You’ll be hard pressed to find a single Capetonian who hasn’t said, ‘I really wanna go on that sight seeing tour bus!’ I was a part of that Want-To-Mean-To-But-WHEN? group wanting to ‘ride the bus’. Every time a bus passed me I felt a pang of guilt as passengers peered down on me from their sunny perch. Initially, I thought it was a bit sad that black cabs and double-decker buses made an appearance in Cape Town. After living in London, they are special memories for me. Ironically, they actually do belong in Africa, with our huge colonial past it isn’t so far-fetched that they now reside here. And so, the double-decker buses of The City Sight Seeing Tours of Cape Town have been welcomed on the streets.
I did, however, have 2 reservations concerning the tour. 1) As a local, would I learn anything? And 2) will there be local recommendations?After many promises to ‘ride the bus’, I was very happy to be offered an opportunity to explore the blue route: an around Table Mountain tour. Since it was 32 degrees in Cape Town that morning, I elected to wait until after lunch to take the bus. The sun in South Africa can be incredibly harsh (I’m not known for my tan) so a late afternoon cruise was perfect for me.
We parked opposite the Aquarium, where the busses depart, which only cost me R20 for the few hours we were away. I exchanged my online tickets at the office and received our tour map pamphlets and headphones. The bus arrived on time (every 15 minutes really is every 15 on this tour – no “Africa time” here) and climbed aboard – ice cream in hand, snacks are welcome.
Initially we sat downstairs to enjoy the aircon but the fear of missing any great, roof top views soon got the best of us and we moved up stairs. *Hats and sunblock are a must. The bus curved the entrance road of the V & A, past the One and Only Hotel, Clock Tower and CTICC, the Cape Town International Convention Center, which the narrator called the conference centre! Apart from this error in script, the voice artists were professional, welcoming and we were very impressed at the number of languages on offer (16).
The bus circled the fountain in town explaining a number of historical points such as statues and buildings. They kept random number facts to a minimum which means the narration is memorable and enjoyable. The bus continued up Strand street, down Long Street – Cape Town’s nightlife hub, past the church in Long street (which I didn’t know much about), around Orange street, past the Mount Nelson (I recommend hopping off here and enjoying a drink at the Planet Bar) and onto De Waal drive.
Locals sit on De Waal drive every day in rush hour traffic trying to enjoy the incredible views and not bump the car in front of them. It’s much easier to take in the magnificence of the view from District Six (just below De Waal drive) sitting on the roof of a double-decker bus.
As the bus reached the highest point of the highway on ‘Hospital Bend’ I couldn’t resist throwing my hands up as though I were on a rollercoaster. This was one of the best parts of the tour! I loved winding along the mountain taking in the gorgeous view of buildings, ships, hills and coastline (and not to forget to mention the zebras on the mountain side). A kestrel bird of prey took flight off the fence and flew exactly alongside us until the bottom of the hill, it was magical.
The road continued past the old windmill on the M3 down to Rhodes Drive in Bishops Court. Although I was convinced I would be smacked by the odd weeping bow, but no trees ended up on the bus. The guide told us of how Rhodes had had a vision for the Cape, including Kirstenbosch Garden and Groote Schuur hospital. These beautiful locations didn’t just happen by chance, they were a dream of a man.
We drove into Kirstenbosch where we learnt about the fauna – such as the fact that all geraniums originated from South Africa and that the Mandela Gold Strelitzia is 10 times the price of normal flowers!
The bus continues to Constantia Hill were visitors can hop off to enjoy a wine tour. I couldn’t help having a little giggle as tourists rejoined the bus tour with giddy expressions on their faces. I’m glad the wine was to their liking ;). We continued to Houtbay where township tours are offered at iMizamo Yethu (Our Struggle) and the Houtbay Harbour.
One of the added benefits of the bus tour is that the transport takes visitors directly to tourist locations but the ticket does not include entry price. This means that visitors can pick and choose which attractions to visit, or not to visit, according to their time and budget. The tour pamphlet includes various discount vouchers allowing visitors to save on a number of venues such as the Wharfside Grill Restaurant, Fishmarket and Nauticat Boat Trips should lunch or extra time be desired in Houtbay.
The bus continued over Suikerbossie Hill, Llundadno to Camps Bay. It was quite scary looking down the steep hill, over the Atlantic ocean, examining the mountain ravines and the secret beaches like Oude Kraal, was really magnificent.
If you’d like to hop off once reaching Camps Bay, I recommend Sinful ice-cream on the second floor of the mall. Sinful has local flavours such as Out Of Africa (Amarula and vetkoek), Milo or Addiction (toffee like with chips of chocolate inside). YUM!