advertisement

For one-stop adrenaline activity shopping, contact Downhill Adventures (tel. 021/422-0388; www.downhilladventures.com), which offers everything from its own surf school to helicopter rides.

Abseiling -- Abseil Africa (tel. 021/424-4760; www.abseilafrica.co.za) will throw you 100m (328 ft.) off Table Mountain -- attached to a rope, of course (R495, excluding cable car fees; R650 hike and abseil combo). But their best trip is Kamikaze Kanyon, a day's kloofing (scrambling down a river gorge) in a nature reserve, ending with a 65m (213-ft.) waterfall abseil (R695).

Ballooning -- Board a balloon in the early morning and glide over the Paarl Winelands -- the 1-hour flight (R2,350 per person) takes off every morning from November to April and includes a champagne breakfast at the Grande Roche. Contact Wineland Ballooning (tel. 021/863-3192).

Bird-Watching -- The peninsula attracts nearly 400 species of birds; Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Point, and Rondevlei Nature Reserve are some of the best areas for sightings. For guided tours of the area and farther afield, contact BirdWatch Cape (tel. 021/762-5059; www.birdwatch.co.za). A half-day tour costs R1,800 (for up to three people), and includes pick-up and drop-off but not reserve entrance fees; full-day trips cost R2,800.

Boating -- An exhilarating boating experience, ocean rafting reaches speeds of up to 130kmph (81 mph) across Table Bay or around Robben Island in an 11-passenger inflatable (tel. 021/425-3785; www.atlanticadventures.co.za; R350 per person for 1 hr.).

Canoeing/Kayaking -- Real Cape Adventures (tel. 021/790-5611; www.seakayak.co.za) covers almost every sea-kayaking route on the western and southern coasts and caters to all levels of ability -- request a trip to the rugged coastline of Cape Point.

Diving -- Wreck diving is popular here, and the coral-covered wrecks at Smitswinkel Bay are particularly worth exploring, as are Maori Bay, Oak Burn, and Bnos 400. Call Dive Action (tel. 021/511-0815; www.diveaction.co.za).

Fishing -- Big Game Fishing Safaris (tel. 021/674-2203) operates out of Simons Town on a 12m (39-ft.) catamaran and offers bottom/reef fishing (as well as crayfish lunches, sundowner cruises, and onboard skeet shooting). You can also go online and charter a deep-sea fishing trip with Cape Sea Safaris (www.capeseasafaris.com). Trout fishing is popular in the crystal-clear streams found in the Du Toits Kloof Mountains near Paarl and in Franschhoek, where salmon trout is a specialty on every menu. For guided trips, call Tim (tel. 083/626-0467). For general advice, tuition, and permits in Franschhoek, contact Dewdale Fly Fishery (tel. 021/876-2755).

Golfing -- The Royal Cape (tel. 021/761-6551) has hosted the South African Open many times. Milnerton Golf Club (tel. 021/552-1047; www.milnertongolf.co.za) is the only true links course in the Cape, with magnificent views of Table Mountain, but is best avoided when the wind is blowing. Rondebosch (tel. 021/689-4176; www.rondeboschgolfclub.com) and Mowbray (tel. 021/685-3018) -- both off the N2 -- have lovely views of Devil's Peak (the latter course is the more demanding). Clovelly (tel. 021/782-1118), in Fish Hoek, is a tight course requiring some precision. Steenberg (tel. 021/713-2233) is the course in Constantia.

In the Winelands, the Gary Player-designed Erinvale, Lourensford Road (tel. 021/847-1144), in Somerset West, is considered the best, but Stellenbosch (tel. 021/880-0103), on Strand Road, is another worthwhile course, with a particularly challenging tree-lined fairway. Nestled in the Franschhoek valley, Jack Nicklaus's Pearl Valley Golf Estate (tel. 021/867-8000; www.pearlvalleygolfestates.com) will host the South African Open in 2010 (for the third time since opening in 2003); the 13th hole is legendary, and views provide a great distraction throughout.

Hiking -- Most hikers start by climbing Table Mountain, for which there are a number of options; call the Mountain Club (tel. 021/465-3412). For hikes farther afield, contact Ross at High Adventure (tel. 021/447-8036) -- as a trained climbing instructor, Ross can spice up your walk with some exhilarating ascents. If you're staying in Stellenbosch, the trails (5.3km-18km/3.25-11 miles) in the mountainous Jonkershoek Nature Reserve are recommended. Recommended reading for hikers: Day Walks in and Around Cape Town, by Tim Anderson (Struik), and Mike Lundy's Best Walks in the Peninsula (Struik).

Horseback Riding -- Take an early-morning or sunset ride on spectacular Long Beach, Noordhoek, by contacting Sleepy Hollow (tel. 021/789-2341). To ride among the vineyards on horseback stopping for wine tastings, contact Wine Valley Horse Trails (tel. 083/226-8735; www.horsetrails-sa.co.za) for a range of rides commencing on Rhebokskloof Wine Estate.

Kite-Surfing -- Cape Town is considered one of the world's best kite-surfing destinations. Big Bay, at Blouberg (take R27, Marine Dr., off the N1), provides consistent wind, good waves, and a classic picture-postcard view of Table Mountain. Other popular spots include Milnerton Lagoon, and Platboom, off the Cape Point Nature Reserve. For lessons and rentals, contact the Cabrinha Kiteboarding School (tel. 021/556-7910; www.cabrinha.co.za; R495 per 2-hr. lesson), or visit their shop at Marine Promenade, Porterfield Road, in Table View, right at Blouberg's renowned Kitebeach. Or head north to Langebaan Lagoon.

Mountain Biking -- There are a number of trails on Table Mountain, Cape Point, and the Winelands, but the Tokai Forest network and Constantiaberg trails are the best. Contact Day Trippers (tel. 021/511-4766; R495) for guided rides on Constantiaberg and around Cape Point; or Downhill Adventures (tel. 021/422-0388; www.downhilladventures.com; R655) for a full-day Cape Point and Winelands tour.

Paragliding -- An unparalleled way to see Cape Town is while hanging weightlessly on the thermals above the city. Soar off Lion's Head for a jaw-dropping view of mountains and sea, and land at Camps Bay Beach or La Med bar for cocktails at sunset. Another rated flight is over the Franschhoek valley, but there are jump points all over the Peninsula and as far away as Hermanus. The most reliable starting point is Signal Hill, but bear in mind that if the wind doesn't cooperate, you can't fly, so it's best to call at the start of your holiday and provide a mobile number where you can be reached on short notice when conditions are right. This is an exhilarating trip; no prior experience is necessary for the carefree tandem session (R950; 10-25 min.), but the brief taste of the remarkably cool sensation of effortless flight might inspire you to sign up for a full course. Either way, contact Barry or Candice at Birdmen (tel. 082/658-6710; www.birdmen.co.za).

Sandboarding -- South Africa's answer to snowboarding takes place on the tallest dunes all around the Cape. Contact Downhill Adventures for trips and tuition (tel. 021/422-0388; R655 full-day).

Shark-Cage Diving -- You don't have to stay in Hermanus to have a riveting up-close and personal experience with one of Earth's most ancient creatures in its natural habitat. Most South African shark-cage diving companies will do Cape Town hotel pick-ups, though some commence as early as 3:45am (if you're based in Camps Bay). If you're at all fascinated by creatures of the deep, the excursion is worth it. The boat trip is usually the undoing of most divers -- unless you're regularly at sea, you should consider taking sea-sickness medication (ask your doctor), which must be administered in advance. Take warm clothing along (the water is icy and the onboard breeze gets very fresh). Other than this, you're supplied with everything you need for the experience.

Skydiving -- Free-fall for up to 30 seconds, attached to an experienced instructor. Skydive Cape Town (tel. 082/800-6290; www.skydivecapetown.za.net) offers tandem dives (R1,450) off the West Coast, some 3,600m (11,808 ft.) above Melkbosstrand. You can also jump solo by undertaking a basic static line course; R900 includes the theoretical and practical training, as well as the first exhilarating jump. Licensed skydivers can rent gear and get on jump craft at good rates.

Surfing -- For the daily surf report, call tel. 082/234-6340. The beaches off Kalk Bay reef and Noordhoek are considered hot spots, but Muizenberg and Big Bay, at Blouberg (take R27, Marine Dr., off the N1), are good for beginners. Downhill Adventures (tel. 021/422-0388; www.downhilladventures.com) has a surf school with all equipment provided (R655 full day, with lunch and transfers). If all you need is equipment or advice, call Matthew Moir (tel. 083/444-9442).

Whale-Watching -- Hermanus, just over an hour's drive on the N2, is one of the world's best land-based spots. Call the Whale Hot Line (tel. 083/910-1028). For the city's best whale-watching, drive along the False Bay coast, or contact Evan at Atlantic Adventures (tel. 083/680-2768), which operates trips out of the V&A Waterfront. Contact the Waterfront Boat Company (tel. 021/418-5806; www.waterfrontboats.co.za) for trips in Table Bay, departing from the Waterfront.

Surf & Sand: Cape Town's Best Beaches

You'll find Cape Town's most beautiful beaches along the Atlantic seaboard, with Clifton, Camps Bay, and Llandudno the most popular. A combination of four beaches semiseparated by large granite boulders, gorgeous Clifton has Blue-Flag status, is often the only place where the wind isn't blowing, and is good for swimming (albeit freezing), but it's a long walk back through the cliff-hugging village to your car. Oft-crowded Camps Bay offers easy access, a few rock pools, and numerous bars and cafes within strolling distance. You can also hire loungers and umbrellas on the beach (in season), even summon a personal masseuse, and get takeaway pizza delivered from Col'Cacchio across the way. For better privacy, gigantic boulders, and a family-friendly vibe, move along to the tucked-away miniature beaches of Bakoven. Laid-back Llandudno is one of the city's prettiest beaches, though parking can be a real problem during high season. Sandy Bay, adjacent to Llandudno, is the Cape's only nudist beach. Reached via a narrow footpath, it is secluded and popular with gay men and wankers -- this is not a great spot for women, unless you're in a group. The pristine, empty 8km (5-mile) stretch of Long Beach, featured in a thousand television commercials, is best traversed on horseback; farther south, the white sands of Scarborough have serious allure. On the False Bay side, where the water is warmer, the best place to swim is with the penguins at Boulders (although on a bad day you may have to contend with gawking tourists as well). The tidal pool at St James is where old-timers start the day in the warmer-than-Clifton waters, backed by much-photographed colorful beach huts.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.