You’ll be hard pressed to find a single Cape Townian who hasn’t said, ‘I really wanna go on that sight seeing bus!’ I was a part of that Want-To-Mean-To-But-WHEN? group of Cape Townians wanting to ‘ride the bus’. Every time a bus passed me, I felt a pang of guilt as those on the top deck looked down at 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 were always 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 is perfect for a local like myself.
I parked at the Scratch Patch parking lot opposite the Aquarium (where the bus route starts). I was anxious about the cost of the parking but at the end of the day it only cost us R20 which is totally reasonable and your car will be safe. We crossed to the bus tour ticket office to exchange the tickets (we had bought them online) and to receive the tour map pamphlets and headphones. The bus arrived on time – every 15 minutes really is every 15 on this tour – no “Africa time” here! I was even allowed to eat my ice cream on board, snacks are allowed!
We set off from the V&A Waterfront. Initially we sat downstairs as it was so hot and air con was keeping us cool but for fear of missing out on the roof top views, we moved to the open top. Because the bus is moving and because we had hats and sunblock, it wasn’t too hot but please be prepared for the African sun or you will get sun burnt. The bus curved the entrance road to 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 very professional, welcoming and we were very impressed the number of languages available on the headset – 16 to be precise.
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 night life 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 in the ‘Nelly’.
Locals sit on De Waal drive every day in rush hour traffic, trying to enjoy the incredible views, which is easier said than done when traffic is bumper to bumper. Thanks to the City Sight Seeing tour, sitting on the roof of a double decker bus really allows locals (and tourists) to take in the magnificence of the view from District Six (just below De Waal drive).
Winding along the mountain, taking in all the buildings, ships, hills and coastline is just gorgeous and this alone made the tour worth while. As the bus reaches the highest point of the high way on ‘Hospital Bend’ I couldn’t resist throwing my hands up as though I were on a rollercoaster. This was another one of the best parts of the tour! As the road bends to face the mountain side, zebras can be seen on the hill. They’re not always there but try to spot them since they do tend to roam around in the late afternoon or early morning. On this day, a kestrel bird of prey took flight off the fence and flew exactly along side us until the bottom of the hill, it was magical.
The road continued past the old windmill, Rhodes Memorial and the University of Cape Town on the M3, down to Rhodes Drive in Bishops Court. Although I was convinced I would be smacked by the odd weeping bow, no trees ended up on the bus. The narrative explained how Rhodes had a vision for the Cape, including Kirstenbosch Garden and Groote Schuur hospital, really interesting to know that these beautiful locations didn’t just happen by chance, they were a dream of a man. This might seem obvious but it had never occured to me before!
Kirstenbosch is always a wonderful garden to visit and it was interesting learning about our fauna – such as all geraniums in the world being indiginous to South Africa and of Mandela Gold stralitzias being 10 X the price of the normal flowers. The bus arrives at the top of Constantia Hill allowing those who would like to take a wine tour the opportunity to get off the bus (or on post tour). I couldn’t help having a little giggle as the tourists rejoined the bus tour with giddy expressions on their faces. I’m glad the wine was to their liking
The tour continued through to Houtbay, stopping at the World of Birds, offering township tours 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 leaves the Houtbay Harbour and travels over Suikerbossie Hill, past Llundadno, down Victoria Road to Camps Bay. It was quite scary being on the top of the bus but the views were extrordinary. Over looking the Atlantic ocean as far as the eye can see, examining all the hills and mountain ravines, seeing all the homes in Camps Bays, all the secret beaches like Oude Kraal, it really was a magnificent section of the tour.
Once reaching Camps Bay, one is able to hop out and enjoy a day at the beach or enjoy lunch at one of the many cafes. I recommend Sinfull ice cream. A well known ice cream parlour in Cape Town with the most exotic flavours such as Out Of Africa – Amarula and vetkoek. Milo, Addiction – toffee like with chips of chocolate inside, really divine flavours. I recommend only getting 2 scoops as my eyes have been bigger than my belly before and I was unable to finish the portion!
After travelling through Bantry Bay, Moullie Point and Sea Point, the bus makes its way back to the V & A Waterfront. The tour took about 90 – 120 minutes, including all stops but without hopping off anywhere. Naturally if you hop on and off it will be a longer tour but if you remain on the bus it will take under 2 hours. The tour guide on the bus frequently visited the top of the bus to check that the passengers were well and to check if anyone would like to hop off to visit any of the stop points. He was also sure to remind passengers what time the last bus was so that no one was behind.
Tourist or local, I highly recommend taking the City Sight Seeing bus. It is a wonderful, lazy day out in the Mother City, perfect for family or friends to share. I suggest packing a picnic basket and taking some snacks along for the road. I became rather thirsty and there weren’t any vendors along the way selling drinks (unless you actually get off the bus and wait for the next one).
Please note that ticket prices are R140 at the ticket office but only R110 online! So the City Sight Seeing Tour is making it really easy for everyone to join the fun. I will definitely return to visit the other bus routes – the Red inner city tour or even the Blue Tour again but this time I will explore the wine tour
For more information, check the website HERE: