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DURING my four-year stint in Africa, I had opportunities to visit Cape Town on numerous occasions. I recall being in the city for the first time, totally mesmerised by its beauty. I didn’t really know much about it and hence had no expectations whatsoever. To my surprise, this vibrant city offered a diversity of activities, from urban experiences to true outdoor adventures.
From golden beaches, colourful neighbourhoods and a landmark simply known as “The Mountain”, Cape Town enjoys its status as one of the most iconic cities in the world.
If you are planning a trip to this fantastic destination, here are my five top favourite things to do in Cape Town.
THE VIEWS FROM TABLE MOUNTAIN
The most spectacular views of Cape Town are from the peak of Table Mountain. While the most adventurous may choose an intense hike up the steep cliffs, I opted for the easier option — the Aerial Cableway. I remember being in awe as the car platform rotated while on its way up, offering outstanding views of the mountains, city and ocean. The panoramic views were even more impressive once I reached the top.
HISTORY LESSONS ON ROBBEN ISLAND
A visit to Robben Island is a must. Many political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned on the island during the apartheid regime. Today, it is an important symbol of South Africa’s political history.
I was lucky to have an ex-political prisoner as a tour guide so I received a first-hand account of life in the prison.
I learnt a lot about the history of South Africa during the tour. Standing in the cell where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years locked away was a very moving experience.
ROAD TRIPPING TO CAPE POINT
One of the most enjoyable things I did repeatedly in Cape Town was going for a drive along the scenic coastal route to Cape Point. Located about an hour’s drive from the city centre, Cape Point is where the Indian and the Atlantic
Oceans meet. It is home to picturesque bays and rolling green hills. The thing I loved the most in Cape Point was getting to the top of the lighthouse, after a steep climb, and enjoying the unforgettable view of the surroundings.
CAPE MALAY FOOD IN BOKAAP
I didn’t know the existence of the Cape Malays until I visited Bokaap, a neighbourhood just west of the city centre. Known for its brightly coloured houses and narrow cobbled streets, Bokaap’s residents are descendants of slaves from Malaysia and Indonesia, known as Cape Malays, who were imported by the Dutch during the 16th and 17th Centuries.
While in Bokaap, I got the opportunity to taste a traditional Cape Malay meal at one of the restaurants. Unlike our traditional food, Cape Malay dishes are unmistakably a fusion of Asian, European and African influences. The cuisine has undergone a significant degree of adaptation to suit the local palate and is worth a try.
GREAT WHITE SHARKS
Cage diving with the Great White Sharks is my favourite activity in South Africa, and the coolest adrenaline-pumping activity I have ever done.
Imagine being in a solid metal cage, the only protective shield that separates you from the predators. My dive was at Dyer Island, about two hours’ drive from Cape Town. From there, I was taken out to sea on a boat with other divers.
Attracted by the bait, sharks circled the boat while we hopped into a specially designed cage for a face-to-face encounter with the creatures. The experience is too thrilling to describe.
There’s a lot more to see and do in Cape Town. I cannot put my finger on one specific thing that makes the city one of my favourites. It has to do with the mix of amazing location and scenery, combined with a diversity of people, wildlife, cultures and history. I can’t wait to go back.