Numerous companies offer guided tours of the city center, the peninsula, the Winelands, and any place else in the Cape (or beyond) that you might wish to visit. They differ in type of transportation used, focus, and size. The following list provides an idea of what is generally available, as well as pointing out some of the more unique offerings. For comprehensive information on touring companies, head to one of the Cape Town Tourism offices; alternately, ask for recommendations at your hotel.
The Waterfront Boat Company offers trips on a range of boats, from yachts to large motor cruisers. A 1½-hour sunset cruise from the V&A Waterfront costs about R200 and includes a glass of bubbly. Tigger 2 also runs boats from the Waterfront to Clifton 4th beach or Table Bay. Drumbeat Charters runs a variety of trips in the Hout Bay area, ranging from sunset cruises to full-day crayfishing expeditions. A trip from Hout Bay to Seal Island with Drumbeat Charters costs R60 for adults, R25 for kids. The only boat trip to actually land on Robben Island is the museum's ferry.
Drumbeat Charters. Drumbeat Charters has been operating since 1989 and is based in the fishing village of Hout Bay, offering daily scenic cruises. Their big attraction is the Seals & the Shipwreck trip, where you'll visit Duiker Island, home of the Cape fur seals, and then travel farther along the Kabonkelberg Mountain range to Moari Bay to view the shipwreck of the Bos 400, which ran aground in 1994 during a Cape winter storm. 021/791–4441. www.drumbeatcharters.co.za.
Tigger 2 Charters. This waterfront-based luxury operation offers corporate, sunset, and lunch cruises along one of the world's most dramatic and famous coastlines, including trips to Clifton 4th Beach. 021/418–0241. www.tigger2.co.za.
Waterfront Boat Company. This operation seems to do everything connected to having fun on the water in Table Bay and the eastern seaboard, with trips on a range of boats, from yachts to large motor cruisers. A 1½-hour sunset cruise from the V&A Waterfront costs about R280 and includes a glass of bubbly. Cruise & Dine Packages cost R495 for dinner, R270 for lunch. Jet boat rides are R630 per hour. 021/418–3168. www.waterfrontboats.co.za.
Large- and small-group bus tours are operated by African Eagle Day Tours and Hylton Ross, among others. Expect to pay R350-R500 for a half-day trip and about R500-R800 for a full-day tour (the smaller and more personalized the tour, the higher the price). There's a huge selection of tours to choose from. A day trip might include such highlights as the Cape Point nature reserve and Boulders Beach, or wine-tasting in Stellenbosch; a half-day trip could involve a visit to a local township. Many of the companies will also tailor private trips to suit your needs.
The hop-on/hop-off red City Sightseeing bus is a pleasant way to familiarize yourself with Cape Town; a day ticket costs R120, and there are two routes to choose from. The Red Route runs through the city, and you can get on and off at major museums, the V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain Cableway, Two Oceans Aquarium, and other attractions. The Blue Route takes you farther afield—to Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens, Hout Bay, and Camps Bay, to name a few destinations. Tickets are available at the Waterfront outside the Aquarium or on the bus.
Cape Point Route custom-designs tours that focus on the peninsula, including the eco-adventure family tour and the extreme-sports corporate tour (R595-R1,250 for full-day tours).
The Cape Safari tour with iKapa Tours & Travel departs at 6:30 am, and takes you to Aquila Private Game Reserve (R1,880) or Inverdoorn Game Reserve (R1,550). It includes a three-hour game drive, all meals, and champagne. Both reserves are about a 2½-hour drive from the city.
Grassroute Tours offers a range of half-day township experiences (R360) that demonstrate just how fragmented South African society is. Stops include the Bo-Kaap, District Six, and the Cape Flats. The full-day version of this tour includes Robben Island (R530). Evening township tours (R450) include drinks at a shebeen and a traditional dinner with a local family; overnight township tours (R670) combine the day and evening tours with a stay with a host family.
For something more historical, Western Cape Action Tours provides insight into Cape Town's experience of apartheid and resistance. Lead by a group of MK veterans (former cadres of the ANC's armed wing), these unique tours (R300–R550) visit locations important during the armed struggle.
Coffeebeans Routes storyteller tours pay evening visits to the homes of Cape Town storytellers for a yarn (R495). Their famous Jazz Safari (R650) takes small groups to meet key musicians of Cape Town's jazz scene in their homes for dinner, followed by a visit to non-touristy jazz clubs in the Cape Flats.
Friends of Dorothy leads small group tours for gay travelers. And for those looking for something really different, Cape Sidecar Adventures offers full-day trips around the peninsula in a World War II sidecar: your guide drives and you sit in the sidecar (R895).
Though many of the operators specialize in niche tours, they usually also cover mainstream trips like Cape Point and the Winelands.
Cape Point Route. This company has been in business for a fair while, and covers the peninsula thoroughly. Cape Point Route custom-designs tours that focus on the peninsula, starting at R570 for a half-day Cape Point scheduled tour to R1250 for a Cape Point Shipwreck & Lighthouse Tour. It's R3195 for a Cape Peninsula helicopter tour. 021/789–0093. www.capepointroute.co.za.
Cape Sidecar Adventures. Unique for Cape Town, this has seemingly captured a niche market, with vintage Chinese military motorcycles dating back to the early 1960s being used to see one of the most beautiful cities in the world. In fact the owner, who got the idea after owning one in Shangai, believes it's one of three such operations on the planet. Great for children, too, the cycles chug stylishly and safely around some of the most beautiful roads and views on the planet in their designer gear—you actually get kitted out rather stylishly. There's a nice little coffee-bar in the shop afterward that offers an awesome collection of helmets (Batman's included) for sale. It's worth noting that although this operaiton is entirely legal, the Harley tours in the city could be jumping through some legal loopholes. 021/434–9855; 082/308–5483 mobile. www.sidecars.co.za.
Coffeebeans Routes. Coffeebeans Routes Supperclub tours pay evening visits to the homes in Lansdowne on the Cape Flats for a meal and yarn (R495) with real Capetonians. Their famous Jazz Safari (R995) takes small groups to meet key musicians of Cape Town's jazz scene in their homes for dinner, followed by a visit to nontouristy jazz clubs in the Cape Flats. If authentic is what you're looking for, this is it. These tours show Cape Town as it is, with informed guides. Whether the Revolution Route, Cape Town Cuisine Route, or World Design Capital Cape Town 2014 "Insider" tours, the experience is infused with the element of storytelling. 021/424–3572. www.coffeebeansroutes.com.
Friends of Dorothy. These tours are aimed at the gay market; among the offerings are the Ruby Slipper Tour (to the Cape Peninsula), Yellow Brick Road Tour (to the Cape Winelands), and Aunty Em's Tour (a country roads tour). Small groups—maximum of seven passengers—keep the service personal. The company is gay-owned and uses the services of gay guides and drivers. 021/465–1871. www.friendsofdorothytours.co.za.
Hylton Ross Tours. This fairly generic tour operator offers half-day and full-day tours of Cape Town—and pretty much the whole country—where you know what to expect. Prices typically run from R570 for a half-day trip and about R790 for a full-day tour (the smaller and more personalized the tour, the higher the price). 021/506–2575. www.hyltonross.co.za.
iKapa Tours & Travel. Good references from happy clients, a prominent note about responsible tourism (for every booking over R5,000, the company has an indigenous tree planted), and an element of flexibility suggest your money will be well spent with this bunch. Among the offerings are full-day Cape Safari tours to Aquila Private Game Reserve or Inverdoorn Game Reserve, including a three-hour game drive, all meals, and Champagne. Both reserves are about a 2½-hour drive from the city. 021/506–3700. www.ikapa.co.za.
City Sightseeing. The hop-on/hop-off red City Sightseeing bus is a pleasant way to familiarize yourself with Cape Town; a day ticket costs R125, and there are two routes to choose from. The Red Route runs through the city, and you can get on and off at major museums, the V&A Waterfront, Table Mountain Cableway, Two Oceans Aquarium, and other attractions. The Blue Route takes you farther afield—to Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens, Hout Bay, and Camps Bay, to name a few destinations. Tickets are available at the Waterfront outside the aquarium or on the bus. www.citysightseeing.co.za.
Fly from the V&A Waterfront for a tour of the city and surrounding area on a three- to six-seat chopper. Most operators charge between R2,000-R4,200 for a 20-minute trip, and R6,300 to R12,600 for an hour in the air. Custom tours can also be arranged, and the price varies according to how many people are flying.
Civair Helicopters. This long-established company offers helicopter tours of Cape Town from Cape Town International Airport. 021/419–5182. www.civair.co.za.
Cape Town on Foot offers fun city walking tours that last about 2½ hours. The tours cover major historical attractions, architecture, and highlights of modern-day Cape Town. Its Bo-Kaap tour includes the Bo-Kaap Museum. Expect to pay around R150–R200 for 2½ hours.
For a more Bo-Kaap-centric experience, Shireen Misbach-Habib of Tana Baru Tours leads walking tours (R250) through the neighborhood where she was born and lives. Shireen's tours conclude with tea and Malay cakes in her home.
Footsteps to Freedom offers two really good walking tours—one of the city and its historical sites and the other of the V&A Waterfront. The guides are friendly and well informed and offer a rare insight into the city; they can also help with tours of the Bo-Kaap and townships. Ilios Travel offers a walking tour of Langa Township (R385), including a tour of the Bo-Kaap and the District 6 Museum. The guides explain the social structures and lifestyles of Cape Town's oldest African precinct, as well as the cultural history of the area.
Pamphlets for a self-guided walking tour of city-center attractions can be picked up at Cape Town Tourism.
Cape Town on Foot. Owner Ursula Stevens seems to be busy, leading walks through Cape Town, around the Cape of Good Hope, and up the West Coast—all guided by the seven books she has written on the areas. So her commentary comes straight from the horse's mouth. City walking tours last about 2½ hours and cover major historical attractions, architecture, and highlights of modern-day Cape Town. Bo-Kaap tours include the Bo-Kaap Museum. www.wanderlust.co.za.