Cape cultural tours with a difference

29 April 2009

Motivated to give tourists the kind of experiences they themselves would like to have when travelling, Cape Insights offer special-interest guided tours of unusual quality, featuring guides and guest lecturers of the highest standard.

They present a variety of special-interest tours around Cape Town, tackling areas such as architecture, craft art, history, gastronomy and archaeology.

Other tours on offer include trips to the World Heritage site of Mapungubwe in Limpopo province, the world-famous Kruger National Park and the wilds of the Eastern Cape.

Where Cape Insights stands out is in the quality of the lecturers who join the tours to provide information, offer insights and stimulate discussions.

‘The fairest Cape of them all’

Sixteenth century British mariner Sir Francis Drake famously called the area “the fairest Cape of them all”. More recently, Richard Busch, travel editor for National Geographic Traveler, described Cape Town as “one of the most beautiful and compelling places to visit on the planet.

“In addition to a city with fascinating historical sites, excellent museums, vibrant markets and a handsomely restored waterfront … I encountered mountain wilderness, rugged coastlines, sandy beaches, lush gardens, beautiful wine estates, superior hotels – and some of the most welcoming people I’ve ever met,” Busch is quoted as saying on Cape Insights’ website.

The tours on offer are in-depth, entertaining and educational experiences ranging in length from nine days and eight nights to 12 days and 11 nights.

While each tour has a special focus, many other highlights are provided, including visits to places that make the Cape so special, including Cape Point, Table Mountain, the Western Cape wine routes, and destinations featuring the striking Cape Dutch architecture and the plant life unique to region.

Gastronomy Tour

Wines from the famed Cape Winelands play a big role in the Gastronomy Tour, with a number of wine routes being visited. Interactive cooking opportunities are also on offer.

This is all mixed together with visits to important sights in and around Cape Town, Franschoek, Stellenbosch and Hermanus, resulting in a 10-day, nine-night tour that offers an in-depth insight into food, wine and life in the Cape.

The Gastronomy Tour is highlighted by the inputs of lecturers Phillipa Cheifetz, John Ford and Allan Mullins. Professor Brian Huntley (see under Archaeology Tour) and Dr Terence Rapke (History Tours) also contribute to the exploration of food and wine, and who can blame them? They help explore a wonderful selection of foods that draw from Cape Malay, Afrikaner and pan-African influences.

Cheifetz, the food editor for Femina Magazine and a consultant editor for Taste Magazine, has published many best-selling cookbooks, including Cape Town Food, The Monday to Sunday Cookbook, and Lazy Days, which featured in the Gourmand World Cookbook 2007 Awards.

Ford is the former cellar master of the International Wine and Food Society and chairman of the Oenophiles wine club. His speciality food and wine emporium has won the Outstanding Outlet award for several years from Eat In, South Africa’s definitive food lovers’ guide.

Mullins is a Cape Wine Master. He sits on numerous wine tasting panels, is a wine selection manager for a leading retailer, has co-authored two books on wine and judged numerous wine events, including the Diners Club wine list of the year.

Craft Art Tour

If craft art is what grabs your interest, then Dr Elbe Coetsee and Margie Garratt are the authorities who will make your tour special.

Taking place over 12 days and 11 nights, Cape Insights’ Craft Art Tour uncovers the creativity and unique art of the Cape and South Africa. It includes joining artists in their surroundings, and meeting the people who create forms that are both art and craft. It’s an opportunity to take a look at the past and the present, and at the ways of life that have inspired the art of the region.

Dr Elbe Coetsee, with a PhD from the University of Pretoria, published Craft Art in South Africa, a ground-breaking contribution to the field. She also established the Mogalakwena Craft Art Development Foundation and initiated a craft centre to support the economic and social upliftment of the Pedi community in the North Western province of South Africa.

Margie Garratt is a professional textile artist whose name is synonymous with quilting, and whose work crosses the boundaries between art and craft. She was the driving force behind Innovative Threads, an annual exhibition providing a greater multi-cultural understanding of South African textile and fibre art.

Architecture Tour

The architecture of Cape Town was heavily influenced by three men: early Cape governor Simon van der Stel, famous English businessman and colonialist Cecil John Rhodes, and Sir Herbert Baker, who was the dominant force in South African architecture for two decades. Their contributions are are all explored in Cape Insights’ Architecture Tour.

Highlights include a private visit to Groote Schuur, formerly the Prime Minister’s residence, which was commissioned by Rhodes and designed by Baker. There is also a behind-the-scenes tour of the Houses of Parliament.

In addition, the origins and evolution of the Cape Dutch style are traced. Contemporary issues are also dealt with, including low-cost housing and urban pressures.

Dr Hans Fransen and Andre van Graan help make the tour special, along with Dr Antonia Malan (see under Archaeology Tour).

Fransen has been knighted in the Netherlands with the Ridder in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau for his work as an art and architecture historian. Since emigrating to South Africa in 1995, he has served as curator of the Stellenbosch and Groot Constantia museums, assistant director of the SA National Gallery, and director of the Michaelis Art Collection.

Van Graan, a restoration architect who worked on both Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Castle, specialises in Edwardian and Art Deco architecture, focusing on the work of Sir Herbert Baker. He has led tours of Baker’s architecture, including a visit by the British Furniture History Society.

Archaeology Tour

Cape Insights’ Archaeology Tour explores the remarkable beauty of the Cape, and investigates the greatest diversity of five-million-year-old fossils to be found anywhere in the world.

The spiritual beliefs of the San Bushman are also looked into, including their rituals and patterns of kinship, and how they survived for thousands of years before the arrival of colonisers.

Areas visited include the West Coast National Park, Ramsar site Langebaan Lagoon, the Cedarberg Mountains, the Overberg and the “Whale Coast”.

Among those who will interpret the earth’s secrets, providing information and entertainment, are Dr John Compton, Dr Antoineta Jerardino, Dr Antonia Malan, and Prof Brian Huntley.

Compton, an associate professor in the Department of Geological Sciences at the University of Cape Town, is the author of The Rocks and Mountains of Cape Town.

Jerardino, an archaeologist and heritage impact assessor for the South African Heritage Resources Agency, has been part of a team excavating open shell middens and rock shelters along the West Coast with the aim of reconstructing the ways San Bushmen hunter-gatherer groups exploited marine resources.

Malan, a member of the Historical Archaeology Research Group, is actively involved in local heritage issues, is a trustee of Cape Town Heritage Trust, has chaired the Vernacular Architecture Society of South Africa (VASSA), and edits the VASSA Journal.

Huntley, a former chief executive of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) based at Kirstenbosch, spearheaded its transformation into a world-class organisation of high visibility and credibility. He founded the Southern African Botanical Diversity Network and acts as senior policy adviser to the Department of Environmental Affairs.

History Tours

Cape Insights’ History Tours look back as far as the Stone Age and progress all the way through to the present. The tour includes visits to The Castle and The Slave Lodge. First-hand accounts of life on Robben Island are provided, while the past, from pre-history to present times, is unravelled through the stories of individuals living and working in one spot, all brought together in an 18th century wine cellar.

Lecturers Dr Nigel Penn, Dr Antonia Malan and Dr Terence Rapke provide the expert information and analysis.

Penn, an associate professor in the the University of Cape Town’s Department of Historical Studies, is the author of numerous books, including The Forgotten Frontier: Colonists and Khoisan on the Cape’s Northern Frontier in the 18th Century, and Robben Island: The Politics of Rock and Stone.

Malan has pioneered historical archaeology, excavating a number of historical sites and devising new ways of using archival records to interpret remains, which have substantially contributed to the understanding of slavery and early European settlement at the Cape.

Rapke is a classicist and ancient historian who has taught in Ghana, Australia, and South Africa, authoring numerous papers and reviews on Greek and Roman history along the way. For the past eight years he has led tours around the Western Cape, his translocated special interests being Cape history and wine.

SAinfo reporter and Cape Insights

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