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By Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack, Borderjumpers

World Cup 2006 Final IsakAronsson

From the 2006 World Cup Final. Credit: IsakAronsson.

With the 2010 FIFA World Cup kicking off in South Africa today and hundreds of thousands of fans arriving from around the world, we thought we’d offer some fun ways to enjoy a visit to Cape Town. And with so many World Cup fans paying top dollar to be here, we’ve narrowed down our list to the top 10 best World Cup excursions for less than $50.00 USD.

1. Spend a day learning about the anti-apartheid movement and the struggle for South Africa’s independence. Start your morning with a visit to Robben Island, which will take around two hours and should be booked in advance. After arriving by board boat, you’ll enjoy a guided tour of the island and the prison where hundreds of political prisoners were held, including Nelson Mandela. Afterwards, plan a visit to the District Six Museum followed by a walking tour of the Old District Six, where black South Africans were forcibly displaced from the District in 1901.

2. Go on a half day wine tour to Stellenbosh. There is a reason South African wine is proudly sold across the globe, and a visit to the Stellenbosh Vineyards is a good way to enjoy the fruits of this country’s popular export. Easy Rider Wine Tours offers a good value budget tour that includes a guided visited to several vineyards for tastings, information about the winemaking process, and tastings of a variety of local cheeses and foods.

3. Take a cable car, hike or mountain bike Table Mountain. Don’t miss Cape Town’s most breathtaking view from the top of the 260 million-year old Table Mountain. To get there you have two main options: cable car or hiking trail. To get down, experienced cyclists might brave the mountain sides by bike. The cable car conveniently departs every fifteen or so minutes, but the venue gets crowded, so show up early in the morning for the best view. Most hiking/walking tours last all day, for both experienced and non-experienced adventurers alike, and include transportation and lunch.

4. Spend a week volunteering with Penguins. Before or after you dedicate your time to the games, spend a week or two volunteering in Cape Town. All Africa Volunteers offers work with an organization that rescues and rehabilitates penguins. Commitments start with one week but can be for much longer.

5. Cruise along Long Street. Take a day to window shop and start out early with cappuccinos at Lola’s Café. You’ll enjoy a pleasant lunch at the Gallery Cafe & Cigar Lounge and then can spend the afternoon visiting alternative shops, such as Clarke’s Bookshop and the other second hand bookstores. There are plenty of fun clothing stores, independent art galleries andnovelty shops to keep you busy until the light starts to fade. Make sure you pass through the crafts markets before grabbing an affordable dinner at Café Royale. Cap the day off with a glass of wine at Boo Radley’s and dancing at Fiction DJ Bar and Lounge.

6. Wander the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. You can escape the noise of the city and get pleasantly lost with a long walk in these beautiful botanical gardens. Picnicking on the grass is a great way to enjoy a meal and live music is offered every Sunday during the summer.

7. Head for a waterfront boat cruise. Two views in Cape Town are not to be missed: the first is, as we already mentioned, from the top of Table Mountain, and the second is of Table Mountain from the shore of Table Bay under a slow sunset.

8. Swim with Sharks. Brave souls looking for the ultimate fear factor can scuba dive and snorkel with the Great White Sharks of South Africa. Cave diving is a very popular tourist attraction, allowing you to literally look the ocean’s toughest predator in the eyes.

9. Eat with a local family. One tour company provides the opportunity to “break bread” with two local Cape Town families. The meal with the first family includes home-cooking, stunning views over Cape Town and shared conversation. Afterwards you can head to a second host family for coffee and more cultural sharing.

10. Play’s #WorldTravelCup to score goals and win prizes! For this excursion, you needn’t go any further than Twitter to play for the chance to win a pair of round-trip flight vouchers to anywhere in the continental U.S..  The contest starts today and ends July 11, so get more details now to start playing.

On another note…
While being able to host the World Cup is an incredible achievement for South Africa (and the continent) –especially when many naysayers believed that this day would never come — the games do come at a considerable cost to the people who live there.

As you drive into Cape Town from the airport, it is impossible to miss the view of the sprawling slums. Countless promises made by politicians — from affordable housing, construction programs, new schools, and improved food security — have taken a backseat as the city and nation pour billions into new stadiums, road construction, and other infrastructure geared towards supporting the World Cup. When we talked to several South Africans about their thoughts on this, many said that the success of the games is the result of sacrificing much needed help and support for the country’s poorest citizens.

So, of visitors, we ask that you ask tough questions, and learn about the other, less sanitized, version of the country that South Africa will no doubt be hidden, at least for the next few weeks, under a veil of soccer hysteria.

Related resources

BorderJumpers Danielle Nierenberg and Bernard Pollack will be blogging here as part of a weekly series documenting their travels around the world. In every country starting with Africa,  they’re highlighting innovations working to alleviate hunger and poverty.

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Nina Kokotas Hahn

Nina Kokotas Hahn

Nina Kokotas Hahn is a travel writer and Chicago journalist whose work appears in Chicago magazine, HuffPost Travel and Condé Nast’s HotelChatter. Globetrotting since infancy, she’s the daughter of a travel agent and considers thrill seeking part of the DNA. Find her on Twitter at @ninakhahn.

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