V&A Waterfront, (Photo: iStock)
Cape Town - As the most visited destination in South Africa - attracting locals, out-of-towners and tourists alike - the V&A Waterfront may, to most, seem to be thoroughly charted territory. You may feel that you’ve seen and done everything that is to be seen and done at the Waterfront. Well, the new audio tours with VoiceMaps are here to show you just how wrong you are.
Head on over to the V&A Waterfront Tourism Information Centre at 280 Dock Road, right next to Mitchell's Waterfront Brewery and Ferrymans Tavern to pick up some earphones and a pamphlet explaining the simple process to get set up. It is as simple as downloading, and installing, the VoiceMaps app and then downloading the Waterfront-related content. Switch on your GPS and put in your earphones - the application does the rest. Using your real-time GPS location, the application starts to direct you on a guided audio tour of the V&A Waterfront, stopping you along the way to bring to your attention certain areas of interest.
Extra tip: It is advisable to bring your own ear or headphones for optimal comfort and audio quality.
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With 24 million visitors to the location annually, not many are fully aware that prior to the luxury development space and retail haven it is today, it was an uninviting, industrial port that sailors once called ‘The Tavern of the Seas’. It is fitting that the start of the tour should begin at the first tenant of the V&A Waterfront - Ferrymans Tavern.
Starting with a brief historical overview of Ferrymans Tavern, the audio tour instructs you on where to go next by describing what you should be seeing and pointing you in a direction or towards a clear landmark. It is a remarkably simple, automated experience with the guide being right in your ears telling you about where you are and where to go next.
The tour is filled with fascinating bits of information that even the V&A regulars may be oblivious to. For example, Time Ball Tower, one of the oldest structures in the area, was once used to tell the time and assist sailors to calibrate their instruments by having the ball drop on the hour, every hour.
The Time Ball Tower (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)
Strolling further along you’ll end up at V&A Waterfront Food Market. You may have been here before to savour one or more of their delicious, artisanal street foods, but you may not realise that the area adjacent to the entrance hosts four statues dedicated to South Africa’s four Nobel laureates. Chief Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F.W. De Klerk and Nelson Mandela stand watching, a hopeful reminder of South Africa's past. This audio tour is responsive to your GPS location so you can take your time, so grab a bite to eat, reflect on these South African icons or follow the directions to the next stop.
Four South African legends in Nobel Square (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)
As you carry on your journey through history and culture, you’ll be taken through the Watershed. Not too long ago, this space was unused and was an impediment to easy pedestrian movement in the Waterfront. Today it is a market with over 350 different brands showcasing the designs, craft and art created by young, local talent from all over Africa. Upstairs, the watershed hosts over 80 companies including many startups bringing together an incredibly fluid collaboration of design and technology into one area.
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Soon you'll be at the One&Only Hotel. At this point, the audio tour takes you along a hidden path that only guests may know of to the SAS Somerset. During World War 2, this ship was used to lay steel anti-torpedo and anti-submarine nets. The Somerset is also the only boom defence vessel left in the world!
The last of its kind, the SAS Somerset (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)
Further on the route is Robinson dry dock - another space with a unique history. Operating since 1882, it is the oldest dry dock in South Africa and the oldest of its kind in the world still operating today. The space is used to repair, clean and maintain different vessels. You'll see the workers transform ships before your eyes, and fill the dock with seawater when they are ready to leave.
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Past the Clock Tower you'll run into a lively group of Cape Fur Seals. While these animals are no strange sight to Capetonians, it is not common knowledge that about 65 of the seals have made the Waterfront their place of permanent residence.
Cape fur seals having a good old time (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)
Soon you'll hit the Zeits MOCAA, which houses an impressive collection of contemporary African art, and a great end to the tour.
The Zeitz MOCAA building (Photo: Ethan Van Diemen)
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The audio tour is free of charge - for more information, follow this link.