August 01, 2011
Cape Town Winters are Cool for Nature Lovers
Photo © Cape Town Tourism
Every major city in the world has its parks, and most seaside towns across the globe can boast a clean strip of beach or commanding urban forest, but few city centres come close to matching Cape Town’s many stunning locations and natural environments.
From strolls along mountain contour paths or pristine beaches, hikes up the renowned Table Mountain or picnics in the famed Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, to visiting our resident African penguin colony at Boulders Beach, seeing baboon troops along the Cape Point route and spotting Southern Right whales along the False Bay coast, there’s a surfeit of attractions for lovers of nature in winter.
Fresh air and scenery
The Cape Peninsula offers a wide variety of beaches. Of course, during the winter months, it is too cold to go for a swim or spend time at length lazing on the sand, but a stroll along the beach during breaks in the rain is just as enjoyable. Get some fresh air and enjoy the view at these locations:
• The False Bay coast stretches from Gordon’s Bay to Simon’s Town. The water along False Bay is about 6˚C warmer than that of the other two regions, and this is where whale spotting is most likely from June to November. Muizenberg and Fish Hoek beaches along this route also have boardwalks, should you prefer not to get sandy feet.
• The Atlantic Seaboard runs along the west side of the Cape Peninsula and sports some of the trendiest places to see and be seen at, such as Camps Bay and Clifton 4th Beach. During winter this atmospheric stretch is wonderful for watching the swelling surf and dramatic skies.
• The West Coast’s endless windswept beaches and rocky shoreline run from Cape Town to Melkbos and beyond. It is here that you can see the picture postcard view of Table Mountain, mostly with a classic tablecloth during winter!
The Southern Line rail route is a rail trip from the central business district of Cape Town all the way through to Simon’s Town and takes about an hour and a quarter to journey through a fascinating, ever-changing landscape. Hop on and off as you please.
Forest, mountain and winelands meanderings
There is a multitude of walking and hiking spots in Cape Town; from the City Centre to the Northern Suburbs and beautiful Helderberg region. The Table Mountain National Park stretches across the Peninsula from Signal Hill in the City Centre to Cape Point at the tip of the Peninsula, where walking and hiking trails form an abundant network across Constantia, Newlands, Lion’s Head and Table Mountain. Other spots include Cecilia Forest, Silvermine, as well as the Helderberg Nature Reserve in Somerset West and the endlessly picturesque winelands. Take a stroll through any one of the Peninsula’s many forests or fragrant fynbos contour paths and enjoy the abundance of nature just minutes from the bustling city.
For hiking route maps, guided hikes and information on overnight stays at the Table Mountain National Park, book with SANParks
Contact: +27 (0)21 701 8692
Table Mountain Cableway
Kidz Season runs from May 1, 2011 to October 30, 2011, where two children under 18 years travel on the cableway for free, when accompanied by a full-paying adult on weekends, public holidays and during the school holidays.
Contact: +27 (0)21 424 8181
Cape Point Nature Reserve
Contact: +27 (0)21 780 9010
Helderberg Nature Reserve, Somerset West
Contact: +27 (0)21 851 4060
Constantia Vineyards, Constantia
Contact: The Constantia Valley Association +27 (0)21 794 0542
Durbanville Wine Valley, Durbanville
Contact: +27 (0)83 310 1228
Stellenbosch and Helderberg wine routes
Contact: +27 (0)21 886 4310
Nature by design
In addition to the Cape Point Nature Reserve, South Africa’s indigenous flora can be seen at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. World-famous and a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Site, it is set against the backdrop of Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak, in the heart of the Cape Floristic Region. Kirstenbosch is home to over 22 000 indigenous plants including many rare and threatened species, and is perfect for long strolls or sitting under an ancient tree. Kirstenbosch takes part in the annual Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show in London, and this year scooped its 31st gold medal for its exhibit.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Newlands
Contact: +27 (0)21 799 8783
The Durbanville Rose Garden, may be lesser-known than Kirstenbosch and Cape Point, but its extensive 3.5 hectare garden includes 500 varietals and 4 500 rose bushes, as well as trial beds, which are used by many international nurseries to test new roses.
Durbanville Rose Garden, Durbanville
Contact: +27 (0)21 970 3022 or +27 (0)21 970 3025
Green Point Urban Park, Green Point
Green Point Urban Park is a multipurpose 10.5 hectare park open seven days a week, intended as an inner city recreation area. It offers a fitness park, a play park, adventure park, a park for functions or seminars, an art park for exhibitions and craft markets, an events park for concerts, outdoor markets and a heritage park ,which connects various heritage sites to which pedestrians can walk.
Vergelegen Wine Estate, Somerset West
Three hundred years after the establishment of Vergelegen by one of Cape Town’s first settlers, Simon van der Stel, the wine estate’s exquisitely laid-out grounds, with its enormous oak trees and octagonal garden, continues to be maintained by the latest owners and admired by visitors, while the vines produce wines of exceptional quality.
Contact: +27 (0)21 847 1334
Chacma baboons are seen regularly along the Cape Point Route, and dassies (which look like over-sized guinea pigs but are, in fact, a distant relative of the elephant) and lizards can be found basking in the sun on mountainous rocks and crevices.
NB: When viewing baboons it is imperative that you do not approach or feed these animals – it is illegal and they do bite.
Keep your eyes peeled for small antelope such as the duiker and the steenbok when visiting sites such as the Rhodes Memorial, Cape Point and other nature reserves.
Visit the Cheetah Outreach Programme at Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch
Contact: +27 (0)21 881 3242
Butterfly World in Klapmuts, about 30 minutes outside of the Cape Town city bowl, plays host to monkeys, exotic birds, reptiles, as well as butterflies, making it a great place for families to visit.
Contact: +27 (0)21 875 5628
For a spot of birdwatching there are numerous places of interest.
Visit an ostrich farm to find out more about these fascinating creatures, indigenous to Africa. There is a ranch along the West Coast, as well as at Cape Point.
West Coast Ostrich Farm, Philadelphia
Contact: +27 (0)21 972 1955
Cape Point Ostrich Farm, Cape Point
Contact: +27 (0)21 780 9294
Or for a more diverse range of bird species visit:
Die Oog bird sanctuary and nature reserve, Bergvliet
Contact: +27 (0)21 715 8666
The Dick Dent Bird Sanctuary in Somerset West
Contact: +27 (0)21 852 3883
Rietvlei Nature Reserve, located off Pentz Drive in Table View
Contact: +27 (0)21 557 5509
The Edith Stephens Wetland Park and Cape Flats Bird Club, Phillipi
Contact: +27 (0)21 691 8070
Giraffe House Wildlife Awareness Centre in Stellenbosch offers access to not only giraffes, but ostrich, eland, crocodiles, birds and buffalo.
Contact: +27 (0)21 884 4506
One of a few mainland penguin colonies, the endangered African penguin colony at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town is in need of support and funding. Alternatively visit the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (Sanccob), an organisation dedicated to the conservation and rehabilitation of seabirds.
Location: 22 Pentz Drive, Table View
Contact: +27(0)21 557 6155
The Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront is a perfect playground for adults and kids alike, displaying Cape marine life in an interactive setting.
Contact: +27 (0)21 418 3823
Southern right whales can be spotted at Glencairn, Fish Hoek, Chapman’s Peak and Cape Point from June to November when it is breeding season, as well as further afield in Hermanus – a day trip out of Cape Town.
Cape clawless otters can be seen sunbathing on their backs in the mornings in Kommetjie.
For Cape fur seals, take a boat trip to Duiker Island, off the Hout Bay coast, and Seal Island, off the coast of Simon’s Town.
Drumbeat Charters, Hout Bay Harbour
Contact: +27 (0)21 791 4441
Circe Launches, Hout Bay Harbour
Contact: +27 (0)21 790 1040
For adventurous travellers, great white shark cage diving is a must! Day trips are offered by companies in Gansbaai, or boats leave from Simon’s Town.
African Shark Eco-Charters
Contact: +27 (0)21 785 1947
White Shark Diving Company
Contact: +27 (0)82 559 6858 or +27 (0)82 371 8715
In 1991, South Africa became the first country in the world to protect the great white shark with its Shark Spotting Programme which is aimed at ensuring the safety of sharks and beaches. Shark-spotters sound the alarm from Boyes Drive if a shark gets too close to shore.
Shark spotters use a flag and alarm system to warn beach goers of a shark’s whereabouts:
• A green flag means visibility for the spotters is good and no sharks have been seen;
• A black flag means visibility for the spotters is poor but no sharks have been seen;
• A red flag means a shark has been seen recently, but is no longer visible to the spotters, stay alert;
• A white flag with a black shark, along with a loud siren, means a shark has been sighted and bathers should leave the water immediately.
Noordhoek Beach is popular for horse riding. Braced against the elements, with the wind in your hair and surrounded by postcard-perfect views of Chapman’s Peak – if there’s time to spare, this is a must-do!
Sleepy Hollow Horse Riding, Noordhoek
Contact: +27 (0)21 789 2341
Imhoff Equestrian Centre, Kommetjie
Contact: +27 (0)82 774 1191
If it’s the Big Five you want to see, you will have to book yourself on a safari – or better yet, an overnight stay in a tented camp on a game reserve. From the Cape Town City Centre there are a few establishments that offer game drives and safari lodges.
Clara Anna Fontein Private Game Reserve and Country Lodge, Durbanville
Contact: +27 (0)21 975 7017
And further beyond the city limits …
Inverdoorn Game Reserve and Safari Lodge
Contact: +27 (0)21 434 4639
Aquila Private Game Reserve
Contact: +27 (0)21 431 8400
There are also many tour operators who can arrange specialised combination tours, such as Western Cape Tours. They are offering a combination of a shark cage diving tour and wine tasting at some of Cape Town’s most southerly vineyards for R1 700 to R2 100 per person* or an organised hike up Table Mountain and a cable car ride down for R800 to R900 per person*.
*Dependant on bookings.
Contact: +27 (0)83 703 3771
The Cape Tourist Guides Association offers adults and kids the opportunity of a drive up the West Coast stopping at a nature reserve for a morning game drive, then continuing to !Khwa ttu San cultural village for lunch, followed by an interactive tour of a replica San village before returning to Cape Town. A special rate of R3 450 for two adults and one child (under 16 years) is valid from 1 May to 30 September 2011
Telephone: +27 (0)82 874 7711
• Some of these activities are free while for others there is a cost involved. Please contact the venues you are interested in to find out more.
• For many of these activities bookings are essential.
• Some of these activities may be weather dependant.
• As a pioneering city in green and responsible tourism, the Mother City asks that visitors to these attractions act responsibly.
For more ideas on how best to enjoy Cape Town with your family, with a gourmet journey or a cultural magic carpet ride, please visit www.capetown.travel or call +27 (0)21 487 6800.
For more information about outdoor activities visit www.capetown.travel/see-and-do/nature-and-environment.