Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

December 16, 2017

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Cape Town's stunning surroundings provide ample opportunities for hiking, surfing, kloofing and other outdoor activities.

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Cape Town

South Africa's second city pleases both daredevils and bon vivants

Just like the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which converge nearby, wilderness and culture mix in this stunning city, acclaimed by many as one of the world's most beautiful. Risk-takers can thrill themselves silly and the more sedate can enjoy exquisite views over a nice glass of merlot from a Stellenbosch estate.

Table Mountain, the massive backdrop to the seaside city, is the obvious place to start. Everyone can enjoy the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens (Rhodes Drive, Newlands; sanbi.org/gardens/kirstenbosch; adults $4, kids $2.50) with the many olfactory nuances to be discovered during the fragrant plant walk. Even the timid will want to catch the Table Mountain Aerial Tramway (departs from Tafelberg Road; tablemountain.net; adults $18 adults, kids $9) to the top for the views.

The vigorous can get to know the flora and fauna of the mountain more intimately on a challenging at-least-three-hour hike up the back via, but make sufficient preparations — more people have died on Table Mountain than on Everest. The really brave can harness up, rappel over the edge and drop down 100 vertical metres with Abseil Africa (abseilafrica.co.za, $65).

Forget dolphins! For a real adrenaline rush, try swimming with sharks. Marine Dynamics Shark Tours (sharkwatchsa.com; adults $140, kids 12 and under $85) makes sure the protective underwater human cage keeps you terrified but alive. Those who want to stick to dry land can attend feeding time at 3 PM at the Predator Tank at Two Oceans Aquarium (Dock Road, V&A Waterfront; aquarium.co.za; adults $12, kids $9). Save 10 percent by booking online.

Surfers can catch huge waves at Muizenberg beach. If you’ve never surfed, Gary's Surf School (garysurf.com, $50 per two-hour lesson) will teach you how. For a calmer water adventure, escape the crowds for sunbathing and a swim at the quiet Bakoven Beach near the centre of town. To bring it all together, try kloofing, an Afrikaans word for adventuring in gorges, on land and in water. Scramble, swim, jump, plunge, abseil and/or sandboard your way on a kloofing expedition with Revel Adventures (75 Loop Street; www.revel.co.za; from $50).

History and gastronomy

After all the excitement, there are many old-world attractions downtown where you can catch your breath. The city is compact and best seen on foot. Take your time at the flower market on Adderly Street, and then stroll over to the nearby Greenmarket Square, which is replete with cafés and artisanal objects.

The Victoria & Albert Waterfront is famously touristy, but don't avoid it or you'll miss an opportunity for delicious sushi. Lunch at Sevruga Sushi (Shop 4, Quay 5; [sevruga.com]) features a platter of 26 pieces for under $15, and has other affordable specials as well.

Relax in the shade of a 350-year-old pear tree at the Company's Garden on Queen Victoria Street, where the Cape's first Dutch settlers planted their veggies. Feeling peckish again? Don't miss High Tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel (76 Orange Street; mountnelson.co.za, $17, daily from 2:30 to 5:30 PM), affectionately known as "the Pink Palace" or "the Nellie."

Another option for the afternoon is a boat trip out to Robben Island (robben-island.org.za; adults $23, kids 17 and under $12) declared a World Heritage Site in 1997. Former inmates now work as tour guides on the island where Nelson Mandela was held. Reserve at least three weeks ahead.

If the sea air and the thought of 20 years of prison food makes you hungry, let your appetite tackle a platter of pan-fried springbok, ostrich and kudu fillets at Marco's African Place (15 Rose Street; marcosafricanplace.co.za). Diners are encouraged to stand on the tables and sway to the live Congolese music.

Winding through wine country

Cape Town's surroundings are lush with beaches, vineyards, safaris and on-land whale watching opportunities. Pick a direction and you're likely to be delighted. Chapman's Peak Drive (chapmanspeakdrive.co.za; toll $3). or "the Chappie," 25 kilometres south of the city may seem unrecognizably familiar — you've probably seen it in dozens of car commercials. The nine kilometres and 114 curves provide dramatic views of Hout Bay Harbour. You'll want to stop the car for plenty of picnics and photo ops in the country villages on either side of the road.

If you have time, continue south and stop for the night in Scarborough, a tiny backwater village walking distance from world-class beaches. The small, yet beautifully detailed Zensa Lodge (534 Egret Street, Scarborough; zensalodge.com; doubles from $100) offers pretty all-white rooms and a minimum of fussy luxuries. If a splurge suits you, head back up the Chappie to the town of Cape Hope, where the indulgent Tintswalo Atlantic (Chapman's Peak Drive, Hout Bay; tintswalo.com; doubles from $780) is ecologically designed to be completely invisible from the road above. Water's edge balconies on stilts put you in the ocean's lap.

A return trip to the city could take you through the Groot Constantia, Cape Town's oldest and closest wine region, where you can stop in for tastings at the Groot Constantia Estate (Groot Constantia Road; grootconstantia.co.za; cellar tour and wine tasting $4), a 17th-century manor house and wine museum. Even non-wine lovers will appreciate the elegance of the place and the cozy atmosphere at Jonkershuis (V&A Waterfront, Cape Town; jonkershuisconstantia.co.za; reservations recommended), a restaurant within the thick walls of the homestead.

For more information, visit capetown.travel.

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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