The city of Cape Town is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world. And with reason. It hosts undoubtedly one of the most exciting environments to spend a holiday, combining city life, quality food and stunning nature, all in a comfortable climate.
Since the city gets cold and moody from May until October, Capetonians retreat into their lair to grow a beard and live off fat reserves until a reasonable warmth (over 20 degrees) allows them to walk around in flip flops again (or barefoot, I see you Rondebosch students).
This is also the quiet season in the city, as tourists aren’t around.
Except for the occasional ones who think Africa is a country and look shocked as they disembark from their flight in sunscreen and shorts and discover 12 degrees is an average temperature for June.
Tourists can be found everywhere around the city, although the Waterfront especially draws them like bees to a honeycomb. Granted, I was an ignorant tourist too back in the day, easily impressed by anything different to my home country (The Netherlands), but now I can use that knowledge to observe the oblivious tourist out of their comfort zone.
It’s like a human safari, because they are hilarious.
I love it when they are on the red bus. Taking photos of a hadeda. Especially those on the top deck with the headphones on. With their Waterfront-purchased beige sweater with a zebra on and their plastic bag carrying a ‘handcrafted’ wooden elephant. As much as I can acknowledge the convenience of the tour bus showing the city surroundings, it still looks a bit sad. With their binoculars.
Even if they are not sitting on the red bus, you can spot tourists from a mile away. Wearing their unisex matching outfits. Or in exaggerated safari gear. Carrying a backpack on their belly, to hide their wallet. Tourists are made so scared of safety in Cape Town, they have no problem dressing up like an absolute tool for their entire stay.
If you want a great experience of this paranoia, follow a group of tourists around the Green Point area just around 12:00. All you have to do, is wait for the noon gun to go off. That’s what fear looks like. I’ve seen tourists duck when a car exhaust popped, and cried my eyes out laughing.
At night, they flock to Mama Africa, for an ‘authentic’ experience. And they’ll pay a fortune to join a drum circle and make absolute fun of themselves. Ever seen white people dance? It’s a hoot.
Tourists are great on safari’s too. I’ve reverted to self-drives in the last few years, but it lacks the unplanned entertainment you get from doing a group drive. Again, the gear. Come on guys, it’s a game drive in a vehicle, you are not going on guerrilla warfare in the jungle of Borneo. And you get the greatest questions. Most notably from Americans. As much as I admire their inquisitive nature, the three funniest questions I’ve ever heard came from across the Atlantic. I kid you not, one tourist once asked the guide mid-safari if there are any unicorns in Africa. Straight face. It immediately topped my previous winner, when an American girl asked at the end of our Robben Island tour who Nelson Mandela was. You gotta love them for it.
Whilst travelling the country, I’ve also encountered a lot of young European travellers, backpacking their way through South Africa in flocks. This is a subculture that I still have to learn to understand. You see the same travellers in Thailand too. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve loved travelling my way around, and I might be the odd one out with a hard case suitcase instead of a backpack where I’d have to completely unpack every time I need a sock, I just don’t seem to immerse myself as much. Never have I seen so many people wear traditionally printed harem pants and ankle bracelets as backpackers. Or braids. Lonely Planet seems to come with a dress code.
Dutch tourists are everywhere you visit. We tend to have a natural travel bug, or our country is just a bit too small. We’re easily recognizable in, well, height and clothing (not just orange). And when overseas, we talk about the weather in Holland a lot (“I hear it rained in Rotterdam on Tuesday”). Or we compare prices. With everything. Bargain where we deem necessary.
Please ignore us when we visit your place and brag about our country (“Thank you sir, I would like to order a Heineken, did you know this is Dutch? We are from Holland.”) We tend to have an opinion about your human rights and politics as well, and love it when we see one of our own products abroad (“Look, this store has Gouda cheese. Hello sir. This is Dutch. It is pronounced Ggggouda (gargels a horrible throat sound). Shell is Dutch too”). Luckily our arrogance is accompanied with a bit of an open mind. We’re not that bad to get accustomed to new places. And we have no problem in making fun of ourselves. Or Belgium.
So don’t worry tourists in Cape Town – your presence really does benefit the country, and I’d recommend that everyone pay this beautiful place a visit. It’s really not that unsafe as some sources will tell you, and there is plenty more to see than the Waterfront and Table Mountain. Just wait a bit until the sun comes out, and we’ll promise to be a lot more fun to be around.