On our way out to Stellenbosch we came across the Vredenheim Winery that also has a Big Cats Park. There is quite a long driveway leading down to the winery and there was a field full of Angus Cattle grazing on one side and a field full of Springbok, Eland, Oryx, Bontebok, Zebra, Wildebeest and Fallow Deer on the opposite side.
The Big Cats Park opened in 2011 and has brown lions, white lions, cheetahs, leopards, caracals and tigers. Entry costs 50 rand and if you wish you can take a guided tour at no additional cost. On the day that we went the weather was absolutely awful and we were the only visitors. The guide was incredibly informative and could answer all of our questions. We were lucky enough to be there when the white lions were due to be fed.
The winery also has a pleasant restaurant and plenty of grassed area etc that would enable you to spend much more time there if the weather was pleasant.
The Big Cats Park is open daily from 09:00am until 04:30pm. Guided tours are available at 10:00am, 11:15am, 01:00pm, 02:30pm and 04:00pm.
I am just gonna provide important websites for more information on Things to do around Cape town, so you can book inadvance if you wish.
www.sightseeing.co.za (Bus tour - Covers alot of places)
www.webticket.co.za (Here you can get tickets for the Cable car or Cruise to the Robben Island)
You can also choose to visit V & A Waterfront for more info on Cruises and Helicopter tours.
I visited here on my way to Hermanus. Having previously enjoyed a visit to the penguin colony at Boulders Beach I really enjoyed the time that I spent here. It was far quieter and much less touristy than Boulders and this meant that you could take photos without being jostled. The day that I visited it was virtually just me and the penguins meaning that I had plenty of time to get the shot that I wanted. The signage down to the oolony could be better but there is ample parking as a new car park has just been built. Cost of entry is 10 rand and it was certainly good value for money. The walkways are well maintained and give you a good view of the penguins in their nests, on the beach and in the surf. In comparison to Boulders you are further away from the penguins but their enironment seems much more natural. There is also plenty of seating that has been installed at intervals along the walkway giving you the opportunity to just sit and watch the penguin world go by. Betty's Bay is further away from Cape Town than Boulders but it is well worth making the effort to visit.
Sight seeing in Cape Town is not really practical on foot as it is quite a large place. Each localized area such as Table Mountain, The Company's Garden, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Greenmarket Square, etc can be explored on foot, but getting to each of these places requires some form of transportation. A good way to get around Cape Town and do some sight seeing is to use a city sight seeing tour bus. You can take in a good deal of the city using the 'Hop-On Hop-off' buses. I have written a tip on these which you can see here:
Hop-On Hop-Off Cape Town Buses
Here I just cover some sights with a brief blurb about them, which you can access via the Red Hop-On Hop-Off Bus:
Greenmarket Square - This is a pleasant place to stroll around and shop for unique items as souvenirs or just browse around. Not too tourist really.
The Company's Garden - Extensive garden area to enjoy some park life in the city, take a stroll among the trees and flowers and enjoy some historical monuments.
Iziko South African Museum - The oldest museum in South Africa with interesting natural science and cultural exhibits. One of the national museums of South Africa.
District Six - The former inner-city area of Cape Town, where the inhabitants were forcibly moved during Apartheid. Sobering experience passing through here.
Table Mountain - Plateau overlooking Cape Town with fantastic panoramic views of the city and surrounding landscape. A must see if you do only one thing in Cape Town.
Victoria & Albert Waterfront - The place to go for entertainment, dining and shopping. There are also some other interesting things here to see as well.
There is plenty more to do in Cape Town, of course, and these are just a few suggestions, with some links to the various sights for exploration in getting started.
The Cheetah Outreach Project is based in Somerset West. It is an education and community-based programme created to raise awareness of the plight of the cheetah and to campaign for its survival. At the centre you are able to see not only cheetahs but also Servals and Caracals as well as Bat Eared Foxes and Black Backed Jackals.
Admission is 10 rand per person and Cheetah Encounters are also available at an additional cost of 120 rand fr an adult or 70 rand per child. Encounters are available from 10:00 - 13:00 and 14:00 - 17:00 daily. Encounters are not pre- bookable you just pay on admission and wait your turn. You can have your encounter on an individual basis or with friends or family. what i found good was the fact that a volunteer would take photos of your encounter on your camera. The centre is open daily from 09:30 - 17:00.
As the traditional wedding vows caution, marriage is "not to be entered into lightly", so upfront I should state that I'm not suggesting that you should get married just to fill a free afternoon in your holiday itinerary! However, if this is a commitment that you had been contemplating, but couldn't afford the wedding you wanted in your home country, then perhaps South Africa - and the Cape in particular - may offer you exactly what you're looking for a fraction of the price.
Wedding tourism has become big business in South Africa over the last few years, and the benefits are pretty persuasive. Relatively cheap labour gives the hospitality industry and associated service sector a big cost advantage over first world competitors, but a demanding domestic market and a long track record in high end tourism means that the standards remain high (provided that you use a reputable company). Couple that (excuse the pun!) with stunning scenery, wonderful weather (counter season to the Northern Hemisphere), beautiful food, cheap but excellent wine (and the added bonus that you can limit numbers without offending people as only the people who really care about you tend to be willing to cough up the cost of attending overseas weddings) and the advantages start to stack up!
To give you an idea of the size of this niche market, research published in October 2009 by a company specialising in coordinating luxury weddings in South Africa reported over R90 million worth of expenditure by its wedding parties over the past two years. This company alone brings between 3 000 and 4 000 wedding guests a year to South Africa and saw a 40% growth in the 2008/ 2009 financial year. Even the strong rand over the past year doesn't seem to have dampened enthusiasm, as the same company reported that it had 50% more weddings booked for the 2010/ 2011 wedding season - I have given the reference to their website below just for guidance on the extensive range of options and services that are available, but there are several similar service providers (and no, I don't have any link to them!).
The Cape (particularly the winelands) are the favourite destination for wedding tourists, for obvious reasons. Private game reserves also do a brisk trade in bush weddings, and we ourselves got married at a small game reserve in the bush. It was exactly the small, low key, casual wedding that we'd been hoping for, and by getting married in the on site chapel and then staying over, the party could continue unabated!
In addition to the direct tourism income from wedding tourism (flights, accommodation, venue hire), spin off benefits are also experienced by other service providers such as transport companies, florists, caterers, cake makers, hiring and staffing companies, marquee companies, musicians, hairdressers and beauticians. It's really up to you how much of the package you choose to outsource to local service providers: I for one believe that it would take bridal nerves of steel to wait until you arrived to see your dress for the first time, but there is at least one designer I know of who flies to London every few weeks to do fittings for dresses that will be worn by brides getting married in South Africa! Talk about organised!
Located on the middle of the roundabout at the intersection of Ceon Steytier Ave and Heerengracht Street is a statue, erected in 1960, of Bartolomeu Dias, a Portuguese nobleman and sailor, who was the first European recorded to have rounded the Cape of Good Hope, in 1488.
In October 1847, King John II of Portugal appointed Dias to head an expedition to sail around the southern tip of Africa in the hope of finding a trade route to India to replace what was becoming an increasingly expensive overland trip via the Middle East.
Having successfully rounded, at a considerable distance, the southern tip of Africa in early 1488, Dias would like to have gone on the whole way to India but his crew refused to do so. The voyage ended at Kwaaihoek, near the mouth of the Bushman's River in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa where he erected a Padrão de São Gregório, a stone cross inscribed with the coat of arms of Portugal laying claim to the area on 12 March 1488. Thus, Dias became the first European known to have set foot on South African soil – though permanent European settlement was left to the Dutch in later years.
It was on his return trip to Portugal that Dias actually discovered what he called the Cape of Storms (May 1488). King John II subsequently renamed it the Cape of Good Hope as it represented the opening of the route to the east and India in particular.
Vasco da Gama later circumnavigated the Cape of Good Hope and continued the route to India.
We visited a Cheetah Outreach facility. The main purpose is to increase the cheetah population that is dwindling away in the wild. Farmers are killing cheetahs because the cheetahs are attacking and eating there herds of small animals. The outreach provides trained dogs to keep the cheetahs away. The outreach also provides them the food to feed the dogs for a period of time. The farmers have embraced this concept as it works for them in protecting their herds with no additional costs.
At the outreach you can (pay to) have an opportunity to get up close and pet a cheetah. Surprisingly to us, cheetahs make an interesting sound that mimics a bird rather than a cat. They do purr. It's great that they have this organization to prevent the extinction of cheetahs.
They are open 365 days of the year but times may vary. About 25 minutes from Cape Town near Stellenbosch.
The Twelve Apostles are a group of small mountain peaks that run along the coast of the Indian ocean in South Africa. They are visible as you drive along the coastal highways in Cape Town. Don and I, had the opportunity of enjoying the sight of these beautiful peaks while we were in Cape Town.
We had a second viewing when we decided to go on a cruise to Robeen Island from the Victoria and Alfred waterfront. Now I wish we had hiked, but the say we drove along the weather was not that great. I would recommend hiking along the path for a better view and enjoying being at higher grounds.
Many people confuse the Twelve Apostles in South Africa with those in Australia. The Australian ones seem to be more popular than the South African ones, nonetheless, they are something to see. One can not avoid seeing them if a trip to Robeen Island is taken or if one drives along the Waterfront.
PS: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
This reserve used to be a number of farms, the owners bought out the farmers and now there is a 54,000 hectare wildlife reserve within a 3 hour drive from Cape Town.
For me Sanbona oozes quality, from the standard of the accommodation to very knowledgeable game rangers. OK, there is not the density of animals that there are in Kruger, but the number of visitors is also much lower. This means the service can be much more tailored to individuals so you feel a valued guest and not just one of a crowd.
I was lucky to have Annette and Daney as my game rangers, but I am sure the others are just as good. Both of them explained facts about the whole eco-system to help me understand how finely balanced nature is in an easy to understand way that was engaging and not condescending. I also have to praise their stamina and driving skills. Even the best roads are unmade and although there is no "off roading", driving a jeep with 7 passengers along the dirt tracks for 2 - 3 hours must be exhausting by itself without having to spot animals and pass on information to the passengers.
On my first drive Annette asked what would I really like to see. A simple question for me, the cheetahs were my prime target. So we headed off with Annette explaining that there were no guarantee we would see the big cats, but she would do her best. Within 30 minutes a message came over the radio saying two cheetahs had just killed a kudo and all 3 were visible from the road. When we got to the site Daney with his jeep full of guests. Daney then lead us on a short walk to the point when we were about 20 yards from the cheetahs (note Daney was armed with a rifle just in case)!
I stayed at Tilney Manor, the room was fantastic with a great view of the countryside. There was also an outdoor shower (in addition to an indoor one) for those who enjoy a shower in the open air. The food and service was equal to the high standards of the rooms. With regard to the food they do feature South African favourites such as ostrich and springbok all to be washed down with some good South African wines.
There are usually 2 game drives a day - one early in the morning to help you work up an appetite for the ample breakfast and one in the afternoon which includes a stop for a "sundowner" (in my case a gin and tonic) and some snacks.
I do not think one night is long enough to get the best out of a visit to Sanbona, 2 days is a minimum, 3 is ideal.
Although the game reserves of Kruger Park and the Bushveld are what usually spring to mind when tourists think of South African wildlife, one of the many unexpected delights of Cape Town is that you don't have to travel far for a wildlife experience.
An excellent case in point are the resident fur seals that hang around the V&A Waterfront, either basking in the sun or floating indolently around the marina area. They are strong contenders for the laziest and most corpulent seals in the world, and are habituated to humans, so you'd be unlucky not to see one.
Just bear in mind that although they look laid back and lethargic, they are still wild animals with predatory instincts and very nasty teeth, so treat them with respect and keep your distance.
Watching the sun set from Signal Hill is a well established tradition in Cape Town. From a 300m high vantage point, you have a pretty well uninterrupted view along the Atlantic seaboard, over the V&A Waterfront and the docks, over the City Bowl towards Table Mountain and over the ocean towards Robben Island. Moreover - much to the delight of happy snappers - as you're facing west, you can observe the sun sinking slowly and photogenically into the ocean.
Not only does Signal Hill offer spectacular views, but it also offers some pretty interesting people watching opportunities as well. Because it apparently sits on a ley line, it is much beloved by New Age types, who chant, hum and/or drum, but they're benignly bonkers, and are more likely to amuse than to offend. It is also a popular spot for marriage proposals, so prepare yourself for a multifaceted experience!
Best still, unlike watching the sun set from the top of Table Mountain - which is a pricey option - you don't have to pay an entrance fee and don't have to queue endlessly for the cablecar!
From a security point of view, don't stay up here too long after dark unless you're in a large group, as there are periodic reports of tourists being attacked.
It's hard to imagine that being banged up in the prison block at the Castle of Good Hope would be much of a laughing matter ... yet on the lintel of one of the cell doors is a carving declaring it, "Miss Reece's Hotell Lodgeings for Single Gentlemen"!
Mind you, the carving is on the outside of the cell, and as it seems unlikely that prisoners would be allowed to either stray outside their cells or have an object sharp enough to carve wood in their possession, it seems most likely that this was a joke on the part of the wardens.
Although it is now primarily a tourist attraction, the Castle of Good Hope still retains some military functions - which include housing the army recruiting office that serves central Cape Town.
The soldiers were of much greater interest to my son than the guided tour, and he hung around the door observing the people in the office, who treated him with admirable good humour. We did check out whether he was eligible to join up, but were assured that (at the ripe old age of five and a half) he was just a tad too young and first needed to be able to carry a musket without it dragging on the ground behind him!
If you're visiting the Castle of Good Hope, it's nice to time your visit to coincide with the Ceremony of the Keys, which takes place at 10:00 and 12:00 every weekday. If you have a choice of times, attend the 12:00 ceremony, it is directly followed by the firing of the Noon Gun from Signal Hill which served as a time signal for the city and ships in port.
The uniforms worn by the guards are based on those worn by the Dutch garrison during the 18th century and unlike many other period uniforms are surprisingly undated - almost stylish!
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Castle of Good Hope
Groot Constantia Wine Farm