The first impression on my journey in South Africa was from the lovely city of Cape Town! I already had an idea of what the city would be like: picturesque mountains, a bunch of lovely beachside towns, plenty of markets and, of course, penguins! However, it wasn’t until I stepped foot on the Mother land that I would completely fall in love with the place. I had the opportunity to stay at 3 different places during my short stay of 4 days in the city, and even though it was indeed short, it was filled with amazing experiences and splendid views!
* South Africa: Cape Town – The Mother City *
A Few Fun Facts First…
South Africa has…
- 9 distinct provinces: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, Kwazulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Norther Cape and Western Cape.
- 3 official capitals: Pretoria, which is the administrative capital, Cape Town is the legislative one, and Bloemfontein is the judicial one.
- 11 – yes, 11 – official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, SiSwati, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.
- 5 countries that border South Africa: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Swaziland. There is also a country within South Africa, called Lesotho.
- Varying Climate: Due to a varied topography and oceanic influence, a variety of climatic zones exist within the country. The zones range from the extreme desert climate of the southern Namib desert in the farthest northwest area of South Africa, to the lush subtropical climate in the east along the border with Mozambique and the Indian Ocean. Having moved around the country from one end to the other, it was very clear to see these difference. Seasons also play a role in the climate, and the winter seasons are from June to August, approximately.
- Nature and Animals: Of course, South Africa is known for the amazing wildlife and the “Big Five” (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant) and other big animals such as cheetahs, hippos, and many antelope species, especially in the Kruger National Park, which mostly everyone has heard of and dreamed to go to. However, there are many more areas around the country to encounter wildlife, and it’s not only specific to Kruger. Many animals have been listed as critical or endangered, mainly due to human-wildlife conflict, the illegal pet trade, and poaching. Unfortunately, South Africa is also a known to be a big game legal hunting country for wealthy trophy hunters (like Trump’s sons), which makes me sick to my stomach at the very thought of it! Hopefully, laws will change one day to ban this horrific exploitation of these beautiful animals, but the fight is far from over! Many of the private game reserves who once took part in these activities years ago, have now reverted to becoming sanctuaries or protected areas to help preserve the animals diversity and future. Many of them have anti-poaching units that roam the areas 24/7 in search of illegal poachers trying to make their way in. Conservation levies have also been put in place in various game reserves for ongoing efforts to protect the animals.
- Cape Town ‘s climate is very temperate, similar to the Mediterranean, being surrounded by coast and ocean. Winters are chilly and rainy, and summers are hot and dry!
- Cape of Good Hope is the most south-western part of the African continent, and is a popular spot to visit.
- The city was colonized by the Dutch back in the 1600’s, and the Dutch influence is very prominent throughout the city, and even throughout the country.
- Table Mountain stands tall at 3300 ft, with almost vertical cliffs, and together with Lion’s Head, Signal Hill and Devil’s Peak, for a dramatic mountain backdrop enclosing around the “city bowl” and creates a natural amphitheatre-like shape where the city sits.
- In 2015, the city has an extremely dangerous water crisis, where the water levels were at their all-time low in over a hundred years. In 2018, the water levels weren’t as critical as they were in 2015, but there are still strict regulations that the population needs to abide by.
- There’s so much history in the city, including the High Court where before 1994, that’s where people’s cases would be heard and humiliated, and then, based on the court’s decision, would be classified in the “white” or “no-white” categories. This is just one of many aspects of the racial segregation that happened in South Africa in a not-so-distant past.
The Mother City isn’t only restrained to the city itself or “City bowl”, but rather a larger area, stretching from the city to the Cape Peninsula and Cape Point, False Bay and Gordon’s Bay. Also part of The Cape is infamous Robben Island, the notorious prison which once housed Nelson Mandela and is today a museum that people come to visit from all over the world.
Here is a map to give you an idea:
Needless to say that the city and surrounding areas are plentiful, and the possibilities are endless! Since I only had a few days here before I moved on, I wanted to see as much as possible. Stobers Tours made it possible for me to venture outside the city (since I wasn’t renting a car), and they did a fantastic job at taking me around and showing me the highlights of the surrounding areas. I did a Half Day Cape Point Tour and then a Full Day Table Mountain Combo. Nigel was my guide for those 2 days, and he was exceptionally knowledgeable about everything we talked about under the sun! He has been a freelance tour guide for the last 12 years with Stober Tours, and I cannot recommend him, and the company, enough!
On the half day tour, I visited Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope (the most southwestern part of the African continent), Boulder’s Beach with the penguins, and a few stops in between! On the second day, we did Table Mountain (go as early as you possibly can, as it was already an hour wait at 9am), Kirstenbosch botanical gardens, and Groot Constantia Winery.
The weather was absolutely perfect, sunny and not too hot (around 18-20C), and all around perfect weather to be out an about! Here are some of the images during those two days. Some places were extremely crowded (not my cup of tea!), but it is what it is and still worth a visit!
If you have the chance while in Cape Town, the V&A Waterfront is an absolute must! It is a lovely place to be outside and just walk around, try a few restaurants by the water, visit the local markets there (both food and crafts by local artists) and people watching if that’s your thing!
I did miss a lot of places while in Cape Town as I only had a couple days, but next time I’ll definitely be visiting the seaside areas as I hear the beaches are phenomenal and the vibe just excellent.
If renting a car isn’t your cup of tea, there are still plenty of ways to get around the city, including shuttles and the hop-on-hop-off buses that run different routes around the Cape. There are also a multitude of tour companies, such as Stobers Tours, if you want to have a guide and forget about the planning!
There are many wineries within a short distance of the city, and even some nice towns to visit, such as Paarl and Stellenbosch. The countryside there is stunning with the beautiful views of the Drakenstein mountain range. Simply breathtaking!
Also, out near Paarl which is about 45 minutes from Cape Town itself, is Cheetah Experience Ashia, and I cannot recommend them enough! You can volunteer there for an extended amount of time to care for the resident cheetahs, or just do a day visit and get educated on the lives of cheetahs and the problems they are currently facing in Africa! It is a great conservation project they have going and support from anyone is of course welcomed and encouraged to help! My post about them will be up soon with more details, so keep an eye out for that! 🙂
I had the privilege of staying at 3 different hotels during my stay in the city, and all were fantastic with their own flare and style.
My very first stop was at the incredibly beautiful Taj Cape Town hotel for 2 nights, and what a great stay it was!
Situated in the Greenmarket district, within the historical and legislative part of Cape Town itself, this luxurious hotel is perfectly located within walking distance to many of the city’s main attractions. Across the street from The Company’ Gardens, St-George’s cathedral, the Provincial Parliament and the High Court, and a short walk away from Bo Kaap (the famous streets with all the colourful houses), Long Street, and a few kilometres away from the V&A Waterfront, you can’t get any better than this!
The building itself used to be The South African Reserve Bank and Board of Executives which was built in 1890. It has since been renovated, but still kept most of the original architecture and old charm. When you walk through the main entrance and lounge, you can definitely get a sense of the history within the building, as it does have a feeling of the big beautiful banks you see in the movies!
The hotel itself has 2 restaurants; Mint, where a sumptuous breakfast buffet is served every morning on the lower level of the restaurant and spilling out into the lobby area, and turns into a casual sit-down restaurant for lunch and dinner, serving a range of foods from grilled sandwiches to shrimps and ribs. The Bombay Brasserie offers Indian fine dining in a very cozy low-lit atmosphere, which was a delight to take part in and I throughly enjoyed the chef’s vegetarian menu for that evening. It was just so delicious. Additionally, drinks and cocktails can also be served at the Twanky Bar at any time in the main lobby.
I had the opportunity to be pampered to one of Jiva Wellness Spa’s treatments, which I gladly accepted. I chose to do the Champi hair treatment: a mixture of oils specifically formulated from Ayurvedic Indian traditions to fortify hair and leave it shiny and lustrous. It was a lovely 45 minute treatment, and I would highly recommend trying out the different treatment options they offer. The staff is very lovely and highly qualified.
Other amenities, such as a fully equipped gym, pool (which was undergoing some work when I was there), meeting rooms, etc are all available at this lovely establishment.
My room was a beautiful “Luxury tower room with mountain view”, and what a view it was! Situated on the 10th floor, I was spoiled with a spectacular view of Table Mountain and the beautiful colours at sunset! The room was absolutely exquisite, with everything you can imagine! I was even gifted a nice bottle of South African wine and edible treats upon arrival!
The hotel offers free walking tours of the city on most mornings, which I took part in, and found them to be very informative. It’s always a nice thing to get a local’s perspective on the history and current happenings of the places I visit! They also offer a free shuttle to the V&A Waterfront, which is a huge plus! It runs more or less on the hour, since waking there can be tricky and a little far. I took it one evening to visit the waterfront and it was a lovely little outing. A must do in Cape Town for sure. A huge thumbs up for this bonus feature!
Mandela Rhodes Place was my next stop in the city, and literally right next door to my previous location! Of course, moving wasn’t an issue! Even though side by side, Mandela Rhodes has a very different atmosphere and adheres to a different clientele. They have full service apartments, which caters to many people’s needs, and offers more flexibility from families to larger groups. The apartments range from studios to two-bedroom platinum. The rooms are all equipped with a full kitchen and dining area, and also offer a cell phone with data to be taken on your adventures! I was in a superior apartment, and it was just perfect for a solo traveler!
The main building has indoor parking if so desired, and the main lobby boast a few restaurants/cafes that serve breakfast and lunch, and an Indian restaurant with some very delicious and affordable options. There’s also a tour desk, Stobers Tours (which I used and wrote about above), which I highly recommend. The staff are lovely and helpful, and always willing to be of assistance.
This place doesn’t feel like a hotel at all… but more of a self-catered apartment feel. The setup is a little odd to me, but not in a bad way. The apartment and building were very safe, with an access code or key card needed just to access the elevator for that wing. The open concept of the building means that the main corridors and lounge area are cold in the winter (as most buildings aren’t heated in South Africa), but there is a climate control unit in each apartment to get a comfortable temperature that suits your needs.
Overall, a nice and comfortable place to stay, and close to many of Cape Town’s attractions! If you’re a group or a family that wants the flexibility of an apartment-feel, then this is a great place to start!
My final stay in Cape Town was at a lovely establishment called Student at Home, owned by the same people as Mandela Rhodes. They asked me if I wanted to check out this location as well, and I said why not!
This place is known for long term rentals, mainly for students attending university in Cape Town, and the apartments are cute and functional. They have different categories, from Bronze to Platinum, and I encourage you to check out their website to know the differences and rates. They do offer nightly rates as well for shorter stays. I was staying on the executive floor, which seems to cater to digital nomads who prefer a little more room. There’s independent wifi in each unit, a functional kitchen with basic appliances, tv with cable, and a cute little living area. The bedroom was independently cut-off by a curtain, so it’s definitely a studio feeling! It was homey and comfortable, with a little quirkiness at the same time!
The building itself has a security guard 24/7, and you need your keycard to get in and out, as well as another locked door once you reach your floor which is electronically unlocked with he same card. Needless to say, it is a very safe place to be in the heart of Cape Town.
The crowd is a young one, with mostly university student or young professionals, so also a good place to meet people if you fall into that category. It has many things close by, and is walking distance to the other two establishments I previously stayed at! All in all, a great place with a local vibe!
Cape Town IS A MUST SEE if you make your way to South Africa! It has a great vibe and, with usually vigilance, is perfectly safe! There are so many places to see and visit, and it’s so culturally diverse and outdoorsy! The views are beautiful, and there is something for everyone, no matter what the age or lifestyle!
Bucket list place for sure, be sure to add it to yours!
Next Stop: Cheetah Experience Ashia!
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‘Til next time! Cheers! 🙂
Love & Light,