The Southern Cape South Africa

The Southern Cape

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Arguably South Africa’s most popular destination among travellers, Cape Town is an unusual blend of a busy city centre towered by elegant skyscrapers, pristine beaches adorned by bronzed sun worshippers and a mountain which is the showpiece and stands proudly in the middle of it all.

Day 1  - The city centre markets

More than a handful of Cape Town’s hostels are located in and around the city centre known as the city bowl. Walking around the city streets, if it wasn’t for the amazing views which abound at every corner and the souvenir shops, you could be fooled into thinking you are it is easy to forget that beaches abound this city as it is as built up as some of them.

Once you get acquainted with your immediate surroundings and have checked into your accommodation, the markets and stalls around Church Street and Greenmarket Square makes it a pleasant place to while away an afternoon. Local craftsmen and women sit by their stalls daily from 9am until 4pm tempting passers-by with leather goods, Africanised clothes and a host of other products. You might not want to be too flash with your cash straight away, but if you want to indulge on something bangles and necklaces here.

As most of the hostels are located in the city centre, they are all also very close to where the action is once it night falls. The aptly named Long Street (its very, very long) is sprinkled with bars on both sides.

Day 2  - Robben Island

One of South Africa’s more sobering experiences is visiting Robben Island just off the northern tip of the cape. Famous for all the wrong reasons, the island was used as a prison up at various stages during the 17th and 20th centuries. It was also used as a hospitable for ‘socially unacceptable’ groups and also a military base.

Robben Island is best known as being the place of incarceration for Nelson Mandela. Sent there in 1961, he remained there for over two decades, and upon his release he was the world’s most famous prisoner.

You can travel to the island independently but the best way to travel to the island is on one of the guided tours. Led by former inmates, they give you an honest, yet grim insight what life imprisoned here was like. But it’s not all grim – the island is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed site while there is also a museum also. To get the most out of your trip take a ferry first thing in the morning. The tours take about 3 hours, but when they are finished there are lots of good hiking trails to embark on before getting the ferry back to the mainland.

Upon your return, if the weather is clear make your way up to Table Mountain, Cape Town’s best known landmark. There are two ways you can get up to the top of this 1,085 and 3km wide peak. If you are feeling energetic there are a host of paths to walk and hiking maps are sold at the lower cable station. But if you feel like enjoying the view without losing your breath, a return trip on the cable car will cost you around RSA110 ($16). Once you reach the summit you can relish the view the top boasts. There is a café on top also so if you are lucky you might even catch a sunset.

Day 3  - Adrenalin junkies

With so much beautiful countryside surrounding Cape Town, you may wish to explore some of this and spread your wings. And if you are feeling adventurous you may even want to engage in an activity during your stay. Many tend to book themselves on hot air balloon rides around the cape, but when you can see much of the city from the top of Table Mountain, you are better off spending your Rand on something else.

Abseil Africa run operate a tour known as ‘Kamikaze Kanyon’ twice weekly (Wed and Sat). After heading out to Steenbras River Gorge and enjoying breakfast, the next stage of this day tour is a leisurely hike in the area you can take the plunge and ‘kloof’ into rock pools from heights of between 3 and 22 metres.

If you have an urge for more adrenalin rushes after that, following a healthy picnic you can take on Thunder Falls and abseil 65m through its gushes. It is one thing to swim through waterfalls but it is another to abseil down them.

If adrenalin rushes aren’t your thing, but you still feel the need to get out of the city centre, then at the foot of Table Mountain (the eastern slopes) are the Kirstenbosch Gardens. These gardens which only grow indigenous South African plants are dispersed over 36 hectares and have an array of walking paths to while away an afternoon.

To finish off your third night here with a bang, you need to do so in one of Cape Town’s best known clubs. The Drum Café on Glynn Street has an avid following who go back time after time due to the authentic African flavour it creates. Another nightclub which is better known than most is Dockside. The largest nightclub in the city, it is spaced out over 3 levels and can fit up to 5,000 people.

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