Cape Town

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Cape Town is one of South Africa's two capital cities (the other is Pretoria) and is most famous for its mountain, aptly named Table Mountain because of its flat top.

It was first "settled" by the Dutch to be used as a replenishing station for ships sailing on the trade route to India. It was chosen for it's sheltered bay which formed a natural harbour. The seas around Cape Town are notorious and it was referred to as the Cape of Storms. However the Dutch displaced the Khoi and San who were the native inhabitants. Later the English conquered the Dutch to gain control of this strategic port.

Today, Cape Town is a popular tourist destination offering the visitor a wide variety of activities such as water sports (diving, surfing and sailing to name but a few), angling, wine tasting, shopping, scenic drives, mountaineering, hiking, kite flying, hang gliding and parasailing, bird and whale watching and more.

The most popular time for visitors is the summer season from October to March though some visitors from more temperate climates might find the height of summer uncomfortably hot (December and January). The city also becomes very crowded then as the local holidaymakers descend on the city for their summer school holidays. The Victoria & Alfred waterfront development is a popular shopping venue with thousands of shops, a fine hotel, a world-class marina and the Two Oceans Oceanarium. Boat trips can be undertaken from the V & A marina to visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.

There are various coach tours of the wine routes, which visit the wine farms where tastings and informative tours are offered.

If you visit in August and September, you should not miss the opportunity of visiting the nearby West coast when the desert comes to life after the winter rains and the wild flowers bloom in profusion. There are various coach tours some, which also visit the quaint fishing towns such as Paternoster, and the bird colonies populated by Cape Gannets, Jackass penguins and flamingoes. The more extensive tours would require overnight stops.

There is a cable car system, which takes visitors to the top of Table Mountain though it only operates in good weather as gale force winds can make it dangerous or cloud can obscure the view from the summit.

The area is also famous for its unique plant life. Fynbos (Afrikaans word meaning fine bush) a semi-desert plant family to which Proteas belong and which occurs nowhere else but the Cape coastal belt. These plants are so adapted to their arid environment that they are used in dried floral arrangements.

Other places worthy of a visit and accessible from Cape Town are: The Garden Route (From Mossel Bay to Port Elizabeth), the Addo Elephant National Park and the Tsitsikama Forest Park