When The Curtain Rises Again

“The tourist who moves about to see and hear and open himself to all the influences of the places which condense centuries of human greatness is only a man in search of excellence.”

Max Lerner in: Deborah McHugh The Quotable Traveller, 2001

Like most people, businesses and enterprises on this planet, we at Waterfront Charters are eyeing the immediate future with mixed optimism and caution. Just where the world is right now with Covid-19 is really anybody’s guess; from cautious experts and medical maestros to slightly deluded heads of state (not ours, we hasten to add – look further northwest for clues) there are a plethora of opinions, predictions, prognostications, denials and projections. We won’t comment: our expertise lies in the nautical world, and that is where we will continue to ply our trade. What we are very happy to see is the South African Tourism industry standing tall and making sure all is ready for when the curtain lifts again. The World Travel Market (WTM) Africa is at the forefront of this movement, and they have been hosting a series of webinars to keep the South African tourist industry on its toes and geared up for whatever changes might need to be implemented. They are currently driving a ‘South Africa is Tourist Ready’ communications collaboration (#SouthAfricaisTravelReady) to get the message out there, and it is recommended that all those involved in the tourism world get behind this initiative. Tourism is South Africa’s lifeblood – and that flow includes local as well as international visitors, with Cape Town certainly right at the forefront of attractions.

Need we remind you that the V&A Waterfront is right at the heart of Cape Town, and is definitely one of the country’s foremost tourist attractions? The reason for this is simple: the V&A has grown organically from a viable harbour and business district into a combination of these activities plus the powerful tourism aspects that have been added. Unlike the Disney Worlds and other artificial playgrounds, the V&A is rooted in history, and this quality is visible in every facet of the 123 hectares that host its many attractions. When viruses aren’t clogging up people’s lungs and their ability to get around, the V&A attracts over 25 million visitors a year. That’s the equivalent of around half of South Africa’s population! Locals have watched entranced over the last 30 years as the harbour area around the Victoria and Alfred Docks – the original Cape Town harbour – have been transformed. There are those of us who remember having to pass through customs in the 70’s and 80’s to visit the famous Harbour Café; probably the finest fish restaurant in the Southern Hemisphere in those days. A café by day and a restaurant by night it, fed a range of people from humble fishing hands to top business people. And politicians, it must be said. One of their more notorious menu options was the ‘Apartheid sandwich’; mashed curried tuna and potato held between slices of white and brown bread. Cringeworthy in retrospect, but a great lunchtime favourite among the fisherfolk.

From the Harbour Café and Bertie’s Landing – across the way from the Quay’s District to the Clock Tower District (by Penny Ferry in those days before the swivelling bridge was built) – the Waterfront developed. Bertie’s Landing (named for iconic South Africa solo yachtsman Bertie Reid) was a vibrant restaurant and bar venue that was the place to enjoy a midday meal or post-work sundowner. These days it hosts the tourism centre and gateway to Robben Island, yet another historic attraction. The magic of the area was that it remained a working harbour, with fishing vessels plying their trade, tugs steaming and out of the basins and large container and cruise vessels entering the main harbour mouth. The shopping areas and business areas followed over the next three decades, and many of the older buildings were carefully refashioned to enjoy a new lease of life in the V&A Waterfront. In 2015 it was estimated that the V&A Waterfront contributed a staggering 200 billion rand to the South African economy. This bears out why the tourism industry is so keen to get life back on an even keel again; the industry supports many thousands of South African from all walks of life, and we know that with proper caution and careful planning tourists will soon be able to enjoy the great features of the V&A Waterfront again.

And talking of great features, guess who has been part of the V&A Waterfront experience since virtually day one? That’s right: Waterfront Charters, the quintessential Cape Town cruise and charter company. Like the V&A, we have grown, and like the V&A we have gone from strength to strength. With our seven vessels offering a wide variety of experiences, we look forward to seeing the flow of guests again. In particular, we can’t wait to get our Seal and Harbour Tours on the go again: these 30 experiences are the perfect way for visitors to get a sea view perspective of the V&A. With delicious cooling refreshments on offer and comfortable seating for the foot-weary, a Harbour Tour is an unmissable V&A Waterfront experience.

Looking forward to seeing old and new friends again soon!