About Cape Town
Mother City of South Africa - Cape Town
Known as the Mother City, Cape Town and the Western Cape remains South Africa's most breathtaking jewel. Here where old Hollandse lietjies (ribald Dutch songs dating back to the 1600s) are still sung by Cape Malay choirs and Xhosa dancers, and indigenous traditions hold visitors spellbound, we proudly embrace transformation and a hard fought for democracy, while joyfully practicing the diverse and endearing age-old cultures that define us.
Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a victualing (supply) station for Dutch ships sailing to Eastern Africa, India, and the Far East. Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival on 6 April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa. Cape Town quickly outgrew its original purpose as the first European outpost at the Castle of Good Hope, becoming the economic and cultural hub of the Cape Colony. Until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the development of Johannesburg, Cape Town was the largest city in South Africa.
Today it is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, reflecting its role as a major destination for immigrants and expatriates to South Africa. As of 2007 the city had an estimated population of 3.5 million. Cape Town's land area of 2,455 square kilometres (948 sq mi) is larger than other South African cities, resulting in a comparatively lower population density of 1,425 inhabitants per square kilometre (3,690 /sq mi).
History of Cape Town
There is no certainty as to when humans first occupied the area prior to the first visits of Europeans in the 15th century. The earliest known remnants in the region were found at Peers cave in Fish Hoek and date to between 15,000 and 12,000 years ago. Little is known of the history of the region's first residents, since there is no written history from the area before it was first mentioned by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1486. Vasco da Gama recorded a sighting of the Cape of Good Hope in 1497. In the late 16th century, Portuguese, French, Danish, Dutch and English ships regularly stopped over in Table Bay en route to the Indies. They traded tobacco, copper and iron with the Khoikhoi in exchange for fresh meat. In 1652, Jan van Riebeeck and other employees of the Dutch East India Company (Dutch: Verenigde Oost-indische Compagnie, VOC) were sent to the Cape to establish a way-station for ships travelling to the Dutch East Indies, and the Fort de Goede Hoop (later replaced by the Castle of Good Hope). The settlement grew slowly during this period, as it was hard to find adequate labour. This labour shortage prompted the authorities to import slaves from Indonesia and Madagascar. Many of these became ancestors of the first Cape Coloured communities.
During the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, the Netherlands was repeatedly occupied by France, and Great Britain moved to take control of Dutch colonies. Britain captured Cape Town in 1795, but the Cape was returned to the Netherlands by treaty in 1803. British forces occupied the Cape again in 1806 following the battle of Bloubergstrand. In the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814, Cape Town was permanently ceded to Britain. It became the capital of the newly formed Cape Colony, whose territory expanded very substantially through the 1800s.
The discovery of diamonds in Griqualand West in 1867, and the Witwatersrand Gold Rush in 1886, prompted a flood of immigrants to South Africa. Conflicts between the Boer republics in the interior and the British colonial government resulted in the Second Boer War of 1899–1902, which Britain won. In 1910, Britain established the Union of South Africa, which unified the Cape Colony with the two defeated Boer Republics and the British colony of Natal. Cape Town became the legislative capital of the Union, and later of the Republic of South Africa.
In the 1948 national elections, the National Party won on a platform of apartheid (racial segregation) under the slogan of "swart gevaar". This led to the Group Areas Act, which classified all areas according to race. Formerly multi-racial suburbs of Cape Town were either purged of unlawful residents or demolished. The most infamous example of this in Cape Town was District Six. After it was declared a whites-only region in 1965, all housing there was demolished and over 60,000 residents were forcibly removed. Many of these residents were relocated to the Cape Flats and Lavender Hill. Under apartheid, the Cape was considered a "Coloured labour preference area", to the exclusion of "Bantus", i.e. blacks.
Cape Town was home to many leaders of the anti-apartheid movement. On Robben Island, a former penitentiary island 10-kilometres from the city, many famous political prisoners were held for years. In one of the most famous moments marking the end of apartheid, Nelson Mandela made his first public speech in decades on 11 February 1990 from the balcony of Cape Town City Hall hours after being released. His speech heralded the beginning of a new era for the country, and the first democratic election was held four years later, on 27 April 1994. Nobel Square in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront features statues of South Africa's four Nobel Peace Prize winners – Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F. W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.
The centre of Cape Town is located at the northern end of the Cape Peninsula. Table Mountain forms a dramatic backdrop to the City Bowl, with its plateau over 1,000 m (3,300 ft) high; it is surrounded by near-vertical cliffs, Devil's Peak and Lion's Head. Sometimes a thin strip of cloud forms over the mountain, and owing to its appearance, it is colloquially known as the "tablecloth". The peninsula consists of a dramatic mountainous spine jutting southwards into the Atlantic Ocean, ending at Cape Point. There are over 70 peaks above 1,000 feet (300 m) (the American definition of a mountain) within Cape Town's official city limits. Many of the suburbs of Cape Town are on the large plain of the Cape Flats, which joins the peninsula to the mainland. The Cape Flats lie on what is known as a rising marine plain, consisting mostly of sandy geology which shows that at one point Table Mountain itself was an island.
The Cape Peninsula has a Subtropical Mediterranean climate (Koppen Csa), with mild, wet winters, and dry and very warm summers. In winter time, which lasts from the beginning of June to end of August, large cold fronts come across from the Atlantic Ocean with heavy precipitation and strong north-westerly winds. The winter months are cool, with an average minimum of 7.0 °C (45 °F) and maximum of 17.5 °C (63 °F). Most of the city's annual rainfall occurs in wintertime, but due to the mountainous topography of the city, rainfall amounts for specific areas can vary dramatically. Newlands, to the south of the city, is the wettest suburb in South Africa. The valleys and coastal plains average 515 millimetres (20.3 in) of rain per annum, while mountain areas can average as much as 1,500 millimetres (59 in) per annum.
Summer, which lasts from November to March, is warm and dry. The Peninsula gets frequent strong winds from the south-east, known locally as the Cape Doctor, because it blows away pollution and cleans the air. The south-easterly wind is caused by a high-pressure system which sits in the South Atlantic to the west of Cape Town, known as the South-Atlantic High. Summer temperatures are mild, with an average maximum of 26.5 °C (80 °F). Cape Town can be uncomfortably hot when the Berg Wind, meaning "mountain wind" blows from the Karoo interior for a couple of weeks in February or early March.
Water temperatures range greatly, between 10 °C (50 °F) on the Atlantic Seaboard, to 22 °C (72 °F) in False Bay. Average annual Ocean temperatures are between 13 °C (55 °F) on the Atlantic Seaboard (similar to Californian waters, such as San Francisco or Big Sur), and 17 °C (63 °F) in False Bay (similar to Northern Mediterranean temperatures, such as Nice or Monte Carlo).
Flora and fauna
Located in a CI Biodiversity hotspot as well as the unique Cape Floristic Region, the city of Cape Town has one of the highest levels of biodiversity of any equivalent area in the world.
It is home to a total of 19 different vegetation types, of which several are completely endemic to the city and occur nowhere else in the world. It is also the only habitat of hundreds of endemic species, and hundreds of others which are severely restricted or threatened. This enormous species diversity is mainly because the city is uniquely located at the convergence point of several different soil types and micro-climates.
An often quoted fact is that there are more indigenous plant species just on Table Mountain than there are in the whole of the British Isles.
Unfortunately, rapid population growth and urban sprawl has covered much of these ecosystems with development. Consequently Cape Town now has over 300 threatened plant species and 13 which are now extinct. In fact, the Cape Peninsula, which lies entirely within the city of Cape Town, has the highest concentration of threatened species of any continental area of equivalent size in the world. Tiny remnants of critically endangered or near extinct plants often survive on road sides, pavements and sports fields. The remaining ecosystems are partially protected through a system of over 30 nature reserves – including the massive Table Mountain National Park.
The City Bowl is a natural amphitheater-shaped area bordered by Table Bay and defined by the mountains of Signal Hill, Lion's Head, Table Mountain and Devil's Peak.
The area includes the central business district of Cape Town, the harbour, the Company's Garden, and the residential suburbs of De Waterkant, Devil's Peak, District Six, Zonnebloem, Gardens, Higgovale, Oranjezicht, Schotsche Kloof, Tamboerskloof, University Estate, Vredehoek, Walmer Estate and Woodstock.
The Atlantic Seaboard has some of the finest beaches in the world
The Atlantic Seaboard includes Bantry Bay, Camps Bay, Clifton, Fresnaye, Green Point, Hout Bay, Llandudno, Mouille Point, Sea Point, and Three Anchor Bay.
The South Peninsula is generally regarded as the area south of Muizenberg on the Indian Ocean and Noordhoek on the Atlantic Ocean, all the way to Cape Point. Until recently quite rural, the population of the area is growing quickly as new coastal developments proliferate and larger plots are subdivided to provide more compact housing. It includes Capri Village, Clovelly, Fish Hoek, Glencairn, Kalk Bay, Kommetjie, Masiphumelele, Muizenberg, Noordhoek, Ocean View, Scarborough, Simon's Town, St James, Sunnydale, and Sun Valley.
The West Coast suburbs of Cape Town include Bloubergstrand, Milnerton, Tableview, West Beach, Atlantis, Melkbosstrand, Big Bay, Sunset Beach, Sunningdale and Parklands.
Cape Town is not only the most popular international tourist destination in South Africa, but Africa as a whole. This is due to its good climate, natural setting, and well-developed infrastructure. The city has several well-known natural features that attract tourists, most notably Table Mountain, which forms a large part of the Table Mountain National Park and is the back end of the City Bowl. Reaching the top of the mountain can be achieved either by hiking up, or by taking the Table Mountain Cableway. Cape Point is recognized as the dramatic headland at the end of the Cape Peninsula. Many tourists also drive along Chapman's Peak Drive, a narrow road that links Noordhoek with Hout Bay, for the views of the Atlantic Ocean and nearby mountains. It is possible to either drive or hike up Signal Hill for closer views of the City Bowl and Table Mountain.
Many tourists also visit Cape Town's beaches, which are popular with local residents. Due to the city's unique geography, it is possible to visit several different beaches in the same day, each with a different setting and atmosphere. Though the Cape's water ranges from cold to mild, the difference between the two sides of the city is dramatic. While the Atlantic Seaboard averages annual water temperatures barely above that of coastal California around 13 °C (55 °F), the False Bay coast is very much warmer, averaging between 16 and 17 °C (61 and 63 °F) annually. This is similar to water temperatures in much of the Northern Mediterranean (for example Nice). In Summer, False bay water averages slightly over 20 °C (68 °F), with 22 °C (72 °F) a common high. Beaches located on the Atlantic Coast tend to have very cold water due to the Benguela current which originates from the Southern Ocean, whilst the water at False Bay beaches may be warmer by up to 10 °C (18 °F) at the same moment due to the influence of the warm Agulhas current, and the surface warming effects of the South Easter wind.
Both coasts are equally popular, although the beaches in affluent Clifton and elsewhere on the Atlantic Coast are better developed with restaurants and cafés, with a particularly vibrant strip of restaurants and bars accessible to the beach at Camps Bay. Boulders Beach near Simon's Town is known for its colony of African penguins. Surfing is popular and the city hosts the Red Bull Big Wave Africa surfing competition every year.
The city has several notable cultural attractions. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, built on top of part of the docks of the Port of Cape Town, is the city's most visited tourist attraction. It is also one of the city's most popular shopping venues, with several hundred shops and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Part of the charm of the V&A, as it is locally known, is that the Port continues to operate and visitors can watch ships enter and leave. The V&A also hosts the Nelson Mandela Gateway, through which ferries depart for Robben Island. It is possible to take a ferry from the V&A to Hout Bay, Simon's Town and the Cape Fur Seal colonies on Seal and Duiker Islands. Several companies offer tours of the Cape Flats, a mostly Coloured township, and Khayelitsha, a mostly black township. An option is to sleep overnight in Cape Town's townships. There are several B&Bs where you can spend a safe and real African night.
Cape Town is noted for its architectural heritage, with the highest density of Cape Dutch style buildings in the world. Cape Dutch style, which combines the architectural traditions of the Netherlands, Germany, France and Indonesia, is most visible in Constantia, the old government buildings in the Central Business District, and along Long Street. The annual Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, also known by its Afrikaans name of Kaapse Klopse, is a large minstrel festival held annually on 2 January or "Tweede Nuwe Jaar"(Afrikaans: Second New Year). Competing teams of minstrels parade in brightly coloured costumes, either carrying colourful umbrellas or playing an array of musical instruments. The Artscape Theatre Centre is the main performing arts venue in Cape Town.
The city also encloses the 36 hectare Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden that contains protected natural forest and fynbos along with a variety of animals and birds. There are over 7000 species in cultivation at Kirstenbosch, including many rare and threatened species of the Cape Floristic Region. In 2004 this Region, including Kirstenbosch, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Cape Town's transport system links it to the rest of South Africa; it serves as the gateway to other destinations within the province. The Cape Winelands and in particular the towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek are popular day trips from the city for sightseeing and wine tasting. Whale watching is popular amongst tourists: Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales are seen off the coast during the breeding season (August to November) and Bryde's Whales and Killer Whale can be seen any time of the year. The nearby town of Hermanus is known for its Whale Festival, but whales can also be seen in False Bay. Heaviside's dolphins are endemic to the area and can be seen from the coast north of Cape Town; Dusky dolphins live along the same coast and can occasionally be seen from the ferry to Robben Island.
Cape Town's most popular sports by participation are cricket, association football, swimming, and rugby union. In rugby union, Cape Town is the home of the Western Province side, who play at Newlands Stadium and compete in the Currie Cup. In addition, Western Province players (along with some from Wellington's Boland Cavaliers) comprise the Stormers in the Southern Hemisphere's Super Rugby competition. Cape Town also regularly hosts the national team, the Springboks, and hosted matches during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, including the opening ceremony and game, as well as the All Blacks versus England semi-final that saw Jonah Lomu run in four tries.
Association football, which is better known as soccer in South Africa, is also popular. Three clubs from Cape Town play in the Premier Soccer League (PSL), South Africa's premier league. These teams are Ajax Cape Town, which formed as a result of the 1999 amalgamation of the Seven Stars and the Cape Town Spurs, Santos and newly-promoted Vasco da Gama. Cape Town was also the location of several of the matches of the FIFA 2010 World Cup including a semi-final, held in South Africa. The Mother City built a new 70,000 seat stadium (Green Point Stadium) in the Green Point area.
In cricket, the Cape Cobras represent Cape Town at the Newlands Cricket Ground. The team is the result of an amalgamation of the Western Province Cricket and Bo-land Cricket teams. They take part in the Supersport and Standard Bank Cup Series. The Newlands Cricket Ground regularly hosts international matches.
Cape Town has Olympic aspirations: in 1996, Cape Town was one of the five candidate cities shortlisted by the IOC to launch official candidatures to host the 2004 Summer Olympics. Although the games ultimately went to Athens, Cape Town came in third place. There has been some speculation that Cape Town is seeking the South African Olympic Committee's nomination to be South Africa's bid city for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.
The city of Cape Town has vast experience in hosting major national and international sports events.
The Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Cycle Tour is the world's largest individually timed cycle race – and the first event outside Europe to be included in the International Cycling Union's Golden Bike Series. It sees over 35 000 cyclists tackling a 109 km route around Cape Town. The Absa Cape Epic is the largest full-service mountain bike stage race in the world.
Some notable events hosted by Cape Town have included the 1995 Rugby World Cup, 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup, and World Championships in various sports such as athletics, fencing, weightlifting, hockey, cycling, canoeing, gymnastics and others.
Cape Town was also a host city to the 2010 FIFA World Cup from 11 June to 11 July 2010, further enhancing its profile as a major events city. It was also one of the host cities of the 2009 Indian Premier League cricket tournament.
Cape Town International Airport serves both domestic and international flights. It is the second-largest airport in South Africa and serves as a major gateway for travellers to the Cape region. Cape Town has direct flights to most cities in South Africa as well as a number of international destinations.
Cape Town International Airport recently opened a brand new central terminal building that was developed to handle an expected increase in air traffic as tourism numbers will increase in the lead-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Other renovations include several large new parking garages, a revamped domestic departure terminal, a new Bus Rapid Transit system station and a new double-decker road system. The airport's cargo facilities are also being expanded and several large empty lots are being developed into office space and hotels.
The Cape Town International Airport was among the winners of the World Travel Awards for being Africa's leading airport.
Cape Town has a long tradition as a port city. The Port of Cape Town, the city's main port, is located in Table Bay directly to the north of the central business district. The port is a hub for ships in the southern Atlantic: it is located along one of the busiest shipping corridors in the world. It is also a busy container port, second in South Africa only to Durban. In 2004, it handled 3,161 ships and 9.2 million tonnes of cargo.
Simon's Town Harbour on the False Bay coast of the Cape Peninsula is the main base of the South African Navy.
The Port of Cape Town (specifically the V&A Waterfront) made headlines worldwide during 2009 when plans to berth the iconic liner QE2 were announced.
Metrorail operates a commuter rail service in Cape Town and the surrounding area. The Metrorail network consists of 96 stations throughout the suburbs and outskirts of Cape Town.
Golden Arrow Bus Services operates scheduled bus services throughout the Cape Town metropolitan area. Several companies run long-distance bus services from Cape Town to the other cities in South Africa.
Integrated Rapid Transit
Cape Town has embarked on Phase 1 of the IRT system with a total investment of close to R5 billion. Phase 1 will include a West Coast Service, Inner City Service and Airport Link. A 2010 Starter service to meet the requirements for the FIFA World Cup will include an Inner City Service, Stadium Shuttle and Airport Service. A total of 43 IRT Volvo buses have been ordered and are expected to be delivered during April and May.