(work in progress)
South Africa is notorious for its lack of public transport, so it is a rare pleasure to be able to report on a functional public transport link that's also of use to the tourist (particularly those on a limited budget).
The Metro rail network links the Cape Town CBD to a string of small stations along the False Bay coastline, of which the southernmost is Simon's Town. The Muizenberg-Simonstown stretch of the route is literally just above the high watermark of the coastline and is incredibly picturesque - or would be if you could see it, as the windows weren't so scratched that it's often difficult to see more than blurred images! There are quite a few stops along the way, so consider getting off somewhere like Kalk Bay for a bite to eat, or stopping off at one of the little beaches along the way.
The scenery from Muizenberg into Cape Town is much less spectacular, but it's still interesting to have a look at suburban Cape Town, which is a perspective that most tourists don't get.
As of the time of writing (April 2012), a one way ticket from Simon's Town to Cape Town was R** - an absolute bargain!
An exciting initiative that sounds ideal for tourists (but which I have yet to trial) is the Hop on Hop Off Metroplus rail pass. The publicity blurb has the following to say:
"There are seven stations on the route namely Cape Town, Observatory, Newlands, Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town. All these stations offer various tourist attractions that can be reached within a two kilometer radius of each station.
"Special MetroPlus train tickets or tourist rail passes at R30 for a One Day and R50 for a Two Day Pass, will allow unlimited train trips between Cape Town and Simon’s Town for the day of validity. Tickets are valid between 08h30 – 16h00 and can be purchased at any of the participating stations.
"Our Hop on Hop Off Ticket (a daily pass) allows you to visit various attractions along the Southern Rail Route – hop off at Newlands to visit the SA Rugby Museum, hop off at Muizenberg for a surfing lesson or Kalk Bay for an ice-cream as you make your way South to Simon’s Town."
There is a visible security presence on the train itself (since the Cape Town trains have a reputation for periodic crime) - last time we took the train, we had 4 policemen in our carriage alone!
The Mellow Yellow water taxi must simply be the coolest way to get between Kalk Bay and Simon's Town (or vice versa) and you've just got to love a service provider who warns you of possible slight delays due to whales!
In pursuit of my personal mantra to never travel the same way twice if at all possible, I would suggest that you get the water taxi one way and then catch the train back (see another of my travel tips) - given that you have a designated driver on the return trip, you can then treat yourself to an extra glass (or two) with lunch!
The website gives the following details and prices (valid April 2010):
Operating every lovely day between Kalk Bay and Simon's Town
Maximum 10 persons per trip
Pick-up /Drop-off Points
From the Public Jetty at the Simon's Town Waterfront - every hour on the hour (9.00am, 10.00am etc).
..and in front of Kalkys Fish and Chips in the Kalk Bay Harbour - every half past the hour (9.30am etc)
Departure times dependent on close encounters of the cetacean-kind!
Single Return: R150-00
Single One Way: R100-00
Children: R50-00 per single voyage
Update (March 2012): I tried to take the water taxi on my recent trip, but was disappointed to find out that it only runs over peak tourist periods - primarily school holidays and weekends, or when a large group wants to travel together. The owner was very apologetic, and outlined the body blow that rising fuel prices and reduced tourist numbers due to global economics had dealt his business, so it was hard not to agree with his decision. So if this is something that you'd like to do, I would strongly suggest callng ahead to avoid disappointment.