A Sneak Peek into the Western Cape ~ Part 1

“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta

Yeah I know – 2 parts! Can there be that much to write about? You’d be surprised. 😉

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. In all fairness, it had been a while since I had had the chance to travel. Towards the end of March I took a week off and flew down to South Africa to do a little exploring. Quick pit stop in Joburg, and then onwards to Cape Town. Here’s my sneak peek into the few visits I made in and around the Western Cape area, with some information you might find useful at the end of the blog!

With my love for driving and having a SADC license, there was no doubt that I would be renting a car. I debated on it mildly before I had left Dubai in terms of safety, but I knew as soon as I reached Joburg and drove home that I would have to rent a car. I feel like there’s no better way to be able to explore a city or place than within the roads themselves. Sure, you can’t enjoy the scenery always with your eyes on the road but that’s what lookout points are for. Plus I had company on my journey, so it worked out well enough.

What’s your favourite way to travel?

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Just look at those mountains in the background!

We’d opted to stay in an AirBnb in Cape Town. After tons of research and debates on budgets, we found a cozy two bedroom apartment situated on the 11th floor of a hotel  in the heart of the city that looked quite frankly amazing – with an open kitchen, stylish living room and comfortable bedrooms. It was self-catering, so we went straight to the grocery store and bought basics for breakfast – which meant that our mornings were quick but fun breakfasts as we kept pushing each other to get ready. Finally, the best part of this place? You would wake up to this impeccable view of Table Mountain.

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Morning glow overlooking the Table Mountain – the view from our balcony

Day 1 – Exploring the V&A Waterfont

On a cloudy afternoon after arriving in Cape Town and settling into our apartment, we set out to explore the beautiful V&A waterfront. After having a rented a car at the airport and driven straight to the apartment, we relied on Google Maps to take us around to our destinations. The waterfront is quite close by – about a 10 minute drive – and is filled with an abundant variety of F&B outlets. There’s live music, an amphitheatre with various shows and the chatter of a weekend crowd to make for this this lively location. The ferris wheel that overlooks the waterfront is well worth a trip – with a spectacular view of the iconic Table Mountain and the marina area. We may have missed a possible sunset given the dimness of the evening however the cool and brisk breeze was a pleasing change from the start of the Dubai summer that we had just escaped from.

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Photo courtesy Karthick Radhakrishnan – although edited 😉

Day 2 – Signal Hill and the Table Mountain

After an early morning out, it was the debate of the day of which activity to do first – paragliding at Signal Hill or take the cableway up to the Table Mountain.? The newly confirmed natural wonder called out to us as we made our turns up Signal Hill, but the sunny skies called out for the adventurous activity.

I’ve never been paragliding before – but oh boy! After confronting my initial fear of heights and strapping myself to the safety of the parachute, I was flung out in the sky. The Cape Town city boasted it’s splendour below me alongside the oh-so-blue Atlantic ocean. It was 15 minutes of pure bliss until the rocky motions that my guide took me through for pure excitement – apparently! – to get to the ground.

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Just look at that view!

After reaching back at the top of Signal Hill, we had the opportunity to meet the Ranger of the National Parks for the Cape Town area, Ranger Aslam, who offered to take us around the top of Table Mountain when we got up to it. Unfortunately right as we were leaving Signal Hill, my camera stopped working. My darling Nikon D5300 failed me (this happened in Tanzania last  year as well) – and my memory card with it decided to take a toss as well. Hence my photographs are sadly limited of this day.

After this disappointing encounter, we grabbed a decent lunch at the Jewel of India and popped up to the cableway to experience the much awaited visit to the top of Table Mountain.

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Isn’t the view behind me great? You can see the whole city!

Fun fact: There’s 7 ‘New Wonders of Nature‘ and Table Mountain is one of them! Finally.

From here we met Ranger Aslam, who took us on a hike around the Maclear’s Beacon route, which is ideally a 1-1.5 hour trek. We were all suited up for this, although we were not prepared for the cold and the rain that we experienced at the top! Therefore we couldn’t complete the entire trek, although the Ranger took us to experience a bit of the Platteklip Gorge route; a hike that starts at the beginning of the cableway. Keep in mind that the weather at the top of Table Mountain can change quite rapidly, therefore it’s recommended to be prepared for all seasons as you gear up for a visit to the top.

I have to say that were also not prepared for the view. We all know the scenery that you experience from the top of a mountain. Yet the fog against the mountaintop is another absolutely breathtaking sight altogether. We could only see 10 metres ahead of us! It should also be noted that we wouldn’t have been able to do it without an experienced guide given the chances of getting lost or having the cableway close down due to poor weather conditions. Ranger Aslam kept joking about this to other hikers in the area much to our amusement. Imagine hiking all the way up to the top of the mountain to be told by someone that you have to turn back because the cableway is closed?

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At the edge…

With interesting facts about the plantation life and humorous scenarios such as these, the trek was well worth the evening’s visit at the top of Table Mountain. As dusk filled the night sky we made it back down the cableway for the beautiful view of Cape Town at night and headed over to our car to make it back to our apartment. Unfortunately Cape Town safety we’ve heard has not been at it’s peak and therefore it’s recommended to always be self-aware and safe in and out of the city.

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Cape Town lit at night

In my next part of this mini-blog series, I’ll fill you in on the one-day journey to Cape of Good Hope and Simon’s Town filled with more memorable experiences 🙂 Stay tuned, and I hope you enjoyed this blog post.

Interested in going to Cape Town? Further details below. 

Cape Town drought situation 

As we all know, Cape Town is undergoing a drought at this point in time. It’s not to say that there is no water available at all, however in public places chances are the taps are turned off to save water and you will have to use waterless sanitizer.

Safety

We’d been warned before our travels and kept as safe as we could during our trip. Pickpocketing is common enough, and it’s recommended to stick to groups and popular places with crowds, particularly avoiding going to desolate areas during the daytime and late at night.

How to get to Cape Town

I flew from Dubai through Nairobi, and stopped for one night in Johannesburg before taking a domestic flight the next morning to Cape Town. Although there are direct flights to Cape Town, this option turned out to be much cheaper. Johannesburg is a very well connected airport and there are many flights in and out of O R Tambo International Airport from around the world.

Rent-A-Car

There is a wide variety of Rent-A-Car options at the airport itself. For 3 days, we paid about ZAR2600, which is about USD200 for the Toyota Sedan model showed in the first picture (excluding fuel costs). Split this in a group and it’s a fairly decent deal. 🙂

Alternate transport options

  • There are the “Hop On and Off” red bus tours that will take you around Cape Town.
  • Uber is also a growing transport option within the region.
  • Public transport does not seem to be a common option to travel in and around the city.

Must Do’s in Cape Town

  • Table Mountain – hike or cableway (personal preference) – ZAR275 (two-way) or ZAR150.
  • Paragliding – ZAR1700 (including a ride back up)
  • Hike up to Lion’s Head (one activity we could not do)
  • A visit to Rhodes Memorial
  • A visit to Robben Island – to see where Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned for at the time of the apartheid
  • Spend an evening at V&A Waterfront – this lively location is worthwhile a visit. 🙂

Have I missed out on any potential sights or things that could be done? Feel free to add to the blog in the comments section. 🙂 Check out part 2 of the series!