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Things to Do in Western Cape - page 2

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Aquila Private Game Reserve
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The Aquila Private Game Reserve, located in the Southern Karoo Highlands outside Cape Town, offers a Big Five African safari experience in a malaria-free region. Look out for South African birds such as the sacred ibis, black eagle, and buzzard, and make the most of spotting wildlife in its natural environment while touring on horseback, quad bike, or 4WD.

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Two Oceans Aquarium
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Cape Town’s Two Oceans Aquarium celebrates the unique collection of marine life that lives off South Africa's coasts, where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. Travelers can get a glimpse of life below the surface of the ocean surrounding southern Africa, including microscopic creatures, magnificent fish, penguins, turtles, sharks, stingrays, rare seahorses, and colorful clownfish.

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Swartberg Pass
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One of the best-known drives in South Africa is the Swartberg Pass, known for its dramatic scenery. The pass was cut into the Swartberg Mountains in the 1880s. It's part of the R328 road, and it isn't paved, it has some tight hairpins, and is quite steep through the mountains – it climbs nearly 3,300 feet in just under 7.5 miles.

This scenic route is particularly known for the geologic formations of the mountains into which the road was cut. There's a cliff known as the “Wall of Fire” along the route, and quite a bit of colorful quartzite is visible at the northern end of the pass.

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Lion's Head
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This iconic peak in Table Mountain National Park stretches some 2,000 feet above sea level and its Lion-shaped apex is visible from almost anywhere in Cape Town. Visitors can make the challenging hour-long climb to the top and enjoy epic views of Table Mountain and the city skyline, and those seeking a high adventure can use the slopes of Lion’s Head as a launching point for paragliding.

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District Six Museum
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District Six Museum was founded in 1994 to honor those who were forcibly removed from their homes in the area. In the mid-1960s the South African government began relocating some 60,000 nonwhite residents to a slum-like township miles away and destroyed their homes in order to make the neighborhood whites-only.

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West Coast National Park
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Situated 120 kilometers from Cape Town, the West Coast National Park is sprawled across more than 100 square-miles and is home to a fascinating array of flora and fauna. The park is made up of marshy wetlands, rolling fields, and varied stretches of rocky and smooth golden coastline. Its Jutten and Malgas islands are home to a large number of seabirds, including unique species such as the African penguin and African oystercatcher.

The park is particularly well-known for its huge concentration of migratory birds, as well as for its unique plant life, with wild spring flowers staging a dramatic display each August and September in the Postberg Flower Reserve. Elsewhere, a flamingo population and other wading birds roost in the salt marshes of the Langebaan Lagoon, and there are antelope, steenboks, mountain zebras, ostriches, and a whole range of smaller animals living at the park too.

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Delheim Wine Estate
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There are some places so exceptionally welcoming, hospitable, comfortable, and friendly, that you feel like family from the moment you arrive and wish you never had to leave. Delheim Estate is one of those places, and this family owned farm outside of Stellenbosch has been growing grapes and making wine since the middle of the 1950s. The legendary patriarch, “Spatz” Sperling, helped formulate South Africa’s very first wine route back in 1971, at which time only three other wineries were part of the Stellenbosch wine route, though that number today has swollen to include over 600 different farms. Despite their success and pioneering spirit, Delheim has made sustainability a focal point of the vineyard, and believe that we are but stewards of this land who are placed here to care for it, show it respect, and it, in turn, will care for us. You can feel that spirit in the cellar door and famous Garden Restaurant, where the view stretches out to Table Mountain across rolling, vineyard-lined valleys.

In addition to tastings, picnics, and tours, Delheim is also known for their quirky pairing of wine with cupcakes, and the vineyard is often a favorite stop on Cape Winelands day tours.

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Ernie Els Wines
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Professional golfer Ernie Els, who hails from Johannesburg, opened the Ernie Els Winery in Stellenbosch in 1999. The wines produced here vary by year, but tend to be predominantly reds. You'll taste cabernet sauvignon, syrah, and merlot, as well as a popular red blend. The winery also makes a sauvignon Blanc, a syrah rose, and a chenin blanc.

The estate's tasting room is fun for golf fans and wine lovers alike, as it's decorated with some of Els' golfing trophies. The on-site restaurant serves lunches from Tuesday-Saturday, and each month there is a chipping competition on the estate grounds.

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Company's Garden
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When the Dutch East India Company arrived in what would become known as Cape Town in 1652, one of the first things they did was plant a garden to help feed the settlers. The Company's Garden still exists, today as a public park. A green oasis in the center of the city, the garden is a favorite of both locals and visitors.

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World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary and Monkey Park
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When people talk about wildlife in Africa, they usually mean the Big Five: Elephants, rhino, buffalo, lions and leopards. But World of Birds, a unique park just outside Cape Town that’s home to more than 400 different species of wild birds, proves there’s more to this diverse continent than just its massive mammals.

More than 3,000 birds and other small animals call this aviary home. Visitors can explore their well-kept habitats, which spread over a generous four hectares of land. The scenic backdrop of Table Mountain, Little Lion’s Head and the Twelve Apostles makes it an ideal spot for photos, too.

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More Things to Do in Western Cape

Greenmarket Square

Greenmarket Square

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The cobblestone plaza of Greenmarket Square is one of Cape Town’s liveliest public spaces. Originally home to a slave market and then a produce market, the square now fills up with vendors selling painted fabrics, handcrafted jewelry, and other trinkets while street performers keep shoppers entertained with music and dance.

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Groot Constantia

Groot Constantia

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While a robust wine culture and picturesque vineyards are now synonymous with the Western Cape of South Africa, it all started with Groot Constantia. The oldest wine estate in the country, Groot Constantia offers visitors opportunities to tour the winemaking facilities, historic manor house and museum, and surrounding grounds. Plus, you can enjoy tasting their famous dessert wines.

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Afrikaans Language Monument

Afrikaans Language Monument

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The undulating spires of the abstract Afrikaans Language Monument jut up from the vineyard surroundings of the Paarl Valley to commemorate the language. Also called the Taal (language in Afrikaans) Monument, the impressive granitic structure designed by architect Jan van Wijk, is full of symbolism, its various arcs, mounds, podiums, pools and stairs represent the rise of the 300-year-old language and its many influences and impacts on South African culture.

The onsite two-floor museum, the former home of Gideon Malherbe, one of the founders of die Genootskap van Regte Afrikaners (GRA, Association of True Afrikaners), has exhibits on the language and the cultural identity around it. The lower floor is decorated as the dwelling may have looked in 1875 with eccentric patterned wallpaper and original furnishings. One room of the top floor contains the printing press used to create the first Afrikaans newspaper – an entire wall of the room is plastered with its productions. Informational exhibits with

photographs and text describe the early written language. Afrikaans first appeared in Arabic, not Roman, script, and, in addition to its Dutch foundations, the language claims Malay, Portuguese, French, German and indigenous Khoi languages as influences. Displays on unusual word origins line colorful walls, and exhibits of the modern and historical impacts of the language on culture including in various genres of South African music, are also on the top floor. An outdoor Green Gallery near the gardens has rotating exhibits of art and poetry.

Many visitors to the monument and museum opt to picnic on the lawn fronting the monument.

The sloped greenspace overlooks the surrounding mountains. A small coffee shop and café also serves light fare beneath umbrellas for warm-weather al fresco dining.

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Iziko Museums Slave Lodge

Iziko Museums Slave Lodge

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The Slave Lodge at theIziko Museums of South Africa is located in a building formerly owned by the Dutch East India Company; it housed hundreds of slaves between 1679 and 1811. Slaves labored in the adjacent Company’s Gardens and awaited auction on nearby Spin Street; as many as 20 percent of them died here.

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Dyer Island

Dyer Island

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About 5 miles (8 kilometers) off the coast of Gansbaai, a town in South Africa's Western Cape, Dyer Island is a bird sanctuary closed to the public. It was originally called Ilha de Fera, Portuguese for “Island of Wild Creatures,” which makes sense given that the island is home to hundreds of African penguins.

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Stony Point Penguin Colony

Stony Point Penguin Colony

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The Stony Point promontory, in the small town of Betty's Bay near Cape Town, is home to a colony of African penguins. The colony is not as well-known as the bigger one at Boulders Beach, but you’ll still find thousands of the little penguins and, usually, fewer tourists.

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Rhodes Memorial

Rhodes Memorial

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A stop at the formidable Rhodes Memorial, perched on Table Mountain, rewards with classical architecture, views, and a reminder of British influence on Cape Town. Dedicated in 1912, the memorial honors British Cape Colony prime minister, Cecil Rhodes. For lunch with a view, try the restaurant and tea garden behind the memorial.

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Cape Wheel

Cape Wheel

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The Cape Wheel is a huge observation wheel in Cape Town, opened in 2010 just in time for the South Africa World Cup.

Standing at just over 164 feet tall, the giant observation wheel has 36 fully-enclosed pods (called gondolas), each with room for six adults. A complete revolution of the wheel takes about 2.5 minutes, but during one ride passengers get to go around four times. This gives everyone a chance to see the spectacular views over Cape Town multiple times.

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Iziko South African Museum

Iziko South African Museum

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One of the oldest museums in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Iziko South African Museum is home to more than half a million unique artifacts. Visitors can explore the halls of this historic place, which was founded in 1897, and learn more about the history and the people of the African continent’s southernmost country.

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Cape Town Diamond Works

Cape Town Diamond Works

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The Cape Town Diamond Works offers a glimpse at South Africa's diamond mining industry through the eyes of a custom jewelry maker. Yes, Diamond Works is essentially a jewelry store, and you can certainly visit with the intention of buying some custom-made diamond jewelry. Even if you're not in the market for diamonds, however, a visit to Diamond Works is worth it to learn more about this fascinating industry.

Diamond Works offers what it calls a “Sparkling Tour,” during which you'll see diamond cutters and jewelry designers at work, you'll learn about the history of diamonds, and find out what to look for when evaluating a diamond.

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South African Jewish Museum (SAJM)

South African Jewish Museum (SAJM)

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TheSouth African Jewish Museum (SAJM), opened in 2000 in Cape Town, features exhibits highlighting the Jewish history of South Africa – with its roots largely in Eastern Europe. Visitors can see part of Cape Town's Old Synagogue, built in 1863 and situated on the same grounds as the museum, as well as the richly decorated 1905 Great Synagogue while exploring the interactive displays.

In addition to the pieces of Judaica, the museum also plays a documentary about Nelson Mandela and includes a remarkable collection of Japanese netsuke art.

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Heart of Cape Town Museum

Heart of Cape Town Museum

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This Cape Town museum is at the site of the first human heart transplant, Groote Schuur Hospital. The Heart of Cape Town Museum is in the still-working hospital, in the actual rooms where that heart transplant took place in December 1967.

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Silvermine Nature Reserve

Silvermine Nature Reserve

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Part of sprawling Table Mountain National Park, Silvermine Nature Reserve near Cape Town takes its name from the 1898 Silvermine Reservoir at its heart, a scenic body of water that’s not meant for swimming. Dutch settlers in the 17th-century thought they would find silver in the area; they were wrong, but the name stuck.

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Sir Lowry's Pass

Sir Lowry's Pass

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This mountain pass in Helderberg was named after Sir Galbraith Lowry Cole, who was governor of the Cape in 1828. Today's four-lane highway is a far cry from the original pass, when travelers would have had a far more challenging time negotiating this formidable mountain range. Now Sir Lowry’s Pass allows easy passage across this daunting natural barrier with the chance to enjoy some spectacular views along the way.

The striking beauty of the area, which is often mysteriously shrouded in mist and rain, more than makes up for the traffic that inevitably builds up through Somerset West and around Gordons Bay. The summit provides one of the most dramatic backdrops in the Western Cape, and on a clear day it’s even possible to see the range from the southern suburbs of Cape Town some 37 miles (60 km) away.

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