12 January 2005

South Africa

Stumpy's Guide to the Cape

Following a family trip in December 2004, here are a few notes to help those visiting Cape Town for the first time. It's a great spot...

Cape Town
V and A Waterfront / City Bowl


Places we enjoyed:
- Den Anker – Belgian food (moules, frites, great prawns) and interesting selection of beers
- Cape Grace hotel: have a treat one night in their restaurant called One Waterfront (the bar downstairs called the Bascule also does good snacks and boasts the biggest collection of whiskies in the Southern Hemisphere)

View from Cape Grace
- Bukhara in the City Bowl area (get a cab): Cape Town’s favourite Indian restaurant. V.good
- Other people like Quay 4 (seafood) and Hildebrand (Italian) on the Waterfront. Both are very popular and were a bit busy for us.
* Get a boat to Robben Island: tour takes about 3 hours. You will need to book in advance (either get your hotel to make the reservation for you or book a few days in advance at the ‘Nelson Mandela Gateway’ when you get to Cape Town). Please tip the guides!! Try and specify what boat you travel on – the ‘Makhana’ is the one to go for, as it’s modern and fast.

Welcome to Robben Island
Nelson Mandela's cell
Ex-prisoner Benjamin, our guide around Robben Island
View to the Cape from Robben Island
* Spend an hour touring the Nelson Mandela Gateway museum
* Visit the CD Warehouse: huge selection of music and they will let you listen to anything at one of several listening stations. Great if you want to experiment with ‘World Music’.
* The Waterfront Craft Market has some good offerings if you’re into all that African art and craft stuff
* There’s a huge shopping mall called Victoria Wharf: very similar to UK in ranges (and prices)
* You can get 30 minute helicopter rides over Cape Town for about £75 each: they fly from the end of one of the piers and they’ll take you down there on a golf buggy
* The aquarium is interesting but gets very crowded. It’ll only take an hour to get around it.
* If you want lots of pubs and clubs then Long Street in the City Bowl area is the place to go
* We had a laugh at the Drum CafĂ©, 32 Glynn Street, Gardens area (get a cab – 10/15 minutes from the Waterfront): there is a facilitated drum circle on Wednesday evenings starting at 2100 (get there at 2045). Author's note - this is now closed. Sad.

Further Afield…

* Go to the winelands: best that you don’t drive there yourself ‘cos you won’t be able to drive back! We used a wine guide called Keith van der Schyff of Redwood Tours who took us around some good vineyards not accessible to the public without being pre-booked and he can recommend on places for lunch. Cost was about £25 each for a morning’s tour and this included all entry fees into the vineyards. There are many other firms offering similar services - check out the Platter wine guide (see below).

At the Rustenberg Winery, Stellenbosch
- I recommend you go out to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, as the countryside there is stunning. One other thing (which we didn’t do as we didn’t have the time) was to have a picnic at one of the wineries, The one to go for is Le Pique-Nique at Boschendal which lies between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Advance booking essential.
- We stayed at La Couronne in Franschhoek: a good spot for lunch in a beautiful setting, but I believe it's now closed

Views from La Couronne, Fransschhoek

- There’s a great guidebook to the area: John Platter’s South African Wines 2005, available for about a tenner.
* Get the cable car to the top of Table Mountain. The wind and cloud will determine whether the cable car runs and it’s therefore important to keep and eye on the weather. If it clears get a cab and go for it! Fantastic views and easy walking (flat!) at the top. Avoid mornings if you can as a lot of tour buses go then and it gets crowded. However, you can avoid a lot of queuing by buying tickets from your hotel. This means you only join one queue, the one to get on the cable car itself. Many people go up for the sunset.
- If you drive yourself up there (15-20 minutes from the Waterfront) allow for a bit of a walk to the cable car station as parking is quite limited)
* Go to the top of Signal Hill (self drive): great views over Cape Town and to Robben Island
* Self drive to Cape Point: allow a full day if you really want to explore. We went out of Cape Town on the M62, which takes you down the Atlantic Coast via the Camps Bay area, down to Llandudno and then on to the spectacular cliff-hugging Chapman’s Peak Drive (now open…ignore the Lonely Planet Guidebook on this). We then turned inland on the M6 to pick up the M4 down through Simon’s Town, then follow signs to Cape Point.
There’s a toll on the Chapman’s Peak Drive and it will cost you to get into the Cape Point Nature reserve.
Watch out for baboons at Cape Point: apparently they’re a real nuisance although we didn’t see one when we visited.

Circular rainbow seen at Cape Point
* We’re not beach people but the bays to the south of cape Town have much to commend them. I’ll leave you to explore the options here: look at the guidebook. The sea on the eastern side of the Cape (False Bay) can be 5 degrees warmer apparently, but it’s not so scenic.
* Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens get great reviews, but we didn’t have time to visit, and finally...

** Jump the highest commercial bungee in the world. It's only 216m and can be found at the Bloukrans Bridge just east of Plettenberg on the south coast (at the start of the 'Garden Route' if you're travelling from Port Elizabeth). It's well run and very professional. You can also do the 'Flying Fox', a fast swing under the arches of the bridge, but much less committing than the bungee. Go on, go for it!

Anna about to do her first bungee, only 216m! 

Bloukrans Bridge

Kev's second bungee
View from the top of the bungee
The 'Flying Fox' under the bridge
Following our journey along the Garden Route from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, we flew up to Singita Lebombo for a short safari.

Arriving in the Kruger
Night game drive, chameleon spotted

Not now dear, our son is watching!
Singita Lebombo room

Rather says it all!