South Africa travel information accommodation guide
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 Western Cape Province
 
Western Cape Introduction
 
Western Cape Province, South Africa
Where two oceans meet, lies the Western Cape, in the southwest of South Africa, covering an area of 129.370 square kilometres. Regarded as one of the most beautiful regions in the world, the Western Cape offers breathtaking scenery, from the folding mountains of the Swartberg to the greens and reds of the Boland and Garden Route vineyards.

Table Mountain, perhaps South Africa's most famous landmark, stands guard above the Mother City of Cape Town, a city that is a rare tourism gem, offering a mix of culture, history and natural beauty. Traditional winter rainfall on the peninsula and the mountainous neighbouring inland area provides ideal conditions for the cultivation of grapes, with numerous vineyards producing award-winning wines. The Cape's wine farms remain one of the region's top tourist attractions. The Cape has something for everyone - from beaches to bushveld, wine tasting to fine dining Cape Town Restaurant, relaxing or adventure tourism. More Information: Department of Economic Development an Tourism 

 
Top Ten Attractions
 
Table Mountain

One of South Africa's most spectacular landmarks, Table Mountain towers 1.086m above the Mother City, and on a clear day can be seen from as far as 200km out to sea. A quick trip up the cable car is a must, offering breathtaking views of the city and coastline from the many viewpoints at the top. For the more energetic pack a picnic and a map and hike up one of the mountain paths, drinking in the spectacular scenery and the rich diversity of flora and fauna. No trip to Cape Town is complete without a visit to this splendour of nature.

 
Robben Island

This historically significant World Heritage Site watches over the entrance to Table Bay, and can be visited via ferry from the V&A Waterfront. Once a leper colony, Robben Island is most well known for housing political prisoners during South Africa's apartheid years, most significantly former state president Nelson Mandela. A guided tour around the island, prison and museum provided by an ex-inmate, is a not to be missed historical experience.

 
Cape Point
This landmark monument at the end of the Cape Peninsula was erected to honour Bartolomeu Dias, who rounded the Cape in 1488, and died on a subsequent voyage. The Park is home to a vast array of plant species as well as a marine reserve, with animals such as baboons and Cape Zebra. Hike to the top of the peak 249m above sea level or if you are feeling less energetic, take a trip to the top via the funicular railway. Cape Point is also home to the Southern Hemisphere's most powerful lighthouse.
 
The Two Oceans Aquarium

Situated at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, this world-class aquarium is home to over 3000 living creatures, including fish, mammals, reptiles, birds, plants and invertebrates. Various exhibits offer an unusual insight into marine life, with the opportunity to view fascinating habitats and strange creatures. Let your children feel the interesting textures of marine life in the touch pool or witness feeding time in the shark tanks – an adventure for the whole family to enjoy!

 
Western Cape Wineroutes
The Western Cape is renowned for producing some of the world's finest and award-winning wines. Explore the spectacular scenery that surrounds the Cape's many wine routes on offer, including the Constantia, Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschoek and Swartland routes. Stop along the way to have lunch at five-star restaurants, or have a South African inspired meal in a quaint farmhouse. Apart from wine tasting, many of the Cape's wine routes also offer other activities such as fishing, mountain biking, horseback riding and wildlife sanctuaries. More Information: Winelands Developments 
 
Chapmans Peak Drive

A long winding road with breathtaking views, Chapmans Peak Drive is a must on any itinerary. Reopened in December 2003, Chapmans Peak now offers more lookout points of the view of Hout Bay and the Sentinel, and if you are lucky you might spot a whale or two frolicking in the bays below. Make sure you bring a camera to capture the majestic ocean vistas.

 
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Kirstenbosch is known as one of the Seven Magnificent Botanical Gardens of the world, and with more than 8500 indigenous plant species in its 36 hectares of landscaped garden, it's no surprise. See South Africa's national flower, the Protea, or enjoy one of the many graded walking and hiking trails on your own or with a guide. You can refuel at the tea garden or Silvertree restaurant, or bring a picnic along to watch the local talent at the Summer Sunset Concert series. Pack a warm blanket and a bottle of wine, and you won't want to leave!

 
Boulders Beach

Between Simonstown and Cape Point lies a small strip of white sand amongst a few big rocks, once home to two breeding pairs of African penguins, now home to 3000 members of their extended family! Nowhere else will you be able to get so up close and personal to these comical creatures – share a picnic with them on the beach or join them for a dip in the cool ocean. If you are lucky enough to visit during breeding season, a stroll along the boardwalk opens a world of nests and hatchlings that you are unlikely to experience anywhere else.

 
Outshoorn Ostrich Ranch and Cango Caves

Outshoorn became a thriving town in the early 20 th century when Ostrich feathers were at the height of fashion, and is now the Ostrich capital of the world. Visit one of the many ranches and learn more about these huge flightless birds, try your hand at riding one and take home an enormous painted egg as a souvenir! The Cango caves are situated 28km outside of Oudtshoorn, and are well-known for their fascinating limestone formations. The cave extends for 5.3km in a series of connected chambers, the largest at 107m being the Grand Hall. Experienced guides take you through the caves, and one can choose the length and degree of difficulty of the tour. A must see!

 
The Castle

Set in the heart of Cape Town, the Castle is the oldest monument of European settlement in South Africa. Now a military museum and information centre, visitors can learn more about defence in the Cape's early years, see period furniture and historical paintings, and for the more brave visit one of the pitch-black dungeons to say hello to the resident ghost… History buffs should definitely have this on their list of things to do!

 
Major Events & Festivals
 
Cape Cycle Tour

Top of the list on all cycle enthusiasts is the Pick n' Pay Cape Argus cycle tour, which takes place every year in March. Amateurs and professionals alike descend upon the Mother City, coming from all over the world. The tour starts in Cape Town before winding its way along False Bay towards Cape Point, then moving along the Atlantic coast over scenic Chapman's peak. A tour expo takes place in the days leading up to the event, as well as a Junior Tour and Tricycle Tour for the younger enthusiasts.

 
Two Oceans Marathon
Every year on Easter Saturday is the Cape's most famous road-race, offering runners the opportunity to travel alongside our famous coastline. The race starts at the foot of Table Mountain in leafy suburbia, before winding along the False Bay coast towards Chapmans Peak and the challenging Constantia Neck. Crowds gather from early in the day to offer refreshments and encouragement, cheering the runners through the last stretch of grass towards the finishing line.
 
Whale Season

Of the estimated 7000 Southern Right Whales in the southern hemisphere, about 2000 make the journey to the South African coast every year, making this an ideal place to spot these gracious creatures. Whale season happens from late June to mid November, with the prime spot for viewing being in Hermanus in the Cape Overberg. Hermanus offers many festivities during whale season, with the traditional whale crier being a common sight on the shorelines announcing the whale sightings. Enjoy the whales from the balcony of your guesthouse as you drink in the sun or take an excursion out to sea to view them up close, before visiting the town centre for some shopping or socialising, ending off with a seafood dinner as the sun sets under the horizon.

 
Spring Wild Flowers

From late July to October the Cape's West Coast offers a most spectacular display of Daisies and wild flowers, in bright colours and snow whites. The West Coast National Park offers incredible viewing at the Postberg nature reserve with the azure waters of the Langebaan Lagoon playing a scenic backdrop. Langebaan offers many guest-house options to seasonal visitors, or take a day-tour from Cape Town central. Visitors also flock to quaint Darling and Paternoster to see this colourful display.

 
Adventure
 
Bungee Jumping

South Africa boasts the highest commercial bungee jump in the world at the Bloukrans River Bridge near Stormsriver, just over the Western Cape regional border passed Plettenberg Bay. At 216 meters this jump requires nerves of steel and a touch of insanity. For the slightly more rational, try the bungee jump or the bridge swing at the Gouritz River Bridge between Albertinia and Mossel Bay on the Cape Garden Route – still a rush of pure adrenalin, not for the faint hearted!

 
Shark Cage Diving
The Cape coastline is an ideal place to see the protected Great White Shark, and you don't have to be a scuba diver to enjoy these fascinating predators up close. Experienced professionals operate along Gansbaai and Mossel Bay, knowing the best places to spot the sharks. Enjoy them from the boat or for the brave, see them up close in their natural habitat through the safety of a diving cage. Impress your friends with the DVD of your experiences when you get back home!
 
Tree Topping

Only one of three places in the world to offer tree topping is the Tsitsikamma Forest near Knysna. Platforms are built high up in giant Yellowwood trees, and harnessed adventure seekers use pulleys and cables to explore a mystical world through the trees. The guide helps you to see incredible birdlife including the famous Knysna Lourie, or catch a glimpse of the shy Samago monkey. A once in a lifetime experience not to be missed!

 
Arts, Culture & History
 
Township Tours
One cannot visit the Western Cape without experiencing the ubuntu (togetherness) that is the township way of life. Step into another culture as you explore the world of traditional healers, traders, markets, and African churches. Township life is filled with an energy and vibe that can't be felt in the big cities. Buy traditional fare at the market or visit the spaza shops, before having some home-brewed beer at the local shebeen (bar). It is advised that visitors book with a recognised tour operator to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
 
District Six Museum

In 1867 merchants, immigrants and freed slaves moved into District Six, establishing it as a municipal district, with a busy community and flourishing cultural spirit. District Six was decreed a whites-only area in 1966 as part of apartheid laws, and by 1982 all residents had been moved and their houses demolished. The newly refurbished District Six Museum pays homage to the victims of the Group Areas Act, hosting regular exhibitions and even a poignant “memory room”. Enjoy a light refreshment at the coffee bar after your tour.

 
Beaufort West Town Hall
Beaufort West boasts the oldest Town Hall in the country, being the first municipality to be proclaimed in 1837. Beaufort West's most famous export was Professor Chris Barnard, pioneer of the world's first heart transplant. The Town Hall is now a museum, which pays homage to Professor Barnard in three of its buildings, including a replica of the original heart transplant theatre. Professor Barnard's father, Reverend Adam Barnard, preached from the Dutch Reformed Mission Church built in 1871, which now forms part of the museum. Enjoy this little piece of history in the heart of the Karoo, with the spectacular landscapes making it well worth the drive.
 
Evita se Peron
Tannie Evita Bezuidenhout is probably South Africa's most famous Auntie, created by satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys. Take a steam train from Cape Town to the quaint village of Darling, where Tannie Evita manages her little theatre. After watching one of her very South African shows, have a taste of egtige boerekos (real farm-food) at Tannie's Station Café or browse for curious at the “duty-free” shop.
 
Tweede Nuwe Jaar
Every year on the second of January, Cape Town comes alive with the colour and vibrance of the Kaapse Klopse as they celebrate the Tweede Nuwe-Jaar, or second New Year. See the local community dressed up in their finest regalia as they process through the streets waving their trade-mark umbrellas over their heads, singing and dancing to the accompaniment of their banjos and trumpets. The procession ends at the Green Point Stadium where the winners of the best group are announced. If you are in Cape Town to see the New Year in, it is well worth a look!
 
Shopping
 
Shopping Malls

Cape Town is a shopper's paradise, with the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront being one of South Africa's most visited destinations. The Waterfront is home to everything from designer labels, national retailers and boutiques to coffee shops, Waterfront Cape Town restaurants and fast-food outlets, as well as a number of entertainment facilities, including cinemas, a precious stone “scratch-patch” and the Two Oceans Aquarium. The Waterfront boasts a fully operational harbour, and visitors can also spend the day cruising in style or visiting Robben Island or Seal Island. There are a number of other shopping malls in Cape Town, including Cavendish Square and Constantia Village in the Southern Suburbs, Tygervalley Centre in the North and Canal Walk on the N1.

 
Craft Markets
If shopping malls are not your thing, venture into one of the Western Cape's many craft and flea markets to hunt for local curious and other bargains, from clothing, jewellery and accessories to art, sculptures and beadwork. Cape Town's bigger markets include Greenmarket Square in the city and the Greenpoint Market on the Atlantic Seaboard. Smaller craft markets occur around the suburbs in the summer months and curio markets are held throughout the Western Cape in the smaller towns and villages. Speak to your local information centre for details.
 
Climate
 
Cape Town boasts a Mediterranean climate, with hot dry summers and mild but wet winters. Coastal summer temperatures range from a comfortable 15°C (59°F) to highs of 27°C (80.6°F), with inland temperatures climbing 3 to 5 degrees higher. Summer is from late October to February, with long sunny days, ideal for visiting the Cape's world-class beaches or exploring the great outdoors. Coastal winters are cooler and often wet, with temperatures dropping to a mild 7°C at night (44.6°F), and 18°C (64.4°F) in the day. Inland you will find the nights colder but the days slightly warmer, with snow on some of the higher mountain peaks. Look out for the Cape's secret season, which offers a range of activities and attractions for the winter visitor.