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Cape Town - Tourist Information & Activities

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town and Table Mountain from Signal Hill Fishing at sunset - Cape Town, South Africa Girl on beach, Cape Town, South Africa Table Mountain and Milnerton Lagoon, Cape Town Windsurfing - Cape Town, South Africa
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Tours of The Cape: Cape Town & Winelands Tours

MOTHER CITY OF SOUTH AFRICA
Welcome to Cape Town, Mother City of Africa, and the Western Cape, an area which is regarded as one of the most beautiful regions in the world. The City is a rare cultural gem, resulting from the amalgamation of Indonesian, French, Dutch, British and German settlers, the local Bushman and Hottentot tribes and the Bantu tribes from the north.

The impressive presence of Table Mountain, flanked by the legendary Devil's Peak and historical Signal Hill, stands proudly above the city. Beautiful white sandy beaches along a peaceful coastline frame the Cape Peninsula, which is famed for its unique floral kingdom, bountiful rivers, vleis and dams and magnificent countryside. The surrounding area extends far into the winelands, green in summer and red-gold in autumn.
Cape Town boasts a multitude of entertainment, ranging from outdoor activities and adventures in the sun to a roaring night life under neon signs. The vast range of shopping opportunities includes haggling with shopholders at Greenmarket Square Flea Market, as well as breezing through sophisticated and stylish shopping malls. The huge variety of restaurants reflects the multicultured history of the Cape and caters for everyone's taste, from fast-food outlets and casual to the chic to the very elegant.

Cape Town provides a setting for many scenic wonders, magnificent seascapes and panoramic vistas. The beautiful coastal areas of Camps Bay, Clifton, Llandudno, Bantry Bay, Hout Bay and Blouberg surround the breathtaking tranquility of the winelands, Constantia, Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franshhoek.

Cape Town is a city of culture, built on a history that reflects in the architecture, cuisine, music and dance. Together with a warm summer and temperate winter climate and a friendly community, the Western Cape and the Mother City are an ideal African holiday destination throughout the year.


ENTERTAINMENT
With the cultural diversity that gives Cape Town its uniqueness, there are a variety of options when it comes to being entertained. From classic culture to trendy hotspots, all tastes are catered for.

Art - There are numerous art galleries around the city that house some famous collections of paintings and sculpture. An example of this is the William Fehr collection in the Cape of Good Hope Castle.

Classical Music & Dance - The Artscape and Baxter Theatres present ballets, operas and orchestral performances. The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra will delight you in scenic locations such as the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens during one of their Twilight Concerts on Sunday evenings during summer. The St. George's Cathedral Choir entertain free of charge and the Oude Libertas Open-Air Theatre in Stellenbosch is alive with the strains of classical music from various performances.

Nightlife - Cape Town buzzes after dark with a variety of nightspots to tempt all tastes. You will find nightclubs, wine-bars, pubs, discotheques, cinemas, cocktail lounges and, of course, restaurants. Many venues have live bands or stand-up comedy to entertain you while you indulge in some scrumptious local fare or just enjoy a few drinks. The North Sea Jazz Festival is exceptionally popular and is held in the Good Hope Centre in the city centre. Dockside at Century City is a massive nightclub on four levels which houses various music styles in separate bars. As with many establishments you can party the night away until the early hours of the morning.

Theatre - There is a great deal of local talent in the dramatic arts, which is evident in the musicals and plays performed throughout the year. There are indoor as well as outdoor theatres, the most well known of the latter being the Maynardville Open Air Theatre. This is a magical setting in which many of Shakespeare's great works are performed - nothing prepares you for the ambience created by a floodlit garden on a starry night. Cinema lovers will be delighted by the Imax Theatre in the Waterfront. This has an incredibly realistic screen, which is 5 storeys high and offers a unique viewing experience.


OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES
The Western Cape is the perfect area for those who enjoy the outdoors. It offers a variety of water and land activities for the serious sport enthusiasts as well as those who enjoy a gentle stroll. South Africans are renowned for their passion about sport and can usually be found either playing it, discussing it, watching it or betting on it!

Bungee jumping - This is for adrenalin junkies. Some of the best bungee sites are in the Western Cape from incredibly high bridges. One of the most famous and highest jumps is at Bloukrans along the Garden Route.

Canoeing/Rafting - White water enthusiasts will love the rivers. Organised trips are offered on many rivers with varying levels of experience necessary. Some well-known trips are along the Breede, Berg, Dorings and Orange Rivers.

Deep Sea Diving/Fishing - As Cape Town is flanked by both the Indian and the Atlantic oceans, there is a thriving interest in marine sports. Some of the world's finest big game fishing in the world is available here, in particular long fin and yellow fin tuna, as well as broad billed swordfish. False Bay is a famous breeding ground for Great White sharks and you can arrange to go cage diving amongst these awesome creatures. Normal scuba diving is also very popular all around the coastlines.

Golf - There are many golf courses and driving ranges in and around Cape Town and you will find that the courses are both pristine and diverse. They are also highly affordable by international standards.

Hiking - With so many mountain ranges surrounding the Cape, hiking is a popular pastime. There are numerous trails that take several days as well as day walks up Table Mountain. Before embarking on a trip up Table Mountain it is essential that you contact the Mountain Club of South Africa - (021) 465-3412. Without an experienced guide many people have lost their way, sometimes with fatal consequences. Another well-known activity is "kloofing". This is a combination of hiking and swimming along a river in a ravine and is great fun.

Horse Racing/Riding - Prominent racing events such as the J&B Met and the Durban July are highlights in the social calendar. In Cape Town there are two main tracks - Kenilworth and Durbanville - where racing takes place every Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. For social riding along the beach or elsewhere you can contact The Riding Centre in Hout Bay - (021) 790-5286.

Motorcycling - Some of the best biking happens around the Cape. There are many winding mountain passes that provide an exhilarating ride with spectacular views. The Gordon's Bay coastal road is also a favourite for a Sunday morning blitz. There are numerous outlets where you can hire motorcycles and find out the best routes to take. Warm weather and excellent visibility make biking a pleasure most of the year.

Mountain Biking - Feel the exhilaration of exploring the slopes of Table Mountain on two wheels or ride through the winelands. Choose from any number of rides, from the easiest stroll to a strenuous challenge. Adventure without Limits offers a number of exhilarating options from day tours to expeditions around the Western Cape. http://www.withoutlimits.co.za

Sailing - The Royal Cape Yacht Club is situated at the docks in Table Bay. This is where the famous Cape-to-Rio race starts. Other harbours are found in Simon's Town, Fish Hoek, Hout Bay and Gordon's Bay. Competitive as well as social sailing happens on oceans, dams, rivers and lagoons.

Surfing - Big Bay in Blouberg is home to the Gunston 500 Surfing Competition and you will find surfers at almost every beach along the coast. A local radio station even broadcasts a daily "surf report" advising people where to find the best waves each day. In addition to this popular sport, you will see many windsurfers and kite-surfers. It is an awesome sight to see them launched into the air as they jump the waves. Blouberg is especially popular for power kites, whether on the sand or on the sea.


CAPE CUISINE
The magnificence of Cape Town lies in its scenic pleasures, its fascinating history and its fine food and wine. Cape Town and its surrounds offer an overwhelming amount of consistently excellent restaurants ranging from fine dining, French and oriental, to fusion, seafood and African gastronomic delights to titillate even the most discerning palates. Covering a wide variety of options from the opulently elegant to the conveniently casual, the multitude of culinary traditions make for a memorable meal to suit the business fraternity, tourists and locals alike.

The traditional Cape cuisine is greatly influenced by the Malay kitchen. This stems from the first colonists providing fresh produce for the Dutch East India Company ships plying their spice trade. From there European and British traditional dishes were transformed into a unique 'Cape Malay' style. Such dishes include bobotie, curries, breedies and the sweet, sticky koeksisters.

There are various districts within the Cape offering superb gastronomic gems, but the most popular and well-visited region is likely Cape Town's Kloof Street. Here you will be served some of the city's finest cuisines and experience the vibrant nightlife that the many bars and restaurants have to offer. There are many such delightful districts in the Cape and with the abundance of eateries from fine dining to fast foods, it's a comforting thought that there will always be new menus and venues to experience!


ATTRACTIONS IN CAPE TOWN
Table Mountain
Often described as magical and mystical, Table Mountain is Cape Town's most prominent feature and a world famous landmark. This majestic mountain is visible from almost everywhere in Cape Town and is often used as a beacon by which to find direction.

The mountain is sculpted from sandstone and rises 1086 metres at its highest point, Maclear's Beacon, above the bay. Its flat summit measures nearly 3km and provides breathtaking views over the city and its beaches. The panorama stretches from Table Bay to False Bay and around the mountain to the Hout Bay Valley and Kommetjie. On a clear day one has a magnificent view across the Cape Flats to the Hottentots Holland Mountains.

Table Mountain is home to a rich fauna and flora, many species of which are endemic and survive only in the unique ecosystem which is contained on the mountain. There are approximately 1470 species of plants, including over 250 different species of daisies! Examples of endemic plants are the rare Silver Tree and the wild orchid Disa Uniflora. Animals such as baboons and porcupines live here freely, as well as furry rodents called Rock Dassies. These little creatures look like plump rabbits without ears - incredibly, their closest living relative is the elephant! The Table Mountain Ghost Frog is an example of an animal found in no other place on the world.

The exhilerating ascent of Table Mountain in the cable car is a definite must for any visitor. Even the locals are awed time and again by the 360º view of Cape Town from the cable car. The cable car was first opened in 1929 and today conveys some 600,000 people to the summit annually. On the summit there is a restaurant and a souvenir shop, from which letters bearing the Table Mountain postmark can be sent. Short walks from the cable station take visitors through the splendour of the flora of Table Mountain, punctuated by occasional sightings of dassies and framed by the surrounding azure of the Atlantic Ocean.

For those athletic and energetic types, there are some 350 recognised paths to the summit, some undemanding and suitable for children, and some extremely difficult. It is not advisable that visitors climb the mountain without an experienced guide. The mountain can be deceptive and it is strongly recommended that visitors contact the Mountain Club of South Africa on 021-4653412 before embarking on a hike or climb.

Kirstenbosch
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is a floral treasure, famous for its beauty and the diversity of the Cape flora it displays. The setting is magnificent, against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, and only 13 km outside of Cape Town.

The estate covers 528 hectares, and only indigenous South African plants are grown here. A diverse range of fynbos flora and forest grows naturally on the mountainside, and a number of trails lead through the natural Garden. The cultivated garden (36 hectares) displays collections of South African plants, particularly those from the winter rainfall region of the country.

Robben Island
Robben Island is situated about 12km into the sea in the middle of Table Bay. Separated from the Cape mainland by a narrow channel of seawater, the island is a remote place, considered inaccessible for centuries. The island has been used primarily as a prison ever since the Dutch settled at the Cape in the mid-16th century.

For 400 years, Robben Island served as a place of exile, beginning as a leper colony. From 1846-1931, the island harboured a hospital for leprosy patients, and the mentally and chronically ill. During this time, political and common-law prisoners were still kept on the island, and the island was as much a prison to them as to the patients, for whose ailing there was no cure and little effective treatment available.

During World War II (1939-1945) the Island was a training and defense station, and in 1961 it was converted to a maximum-security prison. African and Muslim leaders, Dutch and British soldiers and civilians, and even women were all imprisoned on the island. South Africa's first democratic President, Nelson Mandela and the founding leader of the Pan African Congress, Robert Sobukwe, are among the more well known political figures who served their prison sentence on Robben Island during the Apartheid era. The last political prisoner was released in 1991 and today the prison houses around 700 medium-security inmates.

Much has been done to restore the island's ecological haven to what it used to be before the intervention of man. In 1991 Robben Island was included in the SA natural heritage program and the northern part of the island was declared a bird sanctuary. Springbuck, ostrich, rabbits, Jackass penguins and Cape Fur seals are among the wildlife found on the island. In 1997 the Robben Island National Museum was established. The Museum is a dynamic institution and runs educational programs for schools, youths and adults. It facilitates tourism development, conducts ongoing research related to the island and is responsible for the safekeeping of various archives. On December 1st, 1999, Robben Island was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Today the island has a thriving population that lives in a quaint village with a bank, post office, museum and grocery store. On the road to the village visitors pass a square-towered church, old Sailboat cannons and old cars that sputter along the narrow tar roads. Most of the buildings date back to World War II, a historical background supported by the evidence of bunkers and 9.2-inch guns. These armaments were erected during the war to protect Cape Town from her enemies.

Ferries sail daily from the V&A Waterfront jetty, taking visitors to the island. The entire trip lasts about 3½ hours, including the guided tours. Former political prisoners lead these tours around the cells and it is an emotional experience for many involved. For many South Africans, Robben Island is a place synonymous with leaders, and the struggle for freedom in this beautiful country.

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront
This energetic working harbour is one of South Africa's most popular tourist attractions. Today the V&A Waterfront attracts more than 20 million visitors each year - locals and international tourists alike. The V&A has over 400 stores and 45 different restaurants and bars to offer, an arts and crafts centre, the IMAX cinema, an internationally renowned aquarium, a children's science exploratium and a museum.

 

Shopping: With over 400 stores, the V&A Waterfront caters to all shopping needs in a huge range that will suit any budget or taste. The unique blend of Victorian architecture, maritime tradition and African culture creates an environment that is lively and cosmopolitan. All stores at the V&A Waterfront are open until 9pm, seven days a week for your convenience, and there are over 6000 open-air and underground parking bays, patrolled and monitored 24 hours a day for greater peace of mind.

Seal Landing: The most special feature of the Waterfront is probably the familiar sight of a colony of Cape fur seals resting on the seal landing in the Clock Tower precinct, or on old tyres lining the quaysides. The seals are an integral part of harbour life, and can often be seen posing on postcards.

The Two Oceans Aquarium: The Two Oceans Aquarium is a window on the oceans, offering glimpses of the diverse life found off the South African coastline. Over 3000 living animals, including fishes, invertebrates, mammals, reptiles and birds can be seen in this spectacular underwater nature reserve. The Aquarium offers unique opportunities such as diving with the sharks and copper hat diving, sleepovers for children, facilities for conferences and functions and the daily feeding of the fishes at 15h30 in the I&J Predator Exhibit.

Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve
The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve forms part of the Cape Peninsula Park and is managed by the South African National Parks. The Nature Reserve is recognized globally for its extraordinary land formation, rich and diverse fauna and unique flora. Nowhere else in the world does an area of such spectacular beauty and such rich biodiversity exist almost within a metropolitan area - the thriving and cosmopolitan City of Cape Town.

The legendary Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope form part of the Nature Reserve. These promontories were key beacons for the early explorers and are the source of many myths and legends. In 1488, Bartholomew Dias named the Peninsula Cabo Tormentoso, or the Cape of Storms. King John II of Portugal later gave it the name Cabo da Boa Esperanca - the Cape of Good Hope. In 1580, Sir Frances Drake proclaimed it to be " … the most stately thing and the fairest Cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth."

In 1860, the first lighthouse was erected at Cape Point. However, due to its high location 238m above sea level, it was often obscured by clouds and mist. When the Portuguese liner, the "Lusitania", was wrecked in 1911, the lighthouse was relocated to its current position above Dias Point, only 87m above sea level.

In the 17th century a Dutch Captain, Hendrick van der Decken, attempted to round the Cape in strong headwinds. Mysteriously his ship and crew disappeared, and legend now tells of the ghost ship "The Flying Dutchman," which has allegedly been sighted around Cape Point.

Camps Bay
Camps Bay has long been one of Cape Town's most popular holiday destinations. Lined with palm trees on the beachfront, with white sandy beaches, brilliant blue sea and majestic mountains in the background, Camps Bay offers you the African holiday of a lifetime. The cosmopolitan beachfront with its restaurants and cafés is busy throughout the year. The village is close to many other attractions, yet Camps Bay displays a certain uniqueness which is enjoyed by all its guests - come and experience it for yourself!

Clifton
The four small, secluded beaches of Clifton are separated by giant granite boulders. The trendy 4th beach is the most popular and hence the busiest, where the high society of Clifton likes to convene to play volleyball, throw Frisbees, take relaxing strolls or just soak up the sun. The beaches are wonderfully sheltered from the southeaster wind which blows in summer, however not many people brave the icy water. Yachts, speedboats and jet skis are abundant in the bay, and Clifton has the atmosphere, if not the warm water, of a very exclusive Mediterranean resort.

Fish Hoek
Nestled between two mountains and two oceans along the False Bay coast, the village of Fish Hoek was established in 1918. Jaeger Walk, more commonly known as the "Cat Walk" was named after the first mayor of Fish Hoek and offers a lovely walk along the False Bay Ocean. Many lovely guesthouses are situated along this section of the coast, some with magnificent sea views and all within walking distance of the beach. Fish Hoek is well known for its beautiful white sandy swimming beach, and has much to offer its visitors.

The beautiful beach and the beach centre is where everything happens in Fish Hoek. Visitors can join in the many aquatic activities such as swimming, surfing, sailing and snorkelling. The beach centre offers a few restaurants, change rooms, showers and a children's playground. The Fish Hoek Surf Life Savers Club offers canoeing and surfing, and both club and international life saving events are frequently held here. The Fish Hoek Beach Sailing Club offers wonderful facilities for Hobie Cat sailing and boasts with five Hobie World Champions.

Blouberg
Blouberg lies on the west coast of Table Bay and a relaxed 20-minute drive from Cape Town city centre. Bloubergstrand beach gives a wonderful view of the city, and it is from here that the perfect postcard pictures of Cape Town with Table Mountain in the background is often taken.

The coast of Blouberg offers long, sandy beaches frequented by dog walkers and kite flyers. The large crashing waves, supported by the regular strong southeaster winds of the Western Cape, makes Blouberg one of the fastest and hottest places worldwide for windsurfing. Wave jumpers and colourful hobie cats can be seen dotted against the azure of the sea. Fishing, sailing and boating trips are other popular activities. Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, can be seen quite clearly from the beach at Blouberg.

Within a stone's throw of the beach, a whole host of restaurants offers excellent dining. Blouberg provides a great variety of modern shopping centres with all that your heart could desire, as well as all other amenities, including cinemas, which can be expected from one of the fastest growing areas in Cape Town.

Blouberg is a popular African holiday destination, and the beaches are frequented by tourists and locals alike. The suburb is known for its natural beauty, youthful atmosphere, lovely and affordable accommodation and friendly people.


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