There is one thing Cape Town isn't and that's formulaic. “The usual” is a catch-all that doesn't apply here; not when the city kneels in reverence to one of the most iconic and highly photographed urban summits on Earth: Table Mountain. Not when its most popular activities are not the usual stuffy museum crawls and monument lineups (of old white guys you've never heard of), but the active pursuits of skydiving, hiking, and shark cage diving. Not when your itinerary consists of nearly as many opportunities to get your head chewed off by wild creatures as there are to fill it with anecdotes of South Africa's rich history. Cape Town is not formulaic; unless your formula is something like base jumping and alligator-wrangling. Only then do you get a pass on this one.
As you may have gleaned from the opening paragraph, Cape Town is an adventure-first sort of city. That means you'll find no shortage of interesting outdoor activities and an overwhelming crowd of tour operators promising to deliver the best. There are dozens of shark cage dive operators alone operating particularly in Gansbaii and False Bay, so you'll have plenty of choices if this adrenaline-charged activity is on your bucket list. Cape Town is also a haven for moderate hikes in landscapes that need to be seen with your own eyes; Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, Lion's Head, and many more. There are a ton of local hikes, while one of South Africa's most famous multi-day excursions, the Otter Trail, can be undertaken in Tsitsikamma National Park to the east.
There are also plenty of animal species beyond terrifying underwater predators worth interacting with. You've got the tiny African penguins of Boulder's Beach, the seals of Dyer Island, lions aplenty at Drakenstein Lion Park, and a number of big game reserves within a few hours that include Inverdoorn, Aquila, Sanbona, and Fairy Glen. Although all of these locations have overnight lodges on the grounds, they do just fine as day trips from Cape Town.As far aspeople and culture are concerned, Cape Town embraces the melting pot. Coloureds, Black Africans, Whites, and Asians all make for a truly multicultural city, while a neighborhood like Bo-Kaap stands out because its colorful buildings and mosques are uniquely Muslim. From downtown hot spots like Long Streetand Kloof Street to the tourist-friendly Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, the whole of Africa is well-represented through local music, cuisine, nightlife, and so much more. You may not find a more forward-thinking city in South Africa.
So, to recap: South Africa is not formulaic. Unless, again, you consider dodging razor-honed shelves of shark teeth or dive-bombing toward the ocean boring endeavors. Visit our related Cape Town pages, extensive activity listings, and more to start bringing your plans together for an adventure in South Africa's “Mother City” that will be hard to match.