Kid-friendly Cape Town
The Cape Peninsula with its glorious beaches extends 75km south from Cape Town. (Chris Payle/LPI)
It is hard to think of another city in Africa that has quite as much to delight children as South Africa’s Cape Town.
Firstly, there is that strangely flat-topped mountain in the middle of the city that is never out of sight. It forms part of the remarkable Table Mountain National Park, with mountain walks and trails, forests, gardens and a revolving cable car that whisks you to the top for spectacular 360-degree views.
Secondly, there is the Cape Peninsula to explore, all within easy travelling distance by car, bicycle or tour bus. The peninsula extends 75km south from the city into the Atlantic Ocean, and you will find glorious beaches some with wild, windswept sands like Noordhoek on the west coast, and some with great surfing, particularly in Muizenberg in False Bay in the south and Hout Bay on the west coast. There are also small, rocky coves like St James in the south, ideally protected for young swimmers.
Then there are animals – an enormous array of fascinating creatures from ostriches to bonteboks (a type of antelope) to rare tortoises. And Capetonians themselves create a kaleidoscope of culture and history; visit a township to explore Xhosa heritage, wander the Malay Bo-Kaap area of the city, find out about the San people at the !Khwa ttu cultural centre just north of Cape Town or take a short boat trip to Robben Island for a slice of Nelson Mandela’s life.
Creatures great and small
There are plenty of seals sunning themselves at Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront , but inside the waterfront’s Two Oceans Aquarium you can meet 88 other denizens of the deep, such as ragged-tooth sharks. Get up scarily close and personal at an 11m by 4m acrylic window and watch the sharks being fed each afternoon at 3 pm. There are also penguins, a frog exhibit, a kelp forest and a children’s centre featuring puppet shows and art activities with a fishy theme.
In the wild, southern right whales can be spotted around the Cape Peninsula, but it is well worth taking a day trip to the town of Hermanus in Walker Bay, just more than an hour’s drive southeast from Cape Town, to see them up close. The town has an annual whale festival in September and you will find whale logos on just about everything.
Local resident Eric Davalala has a unique job: he is the world’s only whale crier, and wanders around town blowing his kelp horn whenever he spots whales in the bay. There is an easy cliff-top path for viewing, and you are sure to see whales between August and November. They are a delight to watch, too. Davalala explained that they control their body temperature by sticking their tails out of the water, poke their heads up (also known as “spy-hopping”) to see what is going on. The whales also breach by launching their upper bodies and blow a V-shaped spray of water as they breathe.
Boulders Beach in the southern Cape Peninsula is home to around 3,000 jackass (African) penguins. You can view them from a wooden deck among the milkwood trees and on the small boulder-strewn beaches. In summer, it is fun to swim with them; they may not smell too good, but their curious antics make this a great stop on a peninsula tour.
At the southernmost point of the Cape Peninsula, the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is home to Chacma baboons, ponderous, large antelopes called elands, ostriches, rare tortoises, bonteboks and zebras. While the zebras are usually elusive, bonteboks have a “target-practice” circle on their behinds, making them easier to spot. There are other smaller antelopes, too, such as bouncy springboks. Add to this the reasonable Two Oceans restaurant, superb springtime flora, a funicular railway to an old lighthouse and wild beaches complete with shipwrecks, and there is plenty to keep children entertained for a whole day.
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