10 Things You Didn’t Know About Cape Town
By Carla Steenkamp
In the vibrant city of Cape Town, South Africa, where mountains meet the sea, and rows of vineyards stretch across valleys and hills, the possibilities are endless. When coming to the Mother City, locals will undoubtedly suggest an endless amount of popular tourist attractions that you simply must visit. But here are 10 interesting facts that stretch beyond the sunglasses of a tourist:
1. Friendly City
Not only was Cape Town appointed the best place in the world to visit by the New York Times in 2014 it was also named as the 8th friendliest city in the world by Condé Nast Traveler magazine! Maybe the locals’ welcoming attitudes is directly related to the frequency with which they can spot the breathtaking beauty of Table Mountain?
2. Magnificent Mountain
Ask a Capetonian for directions and you’ll be shown the way to go with the Mountain as your handy navigational beacon! Known as Hoerikwaggo (‘sea mountain’) by the original inhabitants of this area, this iconic landmark, provides the city with a spectacular backdrop and is one of the oldest mountains in the world! The mountain formed 280 million years ago and, at 1,084 metres at its summit, is still growing! The cableway to the summit was opened in 1929 and is one of Cape Town’s most popular tourist attractions.
3. Wave the Blue Flag
Have you ever heard of a blue flag beach? A Blue Flag is an award given to beaches, which meet the strict criteria of the Blue Flag Campaign, managed in South Africa by the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa. These beaches must meet certain safety, security, and cleanliness standards.
There are eight Blue Flag beaches in Cape Town, including the trendy Clifton, Camps Bay, and Llandudno (Atlantic Seaboard), as well as the laid-back Muizenberg and Strandfontein (False Bay). Eight especially clean and safe beaches in one city? Yep, Cape Town is pretty amazing!
4. Furry (and Scaley) Creatures
Cape Town is heaven for animal lovers! Looking for the best land-based whale watching in the world? Check. Penguin Colony? Sure thing! Baboons? We’ve got so many in nearby Cape Point, we’ll, let’s just say you’d be wise to keep your car locked as you explore the nature reserve. You can also see zebra, reptiles and ostriches and a seal colony that attracts great white sharks.
5. Wine and Dine
The food in Cape Town is as varied, spicy, and colorful as its people and had many cultural influences from indigenous populations as well as the Dutch, English and French. The heart of South Africa’s wine production lies 45 minutes from Cape Town in the Cape Winelands, in the hubs of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl – and a short trip to these towns offers a pick of some of the best restaurants and wines in the world.
The must-visit food markets in Cape Town also offer a paradise of culinary delights and unique shopping experience for any food lover and you will soon discover although there are an endless mouth-watering the city had a taste and flavour of its own.
6. One of South Africa’s THREE Capital Cities
Yes, you read that correctly; South Africa has three capital cities. Although, are we really that surprised? This is a country with 11 national languages after all! Cape Town is the legislative capital of South Africa, meaning it’s home to Parliament, where the laws are made. Meanwhile, Pretoria is home to the executive branch and provides the official seat of the President whilst Bloemfontein serves as the judicial capital.
7. Wonder of the World
Speaking of Table Mountain, it’s one of the new Natural Seven Wonders of the World! During the Ice Age it was at sea level and it was the weight of ice sheets that gave the mountain its iconic flat surface. While you could marvel at photos of Table Mountain for hours, here is one thing you might not have seen: Archbishop Desmond Tutu made this awesome video to drum up support for Table Mountain during the voting stages of the ‘New7Wonders of Nature’ campaign:
8. The Colors of the Bo-Kaap
There is no better way to learn more about the cultural rich city, its many languages and economical diversity by paying some of the suburbs a visit. The Bo-Kaap area above the Central Business District in Cape Town, where the city’s Muslim community traditionally resided is also a colourful neigbourhood worth visiting. The distinctive architecture combined with an eventful history makes this a unique area to walk around in, sample their culinary delights, and get educated on the Cape Malay culture.
9. Parlez-vous Afrikaans?
One of the first words locals will teach you when you land in Cape Town is Lekker! Afrikaans is one of the youngest languages in the world and the most widely spoken tongue in the Western Cape, with isiXhosa and English ranked second and third places respectively. That’s a pretty impressive distinction, considering there are 11 official languages in South Africa! Afrikaans evolved from the Dutch speaking settlers of what is now South Africa.
10. Shark Spotters
While tanning on one of these clean and safe beaches don’t be alarmed if you see a man with polarized sunglasses and binoculars looking down on you. These “spies” are called Shark Spotters and are positioned at strategic points along the Cape Peninsula and in the mountains. The Shark Spotting Programme is there to pro-actively help reduce the interaction and conflict between sharks and swimmers. So you can take a swim without the fear of ending up as a sea predator’s afternoon snack!