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Cape Town is the result of a perfect blend of elements: spectacular beaches and huge natural parks, cultural and social diversity and a ‘boho chic’ touch in bars, restaurants and shops of young designers. And this is said by a person who was very close to moving with his books definitively, after falling in love with the cosmopolitan and open atmosphere of the city. It is also, like the rest of South Africa, a mix of America and Africa … and in Cape Town adds to this attractive mix a touch of European bohemian and intellectual. In fact it was founded by Dutch settlers in the middle of the 17th century.
It is a population that has well defined seasons, but remember that its winter goes from May to September, with strong winds and rains, and the summer runs from November to March, with dry air and warm but bearable. The beaches, depending on which side of the peninsula they are, belong to the Indian or Atlantic oceans. Table Bay for water sports in addition to Sea Point and Camps Bay, all on the Atlantic side, are wonderful white sandy beaches full of beautiful people and surfers who enjoy more hours of sunshine (although the water is very cold all over Year, about four degrees less than in the Indian Ocean.
There is a great offer of bars with delicious cocktails and sushi restaurants and fresh fish. From the sand you can see the lion’s head and the twelve apostles, rocky formations that are two of the stars of the nearby and one hundred percent recommended Table Mountain National Park (Table Mountain, not long ago named New Wonder of the World) . The beaches on this side are also very famous for their incredible sunsets. Believe me, one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in my life as a traveller.
Those in the Indian Ocean area, on the other side of the ‘False Bay’, are quieter and more familiar and are often frequented by locals. They are more exposed to the wind, but they are equally wonderful. From the stunning enclave of the Cape of Good Hope, one of the southernmost points of the world (only surpassed by Cape Agulhas) you can see both oceans. Do not miss it, but be prepared for gusts of wind that almost raise you to one of the ground and also for a landscape that cuts your breath.
But if you want a beach to live a different experience should go to Boulders Beach, 45 minutes from Cape Town. It is a reserve for hundreds of African penguins that can be seen in their natural habitat right on the beach, and I assure you it is a unique experience for children and adults. Another wonderful natural enclave is Seal Island, a small island that serves as a refuge for hundreds of African seals. Hout Bay boats depart daily from sighting ships. If lucky, dolphins and white sharks can also be seen. It is located six kilometres from the northernmost beaches of the aforementioned ‘false bay’.
However, not all islands have a nice story to tell. From the coast in the middle of Cape Town you can see ‘Robben Island’, the island that from the seventeenth century acted as a leper colony, then evolved into a kind of Guantanamo. His most famous prisoner was Nelson Mandela, who was locked up for 18 years, in six square meters of cell and in very hard conditions. 46,664 is today more than a number: it is a symbol, since it was Mandela’s cell number. At present it no longer functions as a prison and has even been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco. This is an extremely interesting trip to get to know the history of South Africa. Several ferries depart from the famous Waterfront Mall in Cape Town.
Visitors to Cape Town can book a boat trip to spend time observing a community of sea lions in their natural environment, especially in summer when the hatch lings are born.
For a nearby shore excursion, advise your clients to head to Hout Bay in Cape Town, where the ships take visitors to a colony on a rocky promontory called Duiker Island (sometimes called Seal Island).
Alternatively, if you wish to book a slightly longer sea safari, you can do so from the naval port of Simon’s Town, to the present Island of Seals of False Bay, about 16 kilometres from the sea.
This island is famous for being the only place in the world where white sharks are seen regularly jumping when they hunt seals (although the probability of witnessing this is limited to early mornings in the winter months, from May to August).
If the weather is short, then often seals are observed sunning themselves in the small ports, as in Kalk Bay or Hout Bay, where some of them have become so meek they even have names.