10 Reasons to Love Cape Town

All About Cape Town asked local experts why they love their city. From beautiful beaches and dream surf conditions to foodie finds and art galore, Cape Town’s got it all.

1. ITS BEST-IN-THE-WORLD BEACHES

Cape Town: One of the best places to be a beach bum. Clifton isn’t only the best beach in Cape Town, according to nature and hiking guide book author Fiona McIntosh, it’s among the best in the world. Read more

2. TASTE THE CULTURE

Cape Town has a fascinating, multi-faceted heritage – and food is a great way to start exploring the diverse cultures that make up the city’s character. Sit down to eat with a Cape Malay or Xhosa cook and hear a story. Cape Town cuisine is an unusual mix of umngqusho (a corn and bean stew), pickled fish, melktert (milk tart), ulusu (stewed ox tripe), bobotie (mince curry with a savoury custard) and koeksisters (knotted pastries soaked in syrup). Iain Harris, whose company Coffeebeans Routes runs a cuisine route in Cape Town, chats to us about the link between food and culture. Read more

3. IT’S A FANTASY-LAND FOR FOODIES

Cape Town is often called the culinary capital of South Africa – and there’s an almost endless line up of eateries to keep your taste buds tempted. Take for example, The Foodbarn in Noordhoek Village, which serves a delectable menu of award-winning, French-inspired food. Executive chef, co-founder and author Franck Dangereux has made Cape Town his home and his creations offer us a celebration for your taste buds – so he’s perfectly placed to explain just what makes the flavours of Cape Town so distinctly unique. Watch the video 

4. THE COOL COFFEE SHOPS

Coffee culture in Cape Town is evolving at the speed of light, or should we say, with the energy you get from a triple-shot-fair-trade-sourced espresso. New coffee shops pop up all the time, and Cape Town city centre’s foodie strip Bree Street recently welcomed a new coffee kid to its trendy block. Introducing Folk Coffee Anthropology. Read more 

5. YOU CAN SURF (ALMOST) 365 DAYS A YEAR

With an unbeatable landscape, two oceans and a wind factor from any direction that almost guarantees epic waves, Cape Town is a surfer’s dream destination. Just ask pro big wave rider Matt Bromley. Watch the video

6. ITS OLD AND NEW WINE (AND WINEMAKERS)

Cape Town is kingdom of wine, with plenty of seasoned bards in the wine industry as well as a host of up-and-coming young winemakers. Respected wine judge and certified Cape Wine Master Winnie Bowman tells us that the young ones are well worth seeking out, and recommends three to start with. Read more

7. THE MEN IN GREY SUITS (AKA GREAT WHITES)

Cape Town is one of only three places in the world where you can cage dive with great white sharks. Shark-diving pro Broqc Maxey from Shark Explorers explains why no trip to Cape Town would be complete without coming face to face with these powerful predators… Watch the video

8. IT HAS SERIOUS JAZZ SWAGGER

Cape Town’s got swagger – jazz swagger, that is. With a freestyle jazz jam on almost every night of the week, a lowdown is needed. Enter saxophonist and session musician Claire de Cock on what’s hot. Read more

And for the ultimate Cape Town jazz experience, there’s the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (1-2 April 2016 ). As one of the largest music festivals on the continent, this event is a drawcard for jazz lovers from across the globe. Find out why…

9. THE SUPER-SMART STREET ART

Stories must be told. Cape Town creatives use a range of mediums to tell those from the city dwellers – none more vibrantly than local street artists. Take a tour with Martin Lund, one of the artists livening up Cape Town’s wonder walls… Watch the video

10. IT HAS PLENTY NATURAL HIGHS

Cape Town’s natural beauty is awesome … and edible! With our abundance of edible plants and two coastlines dishing up plenty of sea-salted treats, this is the perfect place to forage for food, says Roushanna Grey, founder of Veld and Sea, an organisation that runs courses to teach people how to forage for foods from the natural environment. Read more

3 rules for surfing the Mother City

Like everywhere else in the world, surfers in Cape Town generally stick to the unwritten rules of surfing. Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or just starting out, it’s essential to try to abide by these rules. Here are the top three:

1. The most important rule is that the surfer closest to the breaking part of the wave has the right of way, and the worst thing you can do is catch the same wave as them. This is called a drop-in and is considered a cardinal sin in the rules of surfing. Not only does it ruin the other surfer’s ride, but it can be dangerous and cause collisions. You are going to come off second best if your head meets the pointy end of someone else’s surfboard and vice versa.

The best way to avoid dropping in is to always check that there is not someone up and riding on your inside – closest to the breaking part of the wave – before you paddle for a wave. Regardless of how careful you are, you may still unknowingly drop in on someone. If this happens, apologise to the other surfer immediately.

2. The second most important rule of surfing is to wait your turn. If you have just caught a wave, don’t paddle straight back to the inside – closest to the breaking part of the wave – if there are other surfers who have been waiting their turn.  This is called ‘hustling’ or ‘snaking’, and nobody likes a hustler or a snake. Rather get in line again and wait your turn.

3. The third most important rule of surfing is that it’s your responsibility to get out of the way if another surfer is riding towards you. Don’t paddle in the direction they are riding – this makes it far more likely that you will collide. Instead, paddle for the breaking part of the wave or whitewash (foam) behind them, no matter how scary this may seem. It will be a lot less scary than their surfboard cleaving you a new side parting. And don’t let go of your board – this can obstruct the other surfer or smash out someone’s teeth if they are behind you, or worse.

If you absolutely have to let go or ‘bail’, make sure there’s nobody behind you first, push your board away and dive under the breaking wave.

Best time of year for surfing in Cape Town

The best waves for surfing are created by an ideal combination of swell and offshore wind. Luckily this happens year-round in Cape Town, thanks to its unique geography.

Cape Town gets year-round swell from the South Atlantic storm system known as the Roaring Forties, which is one of the most active storm tracks on earth. The summer months, from November to March, generally offer smaller swells that are best at many of the beach breaks around Cape Town. From autumn to spring (April to September), regular cold fronts generate large, consistent surf with the biggest waves usually arriving from mid to late winter (June to August) when these cold fronts slam into Cape Town. This is the best time of the year for surfing the reefs and big wave spots on the Atlantic coast, as well as False Bay.

Cape Town enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers, but don’t be fooled – it gets cold and very wet for a few months of the year. The wind is always a factor, no matter what time of the year, and will determine where you surf most days. An offshore wind blows from the land to the sea and is best for surfing because it makes the wave face smooth and creates ‘clean’ conditions. An onshore wind blows from sea to land and does the opposite, churning up the waves and making conditions choppy.

Summertime winds typically blow from the south to southeast, which is offshore along much of the Atlantic coast. Beware of the Cape Doctor during this time, a nickname given to the southeast wind when it reaches gale force strength and blows for days at a time. Fortunately there are some protected spots that can offer good waves even when the Cape Doctor is out in full force.

Autumn usually sees the lightest winds or ‘glassy’ conditions, when there is no wind at all. This is when the reef breaks on the Atlantic coast start to pump. Wintertime sees the prevailing wind switch between northwest and southwest, which is offshore along most of False Bay. There are still, however, many days with light or favourable wind conditions on the Atlantic coast when many of the big wave spots come alive.

It’s hard to choose the best time of the year for surfing in Cape Town, but April and May are your best bet for good, consistent swell, great weather and favourable wind conditions at a variety of spots on both coastlines.

Monster swells: big wave surfing in Cape Town

Cape Town is the epicentre of big wave surfing not only in South Africa, but the entire African continent. Despite this, it’s still a relatively small scene with a tight-knit crew. Lifelong local and professional big wave surfer Frank Solomon gives you the rundown.

Cape Town is a very special and rare place in the world, not only for big wave surfing but surfing in general. We have so many options that you can pretty much surf 365 days a year if you know where to look and are willing to drive a little. There aren’t many cities in the world that offer that. In terms of big waves you have two world-class big wave spots, Sunset and Dungeons, in the same bay. There are also lots of lesser-known spots that can produce big waves just around the corner, which makes the Cape a treasure chest for surfing.

“In terms of surfboards, I get my boards from Dutchie Surf Designs. Dutchie has been making me some really good big wave boards over the years. I know (former Big Wave World Champ) Twiggy is also making some really nice boards. There are definitely a few good shapers to choose from here in the Cape.

If you’re going to tackle waves like Dungeons or Sunset, you probably want a surfboard in the 9’6” to 10’ range. There is so much water moving around out at those spots that you need some serious board under you just to be in the right position to catch a wave. Saying that, I would not advise anyone to just order a big board and paddle out there. It’s extremely dangerous and if you’re not highly experienced, it is life threatening. It is life threatening for everyone, actually, even for the best big wave surfers in the world.

Just watching can be a rush, though. I’d recommend going out to Dungeons on one of the seal charter boats or even walking up the Sentinel to check out all the action.

Cape Town can also throw up some solid beach break barrels, up to eight foot or so. When it’s this size, I would recommend a board between 6’6” and 7’2” for these waves depending on your skill level. I personally ride a quad-fin setup in big barrelling waves like this. It makes the board a lot more manoeuvrable on the wave and inside the barrel.

The local surfers in Cape Town are generally pretty cool, especially the big wave crew. If people are humble and respectful when they come and know what they are doing, they are welcomed with open arms.

Surfing

A word-class surf destination is dependent on one key ingredient: location. South African surfers know this and are blessed with a majestic coastline that is defined by its series of points and bays and technically logarithmic spiral beaches; and Cape Town is no exception. The Cape Peninsula (with Cape Town at its northern end) offers a 360 degree and 365 days a year ride.

Cape Town’s balmy climate isn’t too shabby either; during summer, it’s virtually identical to that of Southern California. Incidentally, there is an aspect of Cape Town’s all-embracing surf culture that is reminiscent of the Californian surf boom during the 60’s, with free-spirited locals and foreigners alike uniting in their common love for the ocean. Spearheaded by films like The Endless Summer, Cape Town soon caught on and Muizenberg fast became South Africa’s surfing Mecca during the surfing counter-cultural movement of the 60s.

Nowadays, combined with the need to escape the stress of modern living (and the surrounding real estate boom with beachfront properties skyrocketing in value), Muizenberg is in the midst of another surfing culture boom. Muizenberg’s warm embrace has been known to make tourists cancel return flights, choosing a life of endless, pealing waves and a rhythmic, thriving beach culture.

Nowadays, combined with the need to escape the stress of modern living (and the surrounding real estate boom with beachfront properties skyrocketing in value), Muizenberg is in the midst of another surfing culture boom. Muizenberg’s warm embrace has been known to make tourists cancel return flights, choosing a life of endless, pealing waves and a rhythmic, thriving beach culture.

You may even be lured to Cape Town’s more secret and revered surf spots – from sensational barrelling right-handers at Llandudno to more undisclosed and hidden locations scattered around Cape Point. And for the bravest of souls there is Dungeons, home to the biggest waves in Africa, and home to the Red Bull Big Wave Africa. During winter, the 15-40 foot swell at Dungeons breaks over a shallow reef on the sea-side of Hout Bay and is accessible only by watercraft. So, whatever your preference, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself a slice of surfing perfection.

Surfing and sharks: what you need to know

You will no doubt have heard of sharks around Cape Town or seen them on TV shows like National Geographic and Shark Week. Yes, it’s true – Cape Town does have a large population of sharks — especially the Great White Shark — but the risk of an attack is relatively small and needs to be considered in context.

Between 1960 and 2014 there were 30 shark attacks in Cape Town, five of which were on surfers, two of them fatal.

Encounters and sightings have, however, increased significantly over the years so it’s wise to stick to a few basic rules and use your common sense while surfing around the Mother City.

Lots of birds circling the water and diving usually means there’s lots of fish, and most likely sharks. In this case its best to go surf somewhere else. Another giveaway sign is a lot of activity in the water – splashing and fish jumping.

Surfing in very murky water or at dusk and dawn increases the risk of a shark encounter. And don’t surf alone if you can help it, and if you encounter a shark, try to remain as calm as possible and stick in a group as you make your way to shore while alerting other surfers.

Recent research by the Shark Spotter programme (see below) has showed shark activity increases significantly inshore during summer in False Bay, usually due to sharks following large schools of fish.

Cape Town has a globally unique programme to minimise shark incidents called the Shark Spotters. The Shark Spotters are armed with binoculars and trained to look out for sharks from a high vantage point, like the hill overlooking Muizenberg. If they see a shark getting too close to the surfing area, they radio a Shark Spotter on the beach who sounds the alarm for all surfers and swimmers to get out of the water. Once the shark has moved on, the beach is re-opened. All this information is recorded and fed through a live twitter feed, so the public can find out what the status is along these beaches at any time.

The programme is not fool proof – it’s only effective at popular beaches with a high vantage point and is limited by visibility. Despite this, there has only been one shark attack at Muizenberg beach between 2004 – when the programme was first implemented – and 2014. Shark Spotters have an excellent website with more information on the programme and sharks around Cape Town: www.sharkspotters.org.za

Video: Surfing in Cape Town

With an unbeatable landscape, two oceans and a wind factor from any direction that almost guarantees epic waves, Cape Town is a surfer’s dream destination. Just ask pro big wave rider Matt Bromley…

With an unbeatable landscape, two oceans and a wind factor from any direction that almost guarantees epic waves, Cape Town is a surfer’s dream destination. Just ask pro big wave rider Matt Bromley…

Muizenberg

The Mother City has grown a habit of creating the most incredible suburbs which have been allowed to grow within themselves and nurture their own style and nature, whilst still keeping with the authentic Capetonian vibe. Muizenberg is one of the larger suburbs of awesomeness where you can get everything you can conjure up in your imagination and so much more.

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Long Beach

Long beach is precisely what the name suggests… a very, very long beach. However, Long beach is not only a pristinely white sanded beach of heartfelt serenity but also one of the most epic sites to dive along the coast of the Cape Peninsula. The entire area is beautifully scattered with an intense amount of interesting and beautiful fish that are not common to the area at all, as well as an amazing marine life of colourful vibrancy, there are also several small wrecks that along with the winter visibility which is the best is an awesome adventure to experience.

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