Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world but what makes it so special? Mountains – from sheer cliffs which rise from the oceans to valley upon valley separated by craggy peaks, forests, beaches, winelands and wheatlands, and the traditional Cape Dutch architecture responded by taking its cue from the grandeur of the setting, that’s just the beginning!
It is a large and sophisticated city by any standards with hotels which number among the best in the world. The city’s architecture traces the influence of Dutch and English occupations, alongside settlers from France, Germany and the East. Cape Town is also home to the South African Parliament and a host of outstanding museums, the SA National Gallery and the SA Library.
Touring the peninsula:
A drive around the peninsula takes in a world of superlatives derived from differing microclimates as one passes from one side of the multi-faceted mountain chain to another. Sunlight – filtered by mountain ranges or clouds, or reflected by a sea which varies from an azure blue to a stormy grey – gives Cape Town its unique quality of light; rich in colour and contrast. Because of this, the city is an international centre for fashion photography and television commercials, and the Cape Town Film Office facilitates more filming than any other city in the world!
Nector of the Gods:
A half hour drive takes one into the country, to towns which are now synonymous with wine – Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. On these historic estates, set on steep mountainsides and in lush valleys, the whitewashed gables and thatched roofs of manor houses pay tribute to 300 years of wine making.
Travelling down the False Bay coast, through the historic naval base at Simon’s Town, and returns along the Atlantic coast to Kommetjie. The favoured route is along the breathtaking Chapman’s Peak drive, but this is frequently closed due to rockfalls. The alternative route is over Ou Kaapse Weg (Old Cape Road) into the Tokai and Constantia valleys, home to the Cape’s first wine estates. Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting and Steenberg are all worth a visit.
It is at Cape Point that the warm Mozambique current of the Indian Ocean meets the cold Benguela current that sweeps up from the Antarctic into the Atlantic Ocean. While the Benguela causes desert conditions in the Namib, a thousand kilometres to the north, it nurtures Cape Town’s environmental diversity and provides an ocean teeming with pelagic fish feeding in plankton-rich waters.
Where else in the world can you go swimming alongside penguins or dolphins? Penguin colonies are found near Simon’s Town and on Robben Island; while early morning swimmers at Camps Bay may be entertained by large schools of dolphins frolicking in the surf.