Cape Town

Cape Town

Cape Town is one of the most beloved cities on the African continent, rich with adventure, natural beauty and vibrant cultures.

Introduction

Cape Town is South Africa's oldest city and one of its most popular tourism destinations. It is a cosmopolitan hub that has something to complement the desires of every visitor to its shores.

Country South Africa
Province Western Cape
Size 2,444.97 km2
Population 3,740,026
Main Languages Spoken English, Afrikaans, Xhosa
Year founded 1652

Vacation Options

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Tours, Safaris & Honeymoons

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Explore Cape Town
Accompanied tours, safaris & honeymoons in South Africa's Mother City

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Tailor-Made Vacations

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Personalized Cape Town
We'll design a package with your desires and needs in mind.

Useful Info

Getting There
Plane

By Air

Cape Town International Airport welcomes flights from all around the world every day. Domestically, flights between Johannesburg and Cape Town operate on an almost hourly basis, with more infrequent flights between Cape Town and the Garden Route and once daily flights between Cape Town and airports near or in Kruger.

Car

By Road

The only time that you would travel to Cape Town by road with African Sky is if you are visiting the Garden Route or Port Elizabeth prior to Cape Town. The distance between Cape Town and Johannesburg is a vast one, and we recommend flying to ensure that your limited amount of time in South Africa is well spent.

Reasons to Visit
1

Nature

From the top of Table Mountain to the penguin-populated shores of Boulders Beach, the natural bounties of Cape Town are plentiful. In addition to these iconic features, highlights include the rugged allure of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens' bewitching indigenous blooms and the wild waters of the Atlantic with its captivating collection of sea creatures. Whale watching and shark cage diving offer unforgettable encounters.

2

Food

Cape Town has a well-established and revered food culture, which is diverse enough to include award-winning fine dining restaurants, trendy weekend markets with experimental fare and generous, wholesome traditional meals served in a variety of settings. The complaint is more often than not that there is just so much to choose from, and not enough days in a lifetime to try everything. You are sure to leave the city with a satisfied palate.

3

History

Settled in 1652, Cape Town is South Africa's oldest city, which means that it teems with historical intrigue. Points of interest include the Castle of Good Hope - the country's oldest structure - and Robben Island, the notorious isle that housed lepers, exiles and South Africa's most famous political prisoners of yesteryear. The Company's Gardens and the District Six Museum also offer fascinating insight into the city's checkered past.

4

Culture

Cape Town is a diverse cultural melting pot. Numerous festivals, concerts and cultural events are hosted in the city throughout the year, drawing crowds from all walks of life. Get your cultural fix at one of the numerous art galleries, jazz cafes, craft markets and literary or poetry festivals. The Kaapse Klopse (or 'Minstrel Carnival'), one of the most uniquely Capetonian events, takes place on 2nd January annually as a vibrant 'Second New Year's'.

Weather & Best Time To Visit

In the words of the Capetonians, Cape Town may pass through all four seasons in a single day. However, the weather is more often than not quite pleasant and the area provides a variety of activities to suit every condition. The summer months (December - February) are dry and average a maximum temperature of 26°C (79°F) and a minimum of 16°C (61°F). The strong South-Easter wind (nicknamed the Cape Doctor for blowing the smog away from the city) is also at its most active during this period, infamous among Capetonians for its wicked hat thievery and sunbathing interruptions.

Cape Town is a winter rainfall region. Temperatures rarely fall below 7°C (44.6°F), with an average maximum of 18°C (64°F). However, the further inland you travel, the cooler conditions will get. Though initially called ‘the Cape of Storms’, Cape Town’s misty drizzles can hardly rival the pyrotechnic thunderstorms that occur in the northern regions of South Africa. The light showers can actually be very beautiful and quite pleasant, still allowing for a variety of outdoor activities (if you do not mind a bit of dampness). Rainfall in the winter months (June - August) averages between 70 - 90mm.

The passages of spring and autumn are hardly noticed in the Cape, serving more as mild appendages to the other seasons. Thus, depending on your desired itinerary, any time is a good time to visit the Mother City. The Cape’s waters are characterized by the cold Benguela, a northward flowing current that maintains temperatures of around 13°C on the Atlantic seaboard side of the peninsula and 17°C in the warmer False Bay area.

Medical Considerations

Cape Town is not located in an area where malaria is prevalent. The only medical considerations that should be taken into account are to ensure that you are up to date with all your routine vaccinations. Tap water is typically of a very high standard in the metro areas, and should only be avoided in rural areas. Should you be partial to allergies, note that late August to early October is flower season, so be sure to pack the necessary medication if you are visiting during this period.

Health & Safety

As is typically the case in most major cities, petty crime is common. Be alert when exploring and avoid unsavory areas, or wandering around alone at night. When in the care of African Sky, you will never venture into areas that pose obvious potential threats. Our guides are very vigilant and we pride ourselves in our unblemished safety record.

Experiences to be Savored

The iconic Chapman's Peak Drive of the Cape Peninsula.

Sunset over the Atlantic

The city boasts so many spots from where spectacular sunsets may be enjoyed - from the plush seat of a trendy cafe in Camps Bay, cocktail in hand, to the tranquil lull of a catamaran cruising across the bay. Summer is the best time to enjoy this.

View from Table Mountain

The views from Cape Town's most iconic landmark are legendary and abundant. Whether you reach the top via rotating cable car or trek up via a leisurely hike through Platteklip Gorge, the experience is one you will not soon forget.

Driving along Chapman's Peak

Carved into a section of sheer cliff face on the Cape Peninsula near Hout Bay, Chapman's Peak Drive is one of the most scenic stretches of road in the country. Keep an eye out for the bronze leopard - a memorial to animals that used to inhabit the area.

Transportation

A Toyota Quantum vehicle.

Your transportation between Cape Town's various attractions will always be in a comfortable, private, air-conditioned vehicle operated by your reliable African Sky guide. All our vehicles are serviced regularly, adhere to all local safety requirements and are legally licensed to carry passengers.

The size of the vehicle typically depends on the size of your traveling party. For smaller groups or couples, we usually make use of a Toyota Fortuner 4x2 vehicle. Larger groups are transferred in our spacious Hyundai H1. In periods of high demand (particularly over the festive season), we often hire vehicles from a reputable rental agency that adheres to the same high standards as we do.

Your safety and comfort while enjoying the highlights of Cape Town are paramount to us.

Foods to try when visiting Cape Town

A sample of traditional Cape Malay cuisine.

Snoek Braai

The Cape snoek is a long, thin species of mackerel sourced from the icy waters of the Atlantic. During a West Coast snoekbraai, this juicy fish is grilled on open fires on the beach in a festive celebration of delectable seafood. Enjoy it with korrelkonfyt.

Cape Malay

Cape Malay cuisine comprises fragrant, mildly curried dishes combined with traditional Dutch staples. Bobotie (sweet & spicy mince with rice), bredies (lamb & vegetable stew) and Malay chicken curries are all inherently South African.

Kreef

Also known as Cape rock lobster or sea crayfish, kreef is a much-favored seafood staple. The almost-sweet, soft, white meat of the tail is the seafood lover's coup de grâce. It is at its best when cooked on an open fire (or braai) with lemon butter.

Spirits

In addition to our already world-famous wines, uniquely Capetonian spirits like Inverroche's fynbos-infused gin and Bain's Single Grain Cape Mountain Whisky are steadily gaining ground as acclaimed local specialties.

Resources

Recommended Reading

  • The Cape Town Book: A Guide to the City's History, People and Places - Nechama Brodie
  • Cape Town - Gerald Hoberman

FAQ

Is the city safe?
Cape Town is as safe as most major cities. Petty crime is common, but largely avoidable. Stay alert and follow the advice of your guide.
What happens if the weather is bad?
Our innate flexibility means that activities can be shuffled due to inclement weather.
Can I swim in the sea?
The waters of the Atlantic are typically frigid, but there are many beaches where it is safe to swim.
Do I need to make restaurant reservations?
Only when dining at Cape Town's more famous establishments, like The Test Kitchen, or when visiting over December. We would be happy to secure these bookings for you.
Can I go on safari near Cape Town?
Yes, but these are not very authentic wilderness areas and it is worth it to travel further afield.
Can I fly directly to Cape Town?
Yes - many international airlines offer flights directly to the Mother City.
Will I have internet access?
Cape Town is a modern city, and most hotels (and numerous restaurants) will offer complimentary WiFi .
Can I go shopping?
Yes - Cape Town boasts many local and international designer stores and boutiques. Should you have leisure time available, your guide would be happy to take you.
When can I go shark cage diving?
Shark cage diving in nearby False Bay is largely seasonal, therefore we make use of an operator further afield in Gansbaai, where great white sharks occur year-round.
Which area will I be staying in?
The majority of the hotels and guest houses we make use of are located either in Camps Bay, in the City Bowl (Gardens) or at the V&A Waterfront, ensuring that you are close to all Cape Town's major attractions.
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Wildlife Gallery

The big five, antelope & other mammals

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Client Reviews

Reviews from clients who have been on safaris and tours with African Sky

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Articles

Travel topics and articles about Southern Africa, written by African Sky staff

Cape Town

The earliest mention of the Cape can be found in the accounts of Bartolomeu Diaz. In 1488, Diaz became the first European seafarer to circumnavigate the southernmost tip of Africa; Cabo das Agulhas (Cape Agulhas), the dividing line between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Preceding his coast past Agulhas, Diaz encountered a treacherous bay he christened Cabo das Tormentas (Cape of Storms). King John II of Portugal, though having never set foot in this freshly discovered cape, was more enthusiastic about the possibility of opening a new route to the East. He renamed it Cabo da Boa Esperanza - ‘The Cape of Good Hope’- a name the headland of the peninsula retains to this day.

Historic cannons in Cape Town.

The first settlers in the Cape Colony were commissioned by the Dutch East India Company to operate a supply depot. This halfway house would serve to restock and repair ships that passed the area. On the 6th of April 1652, a group of 90 Calvinists, headed by Jan van Riebeeck, arrived on the shores of the Cape in a trio of ships; the Reijger, the Goede Hoop and the Drommedaris. The overloaded Oliphant and the Walvisch arrived some time later after suffering 130 burials at sea. After eventually erecting a clay and timber fort and purchasing arable land from the indigenous Khoi-khoi, Cape Town as we know it today began to take form.

After years of on-and-off British occupation during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, the Cape was conclusively relinquished to the British in the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. Cape Town became the capital of the now British Cape Colony, ceding extensive expansion during the 1800's. Today, Cape Town is the seat of the National Parliament and a world-class international destination.

Cape Town has an activity (or inactivity) to suit every holiday maker’s yen. The city hosts a multitude of local and international designer stores, esteemed restaurants and lavish drinking holes. The historic Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is such a hub that entertains everything from a German-style brauhaus that brews its own beer, revered seafood utopias and the biggest names in fashion to the Two Oceans Aquarium and sunrise or sunset cruises from Table Bay Harbor.

The sun sets over Table Bay in Cape Town.

For history buffs or travelers seeking a more cultural experience, the city is rife with museums and tokens of bygone years. A pentagonal fortress built in the 17th century, the Castle of Good Hope is the oldest standing structure of colonial South Africa. Attractions in the historic building include cannon demonstrations, tours of the old cells and living quarters as well as artwork and artifacts on display in the museum spaces.

One of the most popular historical attractions is the infamous Robben Island, where several political prisoners were confined during the struggle years, including South Africa’s first democratically-elected president, Nelson Mandela. With a former political prisoner as a guide, gain insight into the 27 years Mandela spent in a cell, along with stories of other ‘freedom fighters’ and the island’s history as a leper colony. Ferries depart to this UNESCO World Heritage site three times a day from beneath the clock tower at the V&A Waterfront.

For the adventurous type, no wildlife encounter comes quite close to diving with the formidable great white shark. False Bay is famous for predatory breaches, one of the few places in the world where you can be bowled over by the spectacle of a 5m long, 1000kg strong sea monster airborne in its pursuit of a Cape fur seal. For an overland nature experience, take in Noordhoek’s wild stretch of beach on horseback or hike the rugged trails of Cape Point amongst ostriches, Cape zebra, red hartebeest and baboons.

Penguins waddle along the shores of Boulders Beach.

If ascending to the top of Table Mountain via foot and rope or the established cableway (a mere 5 minute trip in a 65-passenger rotating car that offers scenic views of the city and beyond) fails to satisfy your inner adventurer, do no forget that the sky is your limit. Explore the peninsula from the fringe of the heavens in a paraglider or hang glider - the views are some of the most exceptional in Africa. Table Mountain National Park is also ideal for abseiling, mountain biking, caving and rock climbing.

The South-Easter wind also makes Cape Town a prime kite surfing destination. On a gusty day, hundreds of kite surfers can be spotted bouncing on the swells of Bloubergstrand. Muizenberg, stretching south from the crest of False Bay, is a surfing hotspot, while the best swimming beaches include Llandudno and (clothing-optional) Sandy Bay on the Atlantic seaboard side. St James, Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek in False Bay have fractionally warmer tidal pools ideal for swimming. Boulders Beach is a popular swimming hole for nature lovers; scattered with striking granite boulders, this protected area has become a settlement for a large colony of African penguins. For a small fee, visitors can sunbathe and float in the cool surf with these charming tuxedoed birds.