It is official…Cape Town is my #1 favorite place to visit! After long consideration for the last couple of weeks, I’m very comfortable with this choice. I thought about all the qualities that I love to have in a place…
- Easy to get around. Must have accessible, efficient and safe public transportation, taxis or roads.
- Easy to communicate. English lanugage is common and understandable. Skills in charades can only get you so far.
- Mountains and beaches. Don’t want to choose between the two, I want both!
- Good, international food. Always good to have international options in case the local cuisine is too much of a stretch for the pallette.
- Variety of activities. Museums, shopping, hiking, swimming, and more.
- Welcoming and friendly people. Nothing worse than being a foreigner in a place where foreigners are not welcome.
Cape Town has all of the above and more! This town at the very southern tip of Africa will always have a special place in my heart since it is the first place I took my son (when he was 7-years-old) for our first family vacation. We had a great opportunity to go and visit with a friend so we went! It was the best experience for both of us. Luckily, I was able to return a few weeks ago, after an eight year absence and I was so pleased to see the city is only better than I remembered.
Row of beach houses in surfer town!
When I landed in Cape Town, I was greeted with a full rainbow over the parking lots. Really, what an amazing welcome sign! When Cameron and I were there in 2003, we counted 9 rainbows during our 2 week stay. Love it!
I would recommend renting a car during a visit to Cape Town, if you’re comfortable with driving on the opposite side as the U.S. I was able to drive easily to my hotel and all around the city and surrounding areas. Typically, rental car companies will give you an updated map and signs are well-placed throughout the area.
No matter where you go within the city of Cape Town, Table Mountain serves as a beautiful beacon of the city. We weren’t able to go to the top of Table Mountain during our visit as it was the one week of the year they close the cable cars for maintenance. Luckily I was there on my first trip and vivdly remember the beauty of the bay, the waterfront and the surrounding African hills.
Our group stayed at The Cullinan Hotel, a traditional style small hotel with amazing service located in the heart of the city. We walked to the waterfront for dinner one evening. While the city is welcoming, it does have crime like any city in the U.S. so it’s not recommened to ever walk alone or in under-populated areas.
Dining in Cape Town is quite a treat. You can find all types of international foods. That night on the waterfront, we ate at a fabulous Greek restaurant. The local cuisine includes very interesting meats. I had the pleasure of trying kudu and springboak, both tasty red meats much like steak. My very favorite restaurant is called Mama Africa. I happened to be there on my first visit and returned this time to see it still has the same vibrant energy and tasty, tasty foods. Another special treat of Cape Town is South African wine. If you enjoy a good bottle of wine, you can do no wrong here. My new favorite is called Pinotage, a special grape variety only grown in South Africa.
During my week stay, I was able to visit Camps Bay, a beach neighborhood that reminds me of Laguna Beach in California. It has a very similar relaxed, nature vibe. It has a gorgeous white sandy beach across from a row of chic boutiques and outdoor restaurants.
One of the things I love the most about Cape Town is that you get the mix of a metropolitan city within the natural beauty and culture of Africa. Make no mistake…Cape Town is not a rustic, bush-like representation of Africa. It IS a modern city that happens to be within a day drive to the most amazing natural scenery and animal habitats you can imagine. The very best of both worlds!
Self portrait at Chapman's Peak
At the end of my visit, I had one day to do what I wanted. As I had been to Cape Town in the past, I wanted to see sights that I had not visited before. So, I hopped in the car and headed toward Cape Point, famously the place where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet. The drive south along the western coast of South Africa is truly amazing and worth the drive, many times over. The first point of interest on the trek is Chapman’s Peak, at the entrance of Hout Bay. As you can see here, it was a gorgeous day even with the overcast moving in over the bay.
I was not able to go beyond Chapman’s Peak because I did not have cash or a local credit card. As I couldn’t get the Cape Point, I decided to drive over to the eastern coast of southern South Africa and see if I could make my way to Simon’s Town, famous for the penguin colony that lives along the coast among the city dwellers.
As I drove through hilly wine-country, I saw a sign that said “Watch for Baboons” and I was reminded of my first visit and the most striking memory that my son and I have…being chased by baboons. We had a close call when we got out of our car to take pictures realizing that a pack of baboons were running toward us. That is one memory we’ll never ever forget! Well, sure enough…I pulled up to a round about and a very, very large baboon was walking across the street like a common stray dog roaming a neighborhood in the U.S. What a trip! Luckily this time, I was already in my car and completely safe.
Soon after the baboon sighting, I happened upon the most adorable town that is clearly a big attraction for surfers. The 50+ surfers in the water was my first clue. Then I travelled a bit further and made it to my destination. In Simon’s Town, I followed the signs with characters of penguins and found Boulders Beach, where the colony is protected and paths are built for viewing. I must have taken 50 pictures of these adorable little guys, but this one here is my favorite.
As I walking back to my car, I heard a rustling in the trees on the path. After a closer look, I found a large dassie having a snack! On my first visit to Cape Town, Cameron and I had fun watching dassies on the top of Table Mountain. I have an amazing photo of Cameron squatting about 4 feet from a sweet little, curious dassie. Here, I was about two feet away and those teeth told me to keep my distance.
After my stroll with the penguins, I had a short amount of time to get to the airport for my departure home. I was headed north up the eastern coast when I notice a line of people taking photos in the bay. I was puzzled because there were no boats or anything going on…then I saw them! Three large whales were swimming in the bay. They were about 100 yards from the shore. I had no idea they ever got that close. I had to pull over and take pics. I was pretty far away and couldn’t get much but you can see the fins here sticking about the water.
Wow! As I drove east to the airport I found another amazing discovery. Along the roads, hundreds of calla lillies were growing wild, just popping up here and there…just like this one. So beautiful! What an amazing end to the trip! Just think…I took one day with a map and found penguins, dassies, whales, surfers, baboons, hills, beaches and more. Imagine exploring for a week in this incredible place. I really can’t wait to come back…this time with Cameron again! If you’ve ever thought that you’d like to go to Africa, come to Cape Town…I’m confident that you will fall in love like I have.
Next: My favorite B&B in Missouri!