Review of the Westin Cape Town, South Africa

The Westin Cape Town is a solid hotel that is centrally located in gorgeous Cape Town so that you can easily walk or drive to places like the City Centre or V&A Waterfront in 10 minutes or less. It offers some seriously spacious rooms and a very fulfilling and well-rounded breakfast so you can get your day started right. In addition to that, it offers panoramic views of the surrounding mountains that you can catch at breakfast or as you enjoy the pool and gym on the top floor. I give this hotel a solid 5 stars and here’s why. 

Check-in

As soon as you arrive under the large entryway, your baggage will be taken care of for you and you’ll be escorted to the check-in desk, where there’s a separate line for gold and platinum members.

The Westin Cape Town
The Lobby.

The lobby is nice and open and I’m not sure if it was just for security purposes or what, but there were many staff/security members standing around at the different corners of the lobby at all times. They were all friendly so it’s not like their presence was an issue but I just wasn’t used to seeing so many secret service look-a-likes posted up in a hotel lobby.

Oh and watch out for the benches pictured below… if you dare to sit on one, make sure you take your seat in the middle — I definitely almost flipped one over. :/

The Westin Cape Town
Lobby entryway.

Just down the elevators, there’s a pretty large gift shop that also sells a number of snacks. I bought a few packs of “local candy” and tried some biltong but I’m sorry to say it was not very good. Not sure if it was just the brand or what, but I’d stick to the other snacks in the gift shop. 

The Westin Cape Town
The gift shop.

Each floor has sliding glass doors separating the hallways from the elevator lobbies. You’ll need to swipe your room key each time to get through.

Westin Cape Town
Elevator lobby.

This was really the only complaint I had with the hotel. Our key card did not read very well on the card reader, so sometimes it would take 6 to 7 swipes just to access the hallway and it was a bit of a PIA. The cards worked fine on our hotel room doors, though. 

Westin Cape Town
The card readers aren’t always very nice.

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The room

Our Deluxe room (which we were upgraded to) had a pretty basic and modern design but it was extremely spacious and it honestly felt like a suite because we had so much room. The rooms come with glass panel floor to ceiling windows that essentially form an entire wall so brilliant natural light keeps the rooms nice and bright. However, if you’re on the side facing the sun, you may want to keep your blackout curtains closed because the sun can quickly heat up your room even with the AC cranked up.

The Westin Cape Town
Bright and simple hotel room design.

In the cabinets, you’ll find a safe, coffee maker, glassware, ice buckets, and some other little random items. There’s also a fully loaded mini-fridge with treats and drinks but not much room for your own storage.

The Westin Cape Town
Mini-fridge comes stocked but not with a lot of room.

The king size bed was ultra-comfy. You can get a sense of the size of a room by seeing how small the king size bed looks in relation to the room.

The Westin Cape Town
Spacious room with huge windows.

Again, the room’s design is pretty simple but nicely done.

The Westin Cape Town
The Westin Cape Town king room.

I enjoyed lounging on the curvy red chaise lounge chair, which is a great spot to relax and charge your phone/device since the outlets are right beside it.

The Westin Cape Town
Very comfy chaise lounge chair.

Because the room is so spacious, the tv is very far away. Since we pretty much never watch tv this wasn’t much of an issue but if you like to sit close to the screen, you’re going to have to pull up a chair or just get used to being so far away.

The Westin Cape Town
A lot of room between you and the tv screen.

Everyday we received two complimentary water bottles.

The Westin Cape Town
Complimentary water bottles were delivered every day.
The Westin Cape Town

Unfortunately, I didn’t get the great view I wanted of Table Mountain and instead got a somewhat restricted view due to the huge convention center located beneath us. While this was a slight bummer, the view we had of Cape Town and surrounding mountains at breakfast each morning more than made up for it.

Along with a spacious room, came a big walk-in closet. No matter how much luggage you bring with you, I guarantee you will not be able to fill up this closet!

The Westin Cape Town
Huge closet.

The bathroom is pretty big as well. It comes with two sinks, a  bath tub, and privacy glass doors for the toilet and shower.

The Westin Cape Town
Bathroom.

I think one of my favorite features of the room was the heated tiles in the bathroom. Just flick the switch below and the tiles heat to a very comfortable warmness level that’s an added comfort in the morning.

The Westin Cape Town
One of the best features of the room.

Some parts of the bathroom came decorated with some African art pieces, adding a nice cultural touch to the feel of the room. 

The Westin Cape Town
Toilet.
The Westin Cape Town
Bathtub.

And the shower is pretty huge, easily fitting two people. 

The Westin Cape Town
Large shower.
The Westin Cape Town
Double shower head.

Breakfast

Complimentary breakfasts — even at luxury hotels — can sometimes be a bit hit or miss. I’ve had breakfasts from Holiday Inns that have outdone breakfasts at InterContinental hotels — true story. But at the Westin Cape Town, the breakfast was legit and definitely one of the highlights of this hotel stay.

Each morning, we enjoyed a well-rounded breakfast that was tasty and plentiful and got us ready to start our day. If you’re like me and prefer to load up on calories in the morning before setting out for a long day, this breakfast is absolutely perfect.

We preferred to arrive at the lounge at 6am, right when it opened and we were seated at the corner table, where we watched the sunrise each morning and the city slowly come to life. By the second day at the hotel, the staff knew us by name and led us to “our table” each following morning. 

Westin Cape Town
Breakfast area at the Westin Cape Town.
The Westin Cape Town

The breakfast is like a buffet. You can create your own buffet plate from the options that are set out on the counters and then you can also choose a hot dish like eggs or crepes from the menu as well.

There’s something for everyone at this breakfast, If you have a sweet tooth early in the morning and need a little sugar to get you jump started there’s plenty of that there.

The Westin Cape Town
Plenty of sugary goodness for the morning time.

If you’re like Brad and can enjoy sushi for breakfast or other seafood dishes you’ll find them there as well.

The Westin Cape Town
Seafood and sushi for breakfast (no for me).
Westin Cape Town
Sushi.

Cold-cuts and cheeses are also an option.

The Westin Cape Town
Cold-cuts for breakfast.

And there’s plenty of fresh-fruit. They also had yogurts, granola, cereals, and other basic breakfast foods you’d expect to find.

The Westin Cape Town
I personally loved the mixed-fruit bowl.

And the muffins, rolls, and croissants were great as well.

The Westin Cape Town
Amazing muffins (make sure to try the blueberry ones!)

I’m not much of a coffee drinker at all but their cappuccino was on-point and extremely tasty.

The Westin Cape Town
Delicious cappuccino.

You can also choose from an array of fruit juices, such as guava juice or apple juice and even strawberry juice.

The Westin Cape Town
Fresh juices for breakfast.

For my hot dish, I went with the crepes, which came loaded with banana, Nutella, and I think some kind of butterscotch or peanut butter (I can’t seem to remember). They were very sweet but I enjoyed them.

The Westin Cape Town
Crepes.

The eggs and bacon were delicious as well.

The Westin Cape Town
Eggs and bacon at the Westin Cape Town.

And here’s the view we were able to dine to each morning. From the left you see Table Mountain, in the middle Lion’s Head, and to the right, Signal Hill. It was a sight to see each morning, especially as the sun lit up the cliffs and hill sides. Definitely worth becoming an early riser.

The Westin Cape Town
Morning view at breakfast.

From 5pm to 7pm, the lounge opens up for happy hour, where complimentary hors d’oeuvres and drinks are served in the same place where breakfast is served. Half of the lounge also opens up as the restaurant so if you want to eat a full meal you can still do that.

The Westin Cape Town
Hors d’oeuvres and champagne.

The hors d’oeuvres were fresh and tasty, especially these cucumber slices.

The Westin Cape Town
Fresh cucumber slices.
Westin Cape Town
More hors d’oeuvres.

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Service

All around the service at this hotel is outstanding. The staff does a great job of deciphering your travel purpose (business or pleasure) and I feel treats you accordingly (in a good way). For example, I could tell they let the business travelers be a little more to themselves and for us they were a bit more chatty. I’m always worried when I book a business-oriented hotel if it’s going to dampen the experience when I’m traveling for pleasure but that was definitely not the case. Out of every hotel I’ve stayed at in recent memory, the service here had to be among the best.

Gym and Pools

The gym is found on the top floor in a long room that runs along the wall of windows. There’s plenty of equipment in the gym so that you should be able to get a real work out.

The Westin Cape Town
A great gym with a great view.
The Westin Cape Town
Free weights.

The hotel has two pools. One is a “splash pool,” located outside on the second floor. It’s a bit small but it had a few lounge chairs out by it so if you wanted to catch some sun, I guess it wouldn’t be a bad spot to do that at.

The Westin Cape Town
The outdoor splash pool.

The main pool is located on the top floor through the entrance for the spa. It’s a small pool but has a beautiful view looking out the windows. There seemed to always be at least one person enjoying the pool during our stay so I had to get this photo before the sun even rose.

The Westin Cape Town
The pool on the top floor.

Right beside it is a hot tub in the corner.

The Westin Cape Town
Hot tub with a corner view.

I didn’t try out the spa services but they did look tempting. Below is one of the spa rooms or at least a waiting area for them.

Westin Cape Town
Spa entry.

I did sneak a peak at the sauna. Someone was in there when I took this pic so I had to be a little covert, so you can only see a part of the bench inside. 

Westin Cape Town
The sauna.

I checked out the steam room as well. 

Westin Cape Town
Just remember to keep your clothes on if you try these out. ūüėČ

Location

Overall, I loved the location for a few reasons. It’s only a 10-12 minute walk to the the City Centre where you can check out Greenmarket Square. It’s a 5-minute drive or 15 to 20-minute walk to the V&A Waterfront and even getting to Table Mountain is pretty quick and easy in car. While there’s not as many restaurants surrounding the hotel as you’d find in City Centre or the V&A Waterfront, everything is still reasonably accessible from the hotel. 

The Westin Cape Town
Sunrise over City Centre.

Also, in case you’re wondering, I never felt unsafe walking around during the day time but beware of beggars around Greenmarket Square who might harass you. They get particularly bad around closing so try to avoid that time and conceal your camera if possible.  

One thing to consider, there’s only like 5 hotels in Cape Town from the major award programs so if you’re planning on booking with points your options are very limited. For 10,000 SPG points a night, I thought the value we got out of this hotel was superb, especially considering the free valet parking and amazing breakfasts and lounge access. If you’re headed to Cape Town and want to book a hotel with points, then I highly recommend the Westin Cape Town.

Westin Cape Town, South Africa FAQ

How many points are needed for a free stay at Westin Cape Town, South Africa?

Prices may vary based on the type of room and season but you can find standard room redemptions for as low as 35,000 points.

What restaurants are at Westin Cape Town, South Africa?

You can find the following restaurants:

Louis B’s Bar and Lounge
Thirty7 Showkitchen
Raleigh’s Bar
Westin Club

How far away is Westin Cape Town, South Africa from Cape Town International Airport?

The hotel is approximately 16 minutes from Cape Town International Airport by car.

How much does an Uber cost from Cape Town International Airport to Westin Cape Town, South Africa?

You can find Uber rates from Cape Town International Airport to Westin Cape Town, South Africa for as low as $13.

What time is the pool open?

The pool is open from 6 AM to 10 PM.

What time is the gym open?

The gym is open from 6 AM to 10 PM.

What is the phone number for Westin Cape Town, South Africa?

The phone number for Westin Cape Town, South Africa is +27214129999.

8 Things You Must Do in Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa is a special place and high on the list for many travelers. It’s got a little bit of everything to offer, including stunning natural landscapes, beaches, adventure, history, and plenty of culture. On my recent visit to Cape Town, 8 things stood out to me that I think everyone should at least consider doing while they are there.

1. Table Mountain

No visit to Cape Town would be complete without a visit to Table Mountain. Recently named one of the new 7 wonders of the world, this imposing mountain standing over 3,550 feet tall is probably the most iconic landmark in South Africa and its cliffs create an imposing, yet breathtaking backdrop to the city.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Table Mountain — Cape Town, South Africa.

You can visit Table Mountain either by cableway or via long hike.¬†The hiking route is known for being one of the most dangerous hikes (some have even died attempting it) and so you probably only want to attempt that if you actually know what you’re doing. The cableway on the other hand is built for the less intrepid and within a minute or two, you’re zipped up to the top to enjoy the view. Read about my experience on the cableway here.¬†

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Table Mountain — Cape Town, South Africa.

The views from atop Table Mountain are, as you would hope for, spectacular. You can see the entire city of Cape Town sprawling beneath you and you get sweeping views of the surrounding peaks and ocean. I recommend trying to time your visit with the sunset for some stunning photographs. Clouds blow over the top of Table Mountain, which also help add drama to your photographs but be prepared for it to be a bit chilly up there, since those winds don’t let up.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Finishing up a sunset photo shoot at Table Mountain.

2. Cape of Good Hope

The Cape of Good Hope is a rocky promontory only about an hour and 15 minute drive from Cape Town and marks the south-western most point in Africa. The first European, Portuguese explorer¬†Bartolomeu Dias, reached the Cape on March 12,1488, and named it the “Cape of Storms” but the more aspirational title of the “Cape of Good Hope” eventually caught on. Ever since then it’s served as a significant navigational landmark for sailors, as it marks the east-turning points for ships setting out for Europe.

Cape Town
Cape of Good Hope

The drive to the Cape of Good Hope from Cape Town is extremely scenic. On your way there you’ll likely spot some wildlife, such as ostriches, turtles, and maybe even some baboons (keep your distance from the baboons). I recommend you take Chapman Peak’s drive on your way there or back to soak in one of the most scenic stretches of highway in the world.

Cape Town
Scenery on the way to the Cape of Good Hope.

Once you’re at the edge of the African continent, there’s some beautiful waters and rocky seas to explore and you might encounter more wildlife like the African oystercatcher. You might also notice the wind, since this area is known for its stormy seas. The Cape is situated where the warm Mozambique-Agulhas current from the¬†Indian Ocean¬†converges with the much cooler Benguela current which flow from Antarctica. It’s also near where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic, although that’s hotly debated.

Cape Town
Scenery near the Cape of Good Hope.

3. Boulders Beach

This destination often goes hand in hand with the Cape of Good Hope since you can visit it on your way from Cape Town. Boulder’s Beach was one of the highlights of our trip to South Africa. If you’re not aware, this beach is home to thousands of “jack-ass” penguins who sought refuge from the nearby great-white infested waters near Dyer Island. Read here about my experience visiting Boulders Beach.

Boulders Beach Penguins South AfricaPenguins headed right toward us.

Some of these little penguins are highly curious and not very shy so they’ll waddle right up to you to see what you’re about (just don’t feed them or touch them). They’ll go in and out of the water, alternating between darting around like little torpedos in search of food to just floating around in the cool waters. In addition to just being flat-out adorable, these penguins¬†provide endless entertainment as they mingle with one another and hop about the rocks.

Boulders Beach Penguins

They state that during September and October their numbers are limited since they are mostly out fishing in the sea. However, we visited in the middle of September and we were greeted by plenty of penguins (though it wasn’t like some of the photos I’ve seen with hundreds of them hanging out on the beach).

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Boulders Beach Penguins in South Africa.

The best time of day to see the penguins is apparently early in the morning or in the late afternoon. Our morning visit just after opening (8 am) was perfect as we didn’t run into any other visitors and the penguins seemed to be out and about in good numbers.

Boulders Beach Penguins
Brad with penguins on Boulders Beach.

4. Cage diving with great whites in Gansbaai

Have you ever considered getting up close and personal to a great white shark? If so, Cape Town is the perfect place to make this happen because South Africa is thought to be home to the largest population of great white sharks in the world.

Gansbaai South Africa Great White Shark Cage DiveGreat white shark with the open jaws! My favorite shot I took.

After a short boat ride out, you’ll drop into a steel cage where you’ll bob in the cool murky waters as you await for sharks to appear. You never know what you’ll come across. Some sharks are big and powerful. Some are small and quick.

Gansbaai South Africa Great White Shark Cage DiveInside the shark cage, waiting for great whites to arrive.

You can choose to go out from Cape Town or depart from Gansbaai, which is about 2 hours away. Gansbaai is my recommendation since it seems like you stand a better shot of actually seeing the sharks and they take you to or near Shark Alley, which is where Discovery Channel films for its infamous Shark Week.

If the sharks come out, which they usually do, prepare for one of the most exhilarating experiences. As you can tell from the clip below, we came only inches away from one great white as it almost mistook our GoPro for an appetizer.

giphy-1
Very close encounter with a great white!

5. Green Market Square

Green Market Square is a great place to find cheap souvenirs. They’ve got a bit of everything. Woodworkings, art work, bowls, clothes, jewelry, table pieces, and plenty of other items. You can haggle the prices if you want, but many of the prices were very cheap to me so I didn’t feel the need to bargain them down.

Cape Town

One warning: you will likely run into people begging for money. Some will tug on your heart strings. Some will do the opposite. Some of them can get very aggressive and will not hesitate to follow you for blocks and blocks. So try to look less touristy/wealthy and avoid taking out cameras or otherwise giving the unmistakable impression that you’re a tourist. Also, avoid arriving near closing time as that it apparently when it gets worse and the area actually becomes unsafe at night.

My strategy is to have a small amount of cash/change to give to these people. If it gets really bad, you can find a local merchant and tell them that you’ll buy some items from them to keep them away and they often are willing to help.

Cape Town

If you want to avoid this possible situation, you can also stick to the V&A Waterfront for your souvenir needs. It’s a major tourist area in Cape Town, so it will likely be more expensive but it’s also more patrolled and we didn’t get hassled by people in the street. If you’re really into markets, check out the V&A Waterfront on market day, held on Saturdays. There’s also a lot of shopping and eating to be had at the V&A Waterfront.

6. Helicopter ride over Cape Town

While this may not be in everyone’s budget, I highly recommend you trying to get on board a helicopter while in Cape Town. Cape Town is one of the most stunning places in the world, in terms of natural beauty, but it’s hard to appreciate the magnitude of that beauty from the ground.

Cape Town South Africa Helicopter Ride
Cape Town as seen from a helicopter.

Once you get up in the air, it’s a different story. You get a bird’s eye view for Table Mountain and all of the surrounding peaks, such as Lion’s Head. You’ll also see the dozen of other peaks and hills that tower nearby and stretch into the ocean.

Cape Town South Africa Helicopter Ride
Cape Town, South Africa helicopter ride.

My one suggestion with helicopter rides is to always request doors off. This is a much more exhilarating way to experience the scenery and you’ll get much better photographs and video by not having to contend with a window. You can read more about our helicopter experience here.¬†

Cape Town South Africa Helicopter Ride

7. Bo-Kaap

Located on the slopes of Singal Hill, the¬†Bo-Kaap¬†is an area of¬†Cape Town¬†once known as the¬†Malay Quarter. That name stems from large influence of Malaysian, African, Indian and Sri Lankan descendants on the area, who were originally brought over as slaves by Dutch imperialists in the 16th¬†and 17th¬†centuries. Today it’s home to a large Muslim community but is perhaps best known for its colorful buildings and cobblestone streets.

Cape Town
Colorful buildings of the Bo-Kaap.

It’a a cool place to wander through and take photographs and may tourists go on walking tours to learn more about the architecture and history of the neighborhood. There’s also a Bo-Kapp museum, mosques, boutique shops, and plenty of restaurants you can check out as well.

Cape Town
Colorful buildings of the Bo-Kaap.

8. Cultural Tour

A cultural tour is a must while in Cape Town. We took a tour that took us through many of the historical landmarks from the apartheid era found throughout Cape Town, including some that were located in the townships. Each stop on the tour had its own story, some of which were downright depressing while others were inspiring stories full of hope and meaningful lessons for society.

Cape Town
Memorial to students from the apartheid era.

These are not tours designed for you to gawk at locals living in poverty and feel sorry for them. Instead, they are eye-opening journeys that help you better understand the struggles of apartheid, the efforts being undertaken to restore those communities, and the work that sill needs to be done for and by these people.

Our guide had a particularly interesting perspective since he grew up as half white and half black during apartheid. I got goosebumps from many of the stories he told us and couldn’t believe some of the things he’d witnessed. Out of everything I did in South Africa, the stories he told us left the most lasting impression on me, and I couldn’t help but to be inspired.

Cape Town
Our guide giving us insight into history of apartheid.

There are many different types of cultural tours you can sign up for and many also incorporate a visit to Robben Island, which is where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of the 27 years he was imprisoned. I recommend reviewing your different options and going with the one that you’re most comfortable with. Not everyone will feel comfortable visiting the townships.

Final word

There are a ton of things to do in Cape Town, South Africa and the nearby cities. While these 8 things barely scratch the surface of what you can do while there, these were all things that absolutely made our visit to Cape Town unforgettable, so I recommend at least looking into them.

Visiting Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

Table Mountain, recently named one of the new 7 wonders of the world, is the incredibly iconic mountainside that rises prominently over Cape Town. No matter where you go in the city, you’ll almost always be able to catch a glimpse of this prominent mountain. In addition to the sheer beauty, what really makes Table Mountain a special point of interest is how easy it is to access for the masses. Within minutes you can go from hanging out at sea level to roaming among the swirling clouds atop Table Mountain. So here’s what you need to know for visiting Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa.

Hike or cable car?

The vast majority of people are going to take the cableway up to Table Mountain but hiking is an option. We didn’t do the hike up for a few reasons, but looking at the reviews, it seems like hiking up to Table Mountain would definitely be worth it.¬†

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
A hiker making his way near the top of the mountain.

Depending on the route you take it could take 4 to 5 hours to get up there. I’d recommend booking a hike with a guide ¬†because the trails can be pretty dangerous and there have even been quite a few deaths. (Riaan seems to a unanimous winner of a tour guide.) If you’re a very experienced hiker, a guide might not be necessary but if you’re at all questioning your hiking/navigating ability I highly suggest going with a guide.

Taking the cableway

For those who don’t want to make the hike or just don’t have the time, the cable car system (“cableway”) is a perfectly good option for making it up to the top of the mountain. To get there, you’ll need to either schedule a tour or drive yourself to the building where the cableway begins. The building is very easy to get to from Cape Town City Centre.

Search in your GPS or Google Maps for “Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, Tafelberg Road, Gardens, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa” and that should take you to where you can park at Lower Station. It’s like a 15 minute drive from the heart of Cape Town, so it’s extremely easy to get to. Most likely you’ll have to park on the shoulder of Tafelberg Road (where locals will likely be trying to help you find a spot for some cash).

When we visited in the evening in September, there were plenty of open places to park but in peak-season, you might have to do a lot of walking to make it to the cable cars and you might not even be able to find a spot. Here are more details for directions and parking at Table Mountain. If I were visiting in summer I’d probably just book a tour or hire a taxi to save the headache of parking.

Once you’re there at Lower Station, you can purchase your ticket and then get ushered in where you’ll wait to be taken up. (You can also buy tickets online.) Again, we visited in September in the evening and the queue (line) was nonexistent. However, I know the lines can be a major issue here during peak season, so be ready to wait if you’re visiting during that time. You can always check the wait times for Lower and Upper Station on the website here.¬†

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Watching a cable car come down.

The staff will stuff a lot of people into the cable car, so it does feel a little crammed. As you begin the ascent, don’t feel the need to fight over the best view of the area because the bottom of the cable car rotates, allowing everyone equal opportunity to soak in the views on the way up. At least one window panel was open on our cable car allowing us to get photographs without bad reflections/smudges, but I’ve seen photos of other cable cars with multiple panels open, so it probably depends on the season/weather.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Open window on the cable car.

If you’re afraid of heights obviously ascending to 3,000 feet plus might be an issue. But I will say that the cable car ride was smooth and felt very sturdy. Just try to relax and remember that it’s actually a very safe method of transportation (or at least I assume it is).

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
The view starts emerging about half way up.

As you go up, you get closer to the cliff side and you’re able to appreciate the massive scale of the boulders on a whole new level. These granite rocks are approximately 600 years old — that’s¬†6 times older than the Himalayas!

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa

As you get better views of the rocks you can almost sense the ancientness of the geology.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa

The rocks are truly enormous.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Massive rocks.

Just as impressive as the rocks are the clouds that roll across the top of Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak, pictured below.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Devil’s Peak.

Finally, at the top, you get your first glimpse of Cape Town and the ocean, with beautiful Lion’s Head protruding on the left.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Amazing view of Cape Town from Table Mountain.

Exploring the mountain

Once you’re up on the mountain, there’s plenty to see. You’ll find endless ledges to explore and meandering trails to wander down.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
The entrance to the upper cableway.

At each ledge, you’ll have a slightly different view to take in, with plenty of interesting foreground to frame the view.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa

Some areas have brick alcoves and interpretive panels to check out as you admire the view.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa

The photograph opportunities are endless and it’s a lot of fun to experiment with a bunch of different compositions.¬†

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa

As I said earlier, Table Mountain is one of the new “7 Wonders of Nature” after the results were revealed from a global poll that allowed anyone in the world to vote via telephone, text messages or social media networks. It’s unique topography and perfect placement with Cape Town and the nearby surrounding peaks definitely makes me feel like the honor is well-deserved. Not many places in the world can compare with the natural beauty you’ll find here.¬†

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
New 7 wonder of nature.

It’s definitely one of the most beautiful places on the planet. No question.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Amazing views from Table Mountain.

We visited about an hour to an hour and a half before sunset, so it started to get pretty chilly once we arrived to the top. The wind also picked up and started blowing clouds over the mountain so that clouds were literally sweeping through us as we stood on top of the mountain. It was an amazing sight but it also got blistering cold when the wind picked up and those clouds rolled through us. In order to stay out there taking photographs for a long time I would have needed a thicker coat, pair of gloves, and a beanie.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Clouds rolling over Table Mountain.

Although it did get super-cold, one of the highlights was watching the clouds fall over Table Mountain.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Clouds forming over Table Mountain.

It was a lot of fun taking photographs of such dynamic scenery. 

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa

The wispy clouds changed shape and thickness every few seconds, sometimes blanketing the entire view with a wall of white. Then, after a few seconds, the clouds would start to dissipate, slowly revealing the rocky outcroppings in  dramatic fashion.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Dramatic cloud covering on Table Mountain.

There was plenty of drama to capture on top of Table Mountain.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Black and white of clouds over Table Mountain.

The views looking out over Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean were great as well.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
View of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Lion’s Head with misty clouds breaking up.

With a decent zoom lens you can get a close-up of City Centre and probably locate your hotel.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa

Again the beauty is overwhelming and the more you admire the view the more you realize how special of a place Cape Town is. 

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
The “city bowl.”

The weather on Table Mountain

Summer temperatures range between 15¬įC and 27¬įC (59¬ļF and 80¬ļF for my fellow Americans), while Cape Town winters average between 7¬įC and 20¬įC (45¬ļF and 68¬ļF), so you should be fine in the summer without the need for outerwear (though maybe something to deal with the wind would always be a good idea). But¬†if you’re visiting in the winter be prepared for conditions to be much colder and windier than they are at sea level.

The good news is that there are multiple places on top of the mountain you can go into for shelter and food and drinks. There’s The Table Mountain Cafe, which serves up breakfast and lunch until about 4pm. This cafe is next to The Shop At the Top, which is the main gift shop of Table Mountain. Unfortunately, this places was closed when we visited.¬†

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
The Table Mountain Cafe and gift shop.

There’s also¬†the Wifi Lounge located¬†on the second story of the Upper Station. It’s easy to miss but just look for the stairs next to the mini gift shop and follow them up. Inside, you’ll be able to warm up with hot chocolate and some snacks like muffins or if it’s really hot outside it’s probably a nice place to cool down. The Wifi Lounge is always open so long as the cable cars are still operating. Finally, they also have kiosks that pop up where you can get snacks and beverages.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Warming up with hot chocolate and muffins!

Dealing with weather

The cableway will not operate in bad weather. Thus, you can’t book time slots ahead of time. I suggest checking in with the cableway on their social media pages for real-time updates if you think there’s a chance they might be closed. This also means that if you plan on hiking up the cableway may not be open to get you down, so always check a reliable weather forecast for the day before embarking on a hike.¬†

I think the best time of day to visit Table Mountain is about two hours prior to sunset. The crowds are known to be more thinned out later in the afternoon and Table Mountain is one of the best places anywhere in the world to catch a sunset. You can checkout the sunrise and sunset times here.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Sunset of Table Mountain.

The clouds came in so thick in front of the setting sun, that it cast this otherworldly orange glow and made it feel like we were standing on Mars. It was pretty surreal and I’d never seen anything quite like it.¬†

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
A trippy Table Mountain sunset.

It’s definitely one of the best places to catch the sunset in South Africa, though.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Table Mountain at sunset.

After spending close to an hour and half up on the mountain, it was time to come down. I’m pretty sure that you can stay up there as long as you want (until they close, at least). For the average person, I think allocating two hours of time to explore and grab a snack would be sufficient for Table Mountain (but don’t forget about the waiting times to get up there).¬†

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Heading down on the cableway.

As we prepared to head back down, more clouds fell off Table Mountain and it looked like we were going to ascend into the oblivion.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa

But thankfully it cleared back up a little bit and we caught the awesome pink and orange glow over the ocean.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa

It’s such a cool sight to see when those clouds fall right off the side of Table Mountain.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa

Once you finally make it back down to Lower Station, there are some outstanding views of the city.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa

It’s really one of the best views I’ve ever seen.

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa
Cape town at twilight.

I didn’t have any issues bringing my tripod up to Table Mountain, either. So if you’re a photographer, I say go for it.¬†

Table Mountain -- Cape Town, South Africa

Tickets

If you’re looking for tickets prices and opening times for the Table Mountain cableway you can find those here. Again, make sure to think ahead about parking as that can really be a big issue for a lot of people.

Final word

Even if you’re¬†very averse to doing “touristy” things, I think a visit to the top of Table Mountain is absolutely still worth it. It’s such a spectacular view at sunset and one of the more memorable things I’ve done. If you’re into photography, the possibilities are endless up there as you can play with foreground all day long to capture unique shots.¬†My only regret was not being prepared for the cold, as I could’ve stayed out there longer if I had just had a thicker jacket and/or a beanie and gloves. So if you’re visiting in winter make sure you’re prepared and you’ll be just fine.



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Visiting the Penguins of Boulders Beach Near Cape Town, South Africa

There’s one attraction near Cape Town that’s an absolute must if you are visiting the area. It’s an attraction that I didn’t think too much about while planning my trip to South Africa, but it ended up being one of my favorite experiences during my entire round the world trip. I’m talking about the penguins at Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town, South Africa. These penguins are the epitome of cuteness and the ability to be among them in their own habitat is something that no zoo experience can compare to. Here’s what you need to know about visiting these cuddly penguins at Boulders Beach.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
“Penguins this way”

Getting There

Boulders Beach is about a 45 minute car ride from Cape Town, along some very scenic terrain. A lot of people combine a visit to Boulders Beach with a stop to the Cape of Good Hope on Cape Peninsula as it’s only about an additional 30 minutes to the the Cape of Good Hope. As of the day of this article, the entry fee for adults is ZAR 65 which comes out to less than $5 USD, so it’s very cheap. 

Boulders Beach is impressive by itself

First, I just had to point out that even without the penguins, Boulders Beach is a beautiful Beach that would be worth a visit.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Boulders Beach.

It’s surrounded by giant granite boulders that are estimated to be 540 million years old (and are great for rock hopping) and the water is crystal clear. What’s more, the boulders and topography of the beach allow it to be shielded by the winds and waves making it a safe place to swim even for families.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Clear waters of Boulders Beach.

When to visit the penguins of Boulders Beach? 

According to the local officials, the penguins are at the beach year round. They state that during September and October their numbers are limited since they are mostly out fishing in the sea. However, we visited in the middle of September and we were greeted by plenty of penguins (though it wasn’t like some of the photos I’ve seen with hundreds of them hanging out on the beach).

The best time of day to see the penguins is apparently early in the morning or in the late afternoon. Our morning visit just after opening (8 am) was perfect as we didn’t run into any other visitors and the penguins seemed to be out and about in good numbers.

The open hours may vary depending on weather, holidays etc. but the hours for Boulders Beach are stated as: 

  • Oct-Nov: 8:00-18:30
  • Dec-Jan: 7:00 to 19:30
  • Feb-Mar: 8:00-18:30
  • Apr-Sept: 8:00-17:00

How did the penguins get there? 

The penguins are African Penguins, also known as jackass penguins, due to their loud braying which you will definitely hear when you visit. They inhabit a few colonies in South Africa and even Namibia but Boulders Beach is reportedly one of the most renown and best places to visit them.

These penguins are actually originally transplants that came over near in 1983 from Dyer Island. Dyer Island is a couple of hours east near Gansbaai and forms part of the borders of the famous Shark Alley, where great whites feast on seals (and from what I’ve heard on penguins, too). ūüôĀ

Dyer Island map
Map showing the distance between Dyer Island and Boulders Beach.

When the penguins came over to Boulders Beach they discovered a plentiful supply of food (pilchards and anchovy) and the colony blew up and now is said to be home to over 3,000 birds. The African Penguin’s population is still nowhere near where it once was (about 50,000 now compared to over 1.5 million before), but nature reserves like Boulders Beach are doing their part to restore their population.

Visiting the penguins 

The coolest part about going to Boulders Beach is that you’re able to walk and be among the penguins in their natural habitat. If you’re like most people, your only encounter with penguins has been at a zoo, but this is lightyears more exciting than any zoo experience you may have had.

You can also view the penguins from neighboring Foxy Beach. That area has wheelchair friendly platforms and offers great viewing opportunities of the penguins and more penguins are usually in that area than at Boulders Beach. However, I’m not sure that you can get out and walk around like you can at Boulders, so I’d plan on visiting both if you have the time (we spent all our time at Boulders since it was so entertaining).

When we first arrived to the beach we didn’t notice any penguins on the beach or in the water and so I was a little bit nervous that we wouldn’t see much. In fact, all we found were these husky marmots that were running around the rocks and sunbathing in the sand. While adorable in their own right, they weren’t quite the tuxedo-wearing penguins we were looking for.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Marmot running along Boulders Beach.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Marmot sun bathing.

But after a few minutes, we spotted the first trio of penguins waddling out of the pathway and onto the beach as if they were making an entrance in a sports arena.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
The first trio of penguins emerge.

I couldn’t get enough of them and could have watched them waddle around all day. I took tons of photos, but I think it takes watching a video of them to understand why exactly you’ll be wanting to adopt a penguin before you depart to go back home.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/bayareaag/29781852060/in/album-72157673424993682/

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Penguins waddling.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa

You’ll be tempted to the max to take selfies…

Boulders Beach Penguins

It’s probably the cutest thing you’ll ever see, especially when their little penguin feet patter into the ocean and then they belly-flop into the water where they become like little torpedoes darting around freakishly quick.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Heading in for a dip.

Yet, when the penguins aren’t shooting around underwater, you’d almost mistake them for ordinary ducks.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
I could mistake these for ordinary ducks.

But once they back come out the water and pop back up to their feet, they take their unmistakably penguin appearance back on.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Penguin getting out of the water.

Penguins

After three penguins came out, then about every couple of minutes an additional pair or quartet would come waddling out of that pathway.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Heading out to the beach.

A couple of them veered towards us and were very curious about what we were.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Penguins headed right toward us.

One in particular, who looked like a juvenile, followed us around wherever we went.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
One very curious penguin.

They warn you that the penguins can get a little bit aggressive and take a nasty peck at you with their sharp beak, so we kept our distance a little bit. However, for the most part these animals seemed very docile and were not shy and will even come right up to you or walk by you within inches.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Coming very close to an friendly penguin.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Just passing by….

As more of the penguins came out, they started congregating in huddles, where they would squawk at each other and give each other these funny sideways looks, which I guess is how they communicate. 

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa

Sometimes they looked just like humans having normal conversations out in public.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Penguin huddle.

Then, after meeting up in a huddle they would all simultaneously head towards the water and get back to their underwater antics, sometimes chasing each other around in circles.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Penguins enjoying a swim.

They always seemed to strike these interesting and funny poses.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
A trio of penguins.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa

Boulders Beach Penguins
Just hanging with some penguins…

Outside of the water, penguins could be spotted on top of the boulders, sliding down rocks, and even hopping down a flight of concrete stairs.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Penguin hopping around the boulders solo.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Penguin hopping down a flight of stairs.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Sliding off a rock.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
This one looked a little bummed out.

After about 30 minutes, the penguins seemed to be everywhere and their relentless braying came from every corner of the beach and was especially loud when you got close to the bushes, where I think a lot of the penguins were still hiding.

Other creatures 

Besides the marmots, we came across a few tide pool creatures like sea stars, although this one looked like it’d been through some tough times.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
Sea star at Boulders Beach.

One definite surprise guest was what I think was a sea lion, although I guess it could’ve been a seal. It looked like it was practicing its morning yoga the entire time as we looked on.

Boulders Beach Penguins South Africa
A sea lion!?

Final word 

Boulders Beach is a unique experience that I think someone of any age will enjoy. You can’t deny the cuteness of penguins and when you witness them in person they’re 10X more entertaining than you probably imagined them to be in the first place. Add in the fact that Boulders Beach is a beautiful beach in in its own right with nice boulders to climb around on and you can see why I consider this is a must-stop for everyone coming to Cape Town.