I’m typing this down, as I’m approaching my last day in Cape Town. We have arrived about 8 days ago and have completely fallen in love with the city. Everything has been spectacular: the food, the shopping, the views, the activities, the accommodation – they all have been most definitely satisfactory. The fact that it’s in the Southern Hemisphere makes Cape Town the perfect winter destination for Canadians. When we arrived to Cape Town, we were greeted by the beautiful scenery of Table Mountain even in our airport shuttle to the hostel. The airport shuttle was arranged by our hostel, which was called Zebra Crossing Lodge. It was booked after days of researching – and it was perfectly fitting for the reviews. It was considered a budget accommodation in Cape Town – but has everything you need. It’s simple, but nice and clean – so it’s exactly what we’re looking for. Especially when we came from Malawi, it really isn’t too hard to please us – and since we’re staying for 10 nights, the price is most important. I would definitely recommend this place – as it is almost half the price of other backpackers in the area. The reception is amazing, and the place is chill and clean.
The food here has been pretty affordable – considering that we’re eating out for every meal (except maybe the odd breakfast, where we buy fruits). A reasonable day would cost about $20 with all three meals. Of course, there are those days that we indulge ourselves with ice cream and drinks that can drive the bill up. I would recommend Theo’s Restaurant for great food at a decent price though. It is voted the #1 Steakhouse in the Cape and a steak could be as little as R99 (13$) or a giant one for less than $20. Food is pretty decent for its value here compared to Canadian standards. The only food that’s really lacking is Asian cuisine (other than Thai Sweet Chili sauce on absolutely everything – they love that sauce here). Sushi, quality Chinese food, thai/Vietnamese food is lacking – unless it’s a fast food establishment. I could really go for that. The seafood here is amazing as well, since it’s right at the shore. A dessert that we’ve been having every night is McDonald’s actually – because a cone is only R3 (less than $0.50!). Overall, food has been absolutely amazing here.
I’ll talk a little about what we did in Cape Town. We basically did the whole tourist thing in Cape Town – and went to most of the places that are highly recommended. We didn’t know if we’ll be able to come back – so we decided to just do everything. However, there’s so much allure to Cape Town that makes you want to come back. You really don’t get the scenery of Cape Town anywhere else. You can basically live sandwiched between Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean. This gives you a spectacular view that still surprises us, when we drive through the area. It makes for a great vacation destination. Back to the activities. So we did the following:
Climb Table Mountain: The newly named 7 Natural Wonders of the World makes a great day trip for one to hike up the mountain. For the less adventurous, there is a cable car that sends you to the top. However, we elected to take 2.5 hours to climb up the mountain and feel the pride of conquering the beast. We started in the afternoon and came down by cable car at night. At the top, you get to see the Atlantic Ocean on one side – and the entire Cape Town on the other. It is quite a gorgeous view from the top. We went up when it was a little cloudy, but we got a pretty decent view by the end of it. Overall, it was a great hike to the top – albeit tiring.
Robben Island: This was where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many years. This is now named as a UNESCO World Heritage site, and we booked a tour to take us to the island. We got to take a peek at history, and understand the conditions that the political prisoners must face. Our tour guides were actually ex-political prisoners as well – it really shows how different South Africa became after the apartheid laws were lifted. The prison was nicknamed the university – as the prisoners teach one another in order to better themselves, when they were imprisoned. We got to visit the jail cells of Nelson Mandela and had plenty of photo opportunities with Cape Town in the background as well. This is a great part of history that should be explored if you have an interest.
Two Oceans Aquarium: Dubbed as one of the largest aquarium in Africa, we thought it would be good to explore it. We booked online (saves you money) – and went after the Robben Island tour, as it was in the same area. Surprisingly though, while it was interesting, it was a little small. We paid around $10 for it, which isn’t too bad – but there were only enough to keep us there for a little over an hour. The actual exhibits were quite interesting though. We saw sharks, large turtles, penguins, jellyfish, oystercatchers, and more. If you’re interested in marine life, it’s great to see – but we were surprised how small it turned out to be.
2 Day City Tour: We took a 2-day tour with City Sightseeing, which is a company that offers tours in other countries as well. It was basically a hop-on, hop-off system, where we got to stop at various places if we felt like it. A recorded tour guide gives you a briefing on various attractions in the area in various languages (even KID, which is aimed for the younger audiences). We basically got to see the entire Cape Town – and had the opportunity to go on a canal cruise, as well as a night tour to the top of Signal Hill to have a picnic. The night tour was colder than expected and we spent half the time getting a coffee to warm us up. The Canal Cruise was beautiful though – it was short and sweet and had great scenery – most of which were of expensive condominiums by the waterfront. We passed by: Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, the Vineyards of Cape Town, Hout’s Bay (where Seals are), Camps Bay, Sea Point, V&A Waterfront, and plenty of Museums. We actually went to three museums all in a single day. South African Museum was full of cultural artifacts, as well as exhibits with animals and a photography gallery. It was only R20 ($3) and it was plenty of value for the price. The South African Jewish Museum was free with our tour. It only was the size of a large house – so it wasn’t that great value-wise if you had to pay. However, we were given a lesson to draw Nelson Mandela as a caricature, which was quite funny. We also went to the Holocaust Center in the museum, which always reminds us of genocides across the world. The last museum was actually a castle – the Castle of Good Hope, which is the OLDEST building in South Africa. It was a little lacklustre for a castle, and there isn’t too much to see. It was also R45, which was quite expensive compared to other museum and monument’s entrance fees. Camps Bay was one of my favourite area in Cape Town – as it is sandwiched between the ocean and the mountain giving beautiful scenery. We frolicked around in the sand for a while during this stop.
Shopping: For many, this may not seem like much of a tourist attraction. However, for individuals, who were in a developing country for 3 months, a mall is a big deal. We went to three malls in total: St. George’s Mall, Victoria Wharf, and Century City. By far, Century City was the best mall. Victoria Wharf obviously caters to the richer crowd, as it is located by the waterfront. Century City had lots of offering from department stores to boutiques – and we even got to watch a movie (New Year’s Eve – great movie). The only thing is that if you’re watching a late movie – make sure you have a ride back into the city – as it is located R120 (18$) away from the city by Taxi. We were stranded at 1am and had to find a taxi through the help of security. If you’re looking for something African, Greenmarket Square is amazing for that. Here you can find anything African – and great for souvenirs. Be careful though – you will be quote obscene prices, which you can easily haggle to a third to a half of the original price.
Boulders Beach: The natural habitat of the penguins is located in Simon’s Town, about an hour away from Cape Town. If you have a thing for these furry creatures, this is an attraction that you would not want to miss. We took the train there (must take first class due to safety issues – it’s only R25 - $3.50 for a return trip). We saw the penguins close up – they’re within an arm-length away, but you’re not allowed to touch them unless you want to pay a R500 fine. You can even take a tour that passes by here then head of to Cape Point – the most southern part of Africa. However, the tour requires biking, which I cannot do – so instead, only Natasha did it.
Shark Cage Diving: This was supposed to be the most exciting thing in our adventure in Cape Town. However, it didn’t turn out quite well. The tour itself was well organized – we were picked up at our hostel and transported to Gansbaai. We were served breakfast before heading out to sea. When we headed out to sea, we stopped about 13km out and waited for sharks. Then all three of us were completely seasick. The waves were horrible and our heads just kept spinning around. Natasha and I were a little better – but Joanna threw up seven times on the boat. Aside from the seasickness, there were barely any sharks. We saw three sharks, but none approached the cage. Natasha and I went into the cage (Joanna was too sick to) – but all we saw were thousands of fish. It was definitely not the best experience – but it would be very cool if sharks did come to the cage. I can imagine that it’d be quite the adrenaline rush. I need to remember to take more Gravol for motion sickness before doing this ever again.
So that’s basically our trip to Cape Town. It was quite exciting – and tomorrow, we’re about to head to Muizenberg – a 40minute train ride away to lay on the beach to enjoy our last bit of African sun before heading to Malawi (where it’s rainy season) and then back to Canada (where it’s winter). We’re also planning to take some surfing lessons as well. Hopefully, it will work out for us.