12 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Cape Town, South Africa

How would I describe Cape Town? Picture this: Miami Beach vibes with the diversity of New York City added into this eclectic rainbow nation mix. Interested yet?

Before the World Cup in 2010, most people in the western hemisphere knew very little of Cape Town. Leave it to a globally beloved sport like soccer to put it on the map for everyone to take notice. And I’m so glad I did take notice. Cape Town actually made me reminisce about Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; with its mountain flanked beaches and it also reminded me of Miami and New York for its wonderful diversity and mixture of cultures.

Here are 12 Reasons to visit Cape Town in the next year:

1Amazing Beaches:

The great thing about a coastal city in the Southern most tip of Africa? Amazing beaches at every turn. Camp’s Bay immediately brought back memories of my home country of Brazil. Beautiful bay flanked by mountains from both sides is very similar to Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. The energy in Cape Town was very much Brazil meets Miami Beach even in the winter! Be sure to catch the sunset from Camp’s Bay, it was spectacular!2Q5A7189wSouth.Africa.CampsBAyBeach.2Q5A7127-01w2. Table Mountain & The 12 Apostles:

From just about every angle you get beautiful mountain views in Cape Town. Be sure to take the aerial cable car to the top of Table Mountain and spend a couple of hours watching the clouds roll in and take over the landscape as you walk around. If you are up for it you can actually hike up the mountain instead of taking the aerial cable car. Beware of the hungry baboons though, they are sneaky and will not hesitate to steal your soda bottle or chips! The Twelve Apostles is a beautiful mountain range and we got a fantastic view from Camp’s Bay Beach. (Also a stop with the HopOn HopOff Red Bus)20170831_175839WSouthAfrica.TableMountain.2Q5A7070w

3. V&A Waterfront:

A hip, cool AND still working harbor. Cool artisans shops, fantastic food from fine dining to a lively food market with various global cuisine options, an indoor mall, a ferris wheel, an aquarium and Cape seals sun bathing on the edges of the harbor; the V&A Waterfront is a great spot to spend your day. You can take a helicopter tour and if visiting Robben Island, the ferry departs from the harbor. Beware, since it is a working harbor you will get the smells of a harbor as well; pungent fish and seal scents will hit your nose at some point.20170829_175416W20170829_134602-01w4. Robben Island: 

History lessons to ground us, Robben Island is a must to learn more in depth about the Apartheid Regime that was only dissolved in 1994 and to see where Nelson Mandela was prisoner for 18 years of his 27 year sentence, before becoming the first black South African president that changed the country’s history forever. What an incredible story of resilience, hope and tenacity. TIP: Most tour guides are ex-prisoners and the tour to Robben Island will take a good 4 hours including ferry round trip travel time, so plan accordingly. And you’ll need to book your ticket a few days in advance as tickets sell out quickly.20170902_145241w2Q5A749320170902_131350w5Bo-Kaap Neighborhood:

The cutest and most colorful neighborhood in all of Cape Town! Super Instagram photo material, but more importantly, it’s a predominantly Muslim neighborhood still today (so be respectful with your attire), where most residents are decedents of Malai slaves and the Nurul Islam Mosque established in 1844 is also found here. We spent our last night in a hotel across the street from Bo-Kaap and we could hear the daily prayers resonating in the air. At some point the neighbors got together and coordinated with each other to brighten up the area by painting all the houses in vivid, contrasting hues. It’s like a rainbow row of houses. I wonder if my neighbors would like the idea here in Orlando…2Q5A6929wDuo2Q5A6942w6Shopping:

Green Market Square is one of the oldest public squares in the country, dating back to the 1600’s and currently it is an open air market with various vendors selling anything from jewelry, clothes, fabric, wooden carvings and more. Good if you’re looking to buy some souvenirs but definitely bring those haggling skills and be prepared to be approached by every vendor if you even look at the merchandise. Kloof Street & Long Street had some great boutique shops. I did some damaged at Ashanti Designs (77 Kloof St). Obviously the indoor mall at the V & A Waterfront and the Watershed Market (highly recommend), which has fantastic artists work from sculptors, to painters, weavers, fashion designers and beautiful home decor items as well.20170829_125551w7. Museums:

Among many others, District 6 Museum and the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa should be at the top of your list. Sadly the Zeitz wasn’t open yet when we visited in late August 2017 but it is said to hold the largest collection of African art in the world. Like the Robben Island tour, District 6 Museum is another way to learn about the dark past of the Apartheid system and the aftermath of such a racist and discriminatory regime in South Africa. The District 6 area used to be a ‘mixed community’ of artisans, freed slaves, and immigrants, but in the 1960’s the area was declared Whites-Only by the government and by the 1980’s 60, 000 of its non-white residents were forcibly removed. Their houses completely destroyed by bulldozers. Could you imagine, having to leave everything behind and have NOTHING to go back to, to have to start over with nothing? That was the harsh reality. The museum houses many photographs and articrafts of the District 6 experience. I think it’s always important to learn about the dark side of history so we can reflect on the atrocities of human kind and hopefully learn from it.2Q5A0107w8. Same Day Safari Tours:

Though we did a 3 night Safari around Kruger National Park before heading to Cape Town; game drives near the city are available and can fit into any tight itinerary. Book a day trip to various Private Reserves just right outside Cape Town.

9. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden:

Even in the winter these gardens were breathtaking! I could only imagine in the spring, with flowers in full bloom. There’s a restaurant and various walking trails through out the gardens. We were a little pressed for time and only spent about 30 minutes here. I would have easily spent a few hours strolling the gardens, but our day was full as we visited some wineries and Table Mountain that same day.SouthAfrica.BotanicalGardenSouthAfrica.BotanicalGarden10. Wineries:

So wine is kind of my thing…I love it. And I’m happy to report that wineries can be found everywhere here in South Africa! You can do a full day tour and head to the Stellenbosh region, an area dotted with wineries and only an hour from Cape Town. It’s like the Napa Valley of South Africa. But if you don’t have a whole day to spare in your itinerary, fear not, there are also wineries within Capetown, right by the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens actually. The Hop Off -Hop On Red Bus route will take you there. We visited Groot Constancia, the oldest winery in all of South Africa established in 1685 and needless to say, it was an afternoon well spent.

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11. Food scene:

There’s an incredible variety in the food scene here in Cape Town, influenced by its diverse cultures, this rainbow nation has it all. We ate ALL types of cuisine, Portuguese, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, and obviously South African. There are so many delectable options everywhere. And compared to the US, we thought food and drinks were fairly cheaper. We ordered a bottle of south African bubbly for about just 20 bucks at a restaurant in the V&A mall! Jameson & ginger? Just 3 bucks, and not during happy hour.

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12. Nightlife:

Just walk up and down Long Street at night at you’ll realize it comes alive with music, as bars and night clubs are scattered everywhere. Mama Africa was the one spot we wanted to check out. It’s a bar/lounge with live traditional African music and percussion. Many of the local bands are from the near by Townships. Unfortunately it was closed due to a kitchen fire when we visited. I hope you get a chance to go.SouthAfrica.CampsBayBeach.2Q5A7180w

Cape Town really has it all. From amazing beaches, mountain hiking, to wineries and game drives? Let me know when you’re going to Cape Town, I’ll meet you there.

GOOD TO KNOW:

Getting around:

Uber is very popular and a safe and cheaper way to get around than a taxi. If you have 1 or 2 days in the city, I highly recommend the Hop on Hop Off Red bus. It pretty much takes you to every major point of interest in the city. After talking to other travelers, many people recommended renting a car so you can donor own day trips to Stellenbosh, the Cape Peninsula and other spots outside of Cape Town.

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The view from our Airbnb: Table Mountain

Where to stay:

We booked a lovely Airb&B with AMAZING views. The host and studio were ABSOLUTELY wonderful and always available. If Veronika’s place is available during your dates, book it asap! From the studio, we had a 10 minute walk down to various restaurants and bars and a 15-20 minute walk to Kloof St and Long Street nightlife. If you’re not up for the walk uphill, uber and taxis are always available. Since her studio was not available for our last night in the city, we also booked one night at the Cape Town Lodge Hotel, which was literally a 2 minute walk from Bo-Kaap neighborhood. Though we could clearly hear the prayer calls from the mosque at 5am.2Q5A7456w

Where to eat: Just a few suggestions

The Power and The Glory (great morning spot with breakfast sandwiches and fresh pressed juices. Cool and lively bar at night time.

El Burro Taqueria (tacos)

Beleza (Italian & Portuguese cuisine)

Mama Africa – Live Traditional African Music, cocktails and food. (Long Street)

Dalliance – Inside the V& A Waterfront Shopping Center. Great appetizers, service and a view of the water. It was the perfect spot to end the rainy afternoon, with a view, but indoors sipping bubbly. Cheers!

The V&A Food Market – various vendors and bars serving up anything from simple rice and chicken to Thai, Italian and everything in between at reasonable prices. Bar upstairs. Did you know that besides wine, South Africa has a great selection of Ciders? Pleasantly surprised.

Hudson The Burger Joint – hip cool, and popping at night!

I hope you get the chance to visit this incredible South African city one day! 

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A Safari Story, South Africa

If Africa is pure magic, we clearly fell under its spell of wonder.

This was our first time in the continent and with so many countries and options it was hard to figure out where in Africa to visit. Tom and I narrowed it down to 4 nations that interested us: Namibia for Kolmanskop Ghost Town; Kenya for Maasai Mara National Reserve; Ethiopia for the Rock churches in Lalibela or South Africa for the complicated history, Cape Town and Kruger Park. In the end, we chose South Africa, the southern most nation in the African continent.

It was our first time going to a Safari or as locals call ‘Game drives’ and as huge animal lovers, we were beyond excited for this adventure! After a 14 hour flight from Orlando to Dubai, then another 8 hours to Johannesburg, South Africa was our farthest destination to date! Next morning we were picked up by the safari company and still had another 6 hour drive to the Private Game Reserve.

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Every zebra’s pattern is unique like a fingerprint.

TIP: If you book a drive-in safari, expect some delays as things in South Africa are not always on time and the traffic in Joburg can be heavy. Also, be ready to half way through the drive, switch tour vans. In all the paperwork we received from our safari booking, no where did it mention that since the drive is long (6hrs) we would stop at a small town midway and jump into another van, with a different driver. And they might move all the luggage into a cargo van. Yeah, I was freaking out, thinking the worst, ‘Oh my God are we being kidnapped’? Are they gonna steal our bags? WTF is going on? We made sure we had our backpacks with all documents but I was still uneasy the last 3 hours of the drive. But in the end, that is simply how it works, the Safari company has multiple drivers and switch half way to avoid one driver having a super long shift. No big deal #thisisafrica. We arrived at the safari lodge, checked in and literally 5 minutes later the van with everyone’s luggage arrived too. Sigh… Now with my peace of mind back, we were off to our first Safari sunset drive in a private game reserve!

CHECK OUT THE SAFARI VIDEO On YOU TUBE

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SAFARI DAY 1: Sunset Drive & Braai Dinner at Private Game Reserve

That first night at the private game reserve was spectacular. Riding around in a safari jeep, spotting impalas, giraffes, zebras and elephants in the distance; and as the beautiful golden sun made its final decent in the South African horizon, a graceful giraffe walked right in front of our shot for a perfect silhouette photo. #Priceless moment. The evening concluded with an outdoor barbeque dinner in the African bush. As night took over, the temperature dropped significantly but we didn’t care. We were surrounded by stars above, and by a curious group of hyennas; of which we could only see the glow of their eyes and faint body shapes with our flashlights. We had to pinch ourselves, it was so surreal!

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Male Kudu (a type of African Antelope) have such beautiful horns!

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SAFARI DAY 2: Bush Walk at Private Game Reserve

We did a bush walk! The notion of danger only creeped in when we saw our safari guide; Elias, pull out a shot gun for ‘just in case of an emergency’. Sadly we only saw some zebras and elephants in the far distance on this day. But the real highlight of this bush walk was smoking elephant dung. YES. We. Smoked. Elephant. Shit. It surprisingly didn’t smell like it came from an animals butt at all! Don’t judge ‘til you try it. Bush people have smoked it for centuries for its medicinal properties.

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Since an elephants’ diet is all plants, once the coconut-sized poop is completely dry you can smoke it and get all the benefits from the different herbs. It relieves headaches, stomach ailments, allergies and more. Tom had an upset stomach  since we left Orlando 2 days prior, and actually felt better after our smoke session. Check out the video above of our safari group passing around the shit blunt and sniffing it!

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Elijah, our safari guide holding the elephant dung we all smoked.

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Mama hippo was not happy, we were getting too close.

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Pumba! And all his cousins eating the lodges leftovers from breakfast.

SAFARI DAY 3: Kruger National Park Game Drive

Our full adventure day at Kruger National Park turned out to be much warmer and sunny. We saw the most sightings of elephants and giraffes, along with cape buffalos, kudus, cheetahs and lions (from far) at Kruger National Park. It was also different than the private game reserve because at Kruger the roads are paved and the park is huge. At 7,523 sq. miles, it’s bigger than the Grand Canyon (1,902 sq. m), Yellow Stone (3,471 sq. m) and Yosemite (1,169 sq. m) combined! That’s pretty impressive and it means it has a high density of animal populations, including Africa’s Big Five: Elephants, Cape Buffalos, Lions, Rhino and Leopard. Being around all this nature and having majestic elephants and giraffes literally stop traffic and cross right in front of you is an incredible experience. I urge you to save every penny you got and book a safari. It will be a trip of a lifetime.We didn’t get to see any leopards though, they are the hardest animals to spot because they typically are up in the trees and hide well. We also missed the rhinos, the most endangered of them all. Poaching is still a very big problem. PLEASE don’t EVER buy anything made of rhino horns, it only perpetuates this vicious cycle of killing. Rhino horns have NO medicinal value and it will NOT help with impotency like some cultures believe.

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This big guy crossed right in front of our car!

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Cape Buffalo, one of Africa’s Big 5 Games.

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SAFARI DAY 4: Sunrise Drive & Blyde River Canyon

On the last day of our safari adventure, we did one final sunrise game drive and afterwards headed back to the airport. But on the way to Joburg our driver did a 30 minute stop at the Blyde Canyon on the border of the Limpopo/Mpumalanga provinces. He promised us that it was like the Grand Canyon of South Africa, and he wasn’t lying. The views were absolutely breathtaking. We were reminded again of how incredibly blessed and lucky we were to be able to work, save, and have a dream trip set into motion. Standing on the edge of this canyon, we were humbled and awed by nature’s beauty once more.

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An African Safari was something we grew up watching on the Discovery channel. It was the kind of story we would read about in our National Geographic magazine. We always made excuses, because going to Africa is really far, it’s expensive, and a bit scary because of all the unknown. But we realized one day, that life is to short and “you’ll regret more of the things you didn’t do” so we had been saving for a whole year, and we took the leap. We booked the plane tickets and it was the best the decision of the year. So don’t give up on your dreams, work hard and make it happen. We did, you can too. But of course, now we have to plan other trips to explore more places because one time in Africa just isn’t enough. It was just a taste and glimpse into this amazing continent, and now we are left craving more. I hear the safaris in Botswana are incredible…

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WHAT ABOUT YOU? HAVE YOU EVER DONE A SAFARI? WOULD YOU LIKE TO?

Be sure to check out more South Africa posts at:

http://www.chasingwildgusts.com/2017/10/beginner-guide-safari/

http://www.chasingwildgusts.com/2017/11/why-visit-cape-town-south-africa/

www.ChasingWildgusts.com

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