If you’re on safari in South Africa and have a few days spare you should definitely consider heading over to Cape Town. It’s one of those places that lives up to all the hype. In fact I reckon it probably exceeds it. 3 days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Cape Town (and there are plenty of gorgeous luxury hotels there too). Here are some of my favourite things to do in the area:
Of course no visit to Cape Town would be complete without ascending Table Mountain, but first you have to decide how you want to do it. By revolving cable car, or by hiking? One thing to bear in mind is the weather. Table Mountain is infamous for its almost continual cloud cover, and whilst it can be clear blue skies one minute, the chances are it won’t stay like that for long. The last time we went up in the cable car we only had 5 minutes at the top before the blanket of fog descended. It was pretty cool watching the cable cars disappearing into the mist though! If you time it right however, there are several hiking trails on top, so take a picnic and make a day of it.
Chapman’s Peak Drive
Self driving really is the best way to explore South Africa and one of the most scenic routes is a short hop along the coast from Cape Town. The Cape Peninsula is known as one of the most spectacular coastal drives in the world, and Chapman’s Peak Drive between Hout Bay and Cape Point is a must for all James Bond wannabes. It’s the classic location for a car chase, although we do recommend taking a more leisurely pace so you can admire the views out over the Atlantic.
Going to Cape Town and not visiting Robben Island would be like going to London and not bothering to look at ‘The Tower’. The island, which lies in Table Bay, represents a pivotal and wretched part of South African history, having been ‘home’ to Nelson Mandela during 18 of his 27 years of captivity. Today the island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the trip across the water is no longer one to be afraid of. Visitors can take tours from ex-prisoners, which is fascinating and harrowing in equal measures. Yes, it does feel a bit like a cattle market with hordes of tourists all being shepherded around at a fast pace, but just go with it, and remember at least you’re not having to stay the night!
I think I might have enjoyed the Winelands even more than the safaris (shhh, don’t tell anyone!), and not just because there was wine involved. If you only visit one wine region, make sure it’s Franschhoek. The stunning valley is filled with vineyards, fruit farms, boutique shops and world class restaurants, all surrounded by majestic mountain passes. It’s only an hours drive from Cape Town, but feels like a different world. They even have a wine tram for those who want to take the day at a leisurely pace. Genius or what!?
Your safari tick list may not include penguins, but believe it or not, it’s actually possible to see these comical seabirds right here in South Africa. Most people head to the famous Boulders Beach in Cape Town for a spot of sunbathing and bird spotting, but I prefer to drive east along the coast for about an hour to see the Stony Point Penguin Colony at Betty’s Bay. It has just as many birds but far fewer people. Watch out for the curious little rock dassies too!
Kirstenbosch Botantical Gardens
You don’t have to be a horticultural expert to appreciate Kirstenbosch, which grows only indigenous South African plants. Even if you’re not into your proteas (the South African national flower) it’s a beautiful area for a stroll, a picnic or to catch one of the popular open-air concerts they put on in the summer. The backdrop doesn’t get much better than this!
If you fancy tucking into breaded calamari served up in frying pans whilst watching sealions bask in the sun on the pier then this is a great place to come for a meal. The waterfront is buzzing after dark (mainly with Irish pubs and tourists), but by day it’s also a good vantage point for photographing Table Mountain. You may even get to see it without the signature blanket of cloud.