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V & A Waterfront

Cape Town was settled by the Dutch in 1652. The Brits took it by force in 1806. But there is still a lot of Dutch influence in the city, including the language. English is the official language but Afrikaans is a secondary language and is spoken by most of the people. It is an original language created in South Africa. It based on Dutch but also influenced by other nationalities including Indonesian and Malasian. Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa with 5.7 million people, and the largest in land area. It is the legislative capital of South Africa where the National parliament and many government offices are located. The city is famous for its harbor as well as such well known landmarks as Table Mountain and Cape Point. It is hailed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world by Forbes and is Africa's most popular tourist destinations. The V & A Waterfront has been renovated and designed based on the success of the wharfs in San Francisco and Sydney. There are a myriad of restaurants, shops and street performers everywhere.

Cape Town Harbor and Table Mt.We were supposed to be into port by noon but the fog was so thick that they closed the harbor and the pilot boats could not come out to us. So we sat for a while until it lifted enough to get in. Table Mountain looms over Cape Town and we could still see the fog flowing over the mountain. The locals call it "the Tablecloth".

When we were finally able to get into port, we had to hurry off the ship to catch our tour to Robben Island. This is a 30 minute ferry ride across from Cape Town. For over four centuries, Robben Island has been a place of punishment for exiles and prisoners, as well as a place of confinement for lepers, lunatics and the sick. It is now a World Heritage Site due to the prison that was used to hold political rebels during the apartheid era. This is where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Former prisonerOur guide was a former prisoner who gave a detailed description of conditions in the prison. There were 18 men to a room (women were sent to a different prison) and they slept on the concrete floor with no pillows and a single blanket. The kind and amount of food was determined by your race, but none of it was good. Many of the men were forced to do backbreaking work in the limestone quarry where it was hot and very bright, causing sun blindness in many. Nelson Mandela's cellWe saw Mandela's cell and then took a bus tour of the island. In addition to learning about the prison situation, we learned a lot about life under apartheid and what is happening today in South Africa now that it has been abolished. There are 3.5M people living in Cape Town. 70% are Black, 20% Colored (this is anyone of mixed race and a very acceptable term to use), and 10% are white. Since the end of Apartheid in 1994, there are considerable initiatives to improve the conditions of the Blacks. One of the laws is that any business must hire according to the above ratio. Even if there are no qualified Blacks for a certain job, it must be filled by a Black person. Consequently, we saw a lot of seemingly excess people doing jobs like waiting tables, porters, etc. in order to achieve the correct ratios. And there are Blacks with management titles but they are often figureheads with a White person doing double duty. And the Colored have been ignored and not been given the extra initiatives like housing, etc. But everyone we talked to were very optimistic about the direction that things are moving. But they say it will take generations to fix all the problems caused by Apartheid. The key is to get the education systems in place to provide qualified people from all the previously undereducated races. Bottom line, there's been progress but there's still a ways to go.

This was our last night aboard the Nautica. The next day we were off the ship by 8am and met by our driver who took us to the Sanbona Reserve for our 3 day Safari. To learn about our Safari, go to Safari Newsletter. To see photos from the Safari, go to Safari Photo Gallery.

Following our stay at Sanbona, we were picked up for the drive back to Cape Town. Fountains HotelWe checked into the Fountains Hotel in the center of the downtown area. We were given a penthouse suite, complete with kitchen, two bedrooms and baths and a huge balcony overlooking Table Mountain. Unfortunately, it was so windy that the room was too noisy to be able to sleep. Between the howling wind and the rattling doors and vents, there was no way we could get a good night's sleep. So we asked for a different room and got a much smaller, but quiet one.

The following day we took an all day tour of the Cape Peninsula with Africa Eagles Tours.Carsons at Clifton Beach The tour went along the coast south of the city. The towns on the coast have beautiful white sand beaches and houses/apartments built into the cliffs. This is where the rich and famous have homes.Carsons at Cape of Good HopeWe visited the Cape of Good Hope in Table Mountain National Park. This is the most south westerly point of Africa. It is also the junction of two of the earth's most contrasting water masses - the cold Benguela current on the West Coast and the warm Agulhas current on the East Coast. Many ships have been wrecked trying to sail around this point. Today it was so windy that two of the people with us were actually blown over while we were taking pictures. We learned that Cape Town is often windy in the summer. The locals call it the "Cape Doctor" because it blows all the pollution out to sea.

African PenguinsWe continued on to Cape Point for lunch. Then drove up the other side of the peninsula, stopping at a beach where African Penguins nest. These are an endangered species also called Jackass Penguins due to the braying sound they make. They are similar to the Magellanic Penguins we saw in Antarctica.

Protea PlantOur last stop was the Kistenboch National Botanical Gardens. This is a beautiful government owned park established in 1913, the first indiginous botanical garden in the world. With 528 hectares, it contains more than 4500 species of plants and trees, many rare or endangered, as well as beautiful sculptures throughout. It is part of the Cape Floristic Region which has been designated a World Heritage Site - the only Botanical Garden to have this designation. It would take several days to see the whole thing and we only had 1-1/2 hours! But we made the most of it and Fred has many pictures to prove it.

For our last day in Cape Town we decided to take the Hop-on, Hop-off bus tour. This takes about 2 hours if you stay on but you can get off at any of the 15 stops and get back on again. We were given ear buds that plugged into a receptacle next to each seat. You can select any of the languages to hear the narration. We stayed on through the whole tour of the downtown area but there were several museums along the way that would have been interesting to visit.Table Mountain Aerial Cableway However, this was the first non-windy day since we had come to Cape Town and the cable car up Table Mountain was finally open so we decided to make that our first stop. Table Mountain towers over Cape Town and can be seen from everywhere in the city. It is often covered in clouds due to the winds coming off the ocean carrying the moisture over the top of the mountain. The locals call it the "Tablecloth" because of the way it rolls down the side. Today it was clear. The tram to the top carries about 65 people at a time and the floor rotates as it climbs so that everyone gets to see the views. Carsons on top of Table MountainAt the top, there are many paths to spectacular views in all directions. Table Mountain National Park is part of the Cape Floristic Region and has over 1400 different species of plants.

Walking Paths on Table Mountain
Back on the bus, we headed up the coast and on to the harbor area. After lunch and a little shopping, we got back on the bus to return to the hotel to wait for our transportation to the airport for the long flight home (12 hours to London, then 12 more hours to Los Angeles!)

Cape Town is a beautiful city and we would love to come back and spend even more time here. Of all the ports on our cruise, this was by far our favorite.

To view more photos from Cape Town, please go to Cape Town Photo Gallery. To read about our safari in Sanbona Game Reserve, go to Safari Newsletter.




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