In April 2016, I had the fortune of going to Cape Town and Sabi Sands Park, South Africa with my family. Cape Town reminded me a lot of San Francisco - lots of micro climates that change throughout the day, a city right near the water with a ferry area similar to Fisherman's Wharf, wine country about an hour away. It's a beautiful city with breathtaking landscapes all over and it doesn't feel like you're in Africa while you're there.
Where to Stay
I wrote about the inimitable Manna Bay Hotel here and I highly recommend this boutique luxury hotel for white glove service, amazing breakfast and afternoon tea spreads, and impeccable design.
What to Do and See
1. Table Mountain
Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain in Cape Town and you can't miss it. You can take a cable car to the top though there are others who hike it to the top. Being able to go to the top of Table Mountain will depend heavily on the weather. If it's rainy - no go. If it's windy - no go. The day we went it was super windy (refer to my hair in photo above) and cold at the top but the views were breathtaking.
2. Boulders Beach
You have to make a stop to see South Africa penguins at Boulders Beach. They are so adorable and a delight to watch as they wobble around on their feet. We saw one that was missing a foot and our guide thought it had been attacked by a seal. They're plentiful and so fun to watch since it's pretty rare to see penguins in real life.
3. Bo-Kaap - the Malay Quarter
You will hear "Cape Malay" often in Cape Town which refers to the cultural influence of the slaves that were brought over in the 16th and 17th centuries by the Dutch from Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, and some African countries. When these slaves were freed, the emancipated slaves formed a community they called the Malay Quarter, which is now known as Bo-Kaap. It's a predominantly Muslim neighborhood where you can eat Cape Malay food (sort of Malaysian but not at the same time) and tour the colorful houses.
4. Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point
It's a touristy spot but it is the south western most point in Africa so it's worth a visit for a momentous photo opportunity. Just beware that it's very popular with tourists (and Chinese tourists that unload by the bus-full) so sometimes you have to wait in line just to take your photo in front of the Cape of Good Hope sign.
5. Robbins Island
No trip to Cape Town would be complete without a visit to Robbins Island. After all, to learn about the apartheid and Nelson Mandela is to learn about a really critical part of the South African history. It's a sobering visit where you are guided by someone who was actually imprisoned the prison on Robbins Island and it ends with a particularly politically awakening message about freedom, liberty, equality.
6. Downtown Cape Town
Am I in Africa or am I in Europe? This is what you might wonder while wandering the city center. The architecture has strong Dutch and European influences - very charming and beautiful. And you'll stumble across cafes and restaurants that have all the European feels like Aroma.
For photos from the safari portion of our South Africa trip in Sabi Sands, click here.