Introducing Muchi Gubwe, the Head Concierge of Mount Nelson, A Belmond Hotel, Cape Town – one of the world’s finest. A hugely responsible position that Muchi fills with distinction as the newest South African member to the Le Clefs d’Or The Britain and Commonwealth Society.
To guests, the Concierge is often their first port of call on arrival. For Muchi this is how he can put his investigative prowess to test. If you want ‘Adventure & Adrenalin, Botanical & Birds or Culture & Cuisine’ – all are at his fingertips! Winner of the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge Concierge Award 2021.
ADVENTURE & ADRENALIN
Arguably South Africa’s most scenic skydiving location and home to a team of passionate experts with a drive for excellence in service delivery, safety and adventure. Situated in the heart of the Cape Winelands, the farmlands of Wellington are less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town’s CBD. As the plane climbs to altitude, you’ll enjoy incredible views of the winelands, the beautiful Table Mountain and azure ocean.
ZIPLINING – Mind Blowing Fun
A zipline canopy tour in the company of soaring eagles, surrounded by breathtaking Cape fynbos and mountainscapes, only an hour’s drive from Cape Town by car could well be exactly what you are looking for. This outdoor activity is exhilarating, run by a great team of enthusiasts and is super safe. The quality of the structures and equipment are reassuringly high and any fear of heights become irrelevant. Situated in the Hottentots Holland Nature Reserve the partnership with Cape Nature allows you into previously inaccessible and an amazing World Heritage Site. Only one hour from Cape Town, a fully guided adventure for nature enthusiasts of all ages 5 to 75. A family and team building activity that everyone will certainly enjoy.
ABSEILING TABLE MOUNTAIN
The panoramic views from the top of Table Mountain are breath taking, but the views from the abseil are even better. Step off the top, 1000 m above sea level, and abseil into mind-blowing vertical space. Descending down the side of a sheer cliff you will have Camps Bay, the Atlantic Seaboard and the deep blue ocean at your feet with the Twelve Apostles at your side. The Table Mountain Abseil is guaranteed to get your pulse racing. https://abseilafrica.co.za/
HOT AIR BALLOONING IN THE WINELANDS
Sophisticated and thrilling! This is the best special occasion surprise to spoil a loved one. Create an indelible memory up in the clouds floating through the sky as slow as a cloud and as free as a bird, between the mountains of one of the most magnificent winelands valley on Earth. Considered the most romantic and exciting excursion around Cape Town that indulges your senses with a dream adventure of a lifetime you will never forget. Fly near the southern tip of Africa and see Table Mountain in the distance, and on a very clear day, the Atlantic Ocean with the Cape of Good Hope 100 km away. You will be thrilled by the blues of the silhouette of the 2000 m high Limietberg Nature Reserve Mountain Range – a World Heritage Site, the bright green of the vineyards and endless rolling fields glowing in the sun.
Wineland Ballooning operates between 20th November – 30th April in Paarl and Franschhoek, and is closed between May and 19th November due to weather conditions. Wineland Ballooning
STAND UP PADDLING & WATER BIKES – These activities have taken Cape Town by storm!
The canals are an ideal place to learn Stand Up Paddling (SUP) boarding; flat water with no hazards and no waves to build your confidence on the board before heading out to sea! https://supcapetown.co.za
Water Bikes – Are easy to ride, simple to steer and do not require balancing. No previous experience or skills are required. They are eco-friendly, designed to be used on the ocean and due to the elevated sitting position, you do not get wet – a truly sustainable eco-adventure.
Glide across the ocean around Simons Town, famous for its marine life and spectacular views of the surrounding Table Mountain range. https://capetownwaterbikes.co.za
BOTANICAL & BIRDS
Nestled in a sheltered cove between Simon’s Town and Cape Point, Boulders has become world-famous for its thriving colony of African Penguins and magnificent wind-sheltered, safe beaches. Although set amid a residential area, it is one of the few sites where this endangered bird (Spheniscus demersus) can be observed at close range, wandering freely in a protected natural environment.
From just two breeding pairs in 1982, the penguin colony has grown to about 2 200 in recent years. Partly due to the reduction in commercial pelagic trawling in False Bay, which has increased the supply of pilchards and anchovies, an integral part of the penguins’ diet.
Bordered mainly by indigenous bush above the high-water mark on the one side, and the clear waters of False Bay on the other, the area comprises several small sheltered bays, partially enclosed by granite boulders that are 540 million years old. The most popular recreational spot is Boulders Beach, but the penguins are best viewed from Foxy Beach, where boardwalks take visitors to the birds. https://www.sanparks.org/assets/docs/parks_table_mountain/boulders-brochure.pdf
KIRSTENBOSCH BOTANICAL GARDENS
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is acclaimed as one of the great botanic gardens in the world. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting, against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. The garden is one of ten National Botanical Gardens covering five of South Africa’s six different biomes and administered by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Kirstenbosch places a strong emphasis on the cultivation of indigenous plants. When Kirstenbosch was founded in 1913 to preserve flora native to South Africa’s territory, it was the first botanical garden in the world with this ethos, at a time when invasive species were not considered ecological and environmental problems. The garden includes a large conservatory exhibiting plants from several different regions, including savanna, fynbos, Karoo and others.
This majestic 16 ha wetlands area and bird sanctuary offers a range of activities from leisure to educational. Guided tours, bird watching, boat rides and educational school outings and packages are among the many things to see and do on Intaka Island, which is situated in the centre of Century City. Intaka is the Xhosa word for Bird. The island boasts seven habitats in the wetlands where 70 of the 120 bird species can be seen regularly. A self-guided walk trail (+- 2 km) with many benches where you can enjoy abundant birdlife and more than 200 species of indigenous plants.
CAPE PELAGICS BIRDING CRUISES
A Cape Town pelagic is a spectacle that all birders should experience at least once in their lifetime. Many consider Cape Town to be one of the top pelagic birding destinations in the world. On these pelagic trips, you will head out searching for fishing trawlers which attract thousands of seabirds of a wide variety of species. It is then a case of searching through the commoner species to hopefully pick out the odd rarity or two. Expect a multitude of albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, as well as other coastal species such as cormorants and gannets.
During the winter months, large flocks of Cape Petrels push up from the cold subantarctic waters as well as Antarctic Prions. Storm Petrels are dominated by Wilson’s, with large numbers of European in the summer, while Black-bellied is a passage migrant and only likely for a couple of weeks in April/May and again in September/October each year.
Closer inshore we may encounter small numbers of Parasitic and Pomarine Jaegers during the summer months as they harass fishing terns, while African Penguins and Cape, Crowned and Bank Cormorant are almost guaranteed as we come back into the harbour. One of the most exciting aspects of pelagic birding off the Cape is that you never know when the next mega-rare species may turn up!
With luck, we may also find Bryde’s Whale as well as Humpback and Southern Right Whales (both seasonal visitors), Cape Fur Seal, and dolphins (Long-beaked Common and Dusky Dolphins are most abundant).
WEST COAST NATIONAL PARK
The West Coast National Park stretches from Yzerfontein to Langebaan, a pristine nature reserve that offers an array of activities such as bird watching, game sighting, biking and whale spotting. About 120 km from Cape Town, located on the Culture Route and Foodie Route.
Witness one of the greatest flower shows on earth where carpets of incredible wildflowers explode into colour bursts, engulfing entire landscapes. This spectacle is popular between August and September.
BIRDS: Summer is the best time to visit the lagoon, particularly in September as species return fatigued from their transcontinental travel, and March when they congregate in large numbers to feed heavily prior to undertaking the reverse journey. In such times, the birds are often changing into or out of their Northern Hemisphere breeding plumage.
The reserve’s fynbos surrounding the lagoon hosts Southern Black Korhaan, Cape Spurfowl and Grey-winged Francolin, Southern Grey and Cape Penduline Tit, Ant-eating Chat, White-throated and Yellow Canary, Karoo Lark, Chestnut-vented Tit-babbler, Bokmakierie and Cape Bunting are all easily seen. African Marsh and Black Harrier can often be seen quartering the ground. The coastal islands at the mouth of the lagoon are breeding havens for a number of species such as Kelp and Hartlaub’s Gull, Cape Gannet and African Penguin. Cormorants and terns are present too.
CULTURE & CUISINE
BO KAAP FOOD & CUISINE TOUR
How to best experience the beautiful Cape Malay Quarter of Cape Town?
Take a tour with Pam McOnie from Cape Fusion Tours and get all the information about life in the Bo Kaap. The highlight of the tour is certainly the visit of the little alleys and backyards and a home visit at one local Muslim family.
Pam is a very knowledgeable tour guide and knows a lot about this Muslim Quarter. In her Cape Malay Quarter tour she shares insights about the area which is always tailored to each client. She will open your eyes, not just to pass the colourful houses but also to see behind the facades.
Pam’s Bo Kaap tour leads you to the infamous home kitchen of Fayrusa Abrahams. She is `fabulous cook and host. It would be a contemporary take on the traditional Cape Malay meal – so starters include samoosas and chilli bites, then a mild curry with sambal, gently spiced rice, followed with a small koeksister and specially flavoured tea to aid digestion. Fayruza will say how she made it and talk about spices, her story and traditions. You could fold samosas too. https://capefusiontours.com
GOLD RESTAURANT AND DINING EXPERIENCE – Famous for its traditional African Foods from across the continent.
African food is traditionally shared and enjoyed with family and friends. Similarly, the 14-dish tasting menu served is designed to be enjoyed in a shared style. Throughout your traditional African meal you will learn about the country of origin, cooking techniques and spicing of each dish. Halaal certified meat, poultry and fish, dishes come with vegetarian or vegan substitutes.
Gold is so much more than just an African restaurant, at night it becomes an immersive experience with Mali puppets and entertainment.
The Gold Spice Experience is one that explores the history of spices throughout the world, taking you on a story telling adventure through the eyes of their African staff. Venture down the spice route from Uganda to Burundi, the lakes of Tanganyika, and Zanzibar, the spice island. Smell, taste and identify spices as you listen to the stories of how an island in Indonesia is linked to Manhattan through the spice trade and European wars, while you discover a different side of Africa. An intimate dinner experience with African hospitality, stories, food and entertainment. https://goldrestaurant.co.za
Langa is Cape Town’s oldest township, established in 1923. Similar to the nearby communities of Gugulethu and Khayelitsha, Langa is one of the many areas that were established prior to the apartheid era designated for Black Africans. The name Langa means ‘sun’ in the Xhosa language, but the name of the township is actually derived from the name Langalibalele – a famous chief who was imprisoned on Robben Island for rebelling against the government.
Langa can be reached off Ext 12 of the N2 Highway out of Cape Town and is also served by Langa Railway Station. In recent years, the township has started to be rejuvenated as the government has invested in improved infrastructure. The Guga’sthebe Cultural Centre opened in 2005 is now the site of many community and cultural activities. Culturally, Langa is relatively homogenous with most of the residents belonging to the Xhosa tribe. The community started with very little planned infrastructure but is rapidly developing in many areas, including tourism.
During a township tour, you’ll experience the ‘real’ Langa and meet many people who are making a difference in the community. On a typical walking tour, you’ll see four different housing and socio economic areas, including worker hostels and informal settlements. You will get the chance to greet residents along the way in isiXhosa. Cultural entertainment includes traditional music and gumboots dance which is an after school programme called Happy Feet Youth Project for local children in Langa Township. https://siviwetours.com
!KHWA TTU SAN CULTURAL CENTRE
!Khwa ttu is a San culture and education centre based on an 850 hectare Nature Reserve 70 kilometres north of Cape Town. A non-profit company, directed jointly by the San and the Swiss-based Ubuntu Foundation, !Khwa ttu has been providing jobs and practical residential training for young San from all over southern Africa, since 1999.
!Khwa ttu is also a thriving tourism destination, boasting a busy restaurant, stylish guest houses, open air tented camps, thrilling mountain bike trails, and a shop selling hand-crafted gifts found nowhere else. San guides lead unique tours for visitors, fulfilling !Khwa ttu’s mission to enable San to reclaim and share their heritage, in their own way.
Experience the authentic warmth of San Spirit with an award-winning Heritage Centre, restaurant, trails for bikers and hikers. Indulge in the history of these last hunter and gatherers, eating their indigenous food.
Situated in the Cape Floral Kingdom, itself a UNESCO World Heritage site, !Khwa ttu embraces and champions a range of environmental stewardship programmes and offers accommodation. Their exhibitions, San-led trails and guided experiences are designed to engage body and senses, as much as the mind. They demonstrate the skills and knowledge of San from across southern Africa, while also telling the archaeological story of the origins of the modern mind on the southern African. https://www.khwattu.org/about-khwa-ttu/
CULTURE CONNECT WITH KATE CRANE-BRIGGS
Discover Cape Town’s multi-layered culture and South Africa’s extraordinary history on a walking tour with the hotel’s specialist guide, Kate Crane-Briggs. Tailored to what you are after, it can range from a leisurely orientation to Cape Town, ideal for first time visitors, to a whistle stop art, heritage and architectural experience (most guests like a combination of both).
Kate combines “must see” sites with places tourists generally don’t go to – busy markets, art foundations, architectural gems and much feted coffee roasters. You’ll get a good feel and understanding of Cape Town and its development from a place of nomadic herders and hunter gatherers, to a dynamic, developing African city.
She’ll show you parts of the city and monuments referencing South Africa’s chequered past – slavery, colonisation and apartheid. You’ll see today’s challenges but also optimism, especially with the burgeoning creative industries, continuing cosmopolitanism and entrepreneurialism.
The Mount Nelson, A Belmond Hotel, Cape Town is an ideal starting point for the tour, with its central location and 120 years old history. It is next to the Company’s Gardens, the reason why Cape Town began in 1652 and flanked by a plethora of South African institutions – Parliament, National Gallery, South African Museum, the National Library, University of Cape Town’s Michaelis School of Fine Art, Gardens Shul and Jewish Museum. Visiting them can be part of Kate’s tour; some you may like to visit independently, but they are not all open to the public.
A visit with Kate to Parliament is highly recommended (there are some interesting links between Parliament and the hotel). This needs to booked at least a fortnight, preferably longer, in advance. Kate can also arrange visits to artist, designer and architects’ studios – less notice is needed, even as little as a day.
Let’s meet Muchi Gubwe, winner of the Distell Inter-Hotel Challenge Concierge of the Year 2021 ~ Special thanks to the Diamond Works Institute for their handcrafted diamond studded gold lapel pins!
WHAT ARE YOUR AIMS FOR THE FUTURE?
I am now the newest South African member to the Le Clefs d’Or The Britain and Commonwealth Society, an elite organisation of the best Concierges all over the world. I would like to be able to provide talks about the Concierge craft and what it takes, to encourage up and coming Concierges from Hotel Schools. I would provide awareness to the role of Concierges and how they could be moved to the forefront of hotel operations thus reaching out to people in positions of power. I would like to see an Official Concierge Course, a specialist Certification being put in the forefront in Hotel Schools training.
WHO ARE YOUR ROLE MODELS AND WHY?
Alan McDougall one of the best Concierges in the business. His immense knowledge of the trade and vision of the craft is unsurpassed. A true icon in my view, hailing from Scotland.
Basetsana Kumalo, former Miss SA and media mogul. Her tenacity in this lucrative media space is something one can only marvel at.
HOW ARE YOU BROADENING YOUR KNOWLEDGE?
Through establishing friendships with fellow concierges and tourism industry suppliers. I regularly attend seminars, conferences and follow presentations about my trade and tourism in general. Through studying and peer synergy I have been able to expand my reach in the industry. Regular calls with fellow colleagues in the industry.
WHICH BOOKS ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
The Night Manager by John le Carré
The Art & Science of the Hotel Concierge by Holly Stiel
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