Top Ten Tourist Attractions in Cape Town
1. King Protea
Walk any mountain trail in the Boland or southwestern Cape and you're likely to encounter the king sugarbush or protea (Protea cynaroides). Named after the artichoke-like appearance of the flower (cynara means artichoke) it's unmistakable with its large inflorescence (flower head) and paddle-shaped leaves borne on the stems.
2. Adopt a Penguin
Add a penguin to your family by adopting one through Sanccob, an NGO that aids indigenous injured, oiled and ill seabirds. (You get a photo and adoption certificate but are, admittedly, unlikely never to get a letter from 'your' penguin.) If you live in Cape Town, consider volunteering; Sanccob needs help year round, not only when there's a major oil spill.
3. Noon Gun, Signal Hill
The Noonday Gun in Cape Town started as a time checked in an era before wristwatches. The cannon was moved to Signal Hill in 1902 and is still fired every day except Sunday. Add about three seconds to the time for every kilometre between you and Signal Hill to allow for the time it takes the sound to get to you.
4. Submerged Forests
From above the water, the kelp forest just off the promenade at Sea Point in Cape Town looks like a mass of slimy green blades morphing with the waves – but it’s really a complex ecosystem with an interesting life of its own. To understand what’s going on down there, visit the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront – they’ve got a fascinating kelp forest exhibit.
5. Vergelegen’s Giants
No, you’re not seeing things as a result of tasting the wine at Vergelegen, Somerset West – there are five huge camphor trees (Cinnamomum camphora) at the homestead. The trees, native to China, were planted by then-governor of the Cape, Willem Adrian van der Stel around 1700.
6. Hike up the Table
Because the satisfaction of walking up to the top of Table Mountain is so much more than taking the cable car, you have to walk up at least once. One of the favourite routes is up Skeleton Gorge. It’s steep, a little difficult in places and there are a few ladders to scramble up, but the beautiful beginning in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and the view from the top are so worth the climb.
At Cape Town’s Planetarium you’re assured of seeing the stars – millions of them. Sit back in the tilting chairs and watch a film of the night skies projected onto a dome-shaped roof. The way you see the skies will change forever.
Late afternoons in autumn and spring are the times to photograph the view from Chapman’s Peak drive over the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t just point your camera at the setting sun: play around with the changing colours of the light on the mountains by shooting towards the north and south.
9. Township Pulse
Feel the pulse of the night in a Khayelitsha B&B as you try to rest in a place that doesn’t sleep. Listen to the beat of kwaito, the howl of a dog and the soft songs of a mother putting her baby to sleep.
10. Greenmarket Square
Greenmarket Square, between Shortmarket and Longmarket streets in the centre of Cape Town, was originally established as a farmer’s market in the 1700s. In 1834 it’s where the announcement of the emancipation of the Cape’s slaves was made. The cobbled square is still a market, but goods now are mostly tacky tourist items. Sit at a café having a cup of coffee and you’ll soon realise how the various architectural styles could belong in Europe, but the vibe never.