12 Reasons You Need To Visit Cape Town

camps-bay-cape-town-beach

Despite the article heading, there are in fact a million reasons to visit Cape Town. Along with another million reasons why I want to move there, why I love it more than any other city on earth and why you probably go live there! No one has time for a blog post that long though, so let’s just start with these 12 great reasons to visit Cape Town or to at least place it firmly on the top of your 2016 bucket list!

I’m home less than a week and I am already planning my return trip. So many beaches I didn’t get to lie on, so many sunsets I didn’t get to witness and so many cute penguins I have yet to dote on! Let’s not even talk about all that delicious food and wine which you can devour for a fraction of the price I have to may in Ireland! Even just thinking about the place makes me smile…and browse Skyscanner for cheap flights!!

Honestly though, if you’re are looking for some travel inspiration and are still on the fence about vising South Africa, these 12 excellent reasons to visit Cape Town should help! Also, if you are looking for the best places to stay, be sure to check out my guide to the best hostels in South Africa.

12. Stunning beaches

camps-bay-cape-town-beach

Camps Bay beach, with the Twelve Apostles forming the backdrop

table-mountain-view

Sunset Beach, with a perfect view of table mountain

Cape Town is pretty famous for its beaches and once you visit it’s not hard to see why. They are RIDICULOUSLY beautiful. Honestly, sometimes I found myself just standing there looking at the beach and the view and the turquoise water and thinking, “Is this for real?! Am I really here right now?”. While there are obviously some that are busier than others such as the Gay-friendly beaches in Clifton or the ever-popular Camps Bay, there are also a myriad of beaches that nobody seems to know about. The view from Sunset Beach en route ro Blouberg Strand, where you can get the picture perfect photo of table mountain across the bay was beautiful while Noordhoek beach at the end of Chapman’s Peak drive was the longest and whitest beach I have ever seen.

11. Whale Watching

A photo posted by Steve Benjamin (@animal_ocean) on

This was a bit expected but without a doubt the nicest surprise of our few days in Cape Town! En route to Robben Island, while chatting away on the ferry, someone spotted some whales only a few metres from the boat! We all ran out onto the deck outside and watched a Southern Right whale breach right in front of the boat. It was the most incredible sight. Then on our way back to Cape Town that afternoon we spotted more whales in the distance and everyone on board went crazy (with happiness) yet again! Apparently the best time for whale watching is from June until October so we were seriously lucky to spot whales so late in the year (we saw them in late November). You can also head to the town of Hermanus, just a two hour drive from Cape Town, where whales can be spotted almost every day of the year. There is even a man who calls himself the world’s only ‘whale whisperer’, who lets everyone know where to look for the whales!

10.  Perfect weather

weather-muizenberg-cape-town

weather cape town The weather in Cape Town this time of year is beyond perfect. Unlike other destinations in South Africa further up the coast, like Durban or even Joburg, that are uncomfortably humid and sticky during the summer, Cape Town is a real breath of fresh air. During our time there it was beautifully sunny every day, with nice coastal breeze to keep you cool. While the evenings can get a little chilly in November and early December, by January and February I have no doubt the temperature will be just perfect. So if you’re looking to beat the winter blues, pack your shorts, t-shirts and summer dresses and get yourself on the next flight to Cape Town!!

9. Shopping

shopping-cape-town WP_20151117_185 The shopping in Cape Town was surprisingly impressive. First off, don’t bother buying all the clothes you need for your holiday in your home country. Such a waste of all those precious euro or dollars. I was able to buy all the clothes I needed in Cape Town for a fraction of the price, meaning I had more money for fun activities like skydiving or…drinking wine! There is also an excellent selection of souvenir markets where you can buy traditional African crafts and also lots of tiny boutiques with beautiful pieces of art work that would look amazing in any travellers home. Sadly I don’t have a home (downside of being nomadic!) so had to stop myself from buying anything. These brightly coloured paintings really caught my eye…I might have to go back some day just to buy them!

8. Delicious wine

cape-twon-wine-tasting-tour

wine-tasting-cape-town There was no way I could write a post about Cape Town and not mention wine. I’m totally in love with the stuff since visiting the Cape Wine region and would not be caught dead buying wine from any other region…for the time being anyway! We did a self drive wine tour from Cape Town to Stellenbosch, but there are also many great day tours you can do from your hostel or you can do the hop on hop off wine tasting bus from Stellenbosch! Villiers was definitely my favourite winery to visit while Simonsig was a favourite among my friends, mainly because it is a very expensive wine back home and we were able to sit there drinking it for hours and only had to pay a few euro tasting fee! Villiers only charged the equivalent of 2 euro tasting fee and if you bought a bottle of wine (we all did!) the fee was waived. We also tasted some delicious local cheeses and had  short walk around the vineyard. If you go to Cape Town, you HAVE to go wine tasting!!

7. Fascinating history

robben-island-cape-town

  A photo posted by @finnjohnsson2012 on

A visit to Cape Town would not be complete without a visit to some of the cities most important historical sites. Be it a tour of a township just outside the city with a local guide just outside the city, a self guided tour around the District Six museum (to learn more about Apartheid and South Africa’s very recent history) or a half day trip to Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years before he was released and made President), there are so many interesting historical sites to check out.

6. Extreme sports

paragliding-cape-town-signal-hill

  A photo posted by Mike Rutzen (@mikerutzen) on

This was definitely one of my favourite memories of Cape Town; Paragliding off the side of Signal Hill, gliding down across the city suburbs of Camps Bay and Seapoint and the landed mere meters from out Airbnb apartment! We paid around 70 euro per person which is definitely the cheapest price I have ever seen for paragliding. That said, it is even cheaper further up the coast in places like Mossel Bay, but then you don’t get the same spectacular views that you get in Cape Town. Other extreme sports on offer include: Skydiving, swimming with seals, Shark cage diving, sand boarding, surfing (with sharks!!) and scuba diving. Pretty much anything you are looking for can be found in Cape Town or near by!

5. African Penguins

penguins-cape-twon
A site nobody expects to see in their lifetime: hundreds of adorable penguins chilling out on a beautiful, white sandy beach. Seeing penguins while you are dressed ion shorts and t-shirt and eating an ice-cream to keep cool is quite a bizarre experience, but also a real highlight of any visit to Cape Town. Found on a Boulders beach in Simonstown and on a beach on Robber Island, these African Penguins are absolutely adorable and a must see. You can easily stop by here to see them en route to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point.

4. Beautiful Bo Kaap

bo-kaap-coloured-houses-cape-town

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Colourful house in Bo Kaap, Cape Town

Bo Kaap, an area in Cape Town full of brightly painted houses, has the most fascinating history. Home to the Cape Malay people, it is a predominantly Muslim district with a strong sense of community and tradition. The residents have one tradition loved by locals and visitors alike; they repaint their houses in bright uplifting colours each year to celebrate the end if Ramadan. Another tradition is their annual 3 day festival, which starts after Ramadan. They enjoy a 3 day feast (having fasted for over a month!!) and take to the streets to celebrate, with celebrations starting at the sight of the rising full moon and continuing throughout the night.

3. Table Mountain


tabel view, cape town

Table Mountain, that iconic landmark that frames the city and is recognizable to people all over the world. It’s strange how a city has formed at the base of a mountain and that said mountain now is the centre point of the entire city. Whether you decide to hike to the top through Table Mountain National Park, take the easy route and catch the Cable Car or simply admire the mountain from every angle (you can see it from Camps Bay, Blouberg Strand and even on the ferry to Robben Island), it is sure to be the focal point of many of your adventures in Cape Town. The mountain is one of the new 7 natural wonders of the world and the entire area is protected as part of the UNESCO Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site as the park supports a high diversity of flora, much of which is rare and endemic to this particular region. It’s a true hikers paradise!

2. Cape Of Good Hope

cape-of-good-hope-sunset
As if you needed one more excuse to visit this incredible place, now you can tick off a pretty amazing bucket list item! The Cape of Good Hope is the most south westerly point on the entire African continent….the edge of the world as we know it. People use to think it is where the two great oceans (the Indian and Atlantic) meet but that is actually a tiny bit further along the coast at Cape Agulhus. It is still a very beautiful part of the country with a lot of birdlife to see, home to a range of different shipwrecks that never made it around this dangerous shipping route and more wild baboons than you can shake a stick at!

1. Perfect sunsets

Cape Town has such magical sunsets that many people who live there have set up Instagram accounts with the prime purpose of showcasing all of Cape Town’s best sunset spots. While obvious ones like Signal Hill, Lions’ Head and Camps Bay (sun downer cocktails, anyone?) see masses of people each clear evening, there are loads of other beaches where you won’t run into single other traveller. Drive out to Blouberg Strand to get that postcard perfect of the sun setting behind Table Mountain, take a spin down to the Cape Peninsula and watch the sun setting behind Kommetjie lighthouse or Cape Point or watch the sky change colour throughout the evening from Noordhoek beach, where you will have the entire place to yourself.

Watching the sunset from Signal Hill, Cape Town

Watching the sunset from Signal Hill, Cape Town

Follow:

Our Surfing Adventure To Morocco

agadir-morocco-camel-on-beach

Time to look back and compare my trip to Morocco with my family in 2005 and my recent trip to Taghazout to go surfing with friends in early May. The two holidays could not have been any more different.

Family Trip To Agadir, January 2015

In January 2005 I travelled to Morocco with my parents for a one week holiday in Agadir. After one short week, we all vowed we would never again return to the God forsaken country. So strong, in fact, was my dislike for Morocco, that I included it in a list of ‘10 Absolute Worst Places On This Planet To Visit‘. A bit harsh, I know.

So what had me so worked up about Morocco? Honestly, it wasn’t exactly Morocco that the problem but one small Moroccan resort known to be full of tourists and touts. Anyone who has been to Morocco will at this stage know the city which I’m talking about. It could only be Agadir.

My memory of the place was a little fuzzy, considering I last stepped foot in the place more than 10 years ago, but few things I could forget. The fact was, in reality, there was not a lot to do. And should you be brave enough to venture out of your resort alone, as a single, white female, good luck trying to avoid been sold to the highest bidder for about 100 camels and a free souvenir!

agadir-morocco-camel-on-beach

Surfing in Taghazout, May 2015

Flash forward to earlier this year, when my friends and I decided to book a surfing holiday. I was pushing for Portugal but as one of my friends had already been there and the others were more keen on Morocco, I was essentially over-ruled. While a little apprehensive, I was in a way looking forward to giving the country a second chance. I was 10 years older, 10 years wiser and had travelled around the world more times than I care to remember in that time. Surely there’s more to Morocco than meet the eye.

Following a few weeks of research, we snagged an incredible deal with a surf school in Taghazout, which included one week of accommodation in their hostel/beach lodge, all our meals and surf lessons each day. The day we arrived, I must admit, was a bit of a downer. Ann-marie was very ill from something she had eaten earlier that day, it was pouring rain, it turned out our small group were pretty much the only people staying in the hostel and it was pouring rain. That’s right, it was raining and even quite cold, in Morocco in May.

surf-taghazout

taghazout-village

One day in, however, and our initial (negative) impressions had vanished. The sun came out, smiles re-appeared and there were incredible waves to be surfed in every direction we looked. It was a bit strange staying in a dry town (Taghazout is totally alcohol free due to its close proximity to a Mosque), but it also made for a nice change. The staff at Surf Taghazout (Said, Sean and Jay) were really friendly and laidback and made us feel right at home. It was great to have our own chill out space and the fact that it was low season meant we had the place to ourselves.

Evenings were short, as it got dark quickly and we were exhausted from a full day our on the water, exposed to suns rays at their fiercest. We were quite content to go to bed at 9 or 10pm, following a few hours reading or playing card games. The sunsets, which we watched from the balcony of the surf school, became more spectacular each evening and we would never leave to go for dinner until the sun had fully set behind the horizon.

camels-surfing-morocco

sunset-taghazout

sunset-morocco

Half way through the week we took a break from surfing to do a day trip to Paradise Valley, most definitely the highlight of our trip. I couldn’t believe how stunning the Moroccan countryside was and was taking photos like a mad woman.

Paradise Valley is a section of the Tamraght River valley in the Moroccan High Atlas mountains. It is this incredible palm-lined gorge that would look more at home in the US than in Morocco. As you drive along the gorge, you will see loads of tiny cafes in the river, allowing visitors to sit on a plastic chair in the middle of a shallow stream drinking freshly squeezed orange juice. Again, no alcohol here, not that it is needed!

We spent the afternoon hiking up the valley and swimming in all the beautiful waterfalls and blue lagoons along the way. My friend Skofe befriended some locals at the top pool who were camping out in the wild for a few days. It looked like a pretty spectacular place to camp – I would certainly have loved to join them.

paradise-valley-morocco

paradise-valley

paradise-valley-jumping

After 6 days in Taghazout, we were sad to leave but we were also excited to explore Marrakech as we had all heard such great things about how magical it was. The bus only took about 3 hours to get from Agadit to Marrakech, and the views out of the bus were enough to keep even the most dull passenger entertained.

I was pretty blown away about how much the scenery can change on a single bus journey. From the Atlantic coast, to the clean, palm-tree lined streets of Agadir, to weaving through the Atlas mountains past clear blue reservoirs only to end up in the hustle and bustle of Marrakech, one of Africa’s most enchanting cities. So enchanting, so magical, so vibrant, that I have decided to save my Marrakech adventure for whole other blog post. Hope you’ll come back to read it. :-)

morocco-scenery

marrakech-market-square

Follow:

The Absolute Cheapest Flights On Skyscanner

locals walking on beach in zanzibar

Browsing Skyscanner is a hobby of mine, so much so that I will have to start adding it to my list of skills on LinkedIn and on my CV! I could easily spend 1 hour every night browsing through various flight deals, dreaming of exotic destinations.

Tonight, I have decided to share with you some of deals I have  found recently in a bid to encourage you to escape to the sun.

Whether your budget is 30 euro or 300 euro, be it a ski holiday, a hiking trip or a safari adventure in East Africa, here are the cheapest flights on Skyscanner this week, all for under 500 euro. Because you really should NEVER have to pay more than that for a flight. Go forth and book!

Let’s start with this: Below are all the places you can fly to this September for less than 50 euro. FIFTY EURO. Eat beans on toast for a week and skip the Friday night pints and next thing you know you could be eating Begian chocolate in Bruges or sampling dutch delights in Amsterdam. Such a bargain!

skyscanner-dublin

Dublin – Paris. 50 euro.
city-of-love-flightsparis-at-night

Dublin to Norway. 46 euro.

cheap-flights-norway

beautiful-norway

Dublin to Prague. 66 euro.

cheap-flights-prague

prague-at-dusk

Dublin to Morocco. 78 euro.

cheap-flights-morocco

morocoo-camels

Dublin to Iceland. 160 euro.

flights-to-iceland

iceland-lights

Dublin to Kenya. 357 euro

cheap-flights-kenya

Maasai Warriors Dancing, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Dublin to Tanzania. 357 euro.

tanzabnia-skyscanner

tanzania-safari

Dublin to Dubai. 340 euro.

cheap-dubai

dubai-skyline

Dublin to India. 335 euro.

india-flights

india-visit

Dublin to Canada. 363 euro.

cheap-flights-toronto

toronto-skyline

to Barbados. 488 euro.

flights-to-paradise

barbados-paradise

Follow:

Battling Rabies in Africa

ManchanMagan_large

From riding in the back of an ex-army truck across Africa to battling rabies and drinking his own Urine, Irish travel writer and presenter Manchan Magan is not your regular D4 head!

He may have grown up in Donnybrook but he is living a life far removed from the world of Yummy Mummies. He could speak Irish before he could speak English and despite being the great-grandnephew of nationalist “The O Rahilly” he has always felt disconnected from Ireland.

“I never connected with the world I was brought up in and it left me feeling depressed in my teenage years”, he says.

He is talking to me via Skype from New Mexico, where he is currently helping with the Obama Campaign. Never a dull day I would say.

At the young age of 20 he embarked on a trip of a lifetime. He brings me back to a young, innocent Manchan Magan about to begin his first ever adventure; an epic six month trip from London to Nairobi in the back of an ex-army Truck with 18 unlikely adventurers from 2 privately educated schoolgirls to a locksmith who claims to be a UFO-abductee.

Magan holds back nothing when describing some of the hilarious, eccentric, and shady characters he travelled with, which he explains is why he waited nearly 20 years to publish it.

“When I was younger I preferred reading books that were honest so I like to be brutally honest about everything, whether I am writing about the terrible things I did in South America or the terrible things people did to me in Africa”.

On this first trip across the Dark Continent he encountered witch doctors, drug runners and missionaries. He talks about hitching with dessert nomads in Morocco to being stranded in the middle of the Congo with no food and no money. He was looking for some romance and compassion but all he got was an infectious disease.

“When I returned home with Bilharzia, the doctors here had never seen it before and were entranced by he tests”, Manchan recalls.

“The doctors in the tropical medical bureau out in Dun Laoghaire couldn’t hide their excitement. They seemed to forget my life was in their hands! A new cure had just been released and the Irish government was obliged to use me as a guinea pig to try in out and I was cured within days.”

As I listen to Manchan talk about his travels I can’t help but smile. I can immediately sense his passion and love for the places he has been. That is until I get him talking about his years at a student in UCD, where he studied Arts for 3 years.

“I promised my mum I would go back to College so it was only for her. I was disgusted by how little I had learnt in 3 years in UCD compared with everything I had picked up in Africa. It was my travel experience that created me!”

“The trip I enjoyed the most though was my time in Ecuador”, he tells me. As he reached the Valley of Longevity he realises he had reached a place he could call home. Here he settled down for 7 months where he worked at an organic health spa.

“I also had no choice but to stay put as the Doctors there were treating me for Rabies”. Honest as always.

From running a spa in Ecuador to living in a cave and befriending a gay Leper up in the Himalayas, Manchan has had no shortage of diversity in his life. It was here, high up in the mountains, that Magans brother Ruan came to rescue him.

“I was living the life of a Hermit and had lost all communication with the outside world. I had become delirious living on my own Urine so when Ruan came along with the camera it was the only thing I could talk to.” It was from here that Manchan Magan became the renowned travel presenter he is today.

Now a full-time writer, broadcaster and TV presenter he has a travel column in the Irish Times, regular slots on RTE radio and has made over 50 documentaries worldwide. Yet Magan says he is sticking to his Idealistic ways. He lives in a house made entirely of straw surrounded by his self planted forest in Co. Westmeath.

“I got the idea when I was living out in British Colombia for a few years. I needed to find what I connected with in life and ended up living in a hippie commune where everything was environmentally sustainable.”

I ask him his plans for the future, and he tells me he plans on following his heart…right back to Africa, where all this madness began over 20 years ago. Another crazy adventure awaits for Manchan Magan.

Follow:

Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

The only thing that can bring things back to life, and restore energy levels in this community, is clean water.

As long as there is water, these young kids can continue to grow, continue to learn, continue to live.

Follow: