Cape Town: The Jewel of Africa Shines
by Todd Lawson
In 1580, when Sir Francis Drake captained the Golden Hind into the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, he instantly declared it "the fairest Cape in all the world." Since then, millions of tourists, travelers and adventure enthusiasts have discovered why.
Cape Town is widely recognized as one of the world's most beautiful cities. A diverse ethnic population of three million calls the city home, which is surrounded by spectacular natural features. The 'Mother City' has become Africa's hotbed of outdoor adventure, overflowing with opportunities for the adventurous soul.
The centrepiece of the city is the great Table Mountain. The famous mountain provides a natural escape from the cosmopolitan chaos of the city at its base. Its massive breadth and steepness rise from two glorious oceans, forming a landmark that has been a welcoming beacon for weary seafarers for more than five centuries.
Characterized by a thick, rolling white blanket of cloud that curls gently over the edges of its sheer cliffs, it is one of the most famous sights in all of Africa. Home to extraordinary climbing routes, loads of hiking and mountain bike trails, and one of the most diverse collections of flora on the planet, the mountain has obtained true legendary status.
Cape Town is often underestimated and overlooked on itineraries of globe trotting backpackers, who often spend longer than originally intended after being lured into the city's many exciting elements. Thanks to a well-organized system of backpacker accommodation and cheap transportation, day trips and adventures are easy to experience.
Explore mountains, parks and forests one day and on the very next, find yourself diving with Great White sharks or sunbathing on some of the world's finest beaches. After toasting the sunset atop Lion's Head, head back into the city and experience the vibrant African nightlife throughout the downtown core. Cycle to the scenically spectacular Cape Point Nature Reserve to see antelope, tortoises and ostriches where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans collide, or ride to Boulder's Beach to see Africa's only colony of penguins.
The dark side to Cape Town's impressive resume of natural beauty comes as a result of South Africa's troubled past. Although apartheid is now officially extinct, high unemployment and crime rates coupled with economic instability and racial tensions continue to deter many tourists and foreign investors.
More than two-thirds of the population live in 'townships.' Although not advised to visit the townships as an outside tourist, a trip to one of these 'shantytowns' will give you an appreciation of how South Africa's primarily black population lives.
The future of the city, however, looks bright. With so much incredible variety and opportunity for adventure, Cape Town has established itself as one of the leading destinations in Africa, and all the world. Deep in culture, rich in history and full of life, Cape Town continues to be a shining jewel of the Dark Continent.