Bushtracks specialist guide and guest blogger David Bristow explains what makes February to April the best time to visit Cape Town, and how to make the most of your visit.
"Back to School" Time in Cape Town
The summer holidays in South Africa are over and it is “back to school” time. But that doesn’t mean summer is over. In fact, the best is yet to come – February to April is without a doubt the best time, weatherwise, in the Cape.
Also gone are the summer holiday crowds over Christmas and New Year that saw visitors queueing for two hours or more to get up or down Table Mountain or into Cape Point reserve.
Fewer Crowds = Easier Access to Penguins
The Cape Peninsula is a narrow strip of land about 80 kilometers (50 miles) long, with only a limited road network that is easily choked up at peak holiday times. Even access to the Boulders penguin colony was blocked off by the traffic cops over the peak season.
Cape Point is much the same and by 11:00 am each day it can be hard to get parking there; and again, it is matter of long queues. Can it really be worth the frustrations and the heat (remember it is mid-summer in Cape Town and temperatures can be scorching) just for the view?
Roads Less-Traveled, Early Starts & Insider Guides
When planning your excursions, we recommend you take roads less traveled and avoid the crowds – which includes avoiding the busy restaurants and seeking out superior “local” eateries not frequented (or even known) by the larger tour companies and their hordes.
Another strategy is to make early starts during peak times through summer. If you set out at 8:00 am (the sun is up by 6:00 am through the summer months), you can still get to Cape Point ahead of the crowds and have the place almost to yourself. It also means for the rest of the day you are ahead of the crowds.
Also, rather than visiting a single winery in the Winelands, consider booking a tour with a superlative wine guide like Fiona McDonald – who also happens to be one of South Africa’s pre-eminent international wine tasters. It’s not just that she knows a Chenin Blanc from a Crouchen Blanc. She also knows every winemaker in the Cape and most of the winery owners personally. A wine tour with her cannot be matched by anyone else.
Lessons Learned in 2016
The first thing was how to beat the crowds in the increasingly popular Cape: early starts; tailored itineraries that focused on each party’s special interests; avoiding the tourism “hot spots” at peak times; making more of storytelling to peel back the layers of Cape Town’s history and multi-faceted culture.
We also learned that the False Bay ecosystem is in a state of flux: first the great white sharks lay low, then the southern right whales made an unexpected two-month early departure for the Antarctic. The first opinions were “global oceanic warming”. But I suspect there is another agent of change operating in this great bay. Orcas.
Killer whales or, more correctly, whale killers (they are actually large dolphins) prey on just about anything, including sharks and whales. They are being seen in increasing numbers in False Bay and might have made the other marine creatures skedaddle. We’ll have to wait and see.