Cape Town: The beating heart of the Rainbow Nation
This is a big claim... We know!
But show us a city where you can surf onto beaches of golden sands, dive with sharks in kelp forests, hike to the top of a mountain whilst clouds cascade in a 'dry-ice fashion' from its plateau, and eat vegan food of the highest quality and we will reconsider this statement!
Where do we start...
Getting in and out of Cape Town is seriously easy. With an international airport and both the N1 and N2 motorways beginning here, this is the true heart of the Rainbow Nation.
Navigating this city seems daunting at first, but by approaching the first person we could find, we not only made a friend, but were instructed on the ins and outs of the MyCity card for the buses. Make sure you buy credit as opposed to only putting money on your card in order to get the best fares. This card can also be used as a cash card if you do choose to transfer money onto it.
There is a hop-on hop-off bus which tours the city every 10 minutes and takes you along the touristy route.
Leaving central Cape Town heading South or inland is possible on public transport, but if you are pushed for a time, there is no substitute for a car; the most efficient way to travel.
With your transport sorted, you are now ready to explore...
No matter where you are in Cape Town, Table Mountain will be visible and will give you a sense of direction. Make sure these enormous mountain faces are the backdrop to most of your photos in Cape Town!
Don't settle for this...
Hike or take the cable to car to the plateau where you will find more species of plant than in the whole of the United Kingdom! Let the city of Cape Town take your breath away as you climb as close to the edge as you dare and watch the native Dussies as they fearlessly tempt fate on these steep faces.
Table mountain is a place of incredibly beauty, and is totally deserved of its status as one of the new natural wonders of the world.
Looking down the East face of table mountain, you may be able to see Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. One can only realise the power of plant consciousness when totally absorbed in their environment. As you walk into the gardens you will find a fork in the path; the extinct gardens, or the smelling gardens, what a choice!
Seeing plants coming back from the dead, or climbing into the gardens headfirst to identity 'that familiar smell' means you feel it! The power of plants is a subtle one which we are too often very ignorant towards. We are totally at their mercy. Even the carnivores rely on them to feed their prey. These sentient beings can take light energy and create life, something which is believed to be a power only for the gods!
The Tree Canopy Walk is a beautiful winding structure through the heights of some beautiful indigenous plants. The walk way is a fantastic structure and you can read more about its architectural design in a book in the small shop by the entrance.
In contrast to these two natural wonders, the concrete jungle of Cape Town holds a lot of its beauty at the V&A Waterfront. With a huge selection of restaurants, and an enormous market, this place is the upmarket side of Cape Town. If you are lucky enough to be in Cape Town for New Year, head to the V&A for live performances both theatrical and musical. The alluring energy of the harbour as midnight draws near is captivating. Chinese gunpowder tears through the sky with every imaginable colour, whilst greedy fingers will steal through the masses searching for easy pickings in the form of wallets and phones. Keep your bag close and your mind alert. James had his bag sliced, luckily he had double bagged this day (for reasons unknown) and got away lucky.
If the restaurants and markets of the V&A Waterfront are not for you, make sure to head to the port, where ferries take you out to Robben Island.
Historically South Africa has been on a roller coaster of a journey. Nelson Mandela's imprisonment on Robben Island and the struggle against the apartheid have built the political foundations of this country. The ferry leaves 3 times a day to the island, where fantastic guides will give you a thorough education Mandela's struggle for freedom in South Africa and the life lived by individuals who were imprisoned here. The stories range from executions to education in the limestone mines - be prepared to shed some tears.
During the apartheid, anyone not of caucasian background was displaced from their homes and townships. District Six was a very famous township, famed for its multi-culturalism - something which the Boer government strongly stood against. In 1970, 70,000 people were displaced from District Six and their homes were demolished as the Boers named it a 'whites only' area.
The District Six Museum was opened in 1994 and is another educational hotspot. A lovely tour guide at the museum will tell you his story of his life in District Six. A map on the floor of the museum has names were ex occupants have signed where they use to live. This museum is incredibly moving and we urge you to go. The history of South Africa is incredibly important to the people here and the world must continue to fight against racism through education.
For an even earlier history of Cape Town, visit the Castle of Good Hope, the oldest building in South Africa, and explore the beautiful architecture found in the center of the city. Explore the University for another example of Cape Town's beautiful architecture.
By this point an appetite has probably built up and it is time to taste some of Cape Town's finest. As vegans, this place is paradise. The plant cafe and dolce bakery are options that will please anyone, beside having amazing vegan options their dishes will transform any omnivore into a herbivore at least for one meal.
Hout Bay, about half an hour away from the city centre has a few good restaurants, famed for their sea food who can prepare superb vegan food. Small pubs and a beautiful view create a perfect environment for a meal and great conversation! Head to the gorgeous south facing beach to lap up some rays and get yourself a tan, or take a visually stunning cruise around the coast on Chapmans peak drive beginning at the proud statue of a Leopard all the way to Kommetjie for much of the same!
Cape Town and the peninsula extending below it have so much to offer, not just on land. A strip of golden sand lines the West coast and people flock to these beaches in summer. Ocean temperatures are significantly lower than the eastern cape so put on a brave face. Alternatively, grab a wetsuit and surfboard and head to Llandudno Beach and catch the last waves of the day as the sun dips below the horizon. If the cold water doesn't sound appealing, there are many bouldering spots along the coast. Whether it is the busier Camps bay and Clifton beaches, Llandudno or any other West coast beach, make sure to be there in the evening to meditate or salute the sun as it passes to the other side for the night.
Sandy Bay beach is a half an hour walk from Sandy Bay car park. A place wear white gold appears to have replaced the sand, and the aquamarine ocean breaks on to the shore can surely be called paradise! There is no greater sense of freedom than being naked in paradise - so the 'nudist beach' status at Sandy Bay had us at true peace.
The aquarium in Cape Town has a great variety of animals. They do some excellent work rescuing sharks and releasing them again when they have recovered. They do some very innovative research there and have great educational exhibits. However, if you want to see animal life where they are genuinely happy, head to the Cape Peninsula.
An hour from Cape Town city centre on the Eastern coast of the peninsula the ocean is no warmer, but the diving is certainly more spectacular. Kelp forests sway in the swell and amongst them, sharks find their homes. Everything from the skyshark at no more than a foot long with beautifully intricate patterns all the way up to the infamous 7 gilled cow shark. Nudibranchs are in abundance in False Bay and so we had a great time with our favourite ocean critters! Pisces Dive school at based in Simonstown. Their great dive masters and fantastic equipment will prepare you perfectly to dive the freezing, shark infested waters! We definitely recommend a dive to Pyramid Rock along the coast.
For those of you who don't, can't or won't scuba dive, Pisces dive school arrange snorkeling trips out to Partridge Point. A seal colony lounge about on the exposed rocks, entering the water to play with each other and occasionally hunt. There favourite activity is to tease snorkelers as we struggle to pull ourselves under the surface using the kelp to overcome the buoyancy of the wetsuits!
If you still have energy after a long day of aquatic activity, you can visit Boulder's beach to the colony of African penguins, or to Saint James back up peninsula where the colourful beach huts and rock pools in front of them make a great walk after a vegan pizza and Beatles session at the aptly named Octopus' Garden!
After a long day of adventure and experiences, fatigue takes hold and it is definitely time to find somewhere to rest for the night.
Accommodation in Cape Town is easy to find. A bit of Internet research, a guide book (the Coast 2 Coast) or any new friends you make will all be of great assistance in finding a place to stay. Whether you end up in an Eco lodge on the outskirts of Cape Town, a backpackers on long street, or the Cape Town Hilton for a bit of luxury, the city will always give you what you need.
This city of dreams will capture your soul - the beautiful beating heart of the Rainbow Nation.