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How long to spend in Cape Town?

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Sacramento, CA
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How long to spend in Cape Town?

I will be in cape town for a few days before i start a safari, It's just me and I want to do as much as I can. How long would you recomend? I do want to do some day tours and see the wine country, robben island, ect.

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1. Re: How long to spend in Cape Town?

Here is a copy of a post I put on the forum some time ago. It is by no means a comprehensive list but it may give you and idea of how long you need in Cape Town.


Hi, I have seen quite a few posts on various travel forums asking for advice about what to see and do in South Africa. I am a tour guide and tour operator based in Cape Town and I thought it would be useful to those of you who are thinking of visiting this wonderful city to give you an idea of some of the most popular things to see and do here.

Do your research before coming. Try and get as much info as possible before planning your trip. Find a local tour operator and give them as much information about your interests as possible. Don’t just rely on one source though, read guide books, visit forums like this and try to get as broad a picture as possible. You will get a lot of conflicting opinions but in this way you will be able to filter them and see which opinions seem most objective and informed.

Choosing a time of year to visit South Africa depends on your interests and budget. Most hotels and game lodges cut their rates dramatically between May and September (our cooler months) so if you are looking for value this is the best time to come. There are also lots of things to see at this time of year: The only problem is the weather. Although we can have lovely sunny days, Cape Town has most of its rain during these months and many of the most popular activities in this area are not very pleasant if it is raining so it is a bit of a gamble

If you want a better idea of what type of weather to expect; here is a link to some statistics:


Just remember the old saying: ‘there are lies, dam lies and statistics’!

If you can afford it, make use of a tour guide. I am biased of course but you really will get more out of your tour this way particularly if you hire a private guide and let them know what your specific interests are. It will give you an insight that just would not be possible if you were travelling on your own and it will allow you to relax and enjoy the magnificent scenery (and wine if you indulge). A good guide with a vehicle that can accommodate up to seven passengers should cost you about $250 per day (more if they are travelling with you) at current exchange rates and I think it is worth every penny. The best way to find a guide is of course from a personal recommendation but if you find a guide on the internet check out their references or testimonials. One word of warning though. If you do want a guide, find out what kind of vehicle you will be touring in. If it is a Quantum ask for a different vehicle! They are not suited to the job as they are cramped and have very small windows so it is hard to see anything.

Things you should see.

Well this of course depends on your interests but this is what I would recommend:

A city sightseeing trip on the open top bus. This is probably the best value tour in Cape Town. It is a hop-on-hop-off service which gives you a good introduction to the city. The tour goes through the city with stops at The Castle of Good Hope, Greenmarket square, quite a few museums, Table Mountain, Camps Bay Beach and the V & A waterfront (more too but these are the highlights).

Table Mountain. The weather in Cape Town is VERY unpredictable. Someone once told me that if you don’t like the weather here just wait 10 minutes! The first chance you get when the mountain is clear, phone the cable station to find out if they are open AND GO! This is something you do not want to miss.

The Cape Peninsula. Make sure you allocate a full day for this and try to do it on a day without rain. The trip will take you right to the tip of the peninsula and normally includes an optional boat trip from Hout Bay to visit an island covered with seals (45minutes), Cape Point which is the tip of the peninsula, the Cape of Good Hope, the Penguin Colony at Boulders Beach and Kistsenbosch Botanical Gardens. This is a very long day but well worth it.

Robben Island. Try to book this trip as early as possible. There have been times when it has been booked for weeks in advance. This is a three and a half hour trip (including the ferry rides) to the island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Once you get to the island, you will be taken on a guided coach tour of the island and learn about its history. Then you will do a tour of the prison itself with a former political prisoner and see the cell in which Nelson Mandela stayed.

Wine Tour. This tour is not just for wine lovers. The areas visited are VERY beautiful and offer a dramatic contrast to the scenery you will see on a Peninsula tour. This region is also steeped in history and for lovers of architecture, will give the chance to see some of the best preserved Cape Dutch buildings in the country. For food lovers, this area has some of the best restaurants in the country and as part of your tour; I would highly recommend having a large, leisurely lunch.

If you are really interested in wine then I would recommend staying a couple of nights in the wine country and touring from there.

A Township tour! Many people who visit Cape Town see only the things that I mentioned above but one of the things that most characterises our country is its contrasts! South Africa is a land of incredible scenic beauty and (for a few) great wealth. Unfortunately, due to our past, it is also a land where many people live in poverty and I believe that visitors should see the whole picture. This tour will give you the chance to interact with the people that constitute the majority in this country. It can be hard but it can also be surprisingly uplifting to see the spirit and humanity of the people that have suffered most from the Apartheid system. It is also one of the few ways in which the money from tourism can filter down to the people that need it the most. Many visitors are reluctant to do this tour as they feel it may be seen as voyeuristic but the people in the townships welcome visitors (sometimes literally with open arms) and realise that people are there because they care. I would advise though that you choose your guide very carefully as it is important for your guide to have an intimate knowledge of the areas and people you visit. Do not do this without such a guide.

Wild Flowers. Between the months of August and October, there are spectacular displays of wild flowers in the area North of Cape Town. It is easy to do a day trip from Cape Town to see this but if you really do have an interest in botany, you can travel a bit further and spend some time exploring. There are some wonderful places to stay in this area. It is also a great area for hiking, photography and to see San (Bushman) rock art.

Whale watching. South Africa is one of the best places in the world to see whales, particularly from the shore. Huge numbers of Southern Right Whales come here during winter to have their babies and mate. The best time to see them is between August and November. They are often seen VERY close to shore and it is quite common to see them on a Peninsula tour but if you really want the best chance to see them you can take a day trip from Cape Town to Hermanus, which is reputed to have the best land based whale watching in the world.

Shark Cage Diving. Very close to Hermanus is the town of Gansbaai. This is probably the best place in the world to see great white sharks. The best time to see these awesome creatures is during our winter. Unfortunately we get a lot of storms at this time of year so you may want to leave a couple of days open for this.

Walk with Baboons. Many people spend thousands of dollars to get close to primates in their natural habitat. In Cape Town you can do it for less than fifty dollars! There is a wonderful organisation called Baboon Matters http://baboonmatters.org.za/index.html that organises these walks and helps to protect the last surviving baboons on the Cape Peninsula.

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2. Re: How long to spend in Cape Town?

Depends when you go a bit.

I went in October, and regretted doing so much travelling (the Garden Route) when I could have seen almost as much close to Cape Town.

If you are then when the spring flowers are fynbos are in flower take time to see them. The Namaqua is the real flowering desert - a bit of a hike from Cape Town - but West Coast National Park is an easy day trip and gives a good flavour of the flowering desert.

Hermanus is a must for whale watching in season - they come incredibly close to shore and it is hard to tear yourself away. We found whales to be closest to shore early in the morning, so it may be best to stay over. Its a nice enough town.

The coast road back from Hermanus is great, and gives you a chance to stop at one of the best places to see native fynbos.

The Cape is a great day trip, and you can also stop at Simons Town to see the penguins (which will walk right up to you on the beach).

The wine towns are also easy day trips, though again you may want a stopover in one of them.

And then do allow some time for Cape Town itself, which has a lot to offer.

With day trips you could easily spent 7 days in the Cape Town area (with maybe overnight trips away) and not be bored. And Cape Town has some great boutique hotels to pamper you.

Sacramento, CA
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3. Re: How long to spend in Cape Town?

Thank you both so much! I arrive June 4th late at night and my safari leaves on the 10th so I hope that is enough time to do as much as possible...I have this horrible fear that I'll be trapped in school once i come back and start grad school so this trip I'd like to see as much as I possibly can!

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4. Re: How long to spend in Cape Town?

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