It’s a clear day at Camps Bay, the air is crisp, the leaves of the palm trees are waving. I bury my toes in the cold sand, only the patches struck by sun rays are slightly warmer. It’s a sunny day, but the beach is almost empty. The icy waves of the Atlantic Ocean are too rough to swim in, but the sound of them crashing into the rocks is calming. The waves have created rock formations down the ends of the bay, their hidden pools are filled with crystal-clear water and save havens on crowded days during the summer.
I turn around and see the peaks of the 12 Apostels soaring behind the beach. Within a few minutes the stone wall disappeared: thick white clouds are hiding their beauty. The other end of the mother city impresses with a similar view: iconic table mountain varnished underneath its tablecloth. As if by magic, the clouds drop over the edges of the mountain and start flowing down its walls like a smooth waterfall.
It’s not only the view from the city that is unique. If there’s any city that has to be seen from above, it’s Cape Town. The hike up Table Mountain can take between 2 and 8 hours, depending on the route; the cable car doesn’t count. Once up there, it’s easy to get lost while wandering from one side to another, stunned by the beauty of either the city or the untouched nature framed by the ocean. The mountain itself shows off with its own flora and fauna: blooming flowers and grasses blossom in between the big rocks. Surrounded by buildings on its foot, Lion’s Head watches over Cape Town, inviting both visitors and locals for a hike to its top. The soft silhouette of Signal Hill forms the most Northern peak of the city and can be reached by car for picnics and sundowners. There’s something magic in Cape Town sunsets, in the way the sun drops like fireball into the ocean, tinting the whole city in warm yellow and orange shades.
The view makes it easy to forget to constantly be vigilant; the city isn’t always as peaceful as its view suggests. Broken car windows, stolen valuables and robberies are not uncommon as soon as the sun starts setting above Signal Hill. Not even lively Long Street with its bars and cafés is safe at night; it’s hard to say whether the crowd of people going out makes it better or worse, but after dusk, there’s no wandering around alone through the streets. Within 3 months in Cape Town I ignored my intuition only once; it ended with a knife held against my throat and robbery. It was 3 in the afternoon.
The V&A Waterfront is probably the safest area in Cape Town. Its ferris wheel, the little red clock tower, the whitewashed sailing ships departing to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, and the luxurious villas convey a European flair. Strolling around the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront with the screeching seagulls fighting over fish on the boats entering South Africa’s oldest harbour almost feels like being in a different country. Muizenberg beach, a hotspot for surfers down South, has a similar vibe: its colourful wooden houses and surf shops by the street attract families, tourists and beach lovers all year round. Further down South the peninsula, a colony of penguins has settled between the rocks of Boulder’s Beach. A footpath allows watching them paddling through the ice blue waves and stumbling through the white sand from up close. In the hinterland of Boulder’s Beach ostriches and baboons can be seen on the way to the Cape of Good Hope, once believed to be the southernmost tip of Africa and the meeting point of the Indian and the Atlantic ocean. The cliffs are steep and rocky from the power of the clashing waves; the wind beats in all directions all year round. No wonder this rough edge of the country was first named ‘the Cape of Storms’ by Portuguese explorers. It’s easy to believe in being at a special point of the continent when standing on the cliffs of the Cape; there’s something fascinating in the wild waves and even though they only belong to one ocean, the idea behind it makes it magical.