Something happens when you climb the little make-shift staircase and fling yourself into a big green game-drive vehicle. You may be in the middle of the city at the start of Tafelberg Road with cars whizzing by, but you feel like you’re embarking on an adventure.
Table Mountain and Wine Tasting– a Potent Combination
Your eyes open that much wider, the mountain looks surprisingly different as you wind upwards, and then Table Mountain Wine Tours and Events MD Henri Bruce jumps out of the driver’s seat to remove the chain that says “No public vehicles past this point”. The thrill of virgin mountain road!
The panorama of a city spreads before you from an entirely new angle as that green machine climbs on. There’s a little bit of pernicious aerial rivalry up here, Bruce tells you, between a bunch of crows and two black eagles and a kestrel. If you’re lucky, you’ll see the eagles’ ally dropping onto the crows’ backs to give them a peck that he seems to think they deserve.
Up and up you go, past cannons and blockhouses erected by Cecil John Rhodes to detect enemy ships. The buildings stand on a mountainside that is more than 260 million years old and in close to its present shape, astonishingly watched over dinosaurs for 100 million years. Table Mountain is older than the Andes, Alps, Rocky Mountains and even the Himalayas.
On Devil’s Peak, you have a last, sober moment to analyse the layout of your glorious home – left the buildings of the CBD, right the trees of Constantia, forwards over the Cape flats, the dunes of Atlantis, and is that really Franschhoek you can see?
Meanwhile, Bruce has laid out Durbanville Hills’ finest: Sauvignon Blancs, Pinotages and Rosés await you on a picnic table. Brie Cheese and Swiss Chocolate temper the combined effect of the wine and that crisp mountain air. Passing runners are offered a glass of Rhinofield’s Pinotage before they descend Devil’s Peak. One or two accept and it makes for interesting conversation.
Everything about this adventure revolves around fresh perspective. And as the 4×4 rocks back down along the path, peaceful from the wine and the heady beauty that surrounds you, every happy hormone you own is humming.
Cape Town’s CBD – From Above and Below
There’s far more to Cape Town’s CBD than just business. The less than two square kilometres that make up the downtown footprint is home to nearly two dozen museums, scores of galleries, markets, historic churches, a municipal library that alone attracts more than 650 000 visitors a year, the Company’s Garden and, of course, the Castle of Good Hope. And for foodies there’s the famous Bree Street corridor that is now reputed to be the home of South African gastronomic innovation.
You could easily spend a month of Sundays (or Saturdays) exploring the CBD and still not experience everything this rich heritage area has to offer, and thanks to the presence of some 230 Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) Public Safety Officers on duty around the clock, you can safely sightsee on foot.
But it’s below the bustling city streets that things get truly fascinating, where the past and the future hold hands in dank, thrilling warrens.
It’s just a pop down a manhole with Goodhope Adventures and you’re negotiating the Cape’s history through water tunnels. The underground tour begins and ends at The Castle,offering a fascinating historical and ecological account of our city. It’s also an eerie quest, including a visit to the Castle’s dungeons and (reputably) haunted spaces. This is not for the unfit, though, nor an outing to plan for a rainy day.
The Camissa Streams, now-covered, used to be the principal water source for the Khoi, who originally named the CBD Camissa – Place of Sweet Waters. These streams also provided the Dutch ships with fresh water, sustained their food production and powered the city’s lights through hydroelectrics, before London had even switched from the gas lamp.
Parts of the canal system date back to the 1650s and the tour offers some spectacular architecture, as well as a sense of just how much precious fresh water flows unused down from the mountain and City Bowl springs, straight into the Atlantic Ocean.
The Most Civilized That Adventure Camping Can Get
The West Coast has a far more temperate winter climate than Cape Town with much less rain, so when you head out of the city at this time of year, that’s definitely the direction to take. And since you’re unlikely to be drenched every second day in this part of the world, going wild is well worth considering.
A weekend away with Pebble Sky Adventures – adventure hiking, kloofing and camping on the West Coast – may be civilized, but make no mistake, this is living on the edge. Creeping backwards off a 150m high cliff (with equipment), rock-rabbiting down gorges and then arriving back at the campsite to find your your tent and bedding already set (biscuits and a torch inside too), and a potjie on the fire is almost too much to ask of life. And yet it is what Pebble Sky Adventures does best.
This one’s both for the adrenaline junkies who desire the unadulterated delights of nature without the mission, and those who just want to commune with a sense of peace that is not city life. One does not have to walk backwards over cliffs; – picnics under Wild Olive trees, rolling out of your tent and into rockpools, and stargazing (always stargazing) are hard for anyone to decline. No more trundling half the house into the car, and still having to eat powdered mash in a crowded campsite. Finally, someone got the memo.
There is a Game-Reserve Less Than an Hour from Cape Town – and it’s Green Too
The charm of Buffelsfontein Game and Nature Reserve lies in the meeting of game with a laid back West Coast ambience (yes, again the West Coast – it’s winter and warmer there, remember?) This 1 600 hectare family-owned reserve is run with absolute love and dedication by the Loubser family and its staff.
The receptionist raised the Egyptian Mongoose (much scarier than a standard mongoose) herself when it was rescued from a sand mine after its mother had died. And a Meerkat in rehabilitation can’t climb up quick enough to nuzzle into the neck of one of the owner’s sons. Both Buffelsfontein Meerkats had been confiscated from a private home before the Loubser family offered to take them in.
The Cheetahs, Caracal and original two lions were also born in captivity and, as release into the wild is often unsuccessful, the expansive reserve now makes an ideal home for them.
The family is understandably proud of their two Rhinos and, as this majestic beast faces extinction, they were acquired with the hope of being able to breed with the pair. In order to protect them from the scourge of poachers, the horns are trimmed every two years, which is no mean feat.
The range of game is impressive. Seeing the inseparable rhino couple, Lily and Max, against a backdrop of wildebeest, eland, buffalo, giraffe and, oh yes, Yzerfontein, is something that also has to be experienced. Particularly by families. Buffelsfontein also serves as a unique function venue, with a beautiful pool, and the Parlotones played there, twice.
The family are truly living out their dream – to educate people first-hand about our beautiful wildlife and to offer a tourism experience bar none.
Accommodation varies from a rustic tented bush camp to luxury self-catering waterfront cottages with televisions, air-conditioning, kitchenettes and soft linen to fall into after a hard day of exploring in the fresh air, but the reserve welcomes day-trippers as well.
The Reserve has its own reed sewage filtration system, solar power, and is built with materials sourced in the region. Rangers go above and beyond to ensure an unforgettable experience for the entire family, whether you’re just popping in for the day or planning to make this central West Coast game farm your base for a weekend of regional adventure
Geelbek doesn’t get better – an Almost 300-Year Old Heritage Site with Fine Food, on a Lagoon, in a National Park
Naturally, you will want to come here during flower season, when the Postberg side of the West Coast National Park and its multitudinous daisies show their faces to the sun for just a few short weeks. But throughout the year, the Geelbek experience is quite simply, perfect. The food – traditional South African cooked with world-class flair – is as satisfying as it gets. But boboties, pumpkin pie, seafood and hearty Malay Curries are what would make a regular restaurant stand out. Geelbek, set in a National Monument, Cape Dutch building, with white, billowing daybeds overlooking a lagoon full of flamingoes, a play area for the kids, a courtyard of fountains and a marquee for the myriad of weddings, is not a regular restaurant. It is called a one day holiday, and you deserve it. Regularly. In winter the earlier golden twilight brushing the flamingoes and the calm wetlands of the lagoon make sure that your life back in the city seems infinitely manageable.