Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is one of the world's most beautiful cities. Situated near the southern tip of Africa, Cape Town lies between the mountains and the sea.

To the south, Cape Town is dominated by Table Mountain, with sheer cliffs rising up more than 3,000 feet to a virtually flat surface at the top, and a mountain range known as the "Twelve Apostles." To the north, Cape Town looks out over a protected harbor that is home to both commercial shipping and pleasure craft. To the west is the open sea and to the east is the rest of Africa. Along the harbor, in the Victoria & Alfred waterfront area, Cape Town boasts a collection of upscale restaurants, stores, bars and entertainment that ranks with the best the world has to offer. Yet, close at hand, are working shipyards and dry-docks.

To get a view from the top, there is a cable car that takes visitors to the summit of Table Mountain. Although I was in Cape Town in June, during the southern winter when rain and clouds are frequent, I was lucky enough to get one very clear day and I immediately headed to Table Mountain. The views were spectacular as I looked down on the city below and the African coast stretching to the horizon. One unexpected surprise at the top of Table Mountain was the presence of rock hyrax, called "dassies" in South Africa. On a previous trip to Africa I had caught only quick glimpse of these nimble creatures as they scampered away up rocky cliffs. The hyrax on Table Mountain, however, were quite used to people and came over to almost everyone looking for a handout (which they often received despite signs advising visitors not to feed them). Even with these close-up views of the hyrax, I still cannot believe that they are the closest living relatives on the planet to Africa's great elephants!

For a different slice of Cape Town's life, I went to the Sunday flea and crafts market held near Green Point stadium. There was a great variety of jewelry, African masks, woodcarvings, textiles and other crafts on display, as well as more mundane items such as shoes and house wares. I am not much of a shopper, but the market was a great place to people watch and I did manage to find a few gifts.

Other South Africa pages: South Africa: Introduction, Cape Peninsula & Southern Coast, Djuma Game Reserve, Great White Sharks and Townships & Robben Island,