11 Stunning Truths On Cape Town, South Africa You Probably Don’t Know But Should – Atlantic Ocean

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Port of Cape Town, South Africa

Located on the southern shore of Table Bay in South Africa, about 1,260 km. west-southwest of Durban and 1, 270 km. southwest of Johannesburg is the Port of Cape Town. It is strategically positioned at the southern end of the African continent and serves ships moving between Europe and the western hemisphere, the Middle East and Australia especially with container vessels.

In all of the centuries, the Port of Cape Town has evolved from a platform post of major east-west trade route into a modern, full service general cargo harbor for transitory fruit and fish exports. It also handles dry and liquid bulk, breakbulk ships, Ro-Ro, reefer, passengers and containers and a port of call for cruise ships. Port of Cape Town has also facilities for ship repairs and lay by.

About the Atlantic Ocean:

Covering 20% of the earth’s surface, Atlantic Ocean is the 2nd largest body of water in the world (2nd to Pacific Ocean), washing the shores of the Americas in the west and Europe and Africa in the east. Six of the major seas call Atlantic Ocean their “home” (Baltic Sea, Black Sea, Caribbean Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and the Norwegian Sea). Its name comes from the Greek word “Atlantikos” meaning large water area.

The Atlantic was the first ocean ever crossed by a ship (Cunard Lines, 1850s) and an airplane (Amelia Earhart was the 1st woman to fly above it in 1928) before anyone does. Greenland, world’s largest island is located here as well as the mysterious Bermuda Triangle. And yes, at some point it was once a “hungry” ocean with its jaws of “teeth” (iceberg) when it sank off the Titanic in 1912.

Icebergs, and also with the red one in Greenland.

Now, speaking of barrier reefs two of the world’s largest: Great Barrier Reef (Australian coast) and the Cancun Reef (Mexico) are located in the Atlantic. It has natural wealth as well such as oil, natural gas and precious stones. And in winter, it unleashes its fury to the full with massive waves as high as 50 ft. as storms are frequent during this season.

An Overview on Cape Town:

Long before the first European set its foot in South Africa, the place has been inhabited by the KhoeSan tribes. In 1488, the Portuguese explorer, Bartholomeu Dias reached the area and named it Cabo das Tormentas (Cape of Storms) after experiencing a terrible storm near the coast. Later it was renamed by John II of Portugal into Cabo das Boa Esperanca (Cape of Good Hope) because of the hope that a sea route to the East was possible after circumnavigating the Cape.

Jan van Riebeeck of the Dutch East India Company arrived in 1652, set up a way-station for Dutch ships and started the slave trade in the Cape, by bringing in workers from South East Asia. His aim was for the slaves to grow fruits and vegetables and barter them for livestock with the Hottentot tribes and later on he built a hospital and sanctuary for the repair of their ships. From there, the area was under sporadic Dutch control until the British came along.

British (and also the French) ships docked at the port often during the Seven Years’ War in the mid-1700s and it was the Brits who would later call the area “Cape Town” (Kaapstad in Afrikaans). In 1795 they invaded the place but returned it back to The Netherlands in 1803, and to be re-possessed again (by the British) in 1814 after the signing of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty.

There was a rapid growth of the city under the British Cape Colony but unfortunately in 1948 just like with the rest of South Africa, apartheid was implemented. Areas were classified by race and Cape Town became a “Colored labor” area. In 1989 Capetonians participated to a peaceful demonstration against apartheid and Nelson Mandela made his first speech from Cape Town City Hall after being freed from prison at Robben Island in 1990, signaling the birth of a new South Africa.

Map showing the location of Cape Town, South Africa.

I joined the bulk carrier IVS Wentworth at the Port of Cape Town here in South Africa on May 2014. Thousands of tourists stream into this city to encounter its diverse culture, colorful past and spectacular scenery. Sometimes called as the “Mother City” let’s take a look on 11 stunning truths on Cape Town, South Africa you probably don’t know but should.

1. Home to incredible Table Mountain, South Africa’s most photographed landmark.

A stunning truth on Cape Town, South Africa you probably don’t know but should is that it’s the home of the Table Mountain. Rising at 1,087 meters above the sea, this flat-topped wonder is also a favorite spot for couples to get engaged. At least 2 pairs of lovers go up each month to its summit via the cableway to get hitched.

The Table Mountain cableway.

2. Where you can find Castle of Good Hope, South Africa’s oldest building.

Built in 1679 by Jan van Riebeek of the Dutch East India Company is the Castle of Good Hope, the oldest building found today in South Africa and a stunning truth on Cape Town you probably don’t know but should. At one point it functioned as a fort, welcoming sailors traveling around the Cape of Good Hope after a difficult voyage. The star-shaped building has once had a door facing the ocean with waves lapping on it but has been removed and today, the castle serves as a base of the South African Defense force.

3. Famous for its “noon gun” ritual at Signal Hill.

A tradition that dates back to its harbor trading years in the early 19th century, a cannon at Signal Hill fires at exactly 12:00 noon everyday for its noontime gun practice. The guns were originally used to indicate the arrival of ships, this is Cape Town’s oldest living tradition which is still carried around up to this day. A stunning truth on Cape Town, South Africa you probably don’t know but should.

4. The first non-European city to receive a Blue Flag award.

A blue flag award is given to cities with high-quality water, good facilities, safety and cleanliness of its beaches. And Cape Town, South Africa is one of those safest and cleanest cities in the world, a stunning truth you probably don’t know but should. In fact, the New York Times once called this city the best place in the world to visit in 2014.

5. The only city in the world to celebrate New Year twice.

Here at Cape Town, the New Year is celebrated twice – on January 1st and on January 2 which is the Kaapse Klopse (or Tweed Nuwe Jaar). On this day, minstrels (musicians) take to the streets clad in colorful attires and carry with them brightly colored umbrellas or play an array of musical instruments. Revelers are usually from the Afrikaans-speaking Cape “colored” class who’ve been practicing this tradition since the mid-19th century. A stunning truth on Cape Town, South Africa you probably don’t know but should.

6. It boasts of Franschhoek Wine Tram that will take you to one of South Africa’s oldest wine estate.

Leaving all your worries and stress of life behind, Franschhoek Wine Tram takes you to one of South Africa‘s oldest and most renowned wine estates. A stunning truth on Cape Town, South Africa you probably don’t know but should this is a hop-on hop-off tour that will take you right into Franschhoek Valley. You will be treated with a narration about the history of wine production in the area plus the unsurpassed scenery of the valley and its vineyards.

One of the estates in Franschhoek Valley.

7. It’s the tobogganing hub of South Africa.

Tobogganing is a sport of sliding down on snow-covered slopes using a sled. Named “Cool Runnings” after Jamaica’s first bobsled team, toboggans in Cape Town don’t run on typical snow but on a stainless steel track. A stunning truth on Cape Town, South Africa you probably don’t know but should and if you’re a speed freak, this is surely a thrilling challenge for you.

8. It has an Instagrammable spot called Bo-Kaap Neighborhood.

An area of brightly colored houses, Bo-Kaap Neighborhhod or Malay Quarter were once houses of enslaved people from Malaysia, Indonesia and its surrounding islands brought in by the Dutch imperialists in the 1760s. During those times the houses used to be painted white as per Dutch law but after slavery was banned, its residents were allowed to paint their houses in any color. A stunning truth on Cape Town, South Africa you probably don’t know but should, their descendants still occupy said houses, a reminder of their ancestors expression of freedom and Bo-Kaap is now a quarter of cheerful galleries and cafes catering to Southeast Asian cuisine.

9. The seasons here are “upside down”.

The month of March in Cape Town, which is autumn.

Since South Africa is situated in the southern hemisphere, Christmas in Cape Town is sunny while July is cold and wintry. A stunning truth on Cape Town, South Africa you probably don’t know but should the seasons here are upside down. March is autumn and a great time to visit the city with its colorful foliage just like September which is spring.

Snow-covered Clifton Beach in Cape Town during the month of July.

10. Chapman’s Peak Drive provides you the most amazing road scenes in the world.

One of the most scenic streets in the world carved out from the mountain side, Chapman’s Peak Drive is a 9-km stretch of winding road along the Atlantic coastline at Hout Bay to Noodhoek valley. A stunning truth on Cape Town, South Africa you probably don’t know but should, the “Chappies” (as it is fondly called) is highly recommended for anyone who is crazy about the resplendent scenery of the city. Constructed in 1917, Chapman’s Peak has 114 curves and follows a rocky coastline to unfurl at breathtaking sights in both directions.

11. Where you can have the chance to witness the meeting of currents between two oceans.

At Cape Point Nature Reserve, you can have the opportunity to stand at Africa‘s most southwestern point. A stunning truth on Cape Town, South Africa you probably don’t know but should, here it is where the Benguela (Indian Ocean) current meets the Agulhas current of the the Atlantic Ocean.

Cape Point Nature Reserve
Marker at Cape Point Nature Reserve.

Where the Benguela current of Indian Ocean meets Agulhas current of the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Point.

Indeed Cape Town is a great city to explore especially its countryside. Take time to wander when you have the chance to visit this amazing place one day. Just when you think you’ll be there for a day or two, you will end up wanting to explore further. Sterkte en pret! (Good luck and have fun)

Reference: Wikipedia