I’ve recently had to face the fact that there are still people in this city of over 3 million inhabitants who don’t realise that this is a top tourist destination. We are no longer a city of apartheid or Nelson Mandela’s prison, or the bottom of Africa, we are primarily a major tourist destination. Tourism is our main industry. In 2012 the number of visitors to South Africa grew by more than double the global average. Very few tourists come to this country without making Cape Town a part of their trip – we are a ‘must see’ kinda place.
This makes us both special and a bit crowded in peak season. It means if you don’t like crowds or queuing for a restaurant table or parking far from your destination, you’d better get out of town for that time. Do what the Parisians do in August: rent a country house. Or just stay here and absorb it. What’s important is that all Capetonians should be very aware of just how important tourism is for the city. Instead of hating the crowds, be grateful and be proud!
And act like the ambassador that you are. Every citizen has the ability to cause a visitor to go home with a good memory. Make space, be helpful, be nice, and smile smile smile. Tourists come here for scenery and thrills but they also come to see us, the people – that’s what it means to live here.
As we prepare for the season and the arrivals I’m excited because it’s my business but I want to urge everyone to visit the popular attractions, NOW, before the crowds get here, so that you can also appreciate what’s on your very doorstep.
- Go to Cape Point with the family and a picnic basket, spend the day exploring all the side roads and beaches and ship wrecks and zebras and antelope.
- Take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain. It’s free for locals over 18 on your birthday (bring your ID) and check the Cableway website regularly for summer specials – last summer the sunset special was half-price. A beautiful bonus, by any standard!
- Visit a nature reserve, look closely at the fynbos, take hundreds of photographs. It’s the world’s richest yet smallest plant kingdom and it’s all ours.
- Go to the Company’s Garden, look at the oldest planted tree, visit the SA National Museum, lie on the lawn and watch people having their wedding photos taken.
- Go see the penguins at Boulders Beach, swim with them, buy an ice cream from the little hole-in-the-wall kiosk (it’s the best of the lot).
- Drive over Chapman’s Peak, have a wine tasting and picnic at Cape Point Vineyards in Noodhoek.
- Walk the boardwalk at Kommetjie and see how shiny and clean Slangkop lighthouse is after its recent clean-up.
- Walk the entire length of the promenade from Saunders Rocks to Mouille Point, and back again – cycling is now permitted, too. Look at the pavillion to see the changes to the pool.
- Drive to Blouberg, or take the new MyCity bus, and walk that promenade, take hundreds of photos of Table Mountain and then some more at Blue Peter over sundowners.
- Have a picnic at a wine estate, or at the Green Point Urban Park, or Kirstenbosch on a Sunday before attending an open-air concert.
Just do it! Take photos, hundreds of them, and tell me in the comments box below what you intend doing this summer to experience your own city.