If you’ve been reading this blog then you’ll know that we recently came back from travelling the Garden Route in South Africa (Five reasons why South Africa should be your next holiday destination.) But what if you didn’t have time, and fancied an 11-hour flight just to go to one place, which one would it be?
From all the places we visited there can only be one, the magnificent Cape Town.
Cape Town has everything you could need for a foreign trip bundled up into one package. There are even a few bonuses in there.
It has Table Mountain
The skyline is dominated by the indescribable Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head mountains stretching around the bay as if they are wrapping the city in soothing blankets. Table Mountain itself is home to thousands of indigenous flora. In fact, there are more species of flora on Table Mountain than in the whole of the British Isles!
The top of the mountain can be reached by cable car, or if you are feeling particularly energetic and have a lot of time on your hands, by hiking. Unsurprisingly, we opted for the cable car.
It has the views
The views from the summit over the bay are amongst the best I have ever seen. It stretches unhindered in every direction, so camera buffs make sure you go prepared.
It has native wildlife in abundance
In my previous post ( Five reasons why South Africa should be your next holiday destination. ) I wrote about our game drives but if you are unable to visit a game park then Cape Town has wildlife in abundance on its’ doorstep. Whilst you are not going to see lions, elephants or rhinos you may well encounter a dassie ( a small dog-like creature native to South Africa) on Table Mountain. At the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, you may well see seals swimming around the harbour. Dolphins and whales can also be spotted all year round from the coast looking out towards Robben Island.
It has great food & wine in beautiful surroundings
The V & A Waterfront is a must go place in Cape Town. We enjoyed meals there most days. It has been developed extensively since the 1990’s and now houses a multitude of bars and restaurants serving reasonably priced food and drink.
The wines on offer are from some of the greatest wineries in the world and they are on the doorstep, so the costs are right down. The food too is, on the whole, native to South Africa, you could expect to see delicacies like ostrich and kudu on the menu.
It has the beaches
Due to the city’s unique geography, it is possible to visit several different beaches in the same day each with a different setting and atmosphere. Though the Cape’s water ranges from cold to mild, the difference between the two sides of the city is dramatic. While the Atlantic Seaboard averages annual water temperatures barely above 13 C ( 55 F ) the False Bay coast is much warmer, averaging between 16 and 17 C ( 61 and 63 F ) annually. This is similar to water temperatures in much of the Mediterranean.
It has tour guides with first-hand experience
Take a trip to the UNESCO World Heritage site Robben Island and you will be shown around the island, that was home to Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners, by a former prisoner or guard. During our visit, our guide pointed to a corner of the large dormitory we stood in and told us that that was where he slept when he was imprisoned on Robben Island for 6 years. It brings a whole new level of meaning when the guide asks if you have any questions.
Similarly, we were taken to District 6 museum which commemorates an area just outside Cape Town which was inhabited happily by blacks and whites until the authorities declared in the 1970’s that inhabitants were to be forcibly removed and the area was to be bulldozed. Our delightful guide was living in District 6 at that time and remembers the events well. Both these tours are incredibly humbling experiences.
It has a couple of bonuses
One major bonus is that everyone speaks English and another for us Brits is that they drive on the left.
Its’ unique geographical situation gives it a foot in both camps, so to speak, with an Atlantic and Indian Ocean coastline. As a result, the city enjoys an unusual and unique mix of flora and fauna some of which is found nowhere else in the world. The soil composition and all year sunshine make sit an ideal spot for wine growing. The multicultural society gives the city a fantastic ‘buzz’. Its’ recent heritage and how it has emerged from the dark days of apartheid into the open and welcoming city it is today gives credit to those who live there. As it is, accidents of nature combining to make this unique setting and man’s dogged determination and tenacity in the face of adversity have all combined to make Cape Town the amazing and unique city that it is today.
I would love to hear if there are any other cities worldwide that can compare with this one. Let me know….