South Africa is one of the continent’s most cosmopolitan countries, and Cape Town a big city with plenty of energy and buzz. But for many visitors, Cape Town is more than just buildings and sidewalks; it’s a gorgeous natural oasis cohabiting with the urban flair mankind has created. Whether it’s hiking up stunning Table Mountain or strolling through the botanical gardens, Cape Town has never lost sight of its foundation: the one that surrounds it every single day.
Located right behind the city of Cape Town, Table Mountain National Park is one of the city’s most significant landmarks and visitor destinations. The park is named after Table Mountain, a soaring peak with a flat, table-like top popular with hiking enthusiasts. Divers will also find fantastic areas for diving and exploring within the park; be sure to check park information services for designated areas.
Home to over 64,000 Cape fur seals, Seal Island is a 5 acre island resting place for these large mammals. Here colonies of seals gather, the smaller females growing to as large as 260 lbs and males a whopping 620 lbs. Because of the huge number of seals condensed in one place, many times the seals’ natural enemy, the Great White Shark, will also gather in the water, waiting for an unsuspecting seal to become its next meal.
A 20,000 square mile natural sanctuary the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is considered to be one of the most diverse and beautiful gardens in the world. Almost half of South Africa’s 22,000 plant species can be found on the grounds, including an elevated fragrance garden, sculpture garden, outdoor concert area, and a Braille trail. In 2013, to celebrate the Gardens’ 100th anniversary, a steel and wood timber bridge was installed along the tree canopy for visitors to walk through and take in the stunning sights.
One of the cutest sights in all of Cape Town is hands down the Boulders Beach penguin colony. Towering boulders line the beach as speckled, waddling African penguins go about their daily lives, well versed in ignoring cameras and cooing humans. There are areas where direct interaction is prohibited, but further down the beach the occasional penguin will waddle past these borders. However, reign in the temptation to pet the penguins; while they are adorable, their beaks are still sharp and can cause damage, no matter how well-meaning the admirer.
Another popular area of Table Mountain National Park, the Cape of Good Hope is the perfect place for any aspiring biologist or even the casual animal-lover. The beaches are usually quiet and relatively empty here, making it the perfect opportunity to try to spot some of the 250 different bird species that call the Cape home. For the ocean lover in you, watch the ocean for your chance to see humpback whales, killer whales, dusky dolphins, Bryde’s whales, and the southern right whale surfacing in the False Bay, usually between June and November.
Visit Cape Town and the spectacular peninsula. Then journey to Ivory Tree Lodge in the Pilanesberg. This African safari is an opportunity to have close encounters with a wide variety of big game, including the Big 5, cheetahs, and wild dogs.
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