You would think that after 32 years living in this city, it was not too easy to surprise me, but I discover new and amazing things about Cape Town all the time.
This is one of the things I love most about my hometown – despite its relatively small size in comparison to other cities in the world; it is filled with an abundance of fascination. Many of its greatest attractions are known around the world – Table Mountain, the Waterfront, Cape Point for instance.
But if you take a closer look, and then look even closer still, some rather amazing things are discovered.
Today, I will share some of the semi-secrets that I have unveiled in recent times. As a local, you may know of these wonders already, or perhaps you may too be surprised. If you are visiting Cape Town, you will get a chance to see what lies beyond the tour guide highlights and must-dos.
Amazing Things I Learnt About Cape Town
Ready to get started? Well then, onwards we shall go… In no particular order, here are the most amazing things about Cape Town that I have discovered.
1. Caracal in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Locally known as Rooikat (red cat) here in South Africa, the caracal goes by the name of desert lynx too. When I came across this photo of a caracal via @KirstenboschNBG on Twitter, I had to head to their website to find out what else may be roaming in this popular garden hotspot.
It turns out that there are also Cape clawless otters (apparently they can sometimes be seen in the very early morning or in the evening, in the Otter Pond) and many other wildlife species. On the downside, it is not very easy to spot these beautiful wild cats and other species. But the next time you’re at a Summer Concert in Kirstenbosch one evening, be on the lookout just in case you get a peek!
To learn what other wildlife and birdlife can be found in the gardens, visit the SANBI Kirstenbosch Gardens page.
2. Underground Tunnels in Cape Town
Many years ago I used to hear rumours about covered-up tunnels that lay beneath the city. Some of these were said to run all the way to the Castle of Good Hope – right on the other side of the City Centre.
Today, I finally found those tunnels – not only that, but tunnel tours too! This isn’t something to do if you are a) scared of the dark, b) not into small spaces or c) not keen on a long trek underground. But if like me, you are game for a bit of adventure and intrigue, there are tours that take you into the (now unused) tunnel systems running from the Castle to the bottom of Table Mountain.
Be warned – you need to be fairly fit for this adventure, and only kids over the age of 10 are allowed.
Needless to say, a tunnel tour is now right up there on my bucket list.
3. Robben Island Penguins
Robben Island is a very special place for every South African – one where our beloved Madiba spent too many years during the apartheid struggle. Visiting the island was not what I expected at all though. Aside from walking in Mandela’s footsteps and learning more about the history, I discovered a huge colony of penguins that had made their home on the island.
There is a boardwalk that takes you along the beach to the penguin viewing hide – from here you can see these birds in their numbers, enjoying a dip in the chilly waters.
There are wild rabbits everywhere too – a bit harder to photograph due to their tiny size and ability to camouflage into the background.
For more info on what other species you can see on the island, check out the Robben Island Museum natural conservation list.
4. Wild Donkeys on Table Mountain
For many years, I used to live in the Bo Kaap right near Signal Hill. At the end of my road there was a farm, which had everything from pigs to goats, sheep and chickens. The pigs (and a few goats once or twice) were a regular site in the area, at least until the farm closed.
One evening, I saw a donkey in the middle of my road – this was a bit of a surprise having never seen any on the farm, but I assumed it was an escapee who’d snuck out for a night out.
This week, I came across a lovely story and picture of the fabled wild donkeys of Signal Hill. If you take a walk along the Signal Hill road, keep an eye out for these beautiful creatures. Better yet, get a picture and send it to us!
These donkeys are one of those things you will see if you’re in the right place at the right time, but you can read the full story over here on 2Oceansvibe.com.
5. Wine Tasting in the CBD
I love wine, and I love the CBD too. So just how is it that I only discovered the fact that there is an urban winery right smack bang in the middle of the CBD until now?
Whatever the case (I must have been half-asleep, clearly), better late than never, right? Signal Hill Winery is based on Heritage Square in Shortmarket Street, and they make some rather good wine.
It’s no secret that Cape Town loves real, locally made beer.
And while wine is the greater peninsula’s chief export, it’s not too often that you drink blends that are made outside of typical Winelands areas.
They are open during the week between 11h00 and 17h30, and on Saturdays they are open from 12h00 to 16h00 during summer.
Try a cellar tour, do some tasting, and follow it up with a good spread… all without venturing out of the City Centre!
For more info on tastings, tours and wine sales, visit the Signal Hill Winery website.
Now that I’ve shown my favourite new things about Cape Town, it’s time for you to show yours…
What have you recently discovered about Cape Town? It could be a cosy little eatery that has yet to be hyped up. Or a cool bar hidden in a side street somewhere perhaps. Whether its cultural, material, hysterical or just downright mystical, we want to know.
Share your stories in the comments below, and let’s see what other secret things we can discover about Cape Town.