Michele visits the Fairest Cape – December, 2012

Cape Town is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city with world-class restaurants, lovely scenery and interesting history. There is so much to see and do in this famous city it can easily warrant a stay of four or more nights. On my recent trip I took time out from visiting hotels to experience some of the highlights.

The iconic Table Mountain towers over the city and you can hike or take the revolving cable car to the top. We took the cable car on this occasion, but whatever you decide the view from the top is the same – spectacular!

The beautiful KStrelitzia-mandelairstenbosch Gardens lie on the lower slopes of Table Mountain and cover an area of 528 hectares with 36 hectares of cultivated garden. Fynbos, proteas, cycads and rolling lawns are intermingled with streams, ponds and well-laid out pathways for easy walking. Whether you visit for a casual stroll and lazy picnic, or a more in depth botanical experience, the gardens are a must see when visiting Cape Town.

Spend a few hours on an excursion to the famous Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many years, a truly unforgettable experience which offers a glimpse into the life and times of the apartheid era.

We also took a drive to Cape Point, enjoying spectacular coastal scenery especially along the Chapman’s Peak drive out of Hout Bay. En route back to Cape Town, we stopped off at Boulders Beach, home to a colony of African Penguins.

Within easy reach of Cape Town, and only a couple of hours drive east, is Hermanus, the whale watching capital of the world! I loved my stay in the heart of this quaint town, hugging the famous coastal area of Walker Bay where Southern Right whales are often spotted close to the shoreline during whale season (July through to November). A personal highlight for me was a boat based whale-watching trip giving us the opportunity to really get up close to these gentle giants.

The next day, I took to the ocean again, this time in search of shark-launchthe Great White shark! In years past you had to be a fully qualified diver but this is no longer the case and you can easily enter the cage with simply a wet suit and mask. When a shark approaches you pull yourself underwater for the sighting. I was a little dubious at the thought of getting in a cage but the excitement got the better of me as I waited for the call. ‘Down, eyes right’. With my heart pounding, I ducked underwater to see a four metre Great White approach and glide by – my eyes fixed on him and more disconcertingly, his on me! In the early years, Shark cage diving had a bad reputation regarding bating. However this has changed considerably, and reputable companies follow strict ethical guidelines. Each trip is accompanied by a marine biologist to records all sightings, and the company I used were dedicated conservationists working hard to raise money to conserve these endangered predators.

My final few days were spent in the beautiful winelands region, about an hours drive outside Cape Town. The village of Franschhoek has an idyllic feel with Victorian whitewashed houses backed by rolling vineyards and the soaring slopes of the Franschhoek Mountains. A visit to the area is of course enhanced with some excellent wine tasting and I would highly recommend having a guide and vehicle for the day. I had a superb day visiting many vineyards and learning about the history of the industry as well as the various grape varieties, and of course was able to sample many difference wines!

winelands viewAs well as enjoying all these wonderful activities, I also managed to fit in a huge number of hotel and guesthouse inspections – there are so many places to stay in the Cape! Almost every style of accommodation is catered for, from friendly, owner run guesthouses to the ultimate in five star luxury. It is easy to see why Cape Town and the extended Cape region is so popular!