Destination Review By Cox & Kings: Cape Town
“If you are lucky enough to be in Cape Town, then you are just lucky enough.”
Cape Town, Who?
If it’s a bucket load of unforgettable experiences that you wish for on a holiday, then Cape Town is the place for you! Located on the western coast of South Africa, the city is blessed with a warm Mediterranean climate, natural bounty and multicultural diversity. A major political and economic centre, it is the seat of the National Parliament. Cape Town is also the second most populous urban area in the country after Johannesburg. Every alley and street of this city is filled with stories and heroic legends — of entrepreneurship, strength and survival — told by descendants of the original Afrikaner populace and the Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu settlers, who co-exist peacefully.
Besides the rich cultural flavours and a packed calendar of events and festivals, the natural wonders also add to the many delights of Cape Town. This city is nestled in the shadow of the majestic Table Mountain, which seems to reach for the skies. The many gardens, such as the Green Point Park and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, dot the cityscape and offer a glimpse of the rich endemic flora.
Cape Town, When?
It’s always a good time to be in Cape Town! Warm, temperate climate attracts tourists to the city all year long. Blessed with 3,100 hours of sunshine a year, Cape Town enjoys warm dry weather during the summer months from December to February. This is the time when the city is transformed into a carnival town with the celebration of most major festivals, including the annual Cape Town Minstrel Carnival. Early March can get a bit hot, with the Berg Wind blowing in for a couple of weeks. The winter months between June and August are again great for tourists, with the weather being wet, cool and windy.
Can I Afford It?
The city offers something for all pockets. Today, there are flights as cheap as INR 36,120 from India to Cape Town. While there, you can get a whole variety of accommodation to suit your budget – starting from a dorm bed at R160 (South African Rand), a mid-range hotel for R500 upwards and luxurious room for R2,500 onwards. You can take the MyCiTi bus from City Bowl to Camps Bay for R9.80 or enjoy a cultural tour for R450. Cape Town is a city of exquisite wines and delicious food. You can settle for a gourmet fast food meal for R160, meal with wine at the waterfront for R500 upwards or enjoy a wine tour priced for R2,000.
For Whom Is This Destination Best Suited?
Whether you’re a backpacker or a tourist on the lookout for cultural treasures, Cape Town offers a world of discoveries! For those who want to experience the best of nature, there couldn’t be a better place than this city. It’s located in a CI Biodiversity hotspot and many of its protected areas are World Heritage Sites. The Table Top Mountain alone is home to 2,200 species of plants, while the city is home to hundreds of endemic species.
The adventure-seeking traveller can visit one of the many surfing sites on the coast or go ziplining, skydiving and clambering up Lion’s Head at dawn. You can also head to Hermanus, a unique whale-watching location, which also offers the option to try shark-cave diving. For those looking for a healthy dose of art and culture, Cape Town’s many venues, such as the Artscape Theatre Centre hosts world-class concerts and exhibitions regularly.
The Type Of Accommodation Available
Accommodation in Cape Town is pretty much about the location. With a coastline that hugs the Atlantic Ocean, a flat-topped mountain that overlooks the entire city and landscapes filled with vineyards, you’re bound to be spoilt for choice. How close to the sea do you want to be? How far from the mountain? What about proximity to vineyards?
There is a surplus of luxury properties available on rent, along with mid-range and low-range hotels in town. Boutique hotels and private villas sit on the contours of Table Mountain, while hostels offer dorm rooms for back-packers. Around Cape Town, farm stays and Bed & Breakfast hotels are quite popular. Accommodation is spread out to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and on to the Table Mountain.
Cox & Kings Recommends
#1 District Six Museum
This was once a vibrant, multicultural district in Cape Town, till the Apartheid government forced 60,000 of its black inhabitants out and declared it a ‘whites-only’ area. Housed in a former Methodist Mission Church, this museum tells a moving tale of how apartheid destroyed the fabric of areas, such as these in the 1960s and 1970s. Besides photographs, recordings and testimonials, the museum also has on display a floor map of the district on which descendants of former residents have marked the locations where their homes and major landmarks once stood.
#2 Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
A kaleidoscope of colours greets the eye at this garden, which is spread across 52,800 sq. kms. and is home to 9,000 of South Africa’s 22,000 plant species. A day amidst rare endemic flowers, butterflies and birds would be time well-spent for anyone who loves nature. For fantastic views, opt for the unique Tree Canopy Walk, which takes you through the tops of the trees on a steel and timber bridge. Or you could rent an electronic guide, which imparts recorded information about the flora you are going to witness en route the three circular walks. One of the main attractions of the park is an elevated fragrance garden that promises a bouquet of perfumes and scents. Every Sunday, between November and March, you can also enjoy an outdoor afternoon concert.
#3 Shopping At Long Street & The V & A Waterfront
Experience retail therapy at its finest as you shop at Long Street with beautiful views of the sea for company. Long Street, with its quaint bars and cafes, is lined with antique shops, second-hand bookstores and vintage clothes boutiques. Or you could visit the shops along the V & A Waterfront for a luxurious experience, with exquisite wares on offer and a breathtaking view of the sunset.
#4 Table Top Mountain Park
For a panoramic view of Cape Town and for a host of adventure activities, a visit to the Table Top Mountain Park (TTMP) is a must. This 22,000 hectare park, spans the length and breadth of the city from Signal Hill to Cape Point. It has been a huge attraction for explorers, travellers and tourists for centuries now. TTMP offers everything from granite mountains and beaches to exotics forests. One can easily access the 1,086 metre-high mountain through cable cars. Or you can hike up and indulge in a host of adventure activities, such as mountain biking, paragliding, abseiling and more.
#5 Boulders Beach
For a glimpse of the delightful world of 2,100 African Penguins, step onto the boardwalk from Foxy Beach to the protected area of Boulders Beach. The colony started with only two breeding pairs in 1982, but has grown into a sizeable, thriving populace. Accustomed to hordes of tourists that descend onto the beach regularly, the penguins go about their usual business with a great deal of indifference. If you manage to visit during their main breeding season — March to May — you will be treated to their donkey-like braying, which had lent them the name of jackass penguins earlier.
Food & Drinks
#1 Marvel Bar
For a tete-a-tete with the city’s hippest crowd and to savour some cool, innovative drinks, head to Marvel, located in the heart of Cape Town. Those who have visited this watering hole in the past are all praise for its staff and dining experience within cozy booths and at street side tables.
#2 Birds Boutique Cafe
The cafe offers a cozy setting within a magnificent Dutch building, with its trademark white walls and trestle tables. It’s the ideal dining space for artisanal food such as homemade pies, strudels, rustic risottos and warm bisques. The freshness of the ingredients add a lovely dimension to the food. Those who love to dine outdoors can take their meal under a grand eucalyptus tree.
#3 The Africa Cafe
The cafe reflects the essence of this vast continent- right from its decor to the menu. It was more than a decade ago that Portia and Jason De Smidt, with no formal training in the culinary arts, decided to open South Africa’s first African restaurant. Today, it’s on the must-visit list of most travellers, with dishes such as the Kenyan Coconut Chicken, Channa Fish, Cape Malay Dhal and Chapati, and Ethiopian Slk Slk Wat presenting the continent’s rich culinary heritage on a platter.