Sunday, September 23, 2018

Cape Town– by Keith Marallich, September 2018

The company that I work for, Far & Wild Safaris, is mostly geared towards wildlife safaris in South Africa, which includes reserves that vary from the public game reserves such as the iconic Kruger National Park, our largest game reserve, to the Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Park, our oldest game reserve, to the ultra-luxurious private game reserves, private game lodges and everything else in between that enhances one’s wildlife experience. One can be forgiven for thinking that wildlife is our only forte – it is not, there are quite a few exceptions. Some of the most obvious exceptions are our guided tours along the Garden Route and the Drakensberg Mountains (which can and mostly do include wildlife venues, if you want) and then of course the city of Cape Town, because…  

…there’s always something going on in Cape Town. I don’t have the facts and figures, but I know that Cape Town attracts more international visitors annually than the Kruger Park does. If you are going to travel and spend time in any city in South Africa, it should be Cape Town. There is so much to do, from the tranquillity of the Kirstenbosch Gardens to the romantic treats at the V&A Waterfront and the spectacular views of Table Mountain, the wildlife and nature venues of the West Coast National Park, Hermanus’ whales, sightseeing, culture, history - you cannot have enough of it. Cape Town is the second largest city in South Africa and is in the south-west corner of the country. Dominated by the iconic Table Mountain, which serves as a backdrop everywhere in the city, Cape Town is a mish-mash of cultures. So, why wouldn’t you want to explore this beautiful city?

In Cape Town, there is so much to do and see. If your guided tour with us begins or ends in Cape Town, we can assist with personal guided tours in this city and surrounding area, but the most cost-effective and convenient way to do this is to book your full-day and half-day tours through your local hotel’s “travel desk” or Concierge – this gives you the option of an educated guess on what the weather will hold for the following day – it is notoriously difficult to predict weather six months in advance! This also alleviates the necessity for our guide (who is based in Durban, some 1800 kilometres away) and vehicle (and their associated costs) to accompany you on those additional days in Cape Town. So, for example, if you have done a 10-day tour along the Drakensberg, Wild Coast and Garden Route with us on a tour which ends in Cape Town, we drop you off at your hotel in this city and our services end. There are many tour companies that offer tours in and around Cape Town – we can always suggest some of these, but the best and least expensive option is the Red-City Buses. The hop on hop off leisure buses are the go-to vehicles for tours and expeditions, while also enabling you to interact with the locals and other visitors. They offer you a chance to visit about thirty stops which include Boulders Beach, Cape Point, wine tasting, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Groot Constantia, V & A Waterfront, Jewel Africa, Table Mountain, Camps Bay, Hout Bay – I’ll stop now, I think you get the message! The buses also include earphones set in a way that you can be your own tour guide by programming them according to the language you know best.
Just a week ago I paid a short visit to this city, just to take in a very small selection on what was on offer and to “test drive” as it were, a hotel which we highly recommend to guests.

Although I did not visit it this time, having been there quite a few times previously, if you are a visitor to Cape Town, there is no way you will be missing Table Mountain. The picturesque mountain landmark unerringly defines the beauty of Cape Town - the new seventh wonder of nature offers one a first-class bird’s eye view of the City Bowl. The easy way up is of course via the Cableway and once at the top, you get to experience the wonderful and serene wonders of Table Mountain. For the more energetic, you can also get to the summit on foot through a multitude of trails. Cape Town is a stone's throw from South Africa's world-famous Cape Winelands situated around Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, but I did not have time to visit these on this trip – maybe next time?

One place I did visit, was the Kirstenbosch Gardens, which is not to be missed. Sadly, the short time that I had set aside to visit, was the one morning that we experienced quite heavy rain – but I went anyway! (See what I said in paragraph three above about the weather). The garden allows you to picnic and to enjoy the Kirstenbosch tree canopy, which are floating aerial walkways and boardwalks made of curved steel and timber. This winds and dips its way through and over the trees. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is acclaimed as one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch, set against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. Now, I’m not much for flowers on their own, so I tried to incorporate some wildlife in the form of birds, in these following images that I took here:
Southern Double-collared Sunbird

Orange-breasted Sunbird

Cape Sugarbird

Just some Proteas

Another main attraction is Boulders Beach, which is home to an endangered colony of African Penguins. This colony is one of only a few in the world, and consists of three pristine beaches, one penguin viewing area and three boardwalks. The boardwalks were built as a measure to allow for viewing of these wonderful birds, whilst keeping them safe from poking fingers. My advice is don't touch or feed the penguins – they may look cute and cuddly, but their beaks are as sharp as razors and if they feel threatened they have no qualms about nipping the odd finger or nose.
African Penguin

African Penguin portrait

A Trio of African Penguins

And what will a visit to Cape Town be without visiting one of the top tourist destinations in South Africa, the Cape of Good Hope (or Cape Point, as it is commonly called)? Due to the variety of wildlife that occurs here (see, wildlife again!) it is the only section of the Table Mountain National Park that is fenced and one can look out for, among others, Eland, Red Hartebeest, Bontebok and Zebra. The Visitor Centre showcases all the plants and animals to look out for in a particular season and is full of informative signage. At the Point, visitors are treated to excellent viewing opportunities from both lighthouses that adorn the most south western point in Africa, one still fully functional. The lighthouse is accessible by foot or one can catch the Flying Dutchman funicular to the summit.
The walk up to the lighthouse

Our funicular, which we rode to the top and then walked down

Looking south from the lighthouse

One of the many pathways

Capetonians will tell you that you must do “Chappies” (or to use its real name, the Chapmans Peak Drive). This is one of the universe’s most scenic drives and gives you an opportunity to savour the panoramic view of the deep-blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the mountainous shoreline that meets it. It also allows you to check out the breath-taking vantage points, whales and dolphins rollicking in the ocean below, and baboon troops curiously observing the passing tourists.
The one end of Chappies 
One of the many bends in the road

And another bend

Oh, I almost forgot, I also paid a visit to the West Coast National Park, which is just over an hour’s drive north of Cape Town where one finds the azure waters of the Langebaan Lagoon, focal point of the West Coast National Park. West Coast National Park boasts a popular and colourful flower season annually between August and September. Depending on the amount of rainfall in the preceding winter months, West Coast’s Flower Season is fast becoming rival competition to other popular flower viewing sites in the country. Some images below…but again, I included some birds…
Some rock formations in a sea of yellow flowers

A distant view of the Atlantic Ocean

Cattle Egret with a scorpion meal

Sacred Ibis against a backdrop of yellow

And now to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, where the city meets the sea. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is one of Africa's most visited destinations and attracts many, many people every year. Its setting, in the oldest working harbour in the southern hemisphere, is simply spectacular - it has Table Mountain as a dramatic backdrop as well as extensive views of the ocean, the city bowl and the mountain peaks of the distant Hottentots-Holland Mountains. This large mixed-use development has everything on offer from residential to commercial property and includes hotels, retail districts, and extensive dining, leisure and entertainment facilities. Its many heritage sites and tourism landmarks make it both exceptional and unique, such as the recently opened Zeitz Museum which hosts the world's largest collection of contemporary art from Africa. As for what one can do here, there is just too much to mention and too little space or time – you’ll have to come and see for yourself.
Waterfront view

Another view, different area

Remember, this is a working harbour

There are many restaurants at the waterfront

Whilst here I stayed at the V & A Hotel – wow, talk about location, location, location! This lovely hotel was built in 1904 as the North Quay Warehouse. This iconic establishment was named after Queen Victoria and her son, Prince Alfred who played an intrinsic role in the establishment of the Breakwater Basin, now the V & A Waterfront. The hotel is in the very heart of the Waterfront and offers some of the most enviable views of the harbour, Table Mountain and the city that stretches out at the foot of this natural wonder - these two images courtesy of the hotel..
V & A Hotel

V & A Hotel

Timeless elegance and personalised luxury are par for the course at this award-winning hotel - attention to detail, its elegance and an outstanding reputation have set this hotel apart as one of Cape Town’s finest establishments. A luxurious stay awaits at each of the ninety-four well-appointed, contemporary rooms, with views of the Alfred Basin, Table Mountain or the piazza. The warm personal service makes one instantly feel at home - these three images courtesy of the hotel.
Loft Room

Mountain Room

Piazza Room

I stayed in a Mountain Room and this had great views, space, ambience, a great big bed…this hotel really must be experienced, I can’t do it justice. The food, in the delightful Ginja Restaurant, was outstanding. Breakfast was a superb buffet spread followed by many hot breakfast choices. Attached to this restaurant is a coffee bar which, in my opinion, served the best coffees in the entire V & A Waterfront – and all in a great setting.

There is no getting away from it, Cape Town is a must-visit destination…we will arrange this for you.