by Tori Ward, Cruise and Resort Specialist, ROX Travel
Following our Botswana safari with friends this summer, we explored two other countries on the continent of Africa. First Zimbabwe for a quick trip to Victoria Falls. And since the water shortage in Cape Town has improved, it was a great place to decompress and conclude our incredible African adventure.
Cape Town, South Africa was a new experience for us. We had arranged a three-day tour with a local guide that included all the highlights. Each experience was diverse and filled with historical and eyewitness accounts of the development of Cape Town supplied by Daniel, our guide.
Our accommodations, The Villa Zest Boutique Hotel, were on a quiet side street. Still, just a couple of blocks from one of the main avenues in the city center, it was a great location to walk to nearby restaurants or grab a quick Uber to the riverfront. The delicious made-to-order breakfast in this charming spot was relaxing and accompanied by a wide selection of specialized coffees or teas. With the refreshments laid out in the afternoon in the common area, it reminded me more of a B&B than a hotel.
Daniel collected us at the appointed time each morning and provided a quick summary of the areas we would visit. Table Mountain above the urban area of the city, the wine region and a trip to Cape of Good Hope were all on the agenda. We agreed we should let the weather determine our visit to the mountain. Although it was visible from town, the low cloud cover could prevent us from being able to take in the views of the bay and surrounding area, so we decided to visit the wine regions first.
Cape Town’s wine history dates back to the 1600s and the Dutch navigator who established Cape Town, Jan van Riebeeck. There are six major wine regions, and we visited three of these, Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, with ample tastings at wineries in each region.
Our stop in Stellenbosch included tours of the historic buildings, including residences of the first settlers to the area. The busy and pedestrian-friendly streets encircle a university, and with so much Dutch-influenced architecture and bicycle traffic, you could easily mistake the town for Amsterdam. The garden route, with vineyards lining the road on each side, feels both Dutch/Germanic and French. You can guess the ancestry of the owner, depending on the name of the winery. It got tricky when we arrived at our favorite, the Rickety Bridge Winery, though.
With good wine and lunch, we returned to our hotel with reservations at a restaurant at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The riverfront complex was alive with activity, and we paused to listen to an a cappella gospel choir perform before finding our seafood restaurant for dinner.
The following day again proved to be incompatible for a trip up the mountain. Our day would include a trip to the Cape of Good Hope with stops at Fish Hoek for lunch and seal watching and Boulders Penguin Colony to visit the endangered African penguins.
At Foxy Beach, we wandered along the boardwalk to watch the clumsy penguins waddle Charlie Chaplin-like to dive into the water, where they suddenly become water acrobats. They are tiny, about 24 inches tall, and weigh about 5-7 pounds, but they have sharp beaks, so don’t be fooled into thinking petting is a good idea. It’s prohibited.
The highlight of the day, of course, was arriving at Cape Point, just a few miles from where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. The chilly wind, dark pounding surf, and swirling low mist created a mysterious and wild dynamic.
Our final day proved excellent for the delayed trip to Table Mountain. We started early to avoid having to stand in a long line for the cableway that transports you 991 feet above sea level to the plateau. From this vantage point, you can see Signal Hill, Robben Island, Table Bay and the city center.
The remainder of our day was spent visiting a local garden so we could do some walking and enjoy the pleasant weather.
Daniel was a fabulous guide for each day of our Cape Town adventure, and as we were packing to leave for home the following morning, he returned to the hotel to bring me a box of tea I had forgotten and left behind in his car.
If you’d like to learn more about planning a trip to Cape Town and to hire a guide to make sure you get the most from your visit, give me a call at 928-254-9968 or email me at email@example.com.
- Traffic circulates to the left, so if you have little experience driving on the left side, it’s best to take public transportation or hire a guide.
- The town of Cape Town is clean, but stay within well-lighted commercial areas and be mindful of your possessions.
- Although the water restrictions were lifted when we were there, the town is very conscious of this resource and implements many water-saving practices. Don’t assume you will receive a glass of water with your meal and if you do, it will probably be at a cost. Fill your water bottle at your hotel each morning.
- If you plan a visit to the Cape of Good Hope or Table Mountain, take outerwear as both can be quite chilly even in warm weather.
- To visit Table Mountain, check for opening times and arrive early. The lines waiting for the cableway are long. However, for the fit with time on their hands, there is a walking path up the mountain.
- South Africa has rigorous driving-under-the-influence laws. The limit is 0.05%, so if visiting wineries is on your agenda, choose a designated driver if your party is going to sample.