South Africa has always been something that sounds a bit too “far and foreign” for me, especially living in Singapore. But the truth is, it is not that far, and not that expensive either (compared to places like Europe).
Our flight tickets with Qatar Airways only cost us SGD990 and this was booked 1-2 weeks before the actual travel date!!! It would’ve probably been cheaper if we had some advanced planning… Also, the food and activities were actually reasonably priced too. So pleasantly surprised!
For me, it was definitely cheaper than holidaying in a European city in every sense.
In my opinion, the beautiful city of Cape Town has it all. It’s got beautiful beaches, stunning landcapes and mountains, lots of activities and adrenaline sports, ridiculously scenic coastal drives, rich history, melting pot of culture, and so many exotic animals to see along the way…
Cape Town has really won my heart this time. 🙂
#1 Real safari experience with the ‘Big Five’.
There are a few safari game reserves situated within less than a 3hr drive from Cape Town, which makes it super convenient to keep on the itinerary without having to fly to another city, like Johannesburg.
The safari experience is definitely more fun than a zoo, though you will see less variety of animals. Hop into the open-air 4X4 and drive off into the vast grasslands while you look out for the animals! It just feels more exciting when you know you’ve stepped into their natural habitat – without any cages.
We stayed at Inverdoorn Game Reserve. Read more about it in my blog post here.
#2 Beautiful beaches, everywhere.
Cape Town is a city so full of beaches. That was something I did not expect – my trip was so last minute planned, we barely had time to slowly read up on every single thing about Cape Town. So, if you are a person who is all about #datbeachlife, you’ll be in love with this city.
Halfway up to the peak of Lion’s Head, overlooking the famous Clifton Beach and Camps Bay Beach.
Colorful bathing huts of Muizenberg Beach
#3 Lots of cliffs and crazy rock formations
The beautiful thing about the city of Cape Town is that it has all the nature and scenery you need!!!! There are so many places where you can stand on the edge of the cliff and just soak in all the view. Sometimes, it’s just too much to take in. You may be standing at the edge of Table Mountain overlooking the Cape Peninsula, or at the southern most point of the Atlantic coast.
On top of Table Mountain
Cape of Good Hope
Salty air with the strong winds howling and blowing in our faces, it makes the whole scene more dramatic. After getting all the perfect shots, we just sat on the edge of the rocks, dangling our feet over the crashing waves. Stay safe though!
Camps Bay Beach
#4 There is wildlife, almost everywhere
We saw so many animals during our trip, whether it’s in a controlled environment like the safari, or just spotting them on the side of the road whilst driving. We saw penguins on a beach (that is pretty surreal for someone who lives in Singapore), lots of ostriches just chilling in the grasslands and even strolling on the side of the road…
Inverdoorn safari promises us the big five, and we were lucky to see them all.
Two ostriches just chilling nearby the beach. That’s something I don’t see in Singapore.
I forgot the name of this chubby fluffball of cuteness. Anyone knows?
#5 Boulder Beach – a beach full of penguins
Speaking of wild life, and an abundance of beautiful beaches comes this must-see attraction that Cape Town has to offer. Tons and tons of penguins just surfing, frolicking in the sand and water, waddling about.. just gets me squealing in excitement!!!
There is a raised wooden walkway which brings you to the main touristy viewpoint of the penguins, and that’s where everybody takes the photos. You’ll be at an elevated point so you can see the whole stretch of the beach and penguins, from a distance.
But you can get up close with the penguins! Without touching them or disturbing them, of course. Be responsible, guys! Anyway, we bought the tickets which included the viewpoint walkway AND the beach access. This might depend on your luck, but we had a huge bunch of penguins just going about their daily life on the sand!!! So we were just walking beside them and grabbing some photos you can’t get from just the viewpoint.
Just be careful: there are some light climbing over the rocks involved, if you wanna get right into the main beach (if the penguins are not already here).
#6 Breathtaking scenic drives
This is something I loved so much about Cape Town. You rent a car with your travel buddies, pump up the music and just go explore the whole place! The drive is almost always interesting (except for driving through the townships, that gets me.. nervous). Driving around the city of Cape Town always gets you a wonderful view of the famous Table Mountain and also the Lion’s Head. Then there are ridiculoooousssly scenic coastal drives, like when you’re heading to the Cape Peninsula area.
What really takes the cake is the Chapmans Peak Drive, which is probably the most famous scenic route in Cape Town. I was so blown away. At one point, I wish I wasn’t the driver so I can just enjoy the scenery instead!!!!
The roads are extremely windy and narrow, but wow… We are in between massive rocks, and the ocean. It doesn’t get any more dramatic than that.
Halfway point of Chapmans Peak Drive, approaching Cape Town city
One of the many stops along the way of Chapmans Peak Drive
#7 Hiking up Lion’s Head peak
A definite must-see in Cape Town if you love beautiful high vantage points and also wanna get in a little exercise during the trip. For a view like this, it is definitely worth the sweat!!
Don’t worry, the trail itself is not going to be ridiculously difficult. You won’t take more than 2~2.5 hours. It starts off relatively mild, and then it gets a little more difficult as you reach towards the end because you need to start using your hands to climb up some rocks. It is definitely do-able if you have an average fitness level.
One of my favourite shots from Lion’s Head peak
You will be getting a 360 view of Cape Town. Heck, you can even get a preview of it as you climb higher and higher towards the peak. Because the trail goes round and round the Lion’s Head, the view is always interesting 🙂
When you’re up there, you’ll get an interrupted view of the Table Mountain, the Camps Bay Beach and Clifton Beach, along with the city centre and everything else on the map. SUPER WORTH THE CLIMB!
The clouds were below us. So surreal.
#8 Table Mountain, of course
If you are not up for the sweat and exercise, or maybe desire for something more quick and easy up, there is always TABLE MOUNTAIN CABLE CAR! Of course, you can scale up this mountain (which is tiring, I heard) but the cable car ride itself is already quite exciting! It is SO steep, I was a little nervous.. but it spins around slowly, so everybody gets a view of the city side.
The Table Mountain National Park itself is pretty massive. I thought it was just going to be some small area with squeezy crowds, but IT IS HUGEEEEEE. So much space to walk everywhere! This is definitely a more comfortable, family-friendly and wheelchair-friendly activity.
Be sure to check the weather, though. The clouds love hanging around Table Mountain (affectionately named, the ‘Table Cloth’) and when it gets too cloudy, there is no point of wasting your money to head up. Wait for a clear, sunny, cloudless day!
Found an awesome spot for photo, but required some dangerous climbing
#9 Thrill-seeking adventures like shark cage diving
I love scuba diving, and when I heard that there are Great White Shark cage dives in South African waters… I AM SOLD!!!!!!!! I don’t know much about the dive sites in Cape Town, but I am definitely here to get my adrenaline pumping with these Great Whites.
It was definitely something that gets me super excited, because this activity is not available in South East Asia… and seeing so much of these Great Whites in movies, it’s almost like meeting a Hollywood celebrity. Haha!!
We booked a tour with the shark cage dive company located in Gaansbaai, a small touristy town known for its dense population of great white sharks. Gaansbaai is located about two-hours drive from Cape Town.
Our experience: IT WAS SOOOOOO COLD!!!!!!!!!! I didn’t expect it to be so cold. We had such thick layers on but it still didn’t help. All the pain is forgotten when the guides started shouting for us to submerge under, as a shark is approaching. The feeling is so intense. To go face to face with a great white shark is out of this world!
However, you might have to go in the middle of the winter though the waters will be even more colder. That is because the visibility of the waters. We were there towards the end of winter, and the waters were quite murky. It was a little difficult to see the shark underwater. When you’re at the top of the viewing point of the boat, then the sharks are clear as day.
Doing the waiting in this cage. If a shark is approaching, then will quickly close the cage whilst everyone rushes under water.
#10 Whale watching, right from land
Or if you prefer something more chill… there’s whale watching!
I went whale watching on a cruise tour in NZ but I was shocked to learn that you can do the same in South Africa, except you can just watch it FROM THE MAINLAND! Ranked one of the best whale watching capitals in the world is Hermanus – a small town just 1hr45m drive away from Cape Town. It is just a 15-minute drive from Gaansbaai, the shark cage diving destination.
Just get a hot cup of coffee (as it gets ridiculously chilly), sit by the coastline and enjoy spotting these majestic animals diving out of the water. Sometimes, they can even get super close to the shore. You just gotta be lucky, I guess!
We spotted so many whales that day, though they were pretty far off the coast. Managed to capture a few of them with my telephoto lens and you could make out the shape and details of its body. So cool!!!!
#11 Outdoor activities and adventure sports!
I love sports and the outdoors. I love that Cape Town has so many! There’s ziplining, surfing, rock climbing (we visited an indoor rock climbing gym, too), abseiling down Table Mountain (omg!), sandboarding, skydiving, kitesurfing and of course, parasailing…
I’ve always wanted to try parasailing and I’m so glad I had my first try in Cape Town! We took off Signal Hill (which is just beside Lion’s Head) into the cityscape, and over the sea, and landed by the beach. How awesome is that?!?!
Took off Signal Hill. We had to wait for the wind condition to be in our favour, though!
#12 Beautiful starry nights
I’m always looking for dark skies in every holiday, as long as it is away from the city. With Cape Town, it is no different. Of course, we’re not able to see the stars with such clarity within the city centre of Cape Town, but further away, like the safari and small towns like Gaansbaai.. The skies are lit up for us.
In the quiet town of De Kelders, just right outside our AirBnb.
Right outside our hotel room in Inverdoorn Safari Game Reserve.
#13 Cape Town is basically a city that has everything
It has the basic modern stuff you need in a city like malls, amenities, technology, international cuisine… There’s also an intense wine culture and tours going on (but not my department, obviously) but there is just so much to do, and so much to see. It’s a great mix of modern development, and beautiful unspoiled nature all around.
Its other attractions mentioned in the post are all easily accessible (within a 3-hour drive) so flying into Cape Town itself is good enough, especially if you are short on time. There are activities for families, for those who don’t want to sweat much, for those who’d love a good exercise, for thrill-seekers, for nature lovers… Everything!
Despite its reputation as a dangerous, crime-ridden place or something, it isn’t really that dangerous as long as you stay within the known tourist areas, and not venture into the townships unless with a guide. Practice common sense, of course!
And the best part is that it isn’t ridiculously expensive to holiday here. Win!
Thank you, Cape Town. It’s been a wonderful experience.