A journey of wonder to S. Africa’s Cape Town

Being Africa’s most popular tourist destination, approaching the city from the air reminds many a Rwandan of how much work we in Rwanda have ahead of us if we really are to develop proper, functional living spaces for ourselves.Travelling to South Africa’s Cape Town is a fabulous experience one would most definitely cherish. It’s more than a journey of wonder. Until recently, all I knew about Cape Town was probably what most who do not frequently travel to this city know about Africa’s quintessential melting pot: it is a city alive with creativity, colour, sounds and tastes.
An aerial view of Cape Town and the magnificent Table Mountain. Saturday Times/Net photo
An aerial view of Cape Town and the magnificent Table Mountain. Saturday Times/Net photo

Being Africa’s most popular tourist destination, approaching the city from the air reminds many a Rwandan of how much work we in Rwanda have ahead of us if we really are to develop proper, functional living spaces for ourselves.

Travelling to South Africa’s Cape Town is a fabulous experience one would most definitely cherish. It’s more than a journey of wonder.

Until recently, all I knew about Cape Town was probably what most who do not frequently travel to this city know about Africa’s quintessential melting pot: it is a city alive with creativity, colour, sounds and tastes.

While walking through the city’s streets and meeting its people, I fell in love with its natural beauty, creative freedom and incredible spirit.

Cape Town is a city where the unexpected is always just around the corner and the beautiful province of the Western Cape lies ready to be explored across the city border.

It is the second-most populated city in South Africa after Johannesburg, and the provincial capital and primate city of the Western Cape.

As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality. The city is famous for its harbour as well as its natural setting in the Cape floral kingdom, as well as for such well known landmarks as Table Mountain and Cape Point.

Being Africa’s most popular tourist destination, approaching the city from the air reminds many a Rwandan of how much work we in Rwanda have ahead of us if we really are to develop proper, functional living spaces for ourselves. You fly over multi-lane highways interspersed with flyovers, overpasses and rail lines; you fly over a sea of red-roofed, white, spic and span apartment buildings and houses on planned grids that eventually give way to a cluster of high-rise buildings that are Cape Town’s financial district. Cape Town is notable for its architectural heritage, with the highest density of Cape Dutch style buildings in the world. Cape Dutch style, which combines the architectural traditions of the Netherlands, Germany, France and Indonesia, is most visible in Constantia, the old government buildings in the Central Business District, and along Long Street. The Artscape Theatre Centre is the main performing arts venue in Cape Town.

Cape Town also has a long tradition as a port city. The Port of Cape Town, the city’s main port, is in Table Bay, directly to the north of the central business district. The port is a hub for ships in the southern Atlantic: it is located along one of the busiest shipping corridors in the world. It is also a busy container port, second only to Durban in South Africa.

The Port of Cape Town (specifically the V&A Waterfront) made headlines worldwide in 2009 when plans to berth the iconic liner QE2 were announced.

On the approach to Cape Town International Airport, I was impressed by its huge size. And as always, when I see these big airports that are international hubs, I marvel at the organisational ability and efficiency that keep them functioning like clockwork, around the clock. Same feeling I got when I landed at Johannesburg’s Oliver Tambo and others like that.

Historic sites, restaurants, tourist havens

The Cape Winelands, in particular the towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, are popular day trips from the city for sightseeing and wine tasting.

Apart from the wine tasting, also I marveled at Cape Town’s beaches. Popular with local residents due to the city’s unique geography, it is possible to visit several different beaches on the same day, each with a different setting and atmosphere. Though the Cape’s water ranges from cold to mild, the difference between the two sides of the city is dramatic. While the Atlantic Seaboard averages annual water temperatures barely above that of coastal California around 13 degrees Celsius, the False Bay coast is very much warmer, averaging between 16 and 17 degrees Celsius annually. This is similar to water temperatures in much of the Northern Mediterranean, for example Nice.  

In summer, False Bay water averages slightly over 20 degrees Celsius, with 22 degrees Celsius a common high.

Beaches located on the Atlantic Coast tend to have very cold water due to the Benguela current, which originates from the Southern Ocean, whilst the water at False Bay beaches may be warmer by up to 10 degrees Celsius at the same moment due to the influence of the warm Agulhas current, and the surface warming effects of the South Eastern wind.

Whale watching is popular among visitors: Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales are seen off the coast during the breeding season, which is between August and November and Bryde’s Whales and Killer Whale can be seen any time of the year. The nearby town of Hermanus is known for its Whale Festival, but whales can also be seen in False Bay. Heaviside’s dolphins are endemic to the area and can be seen from the coast north of Cape Town. Dusky dolphins live along the same coast and can occasionally be seen from the ferry to Robben Island.

We sampled plenty of restaurants serving South African delicacies – chicken kebabs, rice, fish, vegetables, sweet desserts. I don’t know how to describe it! All I can say is that I was scared to step on the scales when I came back home.

South Africans are very hospitable and friendly people. I have watched on TV and read in books about how tough they are supposed to be, and maybe if I stayed longer I would have discover that side of their personality!

But what strikes you upfront is how delighted a South African seems to be when he or she sees you. You are in the Grand Bazaar and you tell a shoe shiner that you want to have your shoes sparkling and in a moment he makes you sit down on a stool. All the time the shiner is happily asking how things are where you come from. And it doesn’t matter whether you buy something or not from these people. When you leave, a South African will wave you away like an old friend, saying he hopes you will come back again soon.

That is the feeling I had when I left, and I have to go back to Cape Town – soon!

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