Cape Town

The Mother City

Amazing Cape Town

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Dreaming of living abroad for a few months? Come experience with First Step Abroad, one of the most amazing cities in the world while volunteering, doing an internship or learning English in Cape Town, South Africa!

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Cape Town

About Cape Town / Why Cape Town

Cape Town is without doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the world and offers an abundant and exciting experience abroad. Situated on the south-western tip of Africa and capital of the Western Cape Province, Cape Town presents a very distinctive location. A perfect climate with wonderful beaches, majestic mountains, tranquil winelands, trendy restaurants, bars and clubs in a relaxed atmosphere gives the "Mother City" a unique flair. Cape Town is South Africa’s third biggest city with a population of around 4.5 million after Johannesburg and Durban. While Johannesburg is known as South Africa’s bustling business capital, Cape Town is often referred to as one of the most relaxed and laid back cities in South Africa.

Known for its cultural diversity, Cape Town is a melting pot of African cultures with European influences and diverse ethnic groups. Although being one of the most beautiful cities in the world, the gap between rich and poor is still present. In the context of post-Apartheid, the hope for equal opportunities and improvement of social services has remained unfulfilled for the majority of South Africans. However, South Africa has become a dynamic nation that endeavours to live peacefully together and to continue Nelson Mandela’s vision of reconciliation.

Perfectly located on the slopes of Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean, the city offers a variety of historical sites, tourist attractions, sports and adventures. Whether you want to spend a day at the beach, do a trip to the Cape of Good Hope or the winelands, hike up Table Mountain, visit the historic prison island "Robben Island" or shop at the famous V & A Waterfront – the variety of leisure activities is incredibly diverse and unique!

Those looking for an adventure will not be disappointed with the offerings in and around Cape Town. Options range from shark cage diving, skydiving, surfing, kite-boarding, abseiling, bungee jumping to whale watching and other fantastic adventures. Those who would like see the Big 5 (lion, leopard, buffalo, rhino and elephant) without having to travel to Kruger National Park, can book a safari at one of the game reserves in close proximity to the "Mother City".

Whether you visit South Africa in summer or winter – Cape Town promises an exciting and adventurous time with many unforgettable experiences.

General Information about South Africa

The Republic of South Africa lies at the southernmost tip of the African continent and covers an area of about 1,219,912 km². South Africa's neighboring countries are Namibia and Botswana in the northwest, Zimbabwe and Mozambique in the northeast, Swaziland in the east and the Kingdom of Lesotho - completely surrounded by South Africa - in the southeast. South Africa's coastline stretches along the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Indian Ocean in south and southeast. The country is divided in nine provinces, namely the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Northern Cape, Free State, North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo.

South Africa has three capitals, Pretoria is the administrative capital, Bloemfontein is the judicial capital and Cape Town is the legislative capital. The three largest cities are Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town. According to official statistics, South Africa's population was estimated at about 58.7 million in 2019. The government still divides South Africa's population is in the four categories blacks, whites, coloureds and Indians/Asians. The black population forms the majority with about 79.6%. The white population is with 9.1 percent in a clear minority. This equally applies to Coloureds with a population of 8.9% and 2,5% Indian/Asians. The black population is divided into the ethnic groups of the Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho, Venda, Tswana, Tsonga, Swazi and Ndebele. The Khoikhoi and San also form a small population group in South Africa.

The country's diversity is, among other things, manifested in the fact that South Africa has eleven official languages. Even though the government promotes all 11 languages, English is the primary language of business and commerce.

Climate

Cape Town, situated at the southern tip of Africa, is known for its Mediterranean climate, with warm dry summers and mild, wet winters. During summer months (November to March) the average temperature reaches 25-30 degrees. During winter months (May – September) there are cold fronts from the Atlantic with some heavy rain. However, temperatures rarely drop below 7 degrees Celsius. With an average temperature of around 18 degrees Celsius during the day, winter in Cape Town is relatively mild.

The water temperature along the Atlantic Ocean is quite low throughout the year due to the cold sea current. In summer the average water temperature is around 15 degrees Celsius. Warmer water temperatures (~ 20 degree Celsius) can be found on the False Bay side, where the Indian Ocean's influence prevails. Muizenberg is one of the most popular surfer beaches on the False Bay side.

Safety in Cape Town

The media often only reports on high crime rates and negative aspects in South Africa. Crime in South Africa is a big problem, which is a result of severe poverty and high unemployment rates. However, the fact that crime is predominantly concentrated in underprivileged areas is hardly ever mentioned in the media reports.

Generally, Cape Town is a very friendly and safe city. However, like in any other big city in the world, you should be cautious and stick to some general rules. As a result of high poverty, petty crime such as theft, burglary, etc. is a common problem. Thus, you should not have large amounts of cash on you and be discreet with expensive cameras, mobile phones, jewellery, etc. Furthermore, you should avoid walking around alone at isolated places and in the evening only go out in a group or take a taxi. If you rent a car, do not leave valuables in the car and keep the doors looked. Be cautious at ATMs and don't let strangers help you, but rather go into the bank if there is a problem. It's important to be rather vigilant and careful than anxious to avoid negative situations and enjoy your time in Cape Town.

Highlights in and around Cape Town

Cape Town, also known as the Mother City, is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, where work and leisure activities can be perfectly combined. Where else in the world do you find a perfect climate with wonderful beaches, majestic mountains, tranquil winelands, trendy restaurants, bars and clubs in a relaxed atmosphere on your doorstep? Here is some information of must-do activities in Cape Town and surrounding areas.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain with its flat top is one of the most noticeable and popular attractions of Cape Town. Known as the city’s landmark, the mountain is part of the Table Mountain National Park, which stretches from Signal Hill to Cape Point. The top of the mountain offers fantastic views of the city centre, Lions Head, the former prison island “Robben Island” and the southern suburbs. Table Mountain is also well known for its diversity of indigenous plants. The mountain, consisting of sandstone on the upper part, is home to more than 2000 species of plants. Many of these are endemic, including the Cape fynbos, the Silver Tree and different kinds of proteas.

For the nature and sports lovers, a hike to the top of Table Mountain is an absolute must. Different hiking trails lead you to the plateau, approx. 1,080 meters above sea level. Platteklip Gorge is a very popular trail with the most direct route to the top. Be careful and well prepared when climbing the mountain – some routes are relatively undemanding and some are extremely difficult. It is advisable to do the hike in a group and not alone. Besides talking your camera, make sure you bring comfortable walking/hiking shoes, enough water, a warm top, sun lotion and a mobile phone (in case of an emergency).

Alternatively, you can also reach the top of Table Mountain by taking the cable car. As the cable car rotates slowly when going up and down, you can enjoy great 360° views during the trip.

Lions Head

Lions Head, located between Table Mountain and Signal Hill, equally shapes the cityscape as Table Mountain and also forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. The walk to the top offers great views and is one of the "must do" activities in Cape Town. The top can be reached via a spiral path in about 1 - 1.5 hours. The path winds around Lions Head until you get to the steeper part. The last stretch you have to climb rocks to make your way to the top. An absolute highlight is to walk up Lions Head when there is a full moon. On these days groups of people often gather at the bottom and walk up just before sunset, enjoy the great views from the top and equipped with torches make their way back down. Again, we advise that you do the hike in a group, with comfortable walking/hiking shoes, a sufficient amount of water and a mobile phone.

Picnic & Sunset at Signal Hill

If you like watching sunsets, you should not miss a picnic on Signal Hill, the last stretch of the Table Mountain National Park. Dividing the City Bowl and the Atlantic Seaboard, Signal Hill has become one of the most popular places in town to watch the sunset, especially on warm summer nights and with Table Mountain lit up in the backdrop. Signal Hill is not only known for watching the spectacular sunsets, but it has also preserved an old tradition - the noon gun at Lion Battery, situated a little lower from the viewpoint, is fired every day expect on Sundays. You can easily get to Signal Hill by car or taxi via Kloof Nek Road from the city, turning right at the top of the hill into Signal Hill Drive.

Waterfront

The famous V&A Waterfront, located at the harbour and set against the backdrop of the magnificent Atlantic Ocean and Table Mountain, is one of the most visited places in Cape Town. The V&A Waterfront offers a great variety of attractions and things to do. You can visit the Two Oceans Aquarium, enjoy delicious cuisines from a great variety of restaurants, bars or cafés, go on a harbor tour or a sunset cruise, book a scenic helicopter flight, take a trip to the former prison island "Robben Island" or simply take a stroll through the Craft Market or watch a movie at the cinema. The V&A Waterfront is also a popular shopping domicile with over 450 exciting shops and boutiques.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

Cape Town and its surrounding areas offer a variety of leisure activities and nature lovers won’t be disappointed with the outdoor opportunities to select from. The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is known for its great biodiversity and is acclaimed as one of the most beautiful botanic gardens in the world. Situated at the east side of Table Mountain, the botanical garden features a variety of the Cape Flora and plants from various regions of South Africa. One of the highlights of the Botanical Gardens are the open air summer concerts taking place every Sunday afternoon from November to April. Equipped with picnic baskets and blankets, groups of people gather at Kirstenbosch to enjoy the sunset concerts with its breathtaking setting.

Cape Point - Cape of Good Hope

The legendary Cape of Good Hope is the southwestern tip of Africa and is also part of the Table Mountain National Park. When the Portuguese explorer and navigator Bartolomeu Diás reached the southwestern tip at the end of the 15th century, he described the coast as the "Cape of Storms". Today, Cape Point is not only known worldwide for its history, but also for its extraordinarily rich, diverse and unique flora and fauna. A trip to Cape Point is without doubt a "must do" during your stay in Cape Town. The trip to Cape Point is already very impressive and you should definitely keep your camera handy. Part of the journey leads you along the coast and the scenic Chapman's Peak Drive, a famous coastal road with breathtaking views. Cape Point offers visitors several hiking trails, one of which leads you to the lighthouse. The Cape Peninsula and Cape Point is home to many baboon families, which often pose an amusement for visitors. But be careful, before you know they run of with your food, bag, camera, etc. Own experiences have proven that baboons are talented enough to open unlocked car doors. It is therefore advisable to keep your doors closed and looked and to keep an eye on your personal belongings.

Penguin colony at Boulders Beach

Situated on the False Bay coast and on the outskirts of Simon's Town you will find the famous jackass penguin colony at Boulders Beach. Boulders Beach is home to about 3000 penguins that can be observed in immediate vicinity. A short stopover or even a picnic at the penguins’ beach is a worthwhile excursion and can be perfectly combined with a trip to Cape Point. Make sure you don’t forget your camera.

Camps Bay, Clifton and Llandudno

Nestled between the Twelve Apostles, Lions Head and the Atlantic Ocean, Camps Bay is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Cape Town. Well-known for its white sandy beaches and a vibrant beachfront, Camps Bay offers first class restaurants, bars and shops. Only a few minutes’ drive from the city centre, this exclusive suburb offers the perfect location for a day at the beach, a sundowner in one of the trendy sidewalk cafés or an excellent dinner at a restaurant on the beachfront.

Other hotspots for beach lovers are Clifton and Llandudno. Clifton, situated between Camps Bay and Sea Point, is another up-market suburb and famous for it 4 beaches, of which 4th beach is the biggest and most popular one. Alternatively, the small seaside suburb Llandudno is the place to go when there is no wind. A scenic drives from Camps Bay brings you to one of Cape Town’s most beautiful and secluded beaches.

Winelands

South Africa is known for its excellent wines and beautiful wine regions with breathtaking sceneries. Stellenbosch is one of the most popular towns in the winelands and the second oldest town (after Cape Town) in South Africa. There are numerous excellent wine farms where you can enjoy wine tastings, but also the historical centre of Stellenbosch with its preserved Cape-Dutch and Victorian architecture has a lot to offer and should not be missed. Somerset West and Paarl are close by to Stellenbosch and are also home to well-known wine estates. Franschhoek, known for great wine and foods, is about 15 minutes from Stellenbosch and about a 45 minute drive from Cape Town. Nestled between magnificent mountains, Franschhoek is often referred to as South Africa’s Gourmet town which can be traced back to the Huguenot settlers, who brought with them their wine and food culture.

When talking about the winelands, one should not forget the wine estates in the Constantia Valley. Situated in a great location and with beautiful mountain scenery, the Valley boasts famous wineries with award-winning wines.

Shark Cage Diving

One of the most spectacular and exciting sensations outside of Cape Town is to dive with the great white shark. Shark cage diving is mainly offered in the Gansbaai region, about 120 km from Cape Town and offers a great opportunity to watch the sharks roaming the water from close proximity. A diving certificate is generally not needed as the cages are not left too deep into the water and non-divers can snorkel. To observe the sharks you don’t necessarily need to get into the cage – you can also observe the sharks perfectly from the boat. To ensure that the predators are not violated and disturbed, you should carefully choose a licensed operator for shark cage diving. We will gladly assist you when choosing or booking a recognised tour operator.

Surfing and Kiteboarding

South Africa is also popular among surfers and kiteboarders. Cape Town offers ideal surfing and kiteboarding conditions for beginners as well as for professionals. While the West Coast (such as Tableview and Blouberg) is popular for kiteboarders due to the wind, the False Bay area, especially Muizenberg, is known for its more consistent waves which makes it an ideal surf spot for beginners. If you are interested in learning to surf or kiteboard, we will gladly recommend or book lessons for you.

  • Team Susanne

    We have successfully placed and supported over hundreds of volunteers, interns and language course students over the last ten years.
    Seeing them succeed in gaining international experiences and adapting to a new cultural environment is most rewarding.
    It is my passion to share my own volunteer experience with our programme participants and to help them gain intercultural experience.

  • Team Oliver

    Cape Town’s diversity for me is priceless – enjoy Cape Town’s beautiful nature, great food, sports, culture and its open-hearted people. It is a place full of energy that makes you feel at home!

  • Team Theressa

    Friendly faces, open-minded people, beautiful surroundings, fantastic weather, great food and good vibes. If you can find so much positives over a city in less than five seconds that’s Cape Town, my home.

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