The soft white sands and crystal blue ocean waters are one of Cape Town’s most inviting features. Beaches on the False Bay side of the peninsula are the most popular as the water is warmer. There’s a nude beach that’s popular with gay tourists at Sandy Bay near Llandudno. It’s isolated – a 2-mile walk from the parking lot – and swimming is only for the brave as the freezing waters come straight from the Antarctic. Action takes place in the bushes alongside the beach.
Cape Town is also a world-renowned center for surfing, and Muizenberg is a popular surf hang out. More challenging areas are near Kalk Bay and Outer Kom. The biggest surfable waves in the world are found at Dungeons Beach, near Hout Bay. But be warned – the waters are shark-infested.
Graaf's Pool, a natural rock tidal pool, was a traditional spot for men to swim and sun in the nude on concrete steps at the Sea Point waterfront between Marais and Oliver Roads. Concerned about hustlers hanging about, the local citizens agitated for the screening wall to be knocked down. Lady Graaf, of the noted local family, once stayed at the Bordeaux Mansion nearby, and had her own tunnel (now boarded up) under the rail tracks, to bathe here each day. The Sea Point Promenade still gets cruisy in late evenings, but the wall is history.
Gay owned and operated, self-catering pastoral yet luxurious accommodations. A stately sandstone building, tucked behind century-old oak trees on an avenue in Greyton, a tranquil village where two meandering rivers intersect, at the edge of Riviersonderend Mountain. Located 102km from Cape Town Airport, or about two hours drive from Cape Town in the heart of the Overberg.
Sunset House, a beautiful self catering accommodation cottage, offers two en-suite bedrooms, each with seperate entrance, double bed plus two single beds good for up to four people; open plan lounge and kitchen overlooking private courtyard, warm coal stove and braai facilities, outdoor shower and toilet. Also, Sunset House Loft one bedroom suite, with shower. toilet and open-plan kitchen with lounge; private deck with spectacular mountain views.
Nearby the oldest mission station in South Africa, founded by the Moravian Church in 1738, called Genadendal (Village of Grace), with historical buildings. Walking and hiking trails within a managed reserve. Spectacular views; magnificent flowers at all times of the year at various altitudes. Exceptional birding opportunities, especially the endangered Blue Crane. Bird habitats range from mountain to riverside.
Leading area artists open their galleries in town to display their works, and there are annual Winter and Rose Festivals. Saturday morning markets take place each week at 10am on the village green, with home-grown produce, and local arts and crafts. A number of quaint restaurants and cafés are also nearby. For more information on the Overberg region, see OverbergInfo.com
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No place represents South Africa’s apartheid era more strongly than Robben Island, where political prisoners including Nelson Madela were held. Some of the tour guides were political prisoners themselves and will give first-hand accounts of what went on there. It’s advisable to book your tour in advance as this is one of the most popular sites in Cape Town.
For a more direct experience with the legacy of South Africa’s apartheid system, consider a tour of the townships surrounding the city. The townships were places where people were forced to live in order to segregate the races. Despite the end of apartheid, the townships have largely maintained their racial make-up and have grown considerably as a result of urban migration. The townships remain very poor, but people in the townships are friendly and love visitors. That said, some townships can be dangerous, and it’s recommended that you take an organised tour.
For another look at the insanity of the apartheid system, visit the District Six Museum. District Six is a part of the city that remained multiracial against attempts buy the government to declare it “white only.” Eventually, the residents were all evicted, the area was razed and it remains uninhabited to this day. The Museum tells the story of what happened and the people who used to live there.
Many visitors to Africa come for the prospect of “big five” safaris – tours to the savannah where you can spot elephants, rhinoceros, Cape buffalos, lions, and leopards. There are several safari reserves within a two-hour drive from Cape Town, which offer good value to the adventure wildlife enthusiasts.
More peaceful nature reserves abound in and around Cape Town. The Koeberg Nuclear Power Station and Nature Reserve is a 7400-acre reserve for many different varieties of antelope. Table Mountain National Park incorporates much of the Cape area and houses ostriches, baboons, antelopes, and a colony of penguins at Boulders Island.
Cape Town is also a great base from which to go whale watching. The most common are southern right whales, but humpback and killer whales are occasionally spotted, as are bottlenose and dusky dolphins. From land, you can spot them along several viewpoints on the coastal road between Simon’s Town and Cape Point. A number of companies also offer whale watching cruises.
The distinctive Table Mountain presents an irresistible opportunity for breathtaking vistas over the region and a daunting challenge for hiking. The easy way up and down is the cable car, which is a thrilling ride in its own right. Hiking is deceptively difficult, although there is an accessible two-hour route through Platteklip Gorge. You can take the cable car back down, as many climbers say the return journey is even more difficult. It is recommended that you book with a reputable hiking guide, as even experienced climbers find difficulty on the mountain’s steep rock steps. Either way, be sure to bring plenty of water and a hat as it can be scorching hot on the climb, and bring warm clothes for the summit, as temperatures at the peak vary wildly from the base.