Where to Stay - South Africa

South Africa Travel Blog

By Neil Playdon

1.    Signal Hill stands proudly overlooking the city of Cape Town but why is it called Signal Hill?

Well its elevated position was perfect for a lookout to be posted and to watch for ships approaching the harbour. Long ago it was the duty of this permanently stationed signalman to let the castle know when he could see a ship approaching. He did this by means of a flag system and by firing a cannon shot. Once the ship was close enough and if the signal man had identified it as hostile then he raised a red flag which raised the alarm for men to go to the harbour to defend against an attack.

The Clock Tower at the V&A Waterfront

The Clock Tower

2.    How old is the Clock Tower at the V&A Waterfront?

The octagonal Victorian Gothic style Clock Tower was completed in 1882 and was the original office of the Port Captain. The tower is actually made up of three rooms built on top of each connected by a central stairwell. On the second floor is the Mirror Room which was designed so that the Port Captain could keep an eye on all the comings and goings without actually having to leave his office.

The Bo-Kaap district in Cape Town


3.    Why are the houses in Bo-Kaap district painted in bright colours?

The original residents of this area in Cape Town were descendants of slaves brought in from Africa and Asia and were Muslims. As part of their religion they celebrate Ramadan – the Islamic month of fasting. At the end of the holy month it is tradition to dress up in brightly coloured clothes and at the same time many of the residents then paint their houses. The reason for getting so many different colours is that the residents and neighbours discuss together what colours they are painting their houses to avoid colour clashes or two houses painted the same colour next to each other.

4.    Long Street

Long Street was originally called De Derde Berg Dwars Straat which roughly translates to ‘the third road parallel to the mountain’. The name was changed to Long Street in the 1790’s. It is one of the oldest streets in Cape Town and not surprisingly quite long at 1.7km in length.

Camps Bay Beaches

Camps Bay

5.    Why is Camps Bay so called?

Many years ago the whole of Camps Bay was originally owned by one man – John Lodewyk Wernich. The land was passed down to his son Johan Wernich who married a lady called Anna Koekemoer who inherited the whole estate on his death in 1778. Anna subsequently married a sailor called Frederick Ernst von Kamptz and the area became known as “Die Baai van von Kamptz” which translates to Camps Bay as we know it today.

6.    Cape Town Firsts

The first ever heart transplant operation was performed in Cape Town by Dr Chris Barnard on 3rd December 1967. The operation took place at the Groote Schuur Hospital and was performed on 54 year old Lewis Washkansky and involved a team of 30 individuals for 9 hours.

Lions Head in Cape Town

Lions Head

7.    It might be called Lion’s Head but where are the lions?

It has been well over 200 years since the last lion was seen on Lion’s Head but you can still see Caracals and the African Wild Cat. The fact that lions roamed here many years ago is not the reason for its name but for the reason that if you look at the hill from Clifton side it looks like the shape of a lion’s head.

8.    What films have been set in Cape Town?

The weather, dramatic scenery and great locations have made Cape Town a popular location for filmmakers. Just some of the films you might have seen on your TV or at the cinema include; Safe House (2012), Invictus (2009), Blood Diamond (2006), Lord of War (2005) and Ryans Daughter (1970). Two films, Safe House and Chronicle, made in 2012 were filmed entirely in Cape Town.

Table Mountain in Cape Town

Table Mountain

9.    How many people have travelled up Table Mountain?

Officially opened in 1929 over 1 million people had travelled up to the top by 1959. Thirty-eight years later the cableway had reached 11 million passengers transported. By 2013 the total number of passengers that had travelled up to Table Mountain had reached 20 million.

10.    What is the story behind the coloured huts at Muizenberg?

Between 1880 and 1930 Muizenberg transformed itself from a ramshackle collection of shacks and farmhouses into the top holiday resort in South Africa. It grew so much in popularity that a wooden beach pavilion had to be built to provide changing room accommodation for the hundreds of holidaymakers. This pavilion was demolished in 1929 to make way for a new pavilion which included a theatre and tea-room. In 1913 nearly 100 small bathing huts lined the beach front but overtime some got into disrepair and were demolished. Today you can still find two rows of colourful bathing huts and such is their popularity that they even get used for the backdrop of fashion shoots.

Tags: bo-kaap cable car camps bay cape town clock tower facts lions head muizenberg signal hill table mountain top ten V&A Waterfront