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Cape Town, jewel in the crown of the Western Cape, South Africa, is, but one of the gems of a province that is rich in culture and heritage, with varied attractions, from a sun kissed coastline, to an internationally acclaimed wine route, as well as the longest wine route in the world! Lazy fishing hamlets where azure waters compliment wide open spaces along the West Coast, and surreal rock formations of the semi-desert environments of the Cederberg and Karoo, where wild flowers and blazing sunsets, make the orange and red hues of the desert landscape dance. Cape Town is the 4th largest province in South Africa, roughly the size of England.
The Western Cape also boasts two proclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Sites (the Cape Floral Kingdom of protected areas and Robben Island) as well as a flat topped mountain, that gently envelopes the city (Table Mountain), a bustling working harbour which incorporates a lot of ‘play’ as well, and a coastline where great white sharks trawl for seals and giant southern right whales return year after year to mate and calve in calm, warm waters, are the tip of the ice-berg that attracts the lion’ s share of international tourists to the region.
In the Western Cape there are eight protected areas covering 553 000ha, known collectively as the Cape Floral Kingdom, which is one of the richest areas for plants in the world. It represents less than 0.5% of the area of Africa but is home to nearly 20% of the continent’s flora. The sheer diversity and wealth of species is characterised by fynbos (Fine Bush) and the protea family of plants that is endemic to the Cape. Unique plant reproductive strategies, adaptive to fire, patterns of seed dispersal by insects, as well as patterns of endemism (meaning: a plant that is native to a certain region/limited area) and adaptive radiation found in the flora are of outstanding value to science.
The most southern province in South Africa is at the very tip of Africa, with a ‘hook-like’ peninsula known as Cape Point, that is often referred to incorrectly as the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In fact, the true merging of oceans is at Cape Agulhas, further south of the Peninsula. Cape Town and her Peninsula enjoys a Mediterranean climate, ideal for grape cultivation, hence the multitude of wine estates.
As South Africa's fourth largest province at 129 462 sq. kilometres, the culture of the Western Cape has a unique flavour, with influences from Asia, India, France (French Huguenot), Holland (Colonialism and the Dutch East India Company extending their trade route to the spice countries) and other parts of Europe including the Germany and the Portugal. Nowadays Afrikaans (a language derived from mostly Dutch, as well as French and German) is spoken by the majority, with isiXhosa and English being the other main languages.
Most of the province revels in a Mediterranean-type climate with cool, wet winters and warm dry summers. A wonderful summer perk in Cape Town is the long days of sunshine, around 12 hours of bright daylight. Cape Town winters tend to be cold and windy, but are interspersed with bright days which can sometimes last for a few weeks. The average temperature in summers, which is from November to February ranges between 15 to 27º C. The winter season is from May to August when the temperature is between 7 to 18 º C, dropping to 5 º C during morning and evening.
Cape Town has its own international airport named ‘Cape Town International Airport’ which is the 2nd largest airport in South Africa. Various international airlines have regular flights to Cape Town from Doha, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London, Singapore, Kuala Lampur and many more. Multiple daily flights arrive and depart for Johannesburg, Durban and a lot of other South African cities.
The main railway station of Cape Town is ‘Cape Town Railway Station’. It is located along the Adderley and Strand streets. It is the hub of the Metrorail Western Cape commuter rail network. Originating from the Cape Town, the rail network consists of four lines connecting Cape Town to various locations in South Africa.
Cape Town is very well connected by Bus to other cities in South Africa and Windhoek in Namibia. A number of bus companies have daily buses for all the neighbouring destinations.
Places of attraction:
Cape Town, the most popular tourist destination in South Africa, is a title well deserved, as the city is scenically arresting, with ocean vistas never far away, nestled at the base of iconic Table Mountain and fanning out from the city centre are areas of natural beauty that are simply breath taking, that it’s worthwhile spending a few nights to take it all in.
The city of Cape Town has numerous galleries, monuments and museums which showcase South Africa’s history. Some of the captivating attractions are St George’s Cathedral, Iziko National Gallery, the Noon Day Gun,Castle of Good Hope, The Company Gardens and Rhodes Memorial. Shopping is definitely on the cards at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (often shortened to the V&A Waterfront), in Longand Church Streets, and the upcoming shopping mecca of De Waterkant. There are the markets of St George’s Square and Greenmarket Square, along with weekend markets at Woodstock. The Neighbourgoods Market is a good place to sample local dishes and typically Capetonian-style culture and ambiance.
The V&A Waterfront is much more than just shopping, where one can cruise the harbour and sail out to sea at sunset, or take a fast ferry to Robben Island, former prison to elder statesman and South African hero, Nelson Mandela. One can take a township tour to understand the lives of majority of the South Africans and sample township culture – unique to South Africa. Of particular interest is the areas of Bo-Kaap (where Malay decedents and historical significance) as well as the District Six Museum, which highlights the forced removal of an entire community.
Discover THE CAPE’S PENINSULA coastal towns and wildlife driving through the beaches of Camps Bay and Llandudno to Hout Bay to the Cape Point (the very tip of the peninsula) through the Table Mountain National Park where one is sure to see baboons and antelope, not to mention an array of birdlife and of course the endemic Cape fynbos. Visit the Boulder’s Beach to see a colony of penguins.
Visit the Cape Winelands, the most popular being Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl. The oldest wine growing region is Constantia which is also the closest to the city centre on the Cape Peninsula. Other noted wine producing areas are that of Wellington, Robertson,Somerset West and Tulbagh. Many of the wine estates have excellent restaurants, and generally the wine farms are set in picturesque surrounds. There are some outstanding combinations for enhancing your wine tasting experience, Belgian chocolate paired with exquisite red wines, bread making to the accompaniment of wine tasting, cheese paired with wine tasting and throughout the year wine fairs and events punctuate the calendar.
Discover the beaches of the Cape – Camps Bay (Mediterranean, alfresco, exotic), take a stroll along the promenades of Sea Point and Bantry Bay (enticing sea views and streets lined with restaurants and cafes).
Take a drive to Kalk Bay, where antique stores line the small seaside village, cafes and restaurants abound and one can watch the fisherman bring in their catch, with impromptu opportunities to bargain for fresh fish.
The iconic mountain for city of Cape Town, The Table Mountain, shows-off incredible views of the city from a lofty height. Another fantastic sundowner view point is from Signal Hill – pack a picnic basket and a bottle of bubbly and drive up the hill to watch the sunset.
Cape Town for children (and the young at heart) is ‘fun’tastic – visit the Two Oceans Aquarium and the Scratch Patch at the V&A Waterfront, the World of Birds at Hout Bay, or venture out into the ocean to view seals diving and honking (and ponging) at Seal Island from Hout Bay. Pay tribute to Able Bodied Seaman, Just Nuisance, a mischievous Great Dane, who is known to have accompanied seaman during World War II, on their way home/back to barracks should they have over imbibed. The lovable penguins at Boulders Beach are another attraction as is the beach itself with large granite boulders that shelter gentle rock pools. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is a delightful interlude, to wander amongst these exquisite gardens. Cape Town's Philharmonic Orchestra or local South African bands sometimes perform in various gardens, information about which keeps getting printed in the local publications. Cape Point Ostrich Farm where children can meet the largest bird in the world, or view birds of prey and cheetah at Spier Wine Estate (Stellenbosch). Imhoff Farm at Kommetjie has a great farmyard, snake park and pony rides (there are even a few camels) and ofcourse, the moms and dads will also get their share of entertainment.
Have a Happy Holiday!