I saw this beauty on my very first day in Cape Town. Once upon a time in India, we had double-decker buses for commuting and though with time they were grounded, the child in me could never ever get over the way the world looked from the top tier of a bus! And a red bus, that too! I had seen pictures of such buses plying in various cities, but it was like a dream come true when I saw it in Cape Town. I just knew I had to be on that, one of these days!
As our days in the city rushed towards the end, the weather (the most unpredictable weather I have ever seen in my entire life) continued to play games with us and our expectations with the days to come! Luckily for me, it was nice and sunny, not to mention terribly cold, on the day I went for the Safari and a large part of the day that I went for the Peninsular tour. But I was waiting for that one sunny day when I would get on that bus and sit on the upper level and look at things around me from a wider and better angle. And then it happened! The last Saturday before we left the city, we finally took the hop-on-hop-off City Sightseeing bus!
The day started with a trip to the Old Biscuit Mill at Woodstock, about which I will talk in detail in another post. But today let me just talk about this most amazing tour that took me around Cape Town presenting me with an aerial view of everything, which for me (I am vertically challenged and hence almost always miss a decent view) was a fulfilling feeling! So, you can book your tickets online from the website; from any of the three main tour offices V&A Waterfront (stop 1), 81 Long Street (stop 5) and Camps Bay (stop 8), or from the driver once you get on one of these busses. We took the Blue Route Discovery Pass (the red bus classic route on the Mini Peninsular Tour with free entry to any three attractions from a list of 12 options). We chose Kirstenbosch Gardens/Groot Constantia, World of Birds and Cape Wheel, in the interest of time. Like all other City Sightseeing buses, these also have commentary (in some 10 or more languages) that keeps giving information about specific locations on the way or plays local music.
We got on the bus from Stop 5 and so started our drive down Long Street passing the innumerable restaurants and beautiful and intriguing buildings on both sides of the street. Crossing Stop 15 near the Long Street and Orange Street crossing, the bus continued on M3 and crossed a number of significant spots including the Long Street Baths and Turkish Steam Bath, Mount Nelson Hotel, Mostert’s Mill and the University of Cape Town in the distance before reaching the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.
Cradled against the eastern slopes of the Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch is one of the greatest botanical gardens of the world. Spread over 528 hectares of land, flat and mountainous, this unique forest is now home to over 7000 species of plants from Southern Africa. A part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kirstenbosch is a nature lover’s paradise. Apart from the thousands of flowers of different types, it also gives a magnificent view of the Table Mountains. Remember to check out the Protea Garden, Cycad Amphitheatre and the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway. While the Protea Garden is best viewed in spring, the Cycad Amphitheatre offers a most unique experience of walking through rare South African cycads. The Tree Canopy Walkway, also called Boomslang, is a 130-meter long curved steel and timber bridge inaugurated in 2014 that takes visitors from the forest floor into and through the trees and opens above the canopy to offer the most breathtaking view of the Table Mountain on one side and the Cape Flats extending to the sea on the other.
Once outside the garden, once again we got on to the bus from right outside and headed towards our next stop – the World of Birds. And this place was not like anything I had ever seen before! Birds, we see at the zoo, at lakes, or even randomly, but this place was indeed the world of birds! The largest bird park in Africa with over 3000 birds along with small animals of 400 different species, this park allows you to walk through fixed paths within spaciously landscaped aviaries where you can see the birds perched right next to you. Spread over 4 hectares of land close to the Hout Bay area, this place is a wonder with gorgeous omnipresent Table Mountain as the backdrop. Just name a bird that you can think of, and you will find it right there! From cormorants to barbets, owls to flamingos, emus to hornbills, peacocks to lovebirds, magpies to macaws, quails to peacocks…you name it and they have it! So, do not miss this paradise when you are there!
The World of Birds took much of our time and by the time we boarded the bus again, we knew the cruises were no longer a possibility so we decided to settle for the Cape Wheel once back at the Waterfront. But the journey to the waterfront was a rather beautiful and informative one as one by one we crossed the Imizamo Yethu township, Hout Bay, Camps Bay, down Kloof Road passing Clifton and Bantry Bay one by one as the apostles continued to guard us on the right. Further down we crossed Sea Point and Three Anchor Bay and then crossing the Cape Town Stadium we turned towards the V&A Waterfont stop. The bus offers, not just views but the most amazing and intriguing stories about different locations it passes through. And doesn’t the world around look amazing as the rays of the setting sun fall on the beautiful city of Cape Town, especially when you look down from the top of the Cape Wheel!
As we walked past the heritage Clock Tower at the Waterfront, towards our dinner venue – Cape Town Fish Market I wished I had more time to see more of this beautiful city. With a million things to see and do while at Cape Town…we could just manage a few. But the beauty of not being able to do everything leaves a possibility…of going back!