Six Girls, Five Days: A Whirlwind Cape Town Itinerary

April 16, 2014 9:35 am

table mountain group shot

When my first wave of friends from the U.S. finally visited last month, pharmacist I was pretty pumped… until they told me their dates. They’d be arriving on a Saturday afternoon and flying out on Friday evening — and they fully intended to include a two- to three-day safari somewhere in there. “What the hell, sildenafil guys — did you think you were going to California?” I implored. I mean, who flies halfway around the world for a once-in-a-lifetime trip for six days? (OK fine, my first trip was seven, but that’s beside the point).

Lucky for them, they had me as their host. My mission, should I have chosen to accept it, was to cram the most epic summary of Cape Town highlights into their jampacked week. It was such a success that I decided I should re-produce it here for you guys. Normally I’d say  “don’t try this at home,” because it seems virtually impossible to squeeze all this in without an insider to hold your hand through it all. But perhaps if you use this schedule, you can manage to maximize a quick jaunt to the Fair Cape, too?

[Note: We were an inordinately late bunch and prone to stopping for more pictures than a Kardashian klan. You can actually probably do way better than us on this, if you can just get going on time.]


neighbourgoodsStraight from the airport to the Old Biscuit Mill for Neighbourgoods Market. I’m not exaggerating: I’d warned the girls for weeks that this was my plan, and that they should be well-rested and presentable to head there right after we picked them up. No time for freshening up at home (because we all know that would have inevitably led to showers and naps, and we’d never have made it there by 2p.m.). They were troopers, and they thanked me for it — they absolutely loved the market (no surprises there). On our way out of Woodstock we drove around so they could see the street-art spangled on the houses nearby.

street artAfterward I’d planned to take them around town for a bit, stopping by the District 6 Museum and walking through the Bo-Kaap neighborhood. But I decided to have some mercy and let them go home and rest instead. For dinner, we hit up Krugmann’s on the V&A Waterfront so they could have halal steak.


chapmans peak group shotTable Mountain and the Cape Peninsula drive was our plan for the day. Unfortunately, one of my friends had been delayed by a day thanks to a passport snafu I wrote about here. So we wouldn’t get going till after we picked her up at noon. But noon somehow became 2 p.m. and we set out WAY to late to squeeze in all the requisite stops, so we did an abridged version after we spent entirely too long on top of Table Mountain. We went along the coast, saw Chapmans Peak (pictured above), then cut through inland, bypassing Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope to head straight for the penguins in Simon’s Town.

penguins[Note: you should realllly leave earlier than us so you can fit those in, but we were on a quest to beat sunset and had to make a choice… and I mean, come on, penguins! The southwesternmost tip of the African continent never stood a chance in that matchup.]

We reached Boulders Beach in time for a spectacular sunset and moonrise, and so it worked out just perfectly.

bouldersbeachAt night, we hosted a braai so the Americans could see what the fuss was all about. It was a hit, our special new lamb chops marinade in particular. Such a hit, in fact, that each of the girls lugged two bottles of marinade home with them to try to re-create it. I would never have risked my clothes for that, but hey, priorities.

Some of the girls went shark-cage diving, which, despite their terror going in, they can’t stop raving about now.

shark cage diving

I took the one friend who opted out to spend a lazy afternoon drinking mocktails by the pool at Shimmy Beach Club.


Everyone was happy.

At night, we hit up Haiku and Bukhara on the V&A Waterfront (they share one dining room) for dinner. The black-pepper beef from the Indian menu is to die for, FYI.


safari group shotSafari at Gondwana Private Game Reserve, a four-hour drive from Cape Town — it was awesome, but more on that in a future post.

The plan was to hike up Lion’s Head for sunset. But we somehow couldn’t get going from the safari lodge on time, so we were running too late to make it all the way up. What, photo shoots are important, OK?


We still got about halfway up, and the views were breathtaking enough for a non-hiker like me, but they were really bummed about not making it to the summit. So my advice to you: get going on time so you’re not dejected.

lionsheadFor dinner, we went to Nando’s, which is a post-Lion’s Head tradition for many of our friends, followed by The Creamery for ice cream, which is a tradition for me every day I can.


greenmarketLast day! Time to pack it all in. I let the girls loose in Greenmarket Square for souvenir shopping and I’m pretty sure these stalls were all empty by the time we left.

bokaap collageWe then walked over to Bo-Kaap to pose with the pretty houses and catch Jummah prayer at the Auwal Masjid, South Africa’s oldest mosque (circa 1794).

jummahLunch was Cape Malay fast food at Biesmillah’s, a neighborhood institution, and wow was it good — get the DSTV sandwich. Don’t ask questions. Just get it. I then dropped them off for the Robben Island tour, but unfortunately, it was running late, and the crazy hours-long delays meant they wouldn’t have made their flight if they went on it. So alas no Robben Island for them, but not for a lack of trying — make sure you include that in your plans and book well in advance, hopefully you’ll have better luck.

And so, for the first time all week, we actually had downtime to just chill. We hit up a grocery store so they could stock up on their favorite snacks from the trip (Oreo Cadbury bars, Simba Smoked-Beef chips, and the aforementioned braai sauce were on the list), then we went home and vegged out till their flight.

Is it crazy? Yes. Do I recommend it? No. But is it doable? I guess so. I do wish we’d had time for the Winelands, the full-fledged Cape Peninsula drive, the beach, and more relaxing activities, but we made our time constraints work. Trying to pack in the best of Cape Town in five days is quite a mission, but as #CapeCrew2014 can attest: mission accomplished.

Most photos courtesy Muzna Ansari and Shazia Memon


  • Hey Sarah — looks like you and your friends had an incredible week together. Well done.

    • It was epic! Thank you, I’m mighty happy with my planning I must say 🙂 Thanks for your help – I have a safari post coming up soon, stay tuned!

      • Great stuff. Looking forward to the safari story. On a related note: we’ve just launched a new feature on our website which predicts where in the Serengeti the Wildebeest Migration will be each month of the year. We post real-time updates provided by pilots who fly over the Serengeti. Also game rangers and safari guides on the ground. Have a look here:

        For something a little more fun: we’ve recently introduced the world’s first tweeting wildebeest — Conrad (his name is derived from his species’ latin name Connochaetes) — to Twitter. Conrad will be tweeting the HerdTracker real-time updates and telling the twitter-world what life on migration is really like:

        Let me know if you want to know any more about this research/”edutainment” project.

  • Tayo Rockson

    Loved reading this! Only making my desire to visiting South Africa grow!

  • Got some great things to add to my list when I visit! Thanks Sarah 😀