A colleague and friend of mine, Luca, visited Cape Town with his girlfriend for the first time last year. I’m going to be sharing some of his experiences on the blog over the coming weeks. Here goes!
We’ve spent an amazing 11 days in South Africa back in November. First thought that comes to mind is that Mother Nature really surpassed herself when crafting the Mother City! Cape Town is absolutely a stunning city, where you can enjoy breathtakingly vistas, whether you are walking along Sea Point Promenade, climbing up Lion’s Head in the dawn light, clambering over giant boulders at Sandy Bay or driving the amazing coastal roads down to Cape Point.
You don’t need to break a sweat though: enjoying vibrant safari game drives in the Western Cape, sipping wine in one of the many wine estates in Stellenbosch or enjoying a picnic in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens turned out to be equally memorable ways to commune with Cape Town’s great outdoors.
- Weather: Summer (December to February) is probably the best season as it brings warm, dry weather and lively festivals. We went in November – spring – and temperatures hovered around 20 degrees Celsius with some very windy days. Accordingly, make sure you go equipped with a mix of beach, light and warm clothes, a lightweight jacket, and some comfy shoes as you’ll be driving and walking a lot!
- Going around: Hiring a car is a must in Cape Town as well as the cheapest and easiest way to get around. All roads in Cape Town and surroundings are very good, and the few unsurfaced roads we drove on were also fine. Don’t bother with organised tours. Whatever activity or tour you decide to do, you can always drive there yourself. I recommend hiring a car from First Car Rental, who have a great selection of cars at a good price. The car rental prices are incredibly cheap vs. prices in Europe. Strangely, cars for sale are on the pricey side vs. Europe, but we saw some beautiful cars!
- Money: Life in Cape Town and surrounds is probably expensive compared to other destinations in South Africa, but it is really not when compared to prices in Europe or US. Our daily costs probably ranged between R500 and R2000. ATMs are widely available. Credit cards are accepted at most businesses, but some smaller food places are cash-only. Also, a tip of 10% is standard for most services.
- Food & drinks: this is usually a huge part of travel and South Africa did not let us down at all. The food was surprisingly delicious in every place we’ve been to. Get ready to eat lots of red meat (a must on every menu) but also some great fresh fish, easily paired with top-quality wines. There is good variety also for vegetarians or vegans.
Some of our favourite activities
Cable Car up to Table Mountain
With straight cliffs and a long flat summit, it didn’t take long to understand its name. We headed up on a late afternoon back through the winding streets leading to the base of the cableway, the easiest way to get to the top. There was beautiful mist layering over the town giving a great ephemeral feel to end of the day.
Hiking up Lion’s Head
We decided to wake up one of the last mornings is SA and hike up Lion’s head to see the sunrise, as we’d been told this was one of the best ways to have a 360 view on beautiful Cape Town. I’m personally not much of a climber but I do run regularly and it was a great experience. Not too difficult and quite easy (5/10) – the climb is worth it once you make it to the top and get a chance to have breakfast while the sun is rising. It is a beautiful climb up and the view from the top is amazing (you get views of Cape Town, Camp’s Bay etc). It took us about 1 hour to get up and 45 min to get back down
Cape Point Road Trip
It was well worth dedicating half day to take a drive along the beautiful coastal road to scenic Cape Point. The highway takes you through historical Hout Bay and Sentinel Peak and to the winding Chapman’s Peak Road. Cape Point is located in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and has dramatic views of the ocean, a charming historical lighthouse, and dangerous rocks that have led to many shipwrecks in olden times.
Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden
The Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden is home to a large collection of African plants and offers trails carved out for trekkers and stone sculptures set in the gardens for artists. It is certainly worth a visit on a sunny day, if you’re looking to relax and spend some time surrounded by stunning flowers of all colours.
Boulders Beach, near Simon’s Town, is home to a colony of African Penguins, and they are so adorable. Luck was on our side as not only was the beautiful beach covered in penguins, but there were also fluffy babies everywhere!
Camps Bay is a large and lazy beach outside Cape Town, with a close proximity to our hotel Tintswalo Atlantic. There are a couple of good restaurants, nice sandy beach, rough cliffs and lots of space. It was very windy when we went, but we definitely enjoyed a stunning sunset. Careful though because the water is ice cold!
Muizenberg beach is considered to be the birthplace of surfing in South Africa and is currently home to a surfing community. It is most known for its colourful beach houses
Cape Town’s Townships
Bo-Kaap is an area of Cape and a former township known as the Malay Quarter, situated on the slopes of Signal Hill above the city centre. The area is known for its brightly coloured homes and cobble stoned streets and it’s worth a short visit before heading to Cape Town’s city centre.
Langa is one of the many areas in South Africa that were designated for Black Africans before the apartheid era. It is the oldest of such suburbs in Cape Town and was the location of much resistance to apartheid. This township tour was one of the highlights of our entire trip to South Africa and I believe no visitor to the Mothercity should miss this experience.
We had an excellent guide that lived in Langa and knew everyone by name. If you are looking for a tour where you get to go and visit people’s houses, talk to locals, hear their life stories, interact and dance with children and much more, this is definitely something for you. This experience told us a story of hardship paired with resilience, hope and success.