These tours concentrate on the city and immediate surroundings.
On Foot -- The excellent 3-hour guided walk Footsteps to Freedom (tel. 083/452-1112 or 021/671-6878; www.footstepstofreedom.co.za) departs Monday to Saturday at 10:30pm from Cape Town Tourism (Burg and Hout sts.) and covers the most fascinating parts of the city center. It's a good way to get oriented and come to grips with Cape Town's multifaceted history; your guide will take you to some secret spots -- if you're lucky, you'll get to stand on the balcony where Mandela first addressed the public as a free man on February 11, 1990. The scheduled tour costs R150; personalized tours are also available (ask for Garth Angus, whose expertise is unparalleled).
By Boat -- One of the best vantages of Cape Town is undoubtedly from the sea. I highly recommend the 90-minute sunset cruise from the harbor to Clifton (R200), offered by the Waterfront Boat Company (tel. 021/418-5806; www.waterfrontboats.co.za). They also have two gaff-rigged schooners -- the Spirit of Victoria and Esperance -- that cruise the Table Bay and Blouberg area, and luxury motorboats that cruise to Clifton Bay. The company has a whale-watching permit, and there's even some chance you'll spot whales while on the sunset cruise (as I did the last time I went out), a spectacle that'll leave you breathless as the disappearing sun sets the water aglow and the lights of the city effervesce in the background. Tigresse (tel. 021/421-0909; www.tigresse.co.za), a huge luxury catamaran, is another great way to get to Clifton (R110 adults, R180 sunset cruise with bubbly). Alternatively, get your pulse racing and strap up with Atlantic Adventures (tel. 021/425-3785; www.atlanticadventures.co.za), which sets off at 120kmph (74 mph) across Table Bay in a rubber duck (R350 per person per hour). In Hout Bay harbor, Drumbeat Charters (tel. 021/791-4441; www.drumbeatcharters.co.za) offers 40-minute trips to see the Cape fur seals on Duiker Island (R60 adults, R25 children under 14; daily in season).
By Bus -- A large number of operators offer driving tours of the city and its surrounds. While I don't usually recommend such tours because they're way out of touch with the places they're supposedly exploring, a 2-day ticket for the kitsch hop-on, hop-off City Sightseeing bus (tel. 021/511-6000; www.citysightseeing.co.za; R200 per person) is admittedly a convenient way to get around and see many of the highlights at more or less your own pace. In 2 days, you can cover both available routes -- one takes in the peninsula and the other covers top city sites, even trundling through glamorous Camps Bay, when the double-decker bus inevitably turns every head on every bronzed body.
African Eagle (tel. 021/464-4266; www.daytours.co.za), Hylton Ross (tel. 021/511-1784; www.hyltonross.co.za), and Springbok Atlas (tel. 021/460-4700; www.springbokatlas.com) are long-standing operators offering a variety of half-day, full-day, and multiday tours. You might want to check on the size of any tour group, and bear in mind that seeing the Cape through a bus window is hellishly frustrating.
By Air -- For an aerial tour of the city or peninsula, contact Civair Helicopters (tel. 021/419-5182) or Sport Helicopters (tel. 021/419-5907/8; www.sport-helicopters.co.za), which has flights from R2,700 per lift-off. The Hopper (tel. 021/419-8951; www.thehopper.co.za) promises to take single bookings (from R400 per person for short scenic hops) any day of the week. Also based at the V&A Waterfront, The Huey Helicopter Co. (tel. 021/419-4839; www.thehueyhelicopterco.com) offers half-hour low-flying "simulated combat" tours (R1,800 per person; seven-passenger minimum) in a retired Vietnam combat chopper, plus exhilarating scenic flights (R32,400 for a 60-minute full peninsular tour). Aquilla (tel. 021/712-1913) takes to the sky in microlights, and ThunderCity (tel. 021/934-8007; www.thundercity.com) caters to adrenaline junkies with expensive tastes -- an hour-long ride in one of their fighter planes starts from R24,045.
Township Tours -- For a more holistic view of the still essentially segregated Cape Town community, and an insight into the Cape Muslim culture of the Bo-Kaap, a so-called "township" tour is essential. A good option is Trail of Two Cities, run by Cape Capers (tel. 021/448-3117; www.tourcapers.co.za; R580 per person, full day) -- it introduces visitors to some of the interesting entrepreneurs working in the poorer areas of the city. These include Victoria Mxenge, who has a group of previously homeless women learning house building, and Abalimi Bezekhaya, who inspires township greening efforts. Another outfit offering cultural tours of the townships is Camissa Travel & Marketing (tel. 021/462-6199 or 078/657-7788; www.gocamissa.co.za), whose tours, like those of Cape Capers, help you forgo the sense of being a voyeur. They also run a tour that includes a trip to Robben Island. Also offering a chance to learn and feel inspired rather than emerging guilt-ridden from a tour of the townships, is Uthando (tel. 021/683-8523; www.uthandosa.org).
Specialist Tours -- For reality-shifting cultural tours that range from interactive jazz, reggae, or hip-hop evenings (where you meet legendary musicians and even dine and possibly jam with them), to community soccer expeditions and art tours, get in touch with Coffeebeans Routes (tel. 021/424-3572; www.coffeebeansroutes.com). Within their innovative portfolio is a "spirituality route" (R550 per person), where you meet two very different spiritual leaders, perhaps a sangoma (traditional healer) and a Muslim Imam, in the course of a 4-hour Friday afternoon tour; and I personally love their "storytelling route," where you meet and listen to some exceptionally engaging local residents in their own homes (R495 per person; Thurs 7-11pm). Cape Fusion Tours (tel. 021/461-2437; www.capefusion.co.za) runs culinary tours and cooking classes with some of the Cape's top chefs. More community-geared Cape Malay and African "cooking safaris" are offered by Andulela Experience (www.andulela.com). This excellent outfit, which works closely with Coffeebeans, also conducts music, art and poetry, and township tours, always with a commitment to local communities. Daytrippers (tel. 021/511-4766; www.daytrippers.co.za) specializes in hiking and biking trips.
Sidecar Tours -- Tim Clarke's Cape Sidecar Adventures, 2 Glengariff Rd., Three Anchor Bay (tel. 021/434-9855/6; www.sidecars.co.za), offers another unusual way to see the city -- you can either motor yourself and a partner around the city and beyond, or opt to travel in the road-level sidecar with a chauffer-guide. The sidecars were modeled on original 1938 German BMW sidecars and manufactured for the Chinese Red Army from as early as the mid-1950s. A full-day chauffeured excursion with two passengers costs R1,785.
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.