Summer is on the horizon, and for those of you struggling to decide where you want to spend your precious vacation time, let me help. Cape Town in South Africa offers it all: pristine beaches, breathtaking mountains, vibrant neighbourhoods, a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, and open savannahs filled with an incredible array of wild animals.
The city is nestled in between two beautiful mountain ranges, Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles, and is surrounded by white sand beaches, dunes and granite boulders. Among these is Camps Bay beach, which, whilst scenic, is often busy and filled with tourists. Instead, I would suggest its neighbour, Glen Beach, with the Twelve Apostles in its backdrop. It is peaceful and laid-back, largely populated by surfers and relaxed locals.
Beta Beach is a series of many small beaches, offering fun coves to explore and incredible sunsets. A favourite option of mine is Oudekraal Beach, a secluded gem which is considered sacred to the peninsula’s Muslim community. The beach is shaded and protected by trees and mountains, making it perfect for picnics and outdoor parties. It’s wave-free waters are also ideal for swimming and snorkelling due to the crystal clear conditions. Scuba divers often leave from the waters here as there is rich marine life just off the shore. Sandy’s Cove and Justin’s Cave have overhangs and tunnels, and are extremely colourful; there’s even an old shipwreck to examine.
After you’ve explored the seas, Cape Town’s mountains offer some of the best hikes in the world. I recommend hiking Lion’s Head, a trek which sends you in a spiral up the mountain. This might sound daunting, but it’s definitely more fun than frightening! The top will give you views of Table Mountain, Table Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean, so definitely worth the climb! Alternatively, The Wolfberg Arch Trail is unlike anything I have experienced before. You walk through cracks of ancient rock formations, which, at many points, form narrow tunnels made of boulders that you have to squeeze through. It’s a long and steep climb, but the stunning red and yellow rocks you traverse on the way makes the challenge worth while. At the end, reward yourself with a visit to the Cederberg Cellars, an award-winning fine wine region with inexpensive tastings.
Besides its natural wonders, the urban part of Cape Town has much to offer. There is a wide variety of neighbourhoods, from historic to hip. Bo-Kaap is a one-of-a-kind quarter, inhabited primarily by a Malaysian community. You can take a free walking tour around the area. The guide will make you smile with his cheesy jokes but will also teach you Arabic greetings. The streets are cobble stoned and lined with brightly coloured houses, and the restaurants you’ll find there are fantastic and varied: Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian, Sri Lankan, and African cuisines. Or, if you’re craving the authentic – the locals offer cooking classes. At my favourite restaurant, a tapas place called Chef’s Warehouse, the menu changes daily and the ingredients are hand-picked every morning by the extremely creative and talented chefs.
After dinner, head to Woodstock, an industrial quarter that is full of young culture. During the day, it houses my favourite market – the Neighbourgoods market – which sells great food ranging from smoothies to sushi, and local goods such as kitchenware and clothing. There are also various musical acts who perform on a rotating basis – definitely not to be missed.
In the pulsing metropolis it is easy to forget you are in a country with some of the greatest wildlife wonders in the world. The Big Five – lions, leopards, elephants, rhinos, and buffalo – as well as many other impressive mammals, are at home in South Africa. I would recommend Kruger National Park. You can splurge and stay at a five-star safari lodge (Lukimbi Lodge holds a special place in my heart) or rough it in a sleeping bag and pitch a tent in the bush for sweet, silent nights in the wild. I guarantee that this trip will be thrilling and unforgettable, to satisfy all your summer travelling needs.