Cape Town - Beyond African Safari
You have to be careful anywhere in the world if you go to a big city and Cape Town is no exception. Notorious as a country of extreme violence South Africa was for years a no go on many tourists’ agendas. But things are changing and fast.
The most interesting initiative in the Cape Town is the Bambanani volunteer program that’s community based policing method where volunteers take part in looking after their areas.
When it started in about 2004 there were about 2000 volunteers on the program. Now there are eight thousand volunteers on that program so that the responsibility of policing is not for just the official security agencies but the people themselves get involved in that and that’s dynamic.
These visionary initiatives have meant a safer South Africa with Cape Town’s crime down by over 40 % at the end of 2007. Although a great news on the tourism front, violence and cape are no new affair. In fact much of the city’s charm, its melting pot of cultures and wealth of peoples is a direct result of its tumultuous three hundred and fifty years of conflict, commerce and colonialism.
The Dutch first landed in the cape in 1652 and grew vegetables in company gardens to supply their merchant fleet en route to Asia. They soon outfought the indigenous San tribes and even attempted to keep them out with a bitter almond hedge the remnants of which can be seen at the Kerstin Bausch botanical gardens which with its 22000 indigenous plants was the first botanical garden to become the world heritage site.
A new wave of the conflict followed when the British decided that the cape was too good to be Dutch and moved in leaving the city with its number one attraction – Victoria and Albert Water front – originally created to stop the fierce storms of the Atlantic wrecking so many of their ships the V&A is today a work in progress.
A forty minutes boat trip from the waterfront takes you to Robin Island. An island prison used over the years by the Dutch, British and most famously by the Africana nationalists who send Nelson Mandela and the other ANC members here during apartheid. Tours are lead by ex inmates and wardens to shed an informative light on these turbulent times.
Created under apartheid to house and segregate cheap migrant labor townships are still house for the vast majority of Cape Townies. The struggle of life here is equaled by the enthusiasm and color of its vibrant community and the hope and pride that’s evident around each street corner. Organized tours into the township provide a valuable insight into the lives of the people who live here.
Cape Town is really a pearl in Africa; it’s the most beautiful city. You have the sight of Table Mountain, you have the two oceans meeting the Indian and the Atlantic, you have the most fantastic landscape but you also have the people of Cape Town. It’s the people that really make it what it is and Cape Town’s people are second to none.