5 Days of Adventure in Cape Town
Cage Dive with Sharks, Hike, View Penguins in the wild, go on safari, try out sandboarding, bike around the most South Western Point of Africa and enjoy local wine and seafood, all in five days!
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Bike Cape of Good Hope and Visit Vineyards
My friends and I only had a short time in Cape Town, so we tried to pack as much as possible into each day. For the first day, we booked a tour that took us biking around the Cape of Good Hope and then to wine country in the afternoon.
The tour we booked started with a picturesque drive to the area around the Cape of Good Hope, the most South Western Point of the African Continent.
Our tour company provided bike rentals for us to bike around the Cape Point Nature Reserve. There are easy sections of the bike ride, but also areas with large hills. Their van followed us on the tougher uphill bike sections so we had the option to hop in the van if we wanted.
We had a picnic lunch on the Reserve and had wild ostriches visit us while we sat for lunch. The area also has wild baboons that we were able to view from the van.
In the afternoon they drove us to the Constantia wine region in Cape Town. We enjoyed a wine tasting of red and white wines at the Steenberg Vineyard. We loved the wines, and all of us purchased wine to bring home. The vineyard had immaculate gardens, mountain views, a modern tasting room, and a restaurant. It was a relaxing place to spend the afternoon after a tough bike ride.
In the evening see Where to Eat for restaurant suggestions in Cape Town.
Climb Tabletop Mountain, Explore Bo-Kaap, Clifton Beach, Victoria, and Alfred Waterfront
In the morning we hiked to the top of Tabletop Mountain in Table Mountain National Park. The National Park is located right in the center of Cape Town City. As you climb upwards the hike offers stunning panoramic views of the city and coast. Plan to have flexibility in your schedule and pick the best day for this hike based on weather conditions. Tabletop mountain is named for the tablecloth-like cloud that regularly forms over the top of it, finding a clear day for the hike can be difficult. On a cloudy day, there aren’t any views of the city.
There are numerous trail options for hiking to the top. The most popular tourist route is Platteklip Gorge to the Upper Cable Station. It is a straightforward hike and the shortest option. It can take between one to three hours depending on your fitness level and how often you stop to take in the views. It is a 1.6-mile hike with 2,276 feet in elevation gain, it’s uphill the entire way.
If you don’t want to hike, there is also an option to take a cable car to the top. Or if you are trying to squeeze multiple sites into the day, you could hike up and then take the cable car down.
After the hike, walk around and explore the nearby Bo-Kaap neighborhood. The area is filled with historic, brightly-painted homes. The neighborhood has the largest concentration of older architecture (pre-1850) in South Africa.
If you still have time in the afternoon, relax at Clifton Beach. It is a white sand beach with views of Tabletop Mountain from the beach.
In the evening, explore the nearby Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The area offers numerous waterfront dining options for dinner as well as lots of shopping. The Watershed craft market had the largest selection of souvenirs and locally made crafts that we found in Cape Town.
Day Three: Cage Diving with Great White Sharks
We booked an all-day tour with Great White Shark Tours to go cage diving. Great White Shark Tours has been around for over 20 years and is regularly featured on the Shark Week television shows in the United States. They are considered one of the most reputable companies for cage diving in the area. We also felt they prioritized respecting the sharks and surrounding nature.
The Great Whites are known for congregating in an area near the town of Gansbaai, which is 2.5 hours away from Cape Town. Most tour operators offer transport to and from Cape Town. The dock used by Great White Shark Tours is in nearby Kleinbaai, and from there it is a 20-minute boat ride on their Apex Predator Boat, out to the viewing spot. You will see large quantities of seals on the boat ride, as the seal population is what attracts the sharks to the ‘Shark Alley’ area. Shark Alley is located between Geyser Rock–home to 60,000 Cape Fur Seals, and Dyer Island. The tour operators also throw chum in the water to attract the sharks close to the boat.
On the boat, the guide will rotate through all of the guests to give everyone turns to go down into the cages. 5 or 6 people can go down at a time. Guests have had 7 or 8 minutes during each turn in the cage. In the cage, there is a flotation device to hold on to. It makes it easy to come up for a breath. You are allowed to bring an underwater camera in the cage.
We were fortunate to take the tour on a day with fewer guests on the boat and were able to go down in the cages three separate times. You will be out on the boat for three to four hours, depending on sea conditions and the sharks. Great White Shark Tours will stay out longer if needed, to make sure guests can see multiple sharks.
They provide you with wetsuits, goggles, towels, and a large warm sea jacket to wear when you are out of the water. It is cold on the boat, so bring warm layers. While waiting for your turn on the boat, it is fun to watch for sharks in the water. If you are lucky you may see a shark jump out of the water.
Day Four: Day Trip Safari and Cheetah Experience
No visit to South Africa is complete without a safari experience. If your Cape Town trip is part of a larger Africa trip, you may already be planning a safari in another area and could skip this day. If you have more than 5 days for your South Africa trip, spend 2-3 days in Kruger National Park. A direct flight from Cape Town to Kruger is a 2.5-hour flight unless you have to connect through Johannesburg, which adds a couple more hours of travel.
If you are short on time and are trying to fit a bit of everything in, the best safari option is a day trip to a private game reserve near Cape Town. We visited the Inverdoorn Reserve, a 2.5-hour drive from Cape Town. All of the big 5 live on the reserve (rhino, elephant, water buffalo, lion, and leopard). We specifically chose this reserve because of its cheetah conservation project. The reserve offers visits to their rehabilitation center to learn more about their program.
A day trip safari there includes a 2-3 hour game drive and a lunch at their lodge. Aquila Reserve is another option for a day trip safari that is close to Cape Town. It is owned by the same company as Inverdoorn.
Day Five: Sandboarding and Boulders Penguin Beach
In the morning we went sandboarding on the Atlantis Sand Dunes. The tour operator provides transport, boards, and wax for the half-day outing. The dunes are only 45 minutes outside of Cape Town. The crisp white-sand dunes are a beautiful contrast against the blue skies and mountain backdrop. Sandboarding is fun to try, but beware it is a workout to climb up the dune before each run down!
In the afternoon visit Boulders Beach to see the African penguin colony that lives there. There is a wooden boardwalk trail that enables visitors to view penguin nests and penguins up close. At the end of the boardwalk, there is a larger viewpoint of hundreds of wild penguins on the beach.
Kalky’s restaurant isn’t too far from Boulder’s beach so it makes for a convenient lunch spot on day five. See Where to Eat for more details.
Extended Trip Options
If you have more than 5 days in Cape Town, there are many other options in Cape Town and surrounding areas that could create a longer itinerary. A few of the options are listed below.
In Cape Town
Hike Lion’s Head in Cape Town
Hike a longer trail up to Tabletop Mountain
Near Cape Town
Spend 2+ days visiting Kruger National Park in South Africa
Spend a day or two visiting vineyards in nearby Stellenbosch
Advanced Bookings for Cape Town
Plan to book cage diving with sharks at least a month out. It is the one activity in this itinerary that will fill up the furthest out. All other activities can be booked a week or so out, or even when you arrive.
Building an Itinerary with a Stop in Cape Town
We visited Cape Town as part of a larger Africa Trip with stops in Victoria Falls and Uganda. Adding on Namibia is easiest, as it is directly North and drivable from South Africa. Keep in mind that air travel between African countries is not easy. There are not nearly as many flights every day as there are in other parts of the world. Direct flights are also rare. Most flights connect through Johannesburg or Nairobi. Plan for at least one day of travel to visit to another country, if not two days.
What to Wear and Pack for Cape Town
What to Wear
A packable Waterproof jacket
Hiking shoes or boots
What to Pack
A waterproof camera
Seasick remedies for the shark cage diving boat ride
A dry bag
A Daypack suitable for bringing on a bike ride
What to Eat in Cape Town
Game Meats- Try ostrich, springbok, zebra, crocodile, kudu and more!
Fish and Chips
King Fish- This is a favorite fish of mine, usually only found in the Southern Hemisphere. It is known as the salmon of white fish.
Where to Eat in Cape Town
Kalky’s - A no-frills fish and chips restaurant located right on the harbor. They catch the fish out front and then bring it into the restaurant. It was established in 1996. It’s casual and cash only.
Codfather- Located in Camps Bay, this restaurant will allow you to pick your fish before they cook it. They primarily serve sushi and seafood dishes. It has been in the neighborhood for over 20 years.
Lodging for Cape Town
Most of the large Western hotel brands are located around Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and the city center. Both are considered safe locations to stay with lots of restaurants and shops within walking distance. There are also many Airbnb homes available for rent in Cape Town. There are numerous home rentals in the beach areas like Clifton Beach or in Camps Bay that have waterfront views and easy beach access.
Getting around Cape Town
Uber is easy and safe for getting around and for transport to and from the airport. A couple of locals told us that Ubers were safer than taxis.
When to Go to Cape Town
Cape Town has mild temperatures year-round. If you want more beach weather, then visit during their summer from November to April. The best time for viewing Great White Sharks is in the winter, so if that is a priority it is best to visit between May and September. There will be more sharks, better visibility, and warmer water.
As in many foreign countries, do not drink the water, brush your teeth with it or eat fresh fruits or vegetables washed in it.
Trip Dates: July 2012 and January 2019
Article Updated: October 2022
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