Hidden treasures

You can’t visit Cape Town and leave without seeing the main attractions: Table Mountain, Robben Island, Camp’s Bay and the Waterfront. But there are plenty of lesser known spots that are worth a visit – places even locals haven’t heard of.

With the help of Cape Town Tourism, Cape Point Route, the V&A Waterfront, A Whale of a Heritage Route and the South African Heritage Resource Centre, Weekend Argus put together a list of eight of Cape Town’s hidden treasures.

l Fish Hoek Valley Museum: finding this museum is an adventure in itself, says volunteer John Clifford, but once there you’re sure to be intrigued. There isn’t much space – it’s inside a small converted house nestled in farmland valley. The museum holds an array of treasures that reflect the area’s rich history.

You can see the bones of “Fish Hoek Man”, a Khoisan skeleton discovered in a cave in the 1930s. Historians at the time said the family of “Fish Hoek Man” had the largest brain boxes in the region. “Clearly they were clever if they lived in Fish Hoek,” Clifford said.

Call ahead to arrange a visit. It’s open Tuesday to Saturday, 9.30 am to 12.30pm. Call 021 782 1752. Also in Fish Hoek Bay: one of the few remaining whale identification boards on the Sunny Cove coastline.

l Simon’s Town: the area boasts a number of sea-related sites, including a restored blubber-pot in Jubilee Square and a harpoon gun at Simon’s Town Museum. Whale artifacts in the area date back to the 1800s, when whales were often captured and used for oil and meat. Check out Kalk Bay for a look at a whale scapula and Muizenberg High School for a whale disc mounted on a piece of timber.

l Bebe Rose: this Cameroonian restaurant is easy to miss. The small diner is tucked away in the basement among the shops in the African Women Craft Market at 112 Long Street. Bebe Rose is there nearly every day, cooking up everything from jallof rice to cow leg to vetkoek.

Rose cooks bananas and plantains imported from West Africa in many of her dishes; one particular dish called ndole combines both coconut and cooked nuts. Dare to order off-menu and Rose will cook up a delightful surprise.

Call 073 368 3603

l Eastern Market Food Bazaar: just off Longmarket Street, the Eastern Food Bazaar features a wide variety of food from nearly every region of India and beyond. The menu is divided by region and their motto is “big portions of food at the lowest possible price”.

Though the restaurant does mainly takeaway food, there are tables and chairs upstairs. Everything in the market is 100 percent halaal and alcohol is not served. Between the eight different menus, there is sure to be something for everyone: hot food, cold food, spicy or mild. The Eastern Food Bazaar is at 96 Longmarket Street. Call 021 461 2458

l Flying high: if you’re looking for a thrill check out the South African National Circus School. Located in Observatory, it doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside you’ll find a trampoline, flying trapeze, scarves, slits, juggling and more. Founder Dimitri Slaverse first joined the circus when he was 13 and has since travelled around the world with acts like The Ringling Brothers.

If you want to learn some tricks, come in for a session. An hour on the trapeze is R50 but Slaverse and his groups also do scouting. “We go around and look for kids who are good at gymnastics,” he said. “Then we see if they want to train here, free of charge.”

Run away and join the circus at 2 Willow Road in Observatory. Call 021 692 4287

l Breakwater construction tunnels: few know of the enormous brick-lined tunnels winding underneath the V&A Waterfront. Built in the late 1800s as part of the breakwater construction, the tunnels start opposite Mitchell’s Brewery and end at the UCT Graduate School of Business.

The school boasts an intriguing past, as it was once the Breakwater Prison. Still in the building are names scratched on the rocks, as well as a punishment treadmill on which the prisoners were sometimes forced to run. Mike Brokenshire, development director of the V&A Waterfront, said the tunnels were made large enough for donkeys to cart materials to and from the breakwater. On special occasions those on historical tours are invited to a dinner inside the tunnel’s entrance.

l Waterfront batteries: two waterfront batteries, the Chavonnes Battery and the Amsterdam Battery, built between 1714 and 1725 by the Dutch East India Company, often go unnoticed at the bustling V&A Waterfront. Located in the basement of the BoE building, the portion of the Chavonnes Battery open to the public was uncovered by accident during the development of the Clock Tower Precinct.

Historical tours of the V&A Waterfront use this marker to start their journey. Visit the Ball Tower on top of the entrance to the Breakwater tunnels. To book call 021 416 6230

l Snorkel with seals: Hout Bay and False Bay aren’t just beautiful beaches, they’re also home to two Cape Fur Seal colonies welcoming visitors for a swim. Pisces Divers owner Mike Nortge says the seals interact and play with humans much like dogs do.

Visitors, supplied with snorkel gear, wetsuits, weight belts, fins and masks, go out to sea on a boat with a skipper and an expert who remains in the water with them. For those who fear a shark attack, Nortge said there has never been an incident involving sharks in either of the bays. You need to be a comfortable swimmer and able to wear a face mask. Rate: R600 per person (But act quickly and pay R250 per person now throughout May.) Call 021 782 7205.

l Show and tell: starting in May, visitors to Foodbarn Restaurant in Noordhoek can get a dinner show and tell. Every Wednesday at 6.30pm, chef Franck Dangereux shows guests how to make a delicious dish with tips and tricks for cooking and serving.

The food demonstration is free with a Foodbarn dinner reservation, but listeners must bring something to take notes: Dangereux does not hand out his recipes. Call the Foodbarn Restaurant at 021 789 1390 to book.

l Camel rides: for 16 years, Johan Smit, his wife and his daughter have run Imhoff Farm near Kommetjie, offering camel rides. The farm is home to five camels – three fully grown and two young ones – that were bred in the Kalahari Desert before coming to Cape Town.

The camels travel in caravans – for the scenic ride, all five camels take visitors on a 45-minute ride around the back of the farm in the fynbos, stopping at a look-out point over the beach. A shorter, eight-minute trip goes around the front of the farm. Visitors can pet and brush the large animals, which Smit said are docile and kind. “I’ve had people of all ages ride my camels,” he said. “From very young up to 90 years old.” Short rides: Adults R50/Children R30. Bush ride: R200. Call 021 789 1711 - Sunday Argus