Cape peninsula

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t Interior of the site’s splendid glasshouse, which features a baobab at its centre

EXPERIENCE Cape peninsula

A mountainous sliver that extends 50 km (30 miles) south from Cape Town, the Cape Peninsula has been inhabited by hominins for at least 1.4 million years. San hunter-gatherers arrived 30,000 years ago, to be joined by Khoikhoi pastoralists around the start of the 1st century AD. There is little historical record of the region until 1488, when a Portuguese expedition led by Bartolomeu Dias was blown around the peninsula’s southernmost landfall. King John II of Portugal named the area the Cape of Good Hope, recognizing it as a key breakthrough in the quest for a maritime trade route to India. In the 1680s, three decades after the foundation of Cape Town, Governor Simon van der Stel established Simon’s Town and Groot Constantia wine estate. Under apartheid, topographic restrictions on urban development led to the creation of several Coloured and Black townships on the more easterly Cape Flats. These were the setting for several pivotal events in the struggle, notably the massacre of 69 peaceful protestors at Sharpeville in 1960 and the formation of the United Democratic Front in 1983. Even today, the contrast between the genteel Cape Peninsula and densely populated Cape Flats remains striking.

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