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November 03, 2010

Connect with nature in Cape Town this summer

table mountain

Photo courtesy Andre Bezuidenhout

Cape Town’s fauna and flora attractions are in close proximity to its urban areas. Here are some of our suggestions of things to do and see this summer.

Fauna in the wild

Chacma baboons are seen regularly along the South Peninsula and a walking tour of two to three hours can be arranged to observe these primates.

Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for small antelope such as duiker and steenbok when visiting sites like Cape Point, Table Mountain National Park and Rhodes Memorial.

Cape clawless otters are often seen in nearby Kommetjiein the morning, sunbathing on their backs, while the endangered African penguin colony at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town is in need of your support and funding.

To be in the company of 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).

If it’s adventure you’re after, great white shark cage diving is a must! Day trips are offered by companies in Gansbaai, and boats also leave from Simon’s Town.

Fauna cared for in captivity

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 one at Cape Point.

Bird sanctuaries in Hout Bay (The World of Birds) and the Southern and Northern Suburbs are also home to monkey species and chimpanzees roaming in open cages.

The Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront is the perfect playground for adults and kids alike, displaying an array of Cape marine life in an interactive setting.

On safari

If it’s the Big Five you want to see, book yourself on a safari or, better yet, an overnight stay at a tented camp on a game reserve.

There are a few establishments that offer game drives and safari lodges within driving distance of the city centre: Clara Anna Fontein Private Game Reserve in the Northern Suburbs is practically on your doorstep, while Inverdoorn Game Reserve and Safari Lodge, and Aquila Private Game Reserve lie further beyond the city limits.

Flora

Do not miss out on South Africa’s fragrant fynbos and plant kingdom. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, the Cape Floral Kingdom is one of the richest areas of plant life in the world: It represents less than 0.5% of the area of Africa but is home to nearly 20% of the continent’s flora.

This floral diversity can be experienced on walks through the South African National Parks conservation areas, including Table Mountain National Park and Cape Point, and a visit to either of these areas affords the opportunity to take in the fynbos and spot South Africa’s national flower, the protea.

Table Mountain National Park also offers barbecue facilities in designated areas at Oudekraal or Tokai Forest, picnic areas at Silvermine and biking or hiking trails through the mountain peaks.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is South Africa’s world-famous national botanical garden, and a regular winner at the Royal Horticultural Society Chelsea Flower Show in London.

The Durbanville Rose Garden may be lesser-known than Kirstenbosch, 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 rose species.

Beaches

The Cape Peninsula is famed for its white sand beaches. There are two coast lines: False Bay and the Atlantic Seaboard.

False Bay stretches from Gordon’s Bay to Simon’s Town, and the water here about 6°C warmer than that along the Atlantic Seaboard. This is where whale spotting is most likely, and the southern part of this route also offers two catwalks should you prefer not to get your feet wet.

The Atlantic Seaboard runs along the along the west side of the Cape Peninsula and sports some of the trendiest places to see and be seen at. The West Coast’s endless windswept beaches and rocky shoreline run from Cape Town to Melkbos – and beyond. It is here that one can see the picture postcard views of Table Mountain.

Please be sure to act responsibly while you enjoy the outdoors.

We ask that you:

  • Drink tap water rather than bottled water and use water as efficiently as possible.
  • Dispose of waste, matches and cigarette butts in bins provided, to avoid litter and to prevent fires starting in ecologically sensitive areas.
  • Don’t take natural keepsakes like shells and indigenous flowers.
  • Stick to marked paths and roads when driving or hiking to avoid damage to the sensitive landscape.
  • Dispose of rubbish carefully, and recycle and reuse where possible.
  • Don’t approach or feed baboons.
  • Adhere to shark spotting flags on beaches – a green flag means that there are no sharks around, a red flag means be cautious as a shark has been spotted in the last two hours, a black flag means visibility is poor, and a white flag with a shark emblem accompanied by a siren means that a shark has been spotted and you are to stay out of the water until the flag has been lowered.

Please do not hesitate to contact Cape Town Tourism for suggestions on what to see and do, where to eat, how to get around and where to stay. Contact info@capetown.travel or call +27 (0)21 487 6800.

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