In many ways Cape Town is a city of contradictions – a strong urban heartbeat, cradled in the folds of spectacular natural beauty.
It’s one of the few cities in the world where you can lose yourself in wild wonder on any number of hiking trails during in the day, only to be spoiled for choice with an astounding array of restaurants, bars and clubs to discover at night.
Make sure you capitalise on your time in the Mother City by checking out these six adventure and outdoor activities, all within a 45minute drive from the CBD.
Get as close to the freedom of bird flight as possible by investing in a tandem paragliding experience. Most operators launch from either Lion’s Head or Signal Hill, depending on weather conditions and wind direction. Flights vary in duration, lasting anything from 15 – 30 minutes, with touch-downs typically taking place on the rolling lawns of Sea Point’s promenade.
Age limit: All ages welcome – from toddlers to centenarians. In 2015 a Cape Town grandmother made headline news by celebrating her 100th birthday with a paraglide!
Price: Budget for around R1 200 for a flight alone and R1 500 with video footage.
Now that you’ve seen Cape Town from the air, it’s time to check out the lay of the land from the sea. Sure, boozy cruises are fun, but getting right up close to magical marine life during a self-propelled kayaking session is way more memorable.
Heading out into the Atlantic Ocean from Three Anchor Bay, you will be taken on a 3 – 5km paddle toward either Granger Bay or Clifton Beach. The Clifton Beach route will provide breath-taking views of Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, Signal Hill and the 12 Apostles, while going in the direction of Granger Bay, highlights include the Green Point lighthouse and RMS Athens wreck.
You can also expect to see a wide variety of creatures, including the rare Heaviside dolphin. Due to their diminutive size, triangular dorsal fins and straight noses, these fun-loving Cetacean are often mistaken for porpoises. They are endemic to Southern Africa, found in the Atlantic waters off the coast of Namibia and the west coast of South Africa.
Age limit: All ages welcome, however, weight may prove to be a problem as those over 100kg may find kayaks slightly uncomfortable. Young children should also be accompanied by adults.
Price: R350 per person
Operators to try: Kaskazi comes highly recommended
Arguably one of Cape Town’s most unique attractions, Boulder’s Beach offers visitors the opportunity to hang out with African penguins in their natural habitat. Forming part of Table Mountain National Park, you can access the beach via a network of well-maintained boardwalks. What many people may not know is that there are two entrances – the main one where most tour buses stop and then a smaller one close to Boulders Beach Lodge. This second entrance is ideal for those looking to skip the crowds and provides perfect snorkelling conditions.
Age limit: All ages welcome. The boardwalks also make it a wheelchair-friendly outing.
Price: R65 for adults, R35 for children
Operators to try: Contact SANParks for advice on which operators offer the best Boulders tours. You can send an email to email@example.com or call them on +27 (021) 712 0527
Perhaps the quintessential Cape Town hike, the main starting point for the Lion’s Head trail is located a quick 10-minute drive from the CBD. While it’s certainly no walk in the park, you will be rewarded with heavenly 360-degree views of the city bowl and surrounding suburbs, Table Mountain, the 12 Apostles and the Atlantic seaboard when you get to the top. The hike takes about an hour-and-a-half (45 minutes up and 45 minutes down) to complete, depending on your walking speed.
For safety sake, be sure to hike in a group of at least four people. While going during daylight hours is recommended, you can opt to join locals/tour operator full a full moon hike.
Age limit: If you’re keen to make it all the way to the top, it’s not advisable to take children under 6 years old. On the other end of the scale, if you’re over 65, it’s best to be in good health and have an above-average fitness level.
Price: Free for those doing it of own accord. Operators offering guided hikes could charge up to R700, but this would include snacks and drinks.
Operators to try: Hike Table Mountain
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Considered to be the flagship among South Africa’s 10 national botanical gardens, Kirstenbosch offers guests a world of wonder and delight, whether you’re into botany or not. Resting along an eastern slope of Table Mountain, the garden is home to a magnificent array of flora, with a strong emphasis on indigenous species. With shady nooks a-plenty and large patches of lawn, it’s the perfect spot for a picnic – although you may have to share your snacks with a cheeky guinea fowl or two.
While you’re in the garden, be sure to check out the magnificent Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, affectionately known as the ‘Boomslang’. The 130m walkway mimics the elegant shape of a slithering snake. Located in the arboretum section of the garden, it takes visitors from the forest floor into the lush treetop foliage, culminating in a viewing deck offering panoramic vistas of the Cape flats and Southern Suburbs, before curving gently downward again. As the name suggests, it was erected in celebration of the garden’s 100th anniversary in 2013 and officially opened to the public in May 2014.
Age limit: The garden is highly accessible to all ages, with even the Boomslang being wheelchair friendly.
Price: R55 for adults, R30 for SA students, R15 for children (6 -17), FREE for children under 6
Operators to try: Kirstenbosch offers visitors free guided tours at 10:00 and at 14:00 from Mondays to Saturdays. To find out more, check out the Kirstenbosch website, send an email to KirstenboschInfo@sanbi.org.za or call +27 (021) 799-8899
Your time in Cape Town cannot be considered complete, if you don’t make your way to the furthest outcrop of the peninsula. There is a common misconception that Cape Point is the spot where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans collide. While this is not the case, it is still a place of spectacular extremes – invigorating and pristine.
The most commonly-visited attraction in this section of Table Mountain National Park is the old lighthouse, which undoubtedly offers the best vantage point for panoramic ocean views. However, there is much more to the area. During your visit, be sure to check out Olifantsbos beach – the first turn-off on your right after entering the park – where a freshwater stream attracts an array of wildlife, offering you the opportunity to spot bontebok, baboons and ostriches, among others.
Age limit: All ages welcome
Price: R125 for adults, R65 for children
Operators to try: Contact SANParks for advice on which operators offer the best Cape Point tours. You can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call them on +27 (021) 712 0527