Ep12 Cape Town, Mother City
Welcome to episode 12.
We woke up to a beautiful sunny South African day. After a hearty breakfast, we gathered in the hotel lounge, in anticipation of hearing if the day was clear enough for us to visit the iconic South African Table Mountain. Fortunately, our tour guide informed us that the day was clear enough for a cable car ride up to Table Mountain. You can imagine the exuberance that we all felt as we did not want to miss the iconic Table Mountain.
Cape Town, Mother City
Cape Town is a great place to travel to. It is vibrant and filled with so much history. It is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, The Table Mountain.
Cape Town is the original city of South Africa and was established in 1652 as a refueling station for ships bound for the East (the Spice Route). The city is often referred to as the Mother City of South Africa because it gave birth to civilization.
#1 Table Mountain
Our first sightseeing stop was of course Table Mountain. We scooted up the coach as fast as we could, all happy and filled with anticipation to make the trip to the top of the world, high above the clouds on the famous Table Mountain. Table Mountain is an icon in Cape Town and is most likely the most photographed landmark in the country. Table Mountain has been named as one of the seven wonders of nature and attracts millions over visitors from across the globe. In fact, since the opening of the aerial cableway in 1929, more than 22 million people have taken the trip to the top. At the upper cable station, guests will find a restaurant and a curio shop as well as some footpaths for exploration.
Why is Table Mountain named as Table Mountain?
It is self evident when you see it. Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town. There are two common ways to get up there; one is using the cableway or for the brave ones, hiking to the top is the other way to get up to the mountain. The Table Mountain spans approximately three km (2 miles) from side to side, edged by impressive cliffs.
Table Mountain one of the New Seven Wonder of the World
The seven provisional winners, in alphabetical order, are: the Amazon in South America; Halong Bay in Vietnam; Iguazu Falls in Argentina; Jeju Island in South Korea; Komodo in Indonesia; Puerto Princesa Underground River in the Philippines; and Table Mountain.
What can you see at the top of Table Mountain?
Panorama from the top of Table Mountain. From left to right are visible Lion’s Head, Signal Hill, Robben Island, the Cape Town city centre, Table Bay, and Devil’s Peak.
The Spectacular Views from Table Mountain
#2 Cape Point
Our next stop was to the Flying Dutchman Funicular. It takes passengers uphill from the car park of the Cape Point Nature Reserve (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Cape Point is in the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve within Table Mountain National Park, which forms part of the Cape Floral Region, a World Heritage Site.
Cape Point Funicular
The Flying Dutchman Funicular, also known as the Cape Point Funicular, is a funicular railway located at Cape Point, near the Cape of Good Hope in the Western Cape province of South Africa. The line runs from a lower station at the Cape Point car park, up an incline through dense fynbos to the upper lighthouse.
The Flying Dutchman
Legend has it that ghost ship the Flying Dutchman haunts the oceans surrounding Cape Point, unable to make port and doomed to sail the turbulent seas for eternity. One of the earliest reported sightings of the Flying Dutchman Funicular came from King George V in 1881, but several Simon’s Town residents claim to have seen the ship in more recent years. While the myth likely has its roots in 17th-century nautical folklore, these days you can sail to the foot of the old lighthouse in the funicular of the same name.
With 40 passengers per car and a length of 585m, the car will reach a height of 87m. At the lighthouse on the summit, you will be rewarded with simply breath-taking views of the Atlantic Ocean.
We saw lots of fynbos going up the mountains. Fynbos is a small belt of natural shrubland, or heathland vegetation located in the western Cape and Eastern Cape provinces of South Africa. This is predominantly coastal and mountainous.
View from the top of Cape Point Funicular
Cape of Good Hope
The Cape was originally named the Cape of Storms in the 1480s by the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias. It was later renamed to Good Hope to attract more people to the Cape Sea Route that passed the southern coast of Africa.
The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky headland on the Atlantic coast of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa.
The famous Cape of Good Hope nature reserve, a World Heritage site, is set at the end of Cape Town’s south peninsula. We took a trip via the funicular and from the top, we saw Cape of Good Hope. The Cape of Good Hope nature reserve is home to a variety of small wildlife and is a favored picnicking, fishing, and hiking destination with its rich plant biodiversity and inspiring landscapes.
Cape Point not to be confused with Cape of Good Hope
Cape Point is the small cape jutting out towards the east from The Cape of Good Hope at the southern end of the Peninsula. The lighthouse is on Cape Point, rather than on the Cape of Good Hope to the west.
Lighthouses in Cape Point
There are two lighthouses at Cape Point, only one of which is still in operation as a nautical guide. While still a popular tourist attraction, the old lighthouse built in the 1850s no longer functions – it sits too high above the ocean and is often covered by clouds.
The Old Cape Point Lighthouse was put to rest in peace when the Portuguese liner, the Lusitania, crashed under its guidance to rest in many pieces on the ocean floor. Thus the Old Cape Point Lighthouse was replaced with the new, improved and ocean-fresh beacon of light imaginatively named the New Cape Point Lighthouse. The old Cape Point Lighthouse stands on the highest section of the peak. The original lighthouse stands 87 meters above its new replacement.
#3 Boulders Beach (South African Penguins)
After the visit to the Cape Point Funicular, our coach drove us to the sheltered inlet, Simon’s Town of Boulders Beach to see the South African Penguins dressed in tuxedos.
Boulders Beach is a sheltered beach made up of inlets between granite boulders, from which the name originated. It is located in the Cape Peninsula, near Simon’s Town towards Cape Point, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.
While at Boulders Beach, we had a lovely sit-down lunch at the Seaforth Restaurant. After our lunch, we visited the Penguin sanctuary. There exists a protected colony of African penguins that can be viewed in their natural habitat via wooden walkways. There is also an excellent beach for swimming nearby.
In total there are 18 species in the penguin family. African penguins is one of them. African penguins live in colonies on the coast and islands of southern Africa. Also called jackass penguins, they make donkey-like braying sounds to communicate. They can dive under water for up to 2.5 minutes while trying to catch small fish such as anchovies and sardines. They may also eat squid and crustaceans.
Who knew? 7 amazing facts about African Penguins
- Also known as “Jackass” penguins because of their loud, “braying” cry that African Penguins make to communicate, which sounds similar to a donkey.
- Afrcican penguins can adapt to hot and cold temperatures. They have waterproof feathers, which also can insulate them from cold waters.
- They are outstanding swimmers and aquatic hunters.
- They are monogamous and share parenting duties.
- The scientific name is Spheniscus Demersus.
- An African Penguin’s “Tuxedo” is more than just good fashion, it’s camouflage
- African Penguins are endangered
African Penguin Sanctuary
#4 Chapman’s Peak
After the Penguins, it was time to visit the “Chappies”. Locals call this famous scenic drive that winds its way between Hout Bay and Noordhoek on Cape Town’s stunning Atlantic Ocean coastline “Chappies”. The toll route stretches nine kilometers along the coast taking over 100 curves in a road carved out by prisoners of war in the mid-1910s over a seven-year period. On the one side are towering cliffs and on the other hand a steep drop to the ocean. A favorite with visitors and locals alike for scenic hikes, cycles, and drives, as well as picnicking.
Noordhoek, at the southern end of Chapman’s Peak Drive, is a vibrant rural and artistic community village just 25 minutes south of Cape Town – the last remaining truly rural area and country village in the Cape Peninsula. Noordhoek offers a tranquil country lifestyle combined with a colorful village atmosphere.
After the visit to Simon’s beach, our coach drove us up the mountains towards Chapman’s Peak to have an aerial view of some of the most beautiful and stunning beaches. Looking at the white sands and coastal beaches from a mountain top’s view were truly magical.
Noordhoek Beach stretches on for 8 beautiful kilometres in the suburb of Noordhoek, Cape Town. As you head over Chapman’s Peak, you will be welcomed by the picturesque shoreline below that meanders towards Kommetjie in the distance.
Hout Bay Harbor
Hout Bay, on the northern side of Chapman’s Peak Drive, is a twenty-minute drive from Cape Town. Surrounded entirely by mountains and the Atlantic Ocean. Hout Bay offers some 40 restaurants, a wide array of antique and art shops, stalls, a waterfront that is both quaint and commercial, weekend markets, and accommodation to suit every pocket and taste.
#5 Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
To top it up for the day of Cape Town sightseeing, our tour guide managed to squeeze in a visit to the Kirstenbosch Gardens. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is acclaimed as one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch, against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.
The 528-hectare Kirstenbosch Estate (which includes the Garden) falls under the Cape Floristic Region, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Kirstenbosch includes a fragrance garden, a medicinal garden, 2,500 species of plants found on the Cape Peninsula, a Protea garden (best seen in spring!), a braille trail, and a cycad amphitheater. There was so much to see and enjoy in the garden and our less than 2 hours visit did not do the flower and plant lovers amongst our group sufficient justice. Still, we enjoyed the beautiful and leisurely walk around the garden.
#6 Kaapse Stories from Cape Town, Mother City at the Rockwell Dinner Theatre
“Kaapse Stories” is the perfect experience for guests of all ages. The show transported us into the vibrant world of District Six, through the adventures of the Kleintjies family. Written and directed by Basil Appollis, “Kaapse Stories” gives you an inspiring insight into the “rainbow nation” of Cape Town and its rich history steeped in cultural diversity. We enjoyed a lovely meal-offering the best of traditional Cape Cuisine.
Kaapse Stories from Cape Town, the Mother City showing us how much we missed
We thoroughly enjoyed the Kaapse stories. It was hard to completely understand the stories, but as the stories were told, we began to see a glimpse of how much more about Cape Town City Centre that we missed. We hope one day to return to Cape Town to enjoy the places, shopping, cuisine, and culture that we missed. Here is a map of all the places we missed.
District Six (Afrikaans Distrik Ses) is a former inner-city residential area in Cape Town, South Africa. On February 11, 1966, the apartheid government declared Cape Town’s District Six a whites-only area under the Group Areas Act of 1950. From 1968, over 60 000 of its inhabitants were forcibly removed to the Cape Flats, over twenty-five kilometers away.
Why is District Six is famous?
In 1994, the District Six Museum came into being. The museum came into being as a vehicle for advocating social justice, as a space for reflection and contemplation, and as an institution for challenging the distortions and half-truths which propped up the history of Cape Town and South Africa.
The Bo-Kaap is one of Cape Town’s most distinct neighborhoods and there’s so much to see, taste, and explore. Situated at the foot of Signal Hill, on the fringe of the city center, and formerly known as the Malay Quarter, the Bo-Kaap’s origins date back to the 1760s when numerous “huurhuisjes” (rental houses) were built and leased to slaves. These people were known as Cape Malays and were brought from Malaysia, Indonesia, and the rest of Africa to work in the Cape.
Bo-Kaap Museum. The Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum (IBKM) is one of the earliest homes built in the Bo-Kaap area, dating back to the mid-eighteenth century. The museum, situated in the historic area that became home to many Muslims and freed slaves after the abolition of slavery, showcases local Islamic culture and heritage. The house was declared a National Monument in 1965 and restored in the 1970s.
The Museum was established in 1978 as a satellite of the SA Cultural History Museum. It was furnished as a house that depicts the lifestyle of a nineteenth-century Muslim family.
Those Colorful Houses
To this day, the houses are a mix of Cape Dutch and Georgian architecture, in distinctive multi-colored rows on steeply cobbled roads. The choice of color is said to be attributed to the fact that while on a lease, all the houses had to be white. When this rule was eventually lifted, and the slaves could buy the properties, all the houses were painted in bright colors by their owners as an expression of their freedom.
To give you a glimpse of the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, we found this video very informative: The Love Cape Town Neighborhood Series
Shopping: We would have loved to browse through the vi bey street markets of Green-market Square and St Georges Mall. Thank you for sharing the beauty of your Cape Town City. Yes, Cape Town we will return to explore the City Center even more!
Summary of Day
Cape Town is a very beautiful and interesting country in South Africa. We believe that our itinerary was planned such that the best was left to the last. We cramped all the main tourist sights into 1 day and we saw a glimpse of District Six via the Rockwell Theater. We would love to return to Cape Town and stay longer to see more of the Mother City, its culture, history, cuisine, and city center. Yes, we will save more to see and experience when we next return one day.