Visit Cape Town, the Cape of Good Hope and the Southern Tip of Africa
Cape Town is an amazing place to visit and one of the greatest cities on Earth. With Table Mountain as a backdrop, the Atlantic Ocean at its feet and the Indian Ocean close by, Cape Town is perfectly placed at the Southern tip of Africa.
Add to this a temperate Mediterranean climate and incredible coastal scenery, superb vineyards and amazing wildlife and you have the perfect holiday or business destination. I was fortunate enough to visit on business recently and stayed near Simons Town further down the Cape of Good Hope.
It is great to visit the Southern Hemisphere when it is Autumn or Fall in the North and encounter Spring six months early! One unexpected drawback, however, was I started sneezing (Hay Fever in November!)
Lets begin with Capetown. A good start to appreciating this great city is down by the Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront. This is like Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth in the UK (for those of you who have been there) but around 10 times the size. It blends the renovated original port buildings with modern resturants, cafes and shopping malls. From here you can travel to Robben Island by boat and see where Nelson Mandela was imprisioned.
Table Mountain and Tablecloth
From the Waterfront you get a spectacular view of the rest of the city with Table Mountain as a dramatic backdrop.
The top of Table Mountain is often covered by a horizonal layer of cloud, known locally as the 'Table Cloth'. If you have time you can either walk to the top of the mountain or take the easy way up via the cable car.
Cape Town was also one of the host cities for the FIFA World Cup held in South Africa in 2010.
Mape of Cape Town and Surroundings
A Little Geography
Capetown lies on the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Point at the tip of the Cape of Good Hope is where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean.
This causes dramatic storms and high seas where the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean meet the cooler waters of the Atlantic.
False Bay, that lies to the Southeast of Cape Town is so called because those originally attempting to sail around the tip of Africa from the East assumed they had reached the Atlantic because the Bay is so large.
Simons Town, the home of the South African Navy and the Naval Base is located in False Bay.
Spectacular Scenery and Wildlife
The scenery around Cape Town is breathtaking. The whole of the Cape of Good Hope is mountainous. Spectacular mountain roads offer amazing views of both the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines.
I was really impressed by the Chapmans Peak Road along which you find place names from the UK such as Scarborough or Llandudno but where the scenery is much more spectacular than around the original UK towns.
From these coastal mountain roads you can often see marine life such as whales surfacing or schools of dolphins. You can also sometimes see shark watchers who scan the oceans with binoculars and call the local lifeguards in order to clear the beaches should a hungry shark be seen heading towards a tourist beach for lunch!
Baboon in the Room
Stopping places on these roads are also frequented by baboons. Unfortunately tourists are often tempted to feed them in exchange for a quick photograph. The result is many baboons have become 'humanised' and become dependant on humans for food. This makes them dangerous and aggressive and they will often attack humans picnicking or dining 'al fresco' in order to steal a lunch.
A business colleague of mine had a baboon in his room. The staff had found it while we were away working in the dockyard and they were cleaning the room. The problem was the staff liked to leave all the windows open during the day. I'm afraid we didn't let our coworker forget it and suggested that he was engaged in an extra-marital affair with the poor creature! (I won't mention his name as I wouldn't want his wife to find out!).
The African Penguin, sometimes known as a Jackass Penguin, because of its donkey-like call, nests in only 3 places in mainland Africa. One of these is at Boulders Beach just outside Simons Town. The colony established itself in the 1980s, the first pair arriving in 1983, and until the penguins arrived it was and still is a popular tourist beach.
Why the penguins chose an area frequented by so many humans is something of a mystery although good local fish stocks could be one reason. There are currently around 2500 pairs although the numbers are currently in decline and the breed generally is an endangered species.
Back in the 1980s the newly arrived penguins became a nuisance, invading local gardens but they are now largely prevented from straying in land by a low fence and a boardwalk has been provided giving visitors an excellent view of the colony.
The beach is still open to the public and arguably it is about the only place in the world where penguins are so accessible you can easily swim with them. However there are warnings not to swim too close as they bite!
The Dassie or Rock Hyrax is a peculiar creature. It is apparently the African elephant’s closest living relative and this close evolutionary relationship is deduced from similarities in the structure of the feet and teeth. Dassies are similar in appearance to a Guinea Pig but at around 2 feet long, much bigger. Like guinea pigs they are vegetarians and typically eat grass or leaves from trees.
As a lover of Guinea pigs I was keen to see one and was delighted to find that a family of Dassies have moved into the penguin colony at Boulders. My favorite, I called him Roger, typically sat sunbathing in a tree next to the boardwalk and happily posed for pictures.
Great Eating and Drinking
The Cape of Good Hope is full of really good unpretentious restaurants, bars and cafes. Seafood is an obvious speciality given the coastline and local fish stocks.
South African wine is mainly grown on the Western Cape and both reds and whites are superb and very reasonably priced. Restaurants are also very good value with a much smaller premium for ordering wine at the table than in Europe or the US.
If you don't fancy Cape Town prices then there are loads of reasonably priced superior guest houses that do a great bed and breakfast located all around the Cape of Good Hope.
There is also lots to see further afield. Why not head out East towards the wine growing country around Stellenbosh and visit the many vineyards? Spier have a kind of wine theme park with free entry and pay as you go for the various attractions such as wine tasting.
So what are you waiting for? Check out direct flights to Cape Town and find out for yourself what a fabulous destination it is!