Your trip to Cape Town is not complete unless you have visited all 7 attractions…
In the month of May we treated two groups of tourism front house staff to an educational with a difference. Two groups of 40 each spent an exciting two days travelling in a Hylton Ross coach experiencing all of the Big 7 attractions like tourists and getting great insights in the process.
After registration and a warming breakfast at the Cape Town Club in Queen Victoria Street, we headed into the Gardens.
The rising sun was making fast work burning off the early morning mist. Puddles of sunlight appeared, dew sparkled on dripping leaves and squirrels and pigeons were everywhere looking for breakfast.
We explored the 300-year-old veggie garden, marveled at the “leiwater” irrigation system and found South Africa’s oldest Pear Tree, planted around 1652.
Overheard: “The Gardens are so nice and quiet, I will recommend to visitors that they do the city walk in the early morning, it’s wonderful and everything seems so fresh and clean”
The general consensus was that from the very first experience in the Company Gardens on the City Walk our hashtag #CTBig7WOW was applicable.
Our next stop was Kirstenbosch, the impressive Botanical Gardens situated on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. We admired the abundance of Aloes flowering in bright orange, marveled at the views from the Canopy Walkway and puffed up the hill to see the ancient cycads. Our enjoyment was concluded by a quick visit to the Moyo Restaurant and the well- stocked curio shop, and the sad realisation that we would not have time to explore the myriad of paths, steps, and walks of this vast garden. We like to recommend the guided tour in a golf cart for those with time constraints.
“I am afraid of heights, but the Boomslang isn’t scary at all.”
The Boomslang is the colloquial name for The Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway; literally translated it means Tree Snake.
“I’m telling everyone with kids to come here. The Dinosaur sculptures in the Cycad amphitheater are amazing and the secret garden is a great playground. I’m bringing my own kids here.”
From Kirstenbosch, we took a short winding drive to the oldest wine estate in the country, the historical Groot Constantia. We were transported back to a different time in the museum at the Manor House and got hungry from the mouth-watering smells wafting out of the Jonkershuis Restaurant. The highlight was the Cellar Tour followed by a tasting of some of South Africa’s finest wines. Naturally, we did not want to leave.
Snack packs and wraps were handed out and lunch was eaten on the coach as we had a long drive to Cape Point, the southern- most tip of Africa. Many of our guests had never been to Cape Point and the excitement was infectious as we queued to ride the “Flying Dutchman” funicular to the top. Most braved the uncountable steps the lighthouse at the top but some chose to walk the level paths, mesmerized by the views.
Tired but happy we ended our first day and drove back to the city after close to 11 hours of marveling at the wonders of Cape Town.
At 7:30 am we were handing out large cups of Origin Coffee at the Info Centre at the Waterfront. Accompanied by muffins fruit and chocolate, these were much needed to ward off the early morning chill, as the temperature was at a low of 19C.
Probably due to the weather and the early start we did not have to queue at all to get into the Cable Car for the thrilling ride to the top of the iconic Table Mountain. Views of the city shrouded in mist disappeared altogether as we rose into the clouds. The cold hit us the minute we exited the upper cable station and rushed to the terrace to look at the views. Every now and then a tantalizing glimpse of the 12 Apostles mountain range and the beaches of the Atlantic seaboard came into view, but for the most part, we were staring at swirling cloud being driven up the gorge. We hiked along the paths stopping to read the various information signs telling us about ancient rock formations, and keeping an eye out for a break in the weather so we could head back to the views. Then it started to rain. The reality of the wildness of this attraction hit home as visibility was reduced to a few meters and rock hyrax shivered miserably on wet rocks. Luckily after a short while the rain stopped, the sun appeared and the views took our breath away. Numbs hands struggled to take pictures of the mini world below from all the different angles. All too soon it was time to go back down and we were amazed at the difference in temperature at the lower cable station.
“It’s weird. It’s so wild up here but you can see the city. Crazy “
“It was my first time, and even though the weather was not ideal, it was still worth it”
“Yoh, it was cold up there. I have never been so cold in my life. Next time I’m wearing 2 jackets, a beanie, scarf, and gloves. I’m definitely coming again.”
From being up in the clouds on top of the mountain we travelled back to the V & A Waterfront and onto a ferry to take us to Robben Island.
As we left the city the sky above us was as clear as summer and the view of the mountain and the city covered by cloud was picture perfect. We landed on Robben Island to a totally different climate; it was warm, windless and difficult to conceive how cold it was on the mainland, still clearly visible a few kilometers away.
The short bus tour around the island tells the many stories of the various inhabitants of the island, from lepers and soldiers to prisoners and slaves.
The walking tour of the prison is both sobering and inspiring and the group is quieter here than at any of the other attractions. Apart from the interesting and varied history, rugged beauty and indigenous fauna and flora, it is a very sobering place. No story telling is needed to get a glimpse of what incarceration here must have been like. Clearly visible from this stark Island, Table Mountain is a beautiful frame for Cape Town, and for many of the prisoners a painful daily reminder of past lives loved ones and memories. Tantalizing and so close we can’t begin to imagine the frustration of knowing all that, though visible, is unattainable.
Robben Island is a place for silent thoughts and introspection. It is a place where we are amazed by the resilience of the South African people.
It is a place that gives us great hope for the future of our country, for it was here in the brutal environment that our constitution was born.
Motion sickness or a need for fresh air and a desire for the views saw many in our group on the deck of the ferry for the return trip.
Back on terra firma, we wandered around the V & A waterfront, posing with the statues at Noble Square, watching the pedestrian bridge swing to allow the boats to pass through before discovering the delights at the 2 Oceans Aquarium. Kids laughed as our group of adults insisted on taking pictures inside the dome tank filled with Clown Fish, better known as “Nemo’s”, and we all agreed that the Jellyfish in their pitch dark mirrored room, lit by fluorescent lights were a highlight.
“There’s more cool free stuff than I knew here at the Waterfront. I thought it was just for eating and shopping”
Overall opinions from the groups were as follows:
- The Big 7 attractions are all enjoyable regardless of the weather.
- When actually visiting the attractions you realise how much time could be spent at each one. The comment most often heard was “you could easily spend a whole day here” This was uttered at least once at all 7 attractions.
Thanks to our partners Hylton Ross and all delegates who participated in the Big 7 educational experience. We also thank the Gallivanting Goose for facilitating the programme.
“Your trip to Cape Town is not complete unless you have visited all 7 attractions.”!
Share your top Cape Town Big 7 experiences with us!
One Destination, 7 Unbelievable Experiences
There is no one way to explore all of the Cape Town Big 7, and much of what makes each of them so special is the variety of things to see and do at each. So if possible, take your time to explore each of the city’s most visited tourist attractions in as much depth as possible – as any local will tell you, you can spend a lifetime at each of the Big 7 and still not tire of them. Find the 3 and 4 day itineraries and tips here.