Cape Town, South Africa

Community Highlights Africa & The Middle East Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa has always been a dream travel destination for me so when my brother planned a trip to go to Cape Town to visit his girlfriend who was there for a few months (she is originally from there) I jumped at the chance to tag along on the trip.

Travel
The journey was actually longer than I expected, made even longer by delays - but what can you do! I travelled from Manchester to Istanbul (around 4 hours flight time), was supposed to have a 2.5 hour layover which turned into a 4.5 hour layover, then flew from Istanbul to Cape Town, which took around 11.5 hours. It was my first time flying with Turkish Airlines and I was impressed! I actually love flying long haul, I find it so relaxing, love watching new films one after the other and generally enjoy the alone time, so the long flight did not phase me!

I landed in Cape Town and was met by my brother, Niall, and his girlfriend, Rigan. It was a gorgeous day and the sun was out - much better than the 1 degree cold, wet, January weather I had left behind! We had hired a car which they had previously picked up, so it was an easy trip out of the airport and on our way to our Air BnB. During this drive from the airport, I caught sight of my first township. A township is a type of urban settlement in South Africa that was originally designated for non-white residents under apartheid. These areas were often characterised by overcrowding, inadequate infrastructure, and limited access to resources. It was really crazy to see and a very humbling site.

My first thought to share on South Africa - driving there is WILD! No-one cares at all. They do not have to get their cars an MOT and it seems this makes them a little careless. I saw cars that had clearly had big bumps driving around without being repaired - parts falling off / no wing mirrors / missing doors, all sorts. There are also Township Taxis, which essentially collect people from the townships and take them into the city centre for work (they are white minibuses) and they 100% own the road! No rules apply to them and basically everyone just gets out of their way, so stay away if driving.

First Day, First Beach
My first day after dropping off bags etc, we hit a beach. During my time in Cape Town I think I went to 5 beaches overall, all completely different but all amazing and stunning in their own way. The first one we did was Glen Beach, which is pretty central and close to the city centre. There was something really beautiful about looking out to the sea one way and having the gorgeous Cape Town mountains behind you. I am not one for cold water and the Atlantic Ocean surrounding Cape Town is FREEEEZZIIINGGGGGG! The sort of water that, when only in up to my ankles, my feet were aching = not for me. Niall however was fully submerged whenever he got the chance.

We had our first meal out at a restaurant called Mozambik and I had my first insight into how cheap the food is there. For x2 drinks, a steak with prawns and chips plus a side salad and sauce, I paid the equivalent of £16. Such good value for money!

Lion's Head
Luckily there is only a 2-hour time difference between the UK and South Africa, as Friday morning we were up at the crack of dawn ready to hike up Lion's Head. Lion's Head is a mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, between Table Mountain and Signal Hill. Lion's Head peaks at 669 metres above sea level and the peak forms part of a dramatic backdrop to the city of Cape Town and is part of the Table Mountain National Park. We started the climb around 8am, in an effort to beat the heat and people, and it took us around 2.5 hours top to bottom. It was still hot at this time so I would not recommend doing it much later! There is some rock scrambling as you near the summit, but the only part of the trail that could be considered intimidating are the metal ladders and climbing chains required to ascend the rock face at one point. This climb in general was unlike anything I had ever done, and all 3 of us had to push ourselves. But, it was so worth it. The views at the top were just gorgeous and I felt really accomplished after completing it.

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We spent the afternoon in Kirstenboch, which is a National Botanical Garden. The mountains surround you whilst inside these gorgeous grounds, so it is quite the view. They also have a tree canopy walk, which was cool to do. We took some picky bits we got at a supermarket and sat by a lake for lunch, which was really chilled and nice.

Signal Hill
Signal Hill is another of the (smaller) mountains in Cape Town, but this one is most commonly visited for paragliding, which is exactly what we did. I had already had several views of Cape Town, but the views from above whilst gliding down off the hill were something else. We were able not only to enjoy breathtaking views of Cape Town, the iconic Table Mountain, and the Ocean but also experience a thrilling moment in the air - something you do not get to do everyday! We used Cape Town Tandem Paragliding, who were super organised and efficient with great people working there. My only complaint - it was over too quick! It took less than ten minutes top to bottom so felt like it was over really quickly. I was given the opportunity to fly it solo and have a go at changing directions, which was fun, if a little scary!

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After this, we went to The Old Biscuit Mill, which has a market on a Saturday. Lots of different food options and cute shops coupled with live music and just a general good vibe, it was well worth a visit. We were only staying a 12 minute walk away but decided to Uber there as we were unsure of the safety of the area and interestingly, we were not allowed to leave until we had a confirmed Uber booked, and then escorted to the car. So an area which I feel is known for some issues, so do be careful if visiting.

Franschhoek Wine Tram
We had an early start the next day as we made the drive to Franschhoek. The Franschhoek Wine Tram hop-on hop-off tour is one of the best ways to discover the true essence of the Franschhoek Valley - picturesque vineyards, breath-taking scenery, warm hospitality, world-class cuisine, fine wines and a 300-year history. You are able to journey through vineyards in either an open-sided tram, stopping at some of South Africa's oldest and most distinguished wine estates. We managed to do 3 in the day, doing a wine tasting at each and at a couple grabbing some cheese boards and charcuterie boards to go with. It was such a different experience and the vineyards were just beautiful.

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Inverdoorn Game Reserve
I could not go to South Africa and not do a safari! The Kruger is the big one in SA which is based in Jo'Berg, so a little too far for us this time but definitely still on the bucket list. We decided to go to Inverdoorn, which for an overnight stay, 2 x safaris, food included and a stargazing experience included only cost around £180 per person. It took around 3 hours to drive from Cape Town and once checked in we had a couple of hours to spare, so chilled by the pool. We then went on our first safari, which took around 2.5 hours. We saw quite a lot but some of the bigger ones were missing, luckily we saw them the next day! The stargazing was really great too - I am a sucker for space - and the stars were probably the clearest I have ever seen them. Over the two days we saw:
Day 1
Springbok
National Bird of SA
Zebra
Ostrich
Buffalo
Rhinos
Wildebeest
Flamingoes
Hippos

Day 2
Lions
Spotted Eagle Owl
Cheetas
Jackal
Eland
Elephants
Kudu
Giraffe

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It was a really amazing experience but because it was a reserve and some animals are being rehabilitated, it did not have the full on effect I was expecting and what I feel The Kruger would offer, so if you have the opportunity to do that 100% you should!

Table Mountain
We didn't really have enough time to climb this, so opted to take the quicker route via the cable cars. There was quite a queue for tickets and then to get on the cable cars so heads up when going, but to be fair it did move quickly. It honestly was so high! I thought we were high up the other day when on top of Lion's Head but we were way above the peak when on Table Mountain. The views were insane and there was lots of different parts of it to explore, as well as some smaller hikes you could have done off it.

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Boulder's Beach
This is the beach made famous because of the penguins living on it! If I am completely honest, this was probably my least favourite thing we did. The cost was quite high for what it was (190 Rand) and all it is is a small walk down a wooden path where you can see the penguins. It is quite busy, there as not a huge amount to see and do, and it was done pretty quickly. The cost did allow us in to another beach a little further down, which was quite private and we spent a few hours here.

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Robben Island
I wasn't sure if I was going to do this but I had a solo day and decided I really wanted to, so I got the boat over to Robben Island and took the tour. I had an amazing tour guide on the first part, which was a bus ride around the island, who was full of amazing facts. He asked everyone on the bus where they were from and told them a fact about how that country helped save the people imprisoned on the island - it was incredible knowledge! Seeing the prison and the cell Nelson Mandela spent so many years (which was so small) was touching and it was a really great tour. I would recommend!

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One final point I want to touch on before ending is the poverty seen in Cape Town. You cannot escape it and I do not want to acknowledge it, because it is very hard to see. Poverty is extremely high and you cannot visit Cape Town without being faced with it. The class divide is so prominent and there are stark income, resource and spatial divisions. Every time you come to a set of traffic lights, people will be there begging and it is hard to ignore. We got into a routine of picking up a few extra bits or filling water bottles and giving these out, and the people there were so grateful. The stark reality of poverty in South Africa is heart-wrenching to witness and it will forever have a lasting impression on me.

Extras
A few other things we did / places we went which I didn't include in the above...
- Time Out Market (amazing food)
- Our Local (great restaurant)
- Cape Point (most Southerly part of SA)
- Kaulk Bay
- Saunders Beach
- Cape Point Vineyard (the most gorgeous setting with an evening market)
- Aegir Brewery
- Stellenbosch
- Clifton Beach
- Oranjezicht City Farm Market (amazing food but verrrrryyyy busy)
- Postcard Cafe (beautiful - like a postcard!)

If South Africa is not already on your bucket list, it needs to be! South Africa is a land of breathtaking diversity, beautiful scenery, amazing food and it really needs to be explored.

This featured blog entry was written by LaurenF3 from the blog The Bucket List Traveller.
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By LaurenF3

Posted Tue, Feb 27, 2024 | South Africa | Comments