Placing ourselves in the able hands of ‘Royal African Discoveries,’ was a smart move. The name unequivocally stated we would embark on a beautiful discovery that would take us through the best part of South Africa.
They delivered to the T.
From the time we met a welcoming Kevin, our super-efficient and friendly guide at the Cape Town airport, to the time we said goodbye to South Africa, it was a journey that is etched in my memory as an unforgettable one.
We stayed at the Sunsquare Cape Town City Bowl – a modern hotel which is centrally located and has amazing views – depending on which room you stay in, you can even gaze at the table mountain just before you nod off.
Cape Town – All roads in Africa not only lead to Cape Town but also from it. This ‘Mother City’ is a bustling hub of activity and consists of the Houses of Parliament, the Company Gardens, the Castle and the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.
Cape Town became a European settlement way back in 1652, but to the visiting tourist, it seems like an extension of Europe even now. Most of its economy and political prowess lies in the hands of the white populace, its high land price affordable only to a few.
In the city, good food and wine are in plenty. Restaurant cuisine ranges from Malay to Ethiopian so be prepared to have an ‘adventurous’ palate. Wild Game cuisine is very popular so do not be surprised to find Kudu, Ostrich, Springbok and yes, even Crocodile on the menu. Seafood includes Sushi, Tuna, and prawns with a dash of that famous African peri sauce. Unlike most other metropolitan cities, here, it is pretty easy to find a restaurant with a view. The waterfront is lined with scores of shopping complexes, restaurants, bars, and pubs.
(Personal recommendation – Mama Africa – has a live Congolese band. The music and dancing are distinctly local and totally entertaining. )
Hout Bay and Seal Island – Our tour next day started early with a visit to Hout Bay that is halfway between Cape Town and Cape Point. It took us about 20 minutes to reach this small fishing village.
Market stalls that sell local ware lined the harbor and added color to the already vivid landscape. We stood in line with other travelers to get on a schooner that took us to Duiker Island aka Seal Island.
The 40 minutes boat ride was exhilarating but chilly. The fur seals are a delight to watch as they sun themselves on the rocks and the kelp beds – relaxed, playful and seemingly without a care in the world. But like all small animals out in the open, they have to look out for themselves as their 75,000 plus presence makes this a popular hunting ground for the great white shark.
Breeding takes places in the winter months and predictably the great white visits increase in winter. The island is also home to a collection of seabirds, including the rare black Cormorant. (Boats operate from 8 am until 6 pm. Rates – R450 per adult.)
Chapman’s Peak Drive – also known as the ‘Chappies’ this drive starts at the Hout Bay and runs for 5.5 miles till Noordhoek on the western coast. The entire stretch has 114 curves with the road clinging to the steep vertical incline of the mountains. You’re happy it does that, as on the other side is a sheer drop down into the Atlantic Ocean. We drove along part of this coast enjoying the magnificent views, similar in beauty and expanse to the coastline in Big Sur, California. The drive is interspersed with picnic spots, scenic viewpoints, and hiking trails.
It was exhilarating to drive to the Table Mountain National Park which branches out from the center of Cape Town, and extends right up to the southern peninsula, showcasing miles and miles of spectacular coastline that teems with bio-diversity. Table Mountain and the Cape of Good Hope both lie within its boundaries. Saw some unusual flora and fauna here.
The Table Mountain, as any proud South African will tell you is one of the new 7 wonders of the world and once I ascended to the top and took in the expansive views of Cape Town, I completely understood why. Also, the 5 minutes Cable car (Rotair) ride to the top, has impressive 360-degree views, thanks to an innovative rotating floor.
The other memorable view was from the Twelve Apostles terrace. From here, it is easy to look over the Twelve Apostles mountain range that runs along the Cape Peninsula.
We were told this is a popular place to hold private functions. Also visible from strategic points are beautiful views of the Waterfront, the Cape Flats (known for its apartheid history), Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned) and the famous Lion’s Head.
On the mountain, we were lucky to catch sight of a Rock Hyrax, which looks a bit like a rabbit but is actually a cousin to the elephant – wonders never cease.
Bold baboons walk around the areas that surround the roads leading up to the mountain and down. They aggressively look for food and are not hesitant to take it forcibly from the tourists.
Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve – A flying Dutchman funicular will take you to the top of this nature reserve. The Cape of Good Hope is the southernmost tip of the African peninsula but it is usually crowded with tourists wanting to take a picture next to the famous sign. Cape Point, the highest point of the peak has a lighthouse that stands 238 meters above sea level.
Next, we drove to the Boulder Beach, home to the famous South African penguins. It lies in Simons Town on the False Bay Coast. My experience watching these unique little Penguins is tabled here – https://traveltoes85.wordpress.com/2017/12/19/inside-south-africa-the-boulder-beach-penguins/
(Personal Recommendation: Harborview Restaurant in Simon’s Town.)
In winter, the sun sets over Cape Town around 7.30 pm. Much later, back in Cape Town, I watched the sunlight slowly fading and the shadows sliding familiarly over Table Mountain.
Before long the night descended and the city skyline began to glitter and twinkle with a thousand lights. Table Mountain loomed in the background, a constant reminder that I was indeed in South Africa and not some other cosmopolitan city in the world.
It goes without saying that Cape Town and the Table Mountain are fast buddies, keeping each other in their sights for all time.