10 great things to do in Cape Town
1. Catch a cable car up Table Mountain…
…then abseil back down. If you fancy following a rope 112 metres down Table Mountain (and we’d recommend it as the world’s highest commercial abseil even if it wasn’t for the views), then Abseil Africa (297 Long Street, 021 424 4760, www.abseilafrica.co.za) is your best bet. The less adventurous can catch the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway up… and back down. The quick ride will give you a bird’s eye view of the City Bowl. The summit can also be reached on foot through a multitude of beautiful albeit exhausting, trails. If you want a longer experience – spending up to five nights in tented camps – take the long-distance Hoerikwaggo Trail (www.sanparks.org) up from the Cape of Good Hope.
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2. Dive into shark-infested waters
Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water… South Africa has an incredibly diverse shark population. A quarter of the world’s shark species (98 to be precise) dwell in South African waters and around 40 of these call the waters around Cape Town home.
Adrenalin junkies will want to make the 175-kilometre (110-mile) journey to Gansbaii, the white shark capital of the world. Shark cage diving is big business here and the tourism bureau endorses a whopping eight companies. Most charge around R1,100 for a session, but offer different packages (refreshments, shuttle service to and from Cape Town and so on) so phone around to find one that suits your needs. Try Great White Shark Tours (028 384 1418/083 300 2138/www.sharkcagediving.net); Marine Dynamics (028 384 1005/082 380 3405/www.sharkwatchsouthafrica.com); Shark Diving Unlimited (028 384 2787/082 441 4555/www.sharkdivingunlimited.com); Shark Lady 028 312 3287/083 746 8985/www.sharklady.co.za; UnrealDive (021 553 0748/083 273 4920/www.unrealdive.com); White Shark Ecoventures 021 532 0470/083 412 3733/www.white-shark-diving.com); or White Shark Projects (028 384 1774/076 245 5880/www.whitesharkprojects.co.za).
Alternatively, take the safer option and visit the Two Oceans Aquarium. The I&J Predator Tank is the pièce de résistance, with its mob of ocean predators, including ragged tooth sharks, blue stingrays and black mussel crackers, all drifting together in seeming harmony – until feeding time, that is (3pm).
3. Get the gastronomy juices flowing
Cape Town’s best gastronomy is to be found dotted around the central city. Try Jardine for pared down, subtle flavours (dishes might include tender Chalmar beef fillet with oxtail, and tomatoey West Coast crayfish risotto), Bizerca Bistro for bistro classics with a fresh twist brought to you by award-winning chef Laurent Deslandes, or La Colombe, where chef Luke Dale-Roberts wows foodies from across the globe with the likes of springbok medallions with celeriac purée in a rich port and truffle sauce.
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4. Take a lesson in South African history
The fascinating and inspirational Robben Island is a symbol both of centuries of cruel oppression and the triumph of hope. It has become synonymous with the former leader of the free and democratic South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years in its maximum security prison.
The award-winning community museum, District Six lays bare the time when the ruling government declared the area ‘whites only’ and over 60,000 of its residents were forcibly taken from their homes and shipped out to the Cape Flats, before their houses were reduced to rubble.
5. Explore the continent’s unique tastes and flavours
Cape Town offers adventurous eaters tastes from across the African continent, be it Xhosa fare like samp (crushed maize used in porridge) and marog (African spinach), spongy injeras (flatbreads) from Ethiopia, or Cape Malay cuisine.
For an authentic taste of Cape Malay food (samosas, lamb denningvleis, or mild chicken kalya) head to Biesmiellah’s. For dishes from across the local spectrum, try Nyoni’s Kraal, which serves braaivleis (barbecue), Malay curries, amangina (chicken feet) and smileys (sheep’s heads). For something more universally appealing, try the Africa Café, where you’ll have your pick of everything from Xhosa spinach patties and Mozambican peri-peri prawns to Ethiopian lamb. Mama Africa is another Pan-African treat, boasting a live (and loud) Congolese band and as much meat from feathered, scaled and furry beasts as you can eat, all served with a side of samp and pap (mealie meal porridge).
There’s more African food at Marco’s African Place. The menu includes specialities like Zwelethu’s Favourite Chicken (simmered with onions and peppers) and a platter of pan-fried springbok, ostrich and kudu fillets. End your meal with the tongue-in-cheek Group Areas dessert, comprised of white and dark chocolate mousses. You can taste the food of Ethiopia at the beautiful and authentically decorated Addis in Cape, where you are encouraged to eat with your hands, mopping up every drop sauce with pieces of injera (flatbread).
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6. Walk a Museum Mile
Running straight as an arrow down the leafy haven of Company’s Gardens (a symbolic silent bell stands testimony to the slaves who once toiled in this former vegetable garden) is the oak-lined pedestrian strip of Government Avenue, providing access to Adderley Street, the National Gallery (with permanent and temporary exhibitions showcasing South African art spanning the centuries, as well as the occasional retrospectives of the likes of Picasso and Marelene Dumas), Houses of Parliament (buildings which have seen their fair share of action though the years), the Iziko Museum (home to the animal kingdom in taxidermy form), the Iziko Planetarium (which covers all things celestial), and the Iziko Slave Lodge (built by the Dutch East India Company to house up to 9,000 slaves, convicts and the mentally ill).
7. Drink in the Long Street vibe
Long Street is the place for partying: bars like Julep (one of Cape Town’s best-kept secrets, with bare brick walls, comfy couches and a spectacular selection of cocktails) and the Waiting Room (a cosy, unpretentious bar with retro chairs and lighting of the kind that your granny might have had. There’s also a stunning roof deck for hanging out on those hot summer nights), while Neighbourhood has a laid-back feel and a vast balcony from which to watch the goings-on on the street below.
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8. Dip your toes into hidden waters
To avoid squealing kids, whirring jet-skis and wayward Frisbees, head to one of these secluded sandy shores for some undisturbed rest and relaxation.
Beta Beach Situated a convenient ten minutes’ drive from the city centre, this postage-stamp-sized beach is flanked by big boulders, which makes it great for swimming as well as uninterrupted sun-bathing.
Oudekraal Oudekraal lies right next door to Beta Beach. It offers a protected cove at the bottom of a steep set of stairs, which is surrounded by a thicket of milkwood trees. Since this area forms part of the Table Mountain National Park, there’s a R10 entrance fee, but it’s a negligible amount to pay for the splendour that waits inside.
Smitswinkelbaai Further out of town, and heading in the direction of Cape Point, keep a lookout for the tiny gravelled parking area by the side of the road between Simon’s Town and the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. Once there, dash across the road and commence a 15-minute downward amble along the overgrown footpath until you reach the unspoilt, isolated Smitswinkelbaai. The view of the lush valley is well worth the extra effort involved in getting here and the calm water makes for great snorkelling.
Tietiesbaai Just under two hours’ drive from town, Tietiesbaai is situated in the Cape Columbine Reserve on the West Coast. It boasts carpets of colourful wild flowers in spring and a guaranteed soundtrack of silence thanks to the prohibition of anything that blares, barks, roars and whirrs.
9. Take home an African memento
Savvy visitors know to come with a half-empty suitcase ready to fill up with well-priced buys for themselves, friends and families, a portion of which is reserved for African mementos. Visit the Pan African Market (a gem for Victorian tiling, old fok art, and custom-tailored garments) and Greenmarket Square (offers a full range of African folk art plus well-priced CDs and souvenir clothing) for a real-deal bargaining experience.
For quality gifts and souvenirs head to Heartworks (abuzz with a broad range of local crafts hailing from locations as diverse as rural Africa and cutting-edge urban studios), Imagenius (a stylish horn of plenty, fusing neo-Rococo with modern third-world knick-knacks), and Baraka (something for all tastes, ranging from wire woven baskets, cacti and pop-art pics to authentic African masks and beautifully bound Indian leather notebooks). For homeware make tracks to Africa Nova (an encyclopedic treasure chest of Pan-Africa objets) or African Image, where Africana is juxtaposed with modern transitional pieces, and for antiques get along to Lütge Gallery.
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10. Waddle down to a penguin colony
Enjoy some beach time with the endearing jackass penguins (so-called because of their unrefined singing voices that resemble those of braying jackasses) who call the African Penguin Colony at Boulder’s Beach home. For R5 extra, you can spy on slippery sea life or beach babes through the binoculars dotting the walkway.
Original article: http://www.timeout.com/