We arrived in Cape Town, and the Cape Grace Hotel overlooking Cape Town Harbour and Table Bay, four days ago on Tuesday afternoon.
The Cape Grace Hotel sits amidst the V&A Waterfront; a collection of hotels, shopping precincts, galleries, handcraft markets, museums and other tourist attractions. On one side the view is beautiful waterfront. On the other side, majestic Table Mountain towers above us.
It has been a little hard to leave the hotel because Cape Grace is so beautiful and comfortable and all of the staff are extremely friendly, especially to Louisa (who they call “baby”) and Oliver. We are staying in a wonderful two bedroom apartment with lots of space for everyone.
But we have ventured out and we are in love (“thandi”) with Cape Town.
On Wednesday, after a quick visit to a doctor for Oliver (he picked up a rattly cough on the way over) we spent much of the day at the Two Oceans Aquarium. Quite like Sydney Aquarium but much cheaper, we enjoyed meeting African sea life from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, as well as some of their Australian cousins. Louisa especially enjoyed the touch pools and Oliver was keen to learn more about South African Black Footed Penguins, which have become endangered (down from 1.5 million in 1910 to mere thousands now left in the wild) due to human interference with their habitat.
On Thursday morning we “discovered the magic of minerals” at Mineral World Scratch Patch. Almost half of the world’s gemstones are found in Southern Africa. At Scratch Patch you can hunt through thousands of polished gemstones, which cover the floor of a large cave, and fill a bag with your favourites. Oliver and Louisa loved hunting and then learning where their gemstones came from.
On Thursday afternoon we ventured out to Green Point Park, a beachfront area and series of playgrounds overlooking the West Coast of South Africa. First we visited the world’s 3rd largest maze and got completely lost on the way to the “magical fairy triangle” in the middle (in case you are wondering, the largest is the maze at Longleat in England; I asked). Next we played in a series of playgrounds, one with a small replica Blue Train that chugged around the perimeter of the park. Apparently it has been a feature of this park for at least 50 years. In many ways the landscape of Cape Town is similar to Sydney — especially with blue skies overhead, waves crashing on the shore, and a brisk onshore breeze — except for the ring of very large mountains.
On Thursday night, capping an extremely busy day, we went to dinner at Gold’s Cape Malay restaurant. The night started with an African drumming class. We first learned how to hold our drums. Next we learned how to make deep booming sounds in the middle of the drum or higher notes on the rim of the drum. Then in between three courses of authentic Cape Malay and African dishes we were treated to African singing and dancing. Oliver and Louisa had their faces decorated with traditional designs and at one point Oliver was invited up to dance. He more than held his own!
On Friday we hired a car and driver to take us further afield, south of Cape Town down the Cape Penninsula. The scenery on this drive was spectacular. Towering mountains. Crystal blue ocean. White sandy beaches. Lush green fields.
Our first stop for the day was at Mariner’s Wharf in Hout Bay where we boarded a boat for a 40 minute round trip to Seal Island. Huge seals swim in and out of the Harbour, as well as laze on their rocky outcrop. We saw one local man feed a large seal by putting a fish in his mouth, which the seal jumped out of the water to grab. Risky! But worth the 5 Rand he asked in payment. He said: “I use the money to buy more fish. We feed the seals, the seals feed us!”
Our second stop was World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary and Monkey Park, nearby. We posted separately about this stop because we saw so many amazing birds and animals, including Oliver and Louisa’s favourites: penguins and monkeys.
After lunching on a picnic packed for us by the hotel, we continued further south, climbing high up to Chapman’s Peak. Named for a Dutch sailor who was mistakenly left behind when his crew stopped for water (before South Africa was first settled by the Dutch; apparently they sailed back hours later to find him ashen faced and surrounded by menacing wild animals), the Peak overlooks Chapman’s Bay. We saw three whales frolicking in the crystal clear waters just off the sandy beach.
Next we crossed south west to Simon’s Town, a former Royal Naval Base and home of the South Atlantic Squadron under British occupation in the early 19th century, and on to a large African Penguin colony at The Boulders. Boulders is nestled between Simon’s Town and Cape Point and home to around 2,200 penguins who swim and waddle around Foxy Beach, metres from boardwalks where we watched and took photos.
By the end of the day, three busy days, we were exhausted and ready for dinner in our room and an early night. Today, our last full day in Cape Town before flying to Tswalu, we visited a Farmers Market in an old biscuit factory, toured a chocolate factory, and caught the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain.
There certainly were parts of Cape Town and the Penninsula that I would have liked to explore a great deal more, such as Simon’s Town, which looked like a quaint English town. And the V&A Waterfront. But travelling with children means compromising and finding child friendly activities. Louisa especially has little patience with sightseeing and prefers active outings, particularly if they include animals. Hopefully when we arrive in Tswalu tomorrow she will have action and animals to her heart’s content!