Cape Town: 9 Mind-Blowing Things To Do
2017 is the year you need to visit Cape Town - it's chuffing amazing...
Capital cities tend to be rather contentious beasts. Not only for all the geographical and governmental illogical faff that goes with them (we’re looking at you, Canberra), but because any countrymen not living there can often give them a frosty reception.
Cape Town is a city that confounds expectations on every level (not only because it’s one of South Africa’s three capital cities, along with Pretoria and Bloemfontein - it’s a long story), and so in hindsight it’s no surprise that during a couple of weeks travelling around the rest of the country, every South African we chatted to had nothing but positivity, excitement and gushing praise to heap on the city.
Anticipation was understandably high, yet somehow it managed to surpass expectations - a week spent in Cape Town is pretty much a week of constant cultural, visual and endorphin stimulation.
Skydive ‘over’ Table Mountain
Ok, so you can’t actually skydive directly above Table Mountain (for one thing, think of all the pesky tourists you’d knock off the side as you land). But whether you’re an adrenaline junkie or not, you’d be a veritable buffoon to miss out on a tandem jump with Skydive Cape Town.
You’ll not only be following in the foosteps/wailing plummeting of such famouses as Prince Harry, but you’re guaranteed a grin-inducing experience of a lifetime. Situated just a 20-30 minute drive outside of the main city centre, you’re offered the best view of the region courtesy of the flight up to 9,000ft in one of Skydive Cape Town’s tiny, zippy planes.
The Atlantic ocean on your left, mountains on your right, sand dunes directly beneath, and a jawdropping bird’s eye view of Table Mountain are more than worth the admission cost.
And that’s all before you start falling. Imagine the best view you’ve ever seen, multiplied by an adrenaline spike of around 782%. Bootiful.
Join a guided tour
Cape Town, and South Africa as a whole, has undergone such radical cultural change in the last 100 years that a guided tour is near mandatory to help you understand the bigger picture. Sure, we knew the general appalling gist of Apartheid, but chatting to people who lived through it is as enlightening as it is educational.
While the trauma is still remarkably recent (Apartheid started in 1948 and only ended in 1991), that’s not to suggest a tour is a downer of a history lesson. Our African Eagle Tours guide was as jolly, honest and open as they come, willingly encouraging us to ask questions and responding in refreshingly sobering style as he drove us around some of the Cape’s most beautiful spots.
From the bracing winds and beautiful views of the Cape of Good Hope - the most south-western point of the African continent - to a gentle wander around Kirstenbosch - the city’s gorgeous botanical gardens - and Boulders Beach (which boasts approximately 728,029 adorable African penguins), alongside townships, and so many stunning vistas in-between, it’s great for showing you the diversity of the city in a short amount of time.
And if you’re looking for something a little different, we heartily suggest you hop aboard one of Township Art Tour's awesome Woodstock graffiti tours - a fascinating introduction to the shifting face of the neighbourhood, and the complex social make-up behind each piece of art.
It’s Instagram Gold.
Cage Dive With Great White Sharks
As much as I’m an adrenaline junky, I’m also a hippy. So I was conflicted and apprehensive about the opportunity to Cage Dive with Great White Sharks. Thankfully, while other countries don’t have the best record when it comes to safety for both human and shark (remember that bonkers video from Mexico of the shark IN the cage?), a trip with Marine Dynamics is as educational as it is pant-wetting.
They don’t feed the sharks (ergo, the shark doesn’t associate humans with hunger - always a win - or become reliant on returning to the area with food), use each trip out on the boats to aid scientific tracking and research, and have a marine biologist on board each vessel to answer any questions. So now you know it’s morally acceptable, what is the experience actually like, I hear you ask?
It’s a life-altering experience even before you hop into the cage. Your first spot of a Great White Shark in the wild, from atop the boat, is breathtaking. Sure, they’re big ol’ fish, but you’re not prepared for the GIRTH. They’re also nowhere near as terrifying as you may fear - instead gracefully, sleekly slinking through the waters around you.
The ‘in-cage’ experience is even better. Strap on a wetsuit and snorkel, jump in the (closed roof) cage, and then it’s simply a case of bobbing down underwater whenever your spotter shouts that a shark is close. At one point, one beautiful 6m beauty full on splashed me in the face as she swam away. If that isn’t a bucket list experience, I don’t know what is.
Soak up the sun at the city’s awesome beaches
The benefit of being located on the tippy toe of the world? You get a host of incredible beaches to add to the gorgeous ocean views. Cape Town has numerous sandy beaches to hit up, but we can heartily endorse Camps Bay.
Great cafes, a huge swathe of beachland, and a spectacular ocean drive there and back (as well as some incredible hotels and restaurants along the way - head to the Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa for a prime view of the bay and any passing marine wildlife).
And a great way to pick your beach? Get a bird’s eye view from the top of…
Hike Table Mountain
Well, we say ‘hike’, but there are a couple of ways to scale one of the world’s new seven natural wonders. Strap on your trainers/hiking boots for a HIT-tastic walk of vertiginous, calorie-obliterating joy. OR, if you’re more chilled/lazy/hungover, wait for the cable car to take you to the top.
However you get there, the view is one of the most breathtaking you’ll ever see. Stunning.
More Info: http://www.tablemountain.net/
Eat Literally All The Food
Something we weren’t prepared for before visiting Cape Town was the sheer breadth and mouth-watering, weight-multiplying joy of its food scene.
If you like eating, you will adore Cape Town. And if you don’t enjoy eating, really, what are you doing with your life?
While there are hundreds of options, ranging from delectable street food to swanky Michelin starred NOM, here are a couple of stand-outs you have to experience…
Marco’s African Place
As local a joint as you can get, the smiles are huge, the live music is loud and superbly grin-inducing (who knew xylophones could be so swag?), hip jiggling/dancing is involuntary, and the food is comforting, tasty and home-made. Full disclaimer - I’m vegetarian (I know I know), so while I can’t personally vouch for the meat dishes, I can tell you that the menu boasts pretty much every variation of (sustainable) animal you can think of - so if you’re wanting to experience safari by plate, Marco’s is the place to be.
More Info: http://www.marcosafricanplace.com/
While we love good food, we’re always mildly apprehensive of haute cuisine or experimental joints, primarily as they often tend to replace portion size with OTT, bemusing ingredient craziness. Foxcroft, however, shows off Cape Town’s burgeoning foodie scene with aplomb.
Each dish is as drool-worthy as it is fascinating, with unique twists on flavours, ingredients and stunning presentation all complimented by an earthy, chilled ambience.
More Info: https://www.foxcroft.co.za/home
Neighbourgoods Food Market & The Pot Luck Club
Head down to Woodstock on a Saturday morning and brace your stomach for a gastronomical rollercoaster, with a host of food stalls offering super-tasty, super-affordable hits of worldly cuisine. We heartily recommend pretty much any rosti (we went for a poached egg rosti) from Luke Dale Robert’s stall (sidenote - doubly amazing on a hangover). Once you’re suitably engorged, you can walk off a couple of the calories perusing the clothing and arts stalls and shops, before grabbing an elevator to the top of the Old Biscuit Mill's Silo for a lunch/dinner at The Pot Luck Club, another shining beacon in Cape Town's flourishing foodie crown.
Innovative cuisine (just look at the picture above) and a snazzy, drool-worthy tapas menu framed around six core tenets (Salty, Sweet, Umami, Sour, Bitter, Sweet Ending) and containing such bonkers-amazing dishes as 'Springbok Rump, Beetroot Ketchup, Ash Baked Beets and Tomato XO Dressing' and 'Braaied Banana Risotto, Mango, Asian Paer and Avocado Ice Cream'. Amazing.
More Info: http://thepotluckclub.co.za/
Drink Literally All The Wine
Just when you thought Cape Town couldn’t get any more perfect, you discover it has an entire wine region less than an hour’s drive away from the CBD. Stellenbosch boasts over 150 wine farms and estates, and a head/liver-boggling amount of tipple to try. We hearitly recommended Majeka House, a retreat so gorgeous it won Best Design Hotel from Conde Nast's Awards for Excellence 2017. The food is great, the wine somehow even better, and the location - in the heart of a mountain of wineries - is the perfect base for your boozy adventures.
Sit back in the sun with a prime glass of vino, a cheese board, good company and just watch the world disappear.
More Info: http://www.majekahouse.co.za/
Hop aboard a ferry to Robben Island
ICYMI, Nelson Mandela was a bit of a big deal. A cultural revolutionary, a fierce champion for equality, and an inspiring leader throughout his subjugation and incarceration, he’s an icon for many reasons. A visit to Cape Town without taking the time to visit Robben Island is sheer lunacy. Super affordable and endlessly fascinating, you’ll be given a tour around the prison-turned-living museum where Mandela and numerous others were detained. It’s interesting enough without the revelation that your tour guide is an ex-inmate, who can personally attest to the torture they endured, and the importance of Mandela’s message.
Double win - as the ferries leave and return to the V&A Waterfront, you can kill two cultural birds with one stone, and wile away hours perusing the bustling food and shopping mecca.
More Info: http://www.robben-island.org.za/tours
Airbnb a palace
The joy of the exchange rate means accommodation is also pretty darn affordable - so why not forgo a swank hotel for an even swankier Airbnb? Pretty much everywhere in the city boasts incredible views of Table Mountain, but splash the cash on a penthouse with a rooftop pool and panoramic views of, well, everything for a once in a lifetime experience.
More Info: https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/3376525
MTV Travelled With… Cape Town Tourism (http://www.capetown.travel/). Just hop on the Twitter hashtag #lovecapetown to see other people sharing their Cape Town moments (and to add your own). Flights from London Heathrow to Cape Town are regular with South African Airways (http://www.flysaa.com).