Our Sales and Operations Manager Jane recently spent a busy two weeks in South Africa. She's no stranger to the Rainbow Nation - Jane has actually been to South Africa three times and says that it's one of her favourite destinations becuase of the amazing wildlife, food and wine!
As many of our programmes start, end or are based in Cape Town, Jane thought she would share her top tips for things to do in the Mother City…
Table Mountain is the most iconic landmark of South Africa.
The most popular way to explore the mountain is by the aerial cableway, which is open from 8:30am – 5pm. A return ticket costs R255 (£15).
You can also hike up the mountain, and the safest way to do this is in a group and with a guide. The weather around the mountain can quickly change, so make sure you carry water and warm clothing with you.
• Buy your cableway ticket online in advance so you can skip the long queues.
• It’s generally colder at the top, so take a jacket or jumper with you.
• The cableway closes during windy/cloudy weather. If you wake up to bright blue sky, take advantage and go straight up the mountain for the best views, because it tends to cloud over in the afternoon.
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, more commonly known as V&A Waterfront, is situated in the harbour with the iconic Table Mountain as its backdrop.
The V&A Waterfront is packed with loads of cool stuff to see and do by day or night. Check out the restaurants, bars, shops, cinema, museums, markets, and comedy club while you're there, or go on a day sailing trip or helicopter ride.
• Watch the sunset from a ferris wheel. This 15-minute ride will give you an amazing 360-degree view across Cape Town, Table Mountain & Robben Island.
• Visit the Two Oceans Aquarium – learn all about the incredible diversity of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. I have visited aquariums all over the world and this one for me is the best! The penguin and jellyfish sections are my personal favourite parts to visit.
• For the best burgers, try Gibson’s Gourmet Burgers & Ribs.
I love wine, so a big highlight for me was visiting the Cape Winelands, which are located just outside of Cape Town. The three main areas to indulge in a fantastic wine tasting session are Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl.
There are a few ways to enjoy wine tasting – as part of a group tour, on a private tour, or independently. I would definitely recommend leaving your car at your accommodation and booking onto an organised tour! The most popular way is to do a group tour from Cape Town. These run daily and are really easy to arrange through your hostel or local travel agent. These tours are packed with wine tastings, and include a cellar tour and lunch. Prices start from around £50 per person.
• Try wine pairing with chocolate or cheese – delicious!
• If you fancy a real treat, I would recommend lunch at the Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch. The estate is nestled between majestic mountains and has incredible views over the vineyards of Stellenbosch. The food here is incredible, definitely in my top five restaurants in the world.
• To spit or not to spit? I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to spit the wine into a bowl or drink it. I was pleased to learn that it is perfectly acceptable to drink all the wine poured into your glass. I would recommend having a big breakfast to kick start your day and remember to take plenty of water with you to sip between tastings.
Drive to Cape Point
I would definitely recommend spending a day at this beautiful reserve. Cape Point is in the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve within Table Mountain National Park, and is around a 90-minute drive from Cape Town.
The drive down to Cape Point is stunning. It's a very easy drive, with plenty of places to stop and take photos of the amazing views of the gorgeous coastline.
After driving through the National Park, you will reach a car park. From here you can either climb up the steps, which takes around 15 minutes, or you can opt to take a ride up to the lighthouse via the environmentally-friendly Flying Dutchman Funicular.
The lookout point at the top is awesome – the ocean extends out in every direction and rugged rocks and sheer cliffs tower more than 200 metres above the sea; it's absolutely spectacular.
• Watch out for the baboons, they'll try and steal your food and drink!
• Wear trainers and take something warm to wear at the top (don’t do what I did and climb the steep steps in flip flops and a summer dress!).
• On the way to Cape Point, make sure you stop at the Bolders Beach penguin colony (near Simon’s Town, about half an hour from Cape Point). Boulders Beach is home to the African penguin. There is a brilliant viewing deck area so you can observe and take lots of photos. They're a bit smelly but very cute!
Cape Town Nightlife
Cape Town nightlife is brilliant. There are amazing places to have drinks at sunset, fun places to hang out with other backpackers, and venues where you can party until the early hours.
Cape Town is fun but it's important to stay safe, so always take a licensed taxi at night – ask the staff at your accommodation for recommended taxi services.
• The best place to watch the sunset and drink a cocktail is Victoria Road in Camps Bay, aka the ‘sunset strip’.
• Go to Long Street – well-known for its fun and grungy backpacker bars.
• Bree Street (close to Long Street) is great for hip bars and casual places to eat.
• Make sure you go to Upper Kloof – it's bursting with amazing restaurants.
Fancy seeing it for yourself? Check out our huge array of programmes in South Africa, from coaching sports in a local school to penguin conservation, touring the garden route to shark cage diving - we've got something for everyone!