A love letter to the Mother City

January 7, 2023

As we start another year, a fresh spin around the sun, I am home in Cape Town – a destination that will feel very far away to some and delightfully familiar to others. The Mother City is the home of most of our ROAR AFRICA team and is unlike anywhere else I know. For us, this city is so much more than the sum of her parts. Cape Town’s energy is strong, positive, and present… it engulfs you. There is something innately powerful about being hugged between a towering 3 000-foot sheath of rock and an ocean where two mighty currents meet. This melting pot of warmth, culture, buzz, diversity, and wild beauty holds one tight in its grip.

Sharing one’s home is always completely different to just selling a destination. At ROAR AFRICA, that authentic, homegrown knowledge, fostered over 11 generations, makes us unique. And what is the authenticity that one is in search of when we travel? For me, it’s the opposite of anything overly planned; it’s about accessing what is not for sale. So, as this year begins, I want to focus on how to travel rather than where to travel. To travel slowly and thoughtfully. By doing less, you will see more. By being in the company of local residents, you will fully absorb your surroundings and move through them more meaningfully, rather than pursuing an exhaustive, tick-the-box list of “what to do” and “where to stay”. Below, I have highlighted a few of my most cherished routines and beloved activities – the things that I really love to do when I’m at home in Cape Town and that I can’t wait to share with you.

A city rich in culture and curiosity

From the jagged peaks of Table Mountain to the amphitheatre of vibrant neighborhoods and labyrinthine streets rich in good coffee and culture that lie below, extending down to sandy shores and the sapphire sea, Cape Town’s beauty is ever-present. Before venturing out, one needs to bed in. The Edwardian elegance of Ellerman House, a boutique pied-à-terre nestled into the hills of Bantry Bay, is an easy favorite. This property feels like staying at the welcoming home of an art-and-wine-loving South African.

But the best of our city lies beyond the hotel. And our expert, on-the-ground ROAR AFRICA guides hold the keys that unlock many of Cape Town’s doors. From the archives in parliament and lively Cape Malay cooking classes in the colorful Bo-Kaap, to a visit to Robben Island led by Mandela’s prison guard. Or perhaps a casual braai aka BBQ at the family home of a ROAR AFRICA guide. We believe our city’s long, complex history is best recounted by locals who lived it.

Art, elegance, and adventure await 

For me, no morning is complete without a hike on Table Mountain. It is the framework of my day, a deep grounding where I look harder, see more, and listen in silence as nature’s splendor consumes me. Breakfast often happens at Naked Coffee in Sea Point, but on the weekend, only the Oranjezicht City Farm Market will do. To wander amongst the food stalls and sit amongst the convivial local buzz of others doing the same in the sunshine, with the ocean as your backdrop, highlights the wonder of life in this playground. A slow pace, profound beauty, real people, and great food are forever at your fingertips here.

An afternoon immersed in contemporary art at the world-class Zeitz MOCAA, the first major institution dedicated exclusively to African artists, is a sensory feast. The architecture (the museum is set inside an imaginatively renovated grain silo), the light and sheer scale of the myriad galleries astounds and inspires. A walking tour of street art and graffiti, meanwhile, sheds much light on South Africa’s past and future. Come dinnertime, Cape Town is flush with good restaurants – like the new Manos or The Nines, or NV80, a long-time favorite. Of course, knowing the owners and having them as friends since teenage years makes all the difference to getting a table. Further afield, in picturesque Hout Bay, it’s as much a treat to introduce our guests to a “fish on the rocks” as it is to sit down for the fabulous tasting menu at Chef‘s Warehouse Tintswalo. From high to low, we hope discovery at a different pace will spark deeper ways of thinking about how to travel.

Wild beauty beyond belief

Much of Cape Town’s luminous appeal lies just beneath the surface. You’ll find Africa’s only colony of penguins amidst the turquoise coves of Boulders Beach. The Great African Sea Forest immortalized in the Oscar-winning film My Octopus Teacher is nearby in Kalk Bay. There’s also snorkeling, diving, or kite-surfing (Cape Town is a watersports enthusiasts’ wonderland), while the drive through protea-thick hills and storybook coastal curves to the Cape of Good Hope feels like reaching the end of the world – in a good way. Empty, wind-swept beaches, wild ostriches, and endless expanses of blue sea open up the space to think and dream. And to return, one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful drives on earth: Chapman’s Peak.

Also on the edge of this outdoor playground are Franschhoek and Stellenbosch in the Cape Winelands. A food-lovers paradise with endless options to experience some of the best wine in the world – wine that you have never heard of and can never buy – alongside fine dining or always-fabulous, plain old steak and chips (the only thing on the menu at Rust en Vrede).

Of all the places to stay, there is, of course, just one that stands out: Sterrekopje, a working farm in a verdant valley. Deeply considered and ahead of its time, the entire experience is the answer to everyone’s unknown need for rest. Alternative treatments, sound baths, hammams, breath work, equine therapy, and the considered list continues… all united in the rare ability to reset our frazzled minds to the natural rhythm of nature. Time spent here is healing, restorative, and deeply moving.

I hope this brief love letter to Cape Town and her spectacular surrounds gives you a taste of the diversity that pulses through this magical place we call home. As a traveler, a genuine, immersive approach and concrete impact on the communities you visit are within reach. Today, I am at The L’Ormarins King’s Plate – an annual horse-racing event of blue and white. Effortlessly elegant, this public gathering is sheer fun and delight. One of the best of its kind in the world, a cosmopolitan mix of international jet-setters and all of Cape Town is out to play. As I’ve said, this city of contrasts, our home, is an endless playground for the curious adventurer.

Words can set the scene, they can never fully take you there. Rather than longing for a reality unknown, real travel is about coming to terms with the world the way it is. Real travel is knowing that the wealth of any experience is, in fact, the freedom within it.

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