaking industry came in the form of a devastating invasion of Phylloxera (which had already swept around the world).
The only course of action that could be taken to eradicate Phylloxera was to uproot and burn all the infected vines and replant with a combination of European and American stock that was resistant to the disease. Millions of vines were destroyed which was a massive setback for the Cape winemaking industry. It did however propel the Cape Winelands in a different direction, with lower production of higher quality wines resulting in better prices.
Farmers supplemented their income by planting other crops, such as apple and citrus trees. Using excess wine supplies, brandy making became more popular in the 1900s. Wine and brandy sales spiked during the Boer War years but prices dropped dramatically when the conflict ceased and soon the Cape wine industry found itself in crisis again.
The Cape wine makers were thrown a lifeline by Charles Kohler, the founder of KWV (Ko-operatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika, Beperkt). He established a co-operative association for wine growers that stabilised the winemaking industry through production and pricing controls. The various co-operative cellars were able to harness capital and improve quality standards across the board. Centralised marketing, consumer education and upskilling of winemakers gave the Cape winemaking industry a massive boost.
Over the next few years, technological and scientific advancements enhanced the embattled Cape wine industry. The local market was rejuvenated with the launch of a semi-sweet, white table wine for everyday consumption. This was followed with easy-to-drink and affordable red wines that saw drinking patterns change and a surge in local consumption of South African wines. When Nelson Mandela was released in 1990 and a new democracy dawned in South Africa, our local winemaking industry was finally able to compete on the international market.
TOUR OF THE WEST COAST OF THE CAPE PROVINCE
Route 27 (R27) is a straight and desolate road that takes tourists from the frenetic City Bowl to a different world, made up of unspoilt, rustic villages, rugged coastlines and endless stretches of beach. The people of the West Coast are renowned for their somewhat quirky personalities, warmly greeting you in a distinctive brogue.
The quaint towns of the West Coast lie in a region of the Western Cape Province of South Africa, bordered by the freezing Atlantic Ocean on the west and the arid Swartland (black land) region on the east. The region stretches for over 400 kilometres from north to south and is renowned for its stark beauty and fertile fishing grounds.
The main towns that flank the R27 are Saldanha, Paternoster, Vredenburg, Velddrif, St. Helena Bay, Langebaan, Hopefield, Darling and Yzerfontein. The region boasts an expansive nature reserve, the West Coast National Park.
The Benguela Current is rich in nutrients and supports a wealth of marine life, where the extreme winds and currents cooperate to cause an up-welling of mineral-laden water from the depths of the ocean. Inland, the geographical landscape has remained virtually unchanged for millions of years; contoured by vast glaciers that changed the landscape and vegetation in the Ice Ages. The sea levels have fluctuated within a range of 120 metres over time but a temperate, dry Mediterranean climate has prevailed for the last 5 million years.
Freezing winter temperatures combined with scorching summer temperatures have created a unique bio-sphere known as fynbos (fine bush). This vegetation grows at a slow, indiscernible rate and consists of an astonishing array of species. The floral splendour of the West Coast comes alive when the region erupts in colour at a time in the year when the dry summer months melt into the cold, wet winters. A spectacular visual feast of colour attracts hordes of tourists to the area when the flowering plants create an expansive floral carpet across the region.
Tourism to the West Coast has boomed in the last 10 to 15 years when piping infrastructure brought an ample supply of drinking water to the coastal region. Some say that the demand for West Coast property can be compared to the intensity of the gold rush era.
History of the West Coast
Descendants of the first human settlers converged on the region some 700 000 years ago, migrating southwards from central Africa. Remnants from the Middle Stone Age (125 000 to 30 000 years ago) prove that those early humans were already making fires in their shelters and using tools for hunting, preparing and transporting food and water.
About 30 000 years ago a particularly long, dry period isolated the inhabitants of the West Coast from the central Negroid tribes to the north. This led to the evolution of the Khoikhoi and San peoples, with their distinctive physical characteristics. The shell middens of these first West Coasters are dotted along the Atlantic coast at frequent intervals and their rock paintings still decorate many shelters and caves in the Cedarberg Mountains and vicinity.
The first recorded European settler in the region is believed to be the Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama. He landed close to the mouth of the Berg River and gave the sheltered bay the imposing name of Bay of Saint Helena, in honour of the Emperor Constantine the Great under whose reign Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the year 313 AD. A monument erected by the government of Portugal commemorates this historical landing.
Vasco da Gama is credited for establishing a sea route between the West and the Far East but his arrival in southern Africa marked the early establishment of Christianity in the region. St Helena Bay was the first place in southern Africa where the Pater Noster prayer (“Our Father who art in Heaven”) was delivered. The village of Paternoster was named to commemorate this event.
The West Coast National Park is an expansive region (27 500 hectares) north of Cape Town, world-famous for its abundance of birdlife and the spring flowers that occur in the autumn months (August and September). The park was proclaimed in 1985 and identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area.
Many Palearctic migrants converge in their thousands during the summer months, September to March. They gather in large numbers to fill up on the abundance of fish in the region before they make the long journey back to the northern hemisphere. The greater flamingos and great white pelicans are tourist drawcards, settling on the salt pan in the lagoon biosphere. The West Coast lagoon is regarded as an important conservation zone for migratory birds and the area is governed by the Ramsar Convention for the conservation and sustainable use of wetlands.
The coastal islands at the mouth of the lagoon are important breeding colonies for kelp which in turn attracts the Hartlaub’s gull, Cape gannet and African penguin, aswell as cormorants and terns. The park is also home to an abundance of wildlife that has adapted to the harsh, arid conditions; including the majestic gemsbok, the bat-eared fox and Cape grey mongoose.
The area of Postberg is regarded as the most spectacular destination for tourists when the annual spring flowers are in bloom. Carpets of an array of flower species cover the arid landscape for a short period of time (August and September). Out of Spring fever, visitors can also enjoy the areas diverse geology and natural fauna and flora at the Rocherpan Nature Reserve and Bird Island Nature Reserve.
The West Coast region also boasts the magnificent Cederberg Mountains that are popular for hiking, aswell as the historical towns of Darling and Citrusdal. Tours of the West Coast region usually include trips to view San (Bushmen) cave paintings found inland and the renowned West Coast Fossil Park that has a fascinating live exhibit of an ongoing excavation of fossils that are approximately 500 years old.
West Coast crayfish industry
The West Coast crayfish (Jasus Ialandii) was discovered by the first Portuguese navigators and today, the crayfishing industry is the lifeblood of local inhabitants. In previous centuries the lowly crayfish was regarded as a pest and those caught in fishing nets were unceremoniously tossed overboard. Later wagonloads of dead crayfish were collected and sold to farmers as fertiliser.
The West Coast crayfishing industry started gaining some prominence in 1890s when international demand for this delicacy grew. In 1902, the crayfishing industry was formally established to service demand in France. Today, the West Coast crayfish makes its way to markets around the world, with the USA and Japan being two of its biggest customers.
The West Coast crayfishing industry was under threat from gross exploitation and uncontrolled fishing practices. The industry is now strictly regulated by a commercial quota system. Catching, packaging and processing of crayfish products is a major source of employment in the region and to a large extent local inhabitants police illegal fishing activities.
Popular tourist destinations on the West Coast
The town of Saldanha Bay is located on the site of a natural harbour; the only harbour servicing the south-western coast of South Africa. The Langebaan Lagoon extends for 14 kilometres south-eastwards from the corner of the inner bay and is an extremely popular destination for water-sport enthusiasts.
The bay is named after António de Saldanha, captain of a vessel in Albuquerque’s fleet which visited South Africa in 1503. It is an area rich in naval history as it was the place fleets from the Dutch East India Company fled to in 1781 and took refuge in, fearing an attack on Table Bay in Cape Town by a British squadron. Saldanha Bay was well sheltered from violent winds and offered a sufficient depth of water for the large vessels but the region was extremely dry with sandy soil that was not good for agriculture. The early settlers kept a few cattle and sheep which they fed on the scanty vegetation but it was not regarded as a permanent settlement for many years.
The fledging port gained prominence as a modern harbour only recently when it became necessary to facilitate the export of iron ore from the Northern Cape. A railway line was constructed that ran between the mines at Sishen to the deep-water jetty in Saldanha Bay. The port was viable as it could accommodate the large-size ore carrier ships.
Today, Saldanha Bay is a hive of activity; boasting a sustainable fish-canning industry and a plethora of accommodation and water-sport resorts that cater for the burgeoning tourism industry.
Known as the Flower Village, the town of Darling is the agricultural hub of the Swartland. The town is a thriving farming centre, concentrating on dairy, wheat, grapes, peas, potatoes and sheep farming. It is also known for several other industries, including a textile factory, basket weaving and clothing factories.
It is located in a region formerly known as De Groene Kloof (Green Valley) and formed around the Dutch Reformed congregation on the farm Langefontein. It was named Darling after Sir Charles Henry Darling, a Lieutenant Governor who arrived at the Cape in 1851. It only received municipal status in 1955 on the back of its international status as a botanical centre, thanks to its profusion and variety of wild flowers which make it a popular international and local tourist destination.
The town of Langebaan is situated on the shores of one of South Africa’s greatest natural wonders, the Langebaan Lagoon. This is a sheltered stretch of water that stretches inland of Saldanha Bay some 17 kilometres to Geelbek at the southern end. It is 4 kilometres wide in places.
Langebaan Lagoon offers safe moorings for yachts and has become a popular destination for water-sport enthusiasts. The picturesque town is one of South Africa’s oldest towns and its location to the fertile fishing grounds of the West Coast makes it a popular destination for avid fisherman.
Langebaan captured the attention of palaeontologists and archaeologists with the discovery of a fossilised skull that dates back to the Stone Age. The fossil deposits in the region are considered the richest of its kind world-wide and can be viewed at the Fossil Park.
French seal hunters visited the area and established Schaapen Island as their headquarters. This island is located a short distance from the shore and was used as a base to store seal skins and whale-oil. The calm waters of the bay and the lagoon itself has been a safe haven to countless seafarers and seal hunters over the centuries but today, the unchecked fishing practices have been severely curtailed with strict legislation and controls.
During World War II Langebaan was used as a terminal where supplies could be loaded and unloaded and gigantic English Catalina seaplanes often landed on the lagoon. The many foreign surnames found among locals came from the host of whale hunters who arrived in the region in the hopes of making their fortunes. A statue of a harpoon gun was erected in front of the municipal offices to commemorate this regions naval and fishing heritage.
Yzerfontein village is the first town you pass through on Route 27. The attractive town is laid out around a rocky cape and harbour with panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and Dassen Island and Table Mountain clearly visible on a bright, sunny day.
Yzerfontein has grown up around rock and boat angling, a popular pastime that brings hordes of people to the region that converge on the area to catch snoek. The town is home to a vast array of restaurants that serve traditional West Coast dishes. It is a popular destination for surfers as Yzerfontein is renowned for its mighty westerly swells, and is also popular in late December when whales return to the bay in great numbers to mate and bear their calves in the calm waters of the bay and inlets around Yzerfontein.
Dassen Island is located off the coast of Yzerfontein and is one of about 34 underwater mountains along the west coast of South Africa whose pinnacles rise above sea-level. It is the biggest island off the West Coast and has a resident caretaker that is responsible for supervising conservation and science projects on the island, mainly involving the study of its vast African penguin and cormorant population. It is also home to a large number of dassies (rock rabbits) from which it inherited its name. There is also a large tortoise population on the island.
CAPE TOWN WEATHER AND BEST TIME TO VISIT
Cape Town is a winter-rain region with a typically warm Mediterranean climate. Winters can get bitterly cold and wet but the dry, warm days that break up the winter months are gorgeous. The best time to visit the West Coast is between December and March, with hot, sunny days stretching into the late evening. You can stay at the beach until 9pm on these glorious, summer days.
Large cold fronts are common in the winter months, the worst period being between June and August. These cold fronts blow in off the Atlantic Ocean with strong north-westerly winds. The heavy Berg Wind (mountain wind) that Cape Town occasionally experiences is affectionately known as the “Cape Doctor” as it does blow away the city smog. This strong wind arrives from the Karoo interior and can be so hectic that it often blows pedestrians off their feet.
Cape Town is renowned for having some of the most beautiful, scenic beaches in the world but the sea is icy. Swimming in False Bay on the eastern-side of Cape Town is a little more bearable than a dip in the freezing ocean on the Atlantic Seaboard.
FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT CAPE TOWN
Cape Town has racked up an impressive list of accolades in recent years. It was nominated the “best place in the world to visit” by the New York Times; appointed World Design Capital, featured second in Travel and Leisure’s list of Top Holiday Destinations and rated the second best African city to visit by TripAdvisor’s Traveller’s Choice Awards. The Sea Point swimming pool achieved a notable commendation as one of the Top Ten swimming pools in the world.
The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest colonial building in South Africa (built between 1666 and 1679) and long ago boasted a panoramic view of the sea, with waves lapping at the entry point. Originally built from clay and wood, it served as a fort during the era of the Dutch East India Company era and was a strategic defence point against invading British forces. Today, the Castle of Good Hope exists as a ceremonial base for Cape regiments of the South African Defence Force.
Cape Town is affectionately known as the Gay Capital of South Africa, and is host to the Mother City Queer Project (MCQP) which is the biggest annual lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) event on the African continent.
The most widely-spoken language in the Western Cape is Afrikaans, with isiXhosa and English coming in second and third respectively. The predominance of Afrikaans does not come from the White Afrikaans population but rather from the large community of Cape Coloureds who are descendants of the Cape Malay and Dutch settlers (Coloured being derived from a community that grew out of inter-racial mixed relationships).
The Cape Floral Kingdom is regarded as the smallest yet richest recognised floral region on the planet and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The region boasts nearly 7 000 plant species that are found nowhere else in the world (representing 70% 0f the 9 600 plant species occurring naturally in the region). The honey buchu, peninsular snapdragon and Cape Hope satinflower are among the most precious species found in the Cape Floral Kingdom.
The Cape Peninsula was originally known as the Cape of Storms, aptly named by legendary explorer Bartolomeu Dias for the treacherous weather conditions that prevailed and the perilous voyage around the Cape Point that claimed the lives of many ill-fated sailors. It later became known as the Cape of Good Hope as it offered colonial merchant traders the promise of a sea route to the East.
The world’s first-ever heart transplant was performed in 1967 at Groote Schuur Hospital by the renowned Dr Christiaan Barnard. Unfortunately, the man who underwent the revolutionary cardiac surgery, Louis Washkansky, only lived for 18 days post operation until he succumbed to pneumonia. The theatre where the ground-breaking operation was performed is now a medical museum, aptly named Heart of Cape Town.
The British government tried to enforce a plan to turn Cape Town into a convict colony. Charles Adderley vehemently protested against the plan and fortunately prevented Cape Town from following in the footsteps of Australia. Adderley Street named in his honour was originally made entirely from wooden blocks, remnants of which can be found towards the upper end of the street. Today, Adderley Street is famous for its eccentric flower and fruit-and-vegetable sellers.
Cape Town’s climate is on par with California and the Mediterranean. The winter season starts in May and ends in September and is generally a wet and windy season. Summer starts in November and cools off towards the end of March.
Cape Town enjoys long summer days with on average 10.5 hours of sunlight a day between November and March. The sun only sets at 9pm in summer.
Cape Town is well-known for its Berg winds (mountain winds). This is when a hot, dry wind blows down the Great Escarpment from the high central plateau to the coast. The heated air from the arid central plateau of southern Africa undergoes further warming by adiabatic process. Unfortunately these hot winds exacerbate already dry conditions in the summer months and often result in horrific and life-threatening firestorms.
Lion’s Head may share the name of Africa’s biggest cat but it has not seen a lion for over 200 years. Lions once thrived in the area but the last one was shot in 1802. In fact Cape Town’s famous hill that flanks Table Mountain got its original name, Leeuwen Kop, from the Dutch settlers because in silhouette it appears to look like a crouching lion or a sphinx. Signal Hill was known as Leeuwen Staart (Lion’s Tail). In the 17th century, the British called the peak Sugar Loaf.
The Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront boasts species that are completely unique to the Cape coast, including the strange hagfish and the SASSI red-listed galjoen. A 2-million litre tank that houses ragged-tooth sharks, turtles and rays was also once home to a 197 kilogram ragged-tooth shark named Maxine that was released into the ocean in 2004. This was part of a campaign called “Rethink the Shark” that raised public awareness of the plight of sharks worldwide.
Another popular drawcard at the Two Oceans Aquarium is the Kelp Forest Exhibit; one of only two in the world. Three species of giant kelp in the Kelp Forest Exhibit shelter a vast array of local fish which drift lazily among the kelp fronds.