This beautiful South African city is an extraordinary destination, delivering a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience for discerning groups. By Geraldine Gatehouse
South African Tourism’s tagline is “leave ordinary behind” and this continent allows groups to do just that. Cape Town, for instance, is a beautiful, appealing incentive destination that offers groups a unique travel experience. World-class conference facilities, five-star accommodations, high-quality group-friendly restaurants and a host of diverse activities combine to ensure high levels of attendee satisfaction.
Situated on the southwestern tip of Africa, Cape Town is synonymous with Table Mountain, one of the provisional New 7 Wonders of Nature. Instantly recognizable by its flat-top profile, Table Mountain stands sentinel over the bustling Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront. Reached by cable car, one of only three in the world, the summit offers spectacular views. A private terrace area outside the mountain-top restaurant offers a picture-perfect group venue.
The waterfront includes five-star luxury hotels, a choice of excellent restaurants, bar and cafes. There are plenty of shops, several covered markets and the expansive V&A Shopping Centre, which provides direct access to the Table Bay Hotel’s main foyer.
This area is set in the historic heart of Cape Town’s working harbour. At night, visitors and residents alike throng the cobblestoned walkways, enjoying the sights and sounds, and watching impromptu, colourful performances by local musicians and dancers. A giant illuminated Ferris wheel, built originally for the 2010 World Cup, adds a festive air.
The Table Bay Hotel, a five-star luxury property, boasts a prime location and 329 well-appointed rooms, each of which has views of the bay or Table Mountain. The Atlantic Grill offers dinner and an impressive breakfast buffet; the Union Bar & Conservatory and The Lounge provide meals, snacks and high tea throughout the day. An urban waterfront resort, the luxurious One&Only Cape Town combines contemporary chic with South African style, and offers 131 rooms and suites. Other amenities include a tranquil spa, a 5,000-bottle, tri-level wine loft and two restaurants, one featuring the cuisine of Nobuyuki “Nobu” Matsuhisa, the other of local celebrity chef Reuben Riffel.
Fifteen minutes from the waterfront by road—and a world away—is the five-star Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, with 70 rooms and suites. From the waterfront, the hotel is, alternatively, a six- to eight-minute helicopter ride—a thrilling way to see the coastline and mountains, and a memorable way to arrive. Being greeted on the helipad by formally attired bell staff is an unforgettable experience. With its location, spa and heated infinity pool, the Twelve Apostles offers groups the total package. Moreover, well-chosen artwork adds to the feeling of comfortable luxury.
About 45 minutes from Cape Town, in the scenic Cape Winelands, the internationally-acclaimed Backsberg Estate has been producing quality wines for over 70 years. It is the first wine producer in South Africa to gain carbon-neutral status and also help workers achieve home ownership. For groups, the educational and interactive team wine-blending event is fun and competitive, and can include snacks or lunch.
Within 90 minutes of Cape Town, at the Cape Peninsula, a high-speed powerboat excursion takes guests to Dulker Island, home to a large colony of Cape fur seals; heading over scenic Chapman’s Peak leads to Cape Point, the southwesternmost landmark tip of Africa. On the way back, the Black Marlin Restaurant is a casual and popular lunch spot, with stunning views and a delicious fresh fish menu. Boulders Beach and the Penguin Colony are next. Two breeding pairs arrived in 1982, and today, 3,000 of these charming and entertaining creatures make their home here.
Cape Town delivers a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience for discerning groups.
—Geraldine Gatehouse is a writer and planner based in Vista, Calif.
For group gifts, Inge Schubert’s local photographs are a good choice. Schubert is a self-taught freelance photographer from Cape Town, who has travelled extensively throughout southern Africa. She specializes in African landscapes, wildlife and architecture.
18.5 hours from Toronto
A network of tunnels runs below the city
Cape Town International Airport, CPT
Cape Town International Convention Centre
Inoculations: Hepatitis A and B
High 27°C, Low 7°C
Some of the official languages: Afrikaans, English, IsiNdebele, IsiXhosa, IsiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Siswati, Setswana
Currency: South African Rand
Time zone: South African Standard Time, 6 hours ahead of EDT
The Grand Daddy Hotel has a rooftop Airstream trailer park