An insider’s guide to Cape Town’s 9 best outdoor activities
It’s tricky, for those who have never been, to truly understand the scope of Cape Town’s majesty – and what an incredible playground it can be for adventurers. Imagine a mountain range one kilometre high and 50 kilometres long, forming a peninsula that divides two oceans and is home to over a thousand plant species – more than all of the United Kingdom. An assortment of trails criss-cross these mountains, explored by mountain bikers, hikers, trail runners and rock climbers on their way to their next epic route.
The peaks tumble dramatically into a sea that’s home to seal colonies, penguins, great white sharks and a wave that’s always breaking somewhere (the benefits of two oceans and countless beaches). Here, at the very tip of Africa, the wind can pick up too, creating swells and conditions perfect for kitesurfing. Considered all together, it means there’s always something to do – some bay to swim in or some peak to bag – the only difficult part is choosing what to do. Of all the outdoor activities, these are eight of the best in and around Cape Town;
1. Seal snorkeling
You’ll swim with 5,000 playful Cape fur seals near Duiker Island in Hout Bay. Animal Ocean runs the tours that bring you mask-to-whisker with playful and inquisitive wild animals in their natural habitat. The seals are not fed or trained, they behave naturally and interact with visitors on their own terms.
2. Sea kayaking from Granger Bay or Three Anchor Bay
Start your day surrounded by dolphins, seals, sun fish and whales on this fantastic two-hour trip. With views of Sea Point promenade, Signal Hill and Table Mountain, the serene setting is matched by the joy of exploring the coastline under your own steam. Kaskazi Kayaks and Atlantic Outlook offer similar experiences.
3. Abseiling off Table Mountain
You’ll step off the top of Cape Town’s iconic mountain at 1000 metres above sea level and abseil into mind-blowing vertical space. Descending down the side of a sheer cliff you’ll be surrounded by stunning views. No experience is needed, the guides show you the ropes and talk you through the whole process.
4. Freediving classes in Cape Town
Cape Town Freediving offers a wonderful mix of freediving and snorkeling opportunities, from seal and kelp forest adventures to training in freshwater lakes and world-class swimming pools. Their recreational adventure courses are for those who want to explore the ocean and their sport courses are for those who want to enter the world of competitive freediving.
5. Kitesurfing in Blouberg
Kitesurfers flock to Blouberg and Big Bay on the Cape’s West Coast to harness the power of the notorious South-Easter, which blows consistently at the start of summer. With clear days and strong winds, it’s seen Cape Town establish itself as one of the best kitesurfing destinations in the world.
6. Surfing at Muizenberg
Beginner surfers head towards the opposite coast of the peninsula to Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg to pop up and hang ten like the longboarders of old. The waves are perfect for beginners to learn on and are best in the winter months from April to September.
7. Hiking Lion’s Head
Some people like to claim the Lion’s Head is the most climbed mountain in the world. That’s hard to say for sure but what is for certain is that it’s never been more popular to tackle this peak that overlooks the city, Table Mountain and Camps Bay. It can take less than two hours to go up and down, which makes it a perfect little sunrise mission, although the full moon hikes are particularly popular too.
8. Mountain biking in Tokai
Located in the southern section of the Table Mountain National Park, the Tokai trails have existed in one form or another since the 1990s. They cater for every age and skill level provided that you select the appropriate trails for your skill and fitness level. If you’re an intermediate to advanced rider with a love of gravity, drops and jumps you will get the most enjoyment from this single-track paradise.
9. The 13 Peaks Challenge trail run
This 108-kilometre route was created by trail runner Ryan Sandes when he decided to link up some of his favourite peaks in the Cape Peninsula. The start and finish are in the same place (Signal Hill) and mimic the famous “rounds” in the UK. The trail clocks up over 6000 m of vertical ascent along the way, with the fastest trail runners completing it in less than 24 hours.