The picture perfect coastal city of Cape town is the seat of Parliament and the legislative capital of South Africa. Cape Town has a bit of everything for the avid traveler. It usually hangs high in the bucket list of travelers around the world and is probably the most beautiful city in Africa. We reached here from Johannesburg, during our South Africa Tour in August 2018, by Mango Airlines with only a couple of days to spare. Cape Town is built at the end of the Cape Fold mountain range and the mountainous spine of the Cape Peninsula, which includes the Table mountain. It is bordered by the Atlantic shoreline which caves into a delightful arc when viewed from above. Read about our South Africa Tour from the start Here !!
Again a quick Question : How many capitals does South Africa have ? The answer is at the end of this article.
About our South Africa Road Trip :
We had earlier completed the first leg of our South Africa tour. It included a night at the African Cultural Village, Aha Lesedi, (Read our African Cultural experience here) then two nights of game viewing inside Kruger National Park ( Read our Kruger Game viewing experience here) and lastly two more days in the lap of nature through the Panorama Tour ( Read our Panorama Route experience here).
During our descent into Cape Town International airport the city was shrouded in a misty veil as we looked down from above, . A much smaller airport when compared to Johannesburg, it started to rain by the time we had picked up our car from the airport based car rental. We had booked ourselves an apartment at York Road, about a kilometer and a half from V&A waterfront, the center of tourist attraction here at Cape Town. We were booked for a trip to the Table mountain in the afternoon and then a trip to Robben Island the next day. But the weather played spoilsport for us on day one and we found that the Table mountain cable rides had been cancelled because of rain and windy skies and thus were left with a couple of hours to spare. We needed to juggle our plans since we had only planned for two nights and the major portion of the third day for our Cape Town tour.
A quick tour of Cape Town, South Africa.
What to See in Cape Town ?
Cape Town is the ideal destination for every kind of traveler. It offers great scenic beauty with nature walks, hikes and mountainous trails for the sporty, luxury cruises for the rich and affluent, idyllic beach holidays, wine valley tours for the connoisseur, buzzing nightlife for the night-owls, exotic retreats and adventure holidays as well as quieter family destinations too. A bit of history and culture, a peek into the days of the Apartheid, colourful streets and some interesting museums makes this part of a Bucket Travel List for many.
The Table mountain forms the backdrop for most of the city of Cape Town and wherever you go, it looms large overhead. The mountain got its name for its flat top caused by erosion of layers of sandstone over millions of years. It can be accessed by a hike of about an hour or so or through a cable car ride which takes just around 5 minutes. The cable car operates between 8.30 am and 7 pm for most days and has two different shifts, morning and afternoon for which you can purchase tickets online before hand . The official website is here https://www.tablemountain.net/ . The whole of Cape Town is visible from the top of Table Mountain, as well as Lion’s Head, the Twelve Apostles, Camps Bay and Robben Island at a distance.
We went to Table mountain, bracing long queues for the cable ride, as it resumed operations the previous day after a two week annual maintenance schedule. The cable car rotates on its way up, allowing everyone a view as it spins and rises. As it rises higher above, the whole of Cape Town and its surroundings slowly become visible to you and that is a magnificent sight.
The top of the Table mountain was extremely chilly and cold gusts of wind met us as you alight from the cable station. About 10,000 square meters of a flat mountaintop, the Table mountain summit offers views of the whole of Capetown and the Cape Peninsula plateau which links the mountain to the Twelve Apostles. The blue and aqua shades of the ocean and the skies merge in the horizon and overhead clouds gave it one of the most picturesque setting that I have seen.
Here we became acquainted with a unique creature , a rock hyrax ,indigenous to South Africa and lovingly called Dassie by the locals. This cute creature seemed like mix of a badger ,a giant guinea pig and an ear-less rabbit but of all animals it is actually related to elephants. Not at all afraid of people it happily scampered among rocks and crevices.
A short walk away from the Cable Station is a small resting place and a restaurant to catch some bites, a lager , some wine or a coffee. There is also a shop selling souvenirs and mementos. The heat inside these two establishments was very welcome after we spent an an hour out in the open.
Approached only by ferry, Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela had survived for most of his 25 years of jail time. Now a tourist’s attraction, Robben Island features high on the tourist attractions at Cape Town. The cruise tour lasts about 4 hours and runs thrice a day. The official booking and details are accessible here : http://www.robben-island.org.za . Though we had booked for a tour to Robben Island, bad weather caused the organizers to abort it on the day.
Signal Hill and Lion’s Head
Another prominent location for your Cape Town travel itinerary : Signal Hill and Lion’s Head.
It was a straight forward location to drive too. Giving one of the best views of the city as well as Table Mountain, Robben Island and the Twelve Apostles, the Signal Hill drive is a must. The drive is about 5 minutes from the base and it leads you up the mountains while it takes a slow turn around the mountain to arrive at the flat parking area at the top. The Lion’s head towards the north has the most prominent view from here. This location also has a downhill trek through foresty winding paths, down to the beach about 3 kms away. The white surf and the sands of Camps Bay on one side and the beautiful city of Cape Town on the other, are the two dominating views from Signal Hill. The Robben Island can also be seen at a distance, a blob in the rough waters of the Atlantic. We gave ourselves an hour and a half, enjoying the sights and posing for pictures at different turns of the sinewy mountain drive.
Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles
As a continuation of the Table Mountain and Cape Peninsula, a series of hillock-peaks stand side by side on the eastern edge of Table mountain and is known as the Twelve Apostles. The best sights of the Twelve Apostles is from Camps Bay, a beach side retreat of Capetown for the rich and the famous. The sea here is rough, the beach a sandy white strip with boulders and some rocks at one end. Tidal waves crash on its white alluring beach, bringing white foams and sprays with it. The Twelve Apostles stand behind Camps Bay like a guardian angel all along the beach and is an imposing sight. There are some great restaurants lining the beach side street and people can be seen devouring their burgers and coffee, while some can be seen enjoying local wines and ales in its pubs.
We had a sumptuous lunch at the TGIF restaurant on the beach side, and enjoyed a couple of hours here, with alternating spreads of sunshine and a drizzle of rain in intervals. From here we drove back to the city, about 15 kms, and planned to spend the rest of the afternoon at Two Ocean’s Aquarium.
Two Ocean’s Aquarium : V & A Waterfront
Just a short walk away from the V & A waterfront lies the Twp Ocean’s Aquarium. From the lovable clown fishes, to the poisonous snakes and the dangerous predators of the seas, this is an attraction not to be missed. It enchants not only the young but also the old with its 3000 odd varieties of sea and marine life in display. It provides a window of knowledge about the marine ecology and the habitats and environment of these creatures of the Atlantic and the Pacific . A cool two hours of fantastic experience here at the Two Ocean’s Aquarium, and here is the link to buy tickets online : Two Ocean’s Aquarium Official Site. Behind the aquarium, is an extent of the harbour and is a favourite resting place for seals.
Victoria and Alfred Waterfront
This is one of the most touristy places of Cape Town and at a central location. It consists of a beautiful jetty with its sail boats and longer trawlers, row and motor boats. The setting is idyllic and charming with a food market, a few stores, an art gallery and a deck with four South African Noble Laureate statue nearby. Roam through the lanes and busy walks, buy a can of soda or a glass of chilled iced coffee and take a leisurely stroll around.
The Victoria and Alfred ( V & A) waterfront sports the Cape Town wheel, and next to it is a flamboyant shopping mall selling everything from groceries to diamonds. Hang out at the ‘fish and chips’ shacks near the jetty, or the more trendy and upmarket restaurants lined alongside the markety. You will see musicians and street actors displaying their acts and talents here, and adds a warmer feel to the place. A must go for your Cape Town diaries.
The Bo Kapp
The Bo Kapp is another prominent attraction of Cape Town. It is close to Signal Hill and is about 2 kms away from the V & A waterfront. A former malay quarter, the Bo Kapp is mostly an Islamic neighborhood now. It is famous for its colourful lane of houses and cobble-stoned streets. The history dates back to the times of slaves when malays were brought in from Malaysia and Indonesia to work as slaves in the Dutch plantations.
We spent two nights and the most of the third day at Cape Town, the nature and the city with its undulating twists and turns alluring us at every corner. We loved every bit of the city, in spite of the mostly rainy-dull-and overcast sky that we experienced during our two nights stay. From the picturesque table mountain and the cable ride to its top to the white sands and high tidal waves of Camps Bay and the refreshing drive along Signal Hill , Cape Town is a place to pin up to your Bucket list of destinations. There are a couple of other places to visit like Long Street and the Blouberg Beach, but a shortage of time forced us to cross it out of our itinerary.
On our third day, we visited Table mountain. It was well past noon when we had our fill of the place and decided to take the cable car down. A short lunch, and we had a longish drive in front of us. Our next destination is on the outskirts of Cape Town, towards the southern coastal ridge of the country. There lies the city of Hermanus, on the shores of the Indian Ocean where we were booked for one night. After Hermanus the final destination was Simon’s Town .
Back to our question of “how many capitals does South Africa have” ?
The answer is three , where Pretoria is the administrative capital, Cape town the Legislative and Bloemfontein is the judiciary capital of South Africa which houses the Supreme Court.