In the heart of the built-up City Bowl of Cape Town lies a hidden secret – a place of leafy green trees and overgrown indigenous plants, a softly flowing river and cheeping birds. Think I’m making it up? Think again – this is Deer Park, at the end of a long road that stretches up into the mountains, in the suburb of Vredehoek, right in the City Bowl.
Deer Park has been around for as long as anyone can remember. A nature reserve at the foot of Table Mountain, it is rumoured to have provided accommodation and a convenient hiding place for runaway slaves in days long gone. There is an impeccably maintained shrine to Sayed Mohammad Ilahie, and you can occasionally see followers visiting the shrine of their spiritual guide…
For most, however, Deer Park is a fantastic way to keep fit without having to enter a gym. On any given day (weekday or weekend), the paths are populated by walkers, runners, mountain bike riders and dog walkers. There are easy trails that can be walked with young children, and a raised wooden walkway that meanders down to meet the residential area. There are wild, overgrown paths that head straight up into the mountain and provide lots of distraction for happy dogs. And there are exciting roughshod paths for mountain bikers to test their skills. For those looking for a mountain walk or run, Deer Park is easy to get to and has paths of varying inclines – just like the running machine at gym, only with better scenery.
And oh! The scenery. It’s a cross-section of the best Cape Town has to offer, with plenty of indigenous plants, proteas and succulents to look at up close, wide mountain views from the foot of Table Mountain, and stunning vistas of the city spread out like a toy town, with the ocean glimmering on the horizon. The air is fresh and delicious, the paths are well maintained but still wild, and the sense of peace that descends as soon as you step out of your car is tangible, and rare for City Bowl dwellers.
Of course, for those who are less energetic, Deer Park is also the perfect picnic spot. Gentle sloping lawns dotted with concrete tables and chairs offer a view out over the city, and there’s enough shade and dappled sunlight to keep every kind of picnicker happy.
Best of all? It’s a five minute walk from Woodlands Eatery, Vredehoek’s favourite restaurant, so once you’ve done your bit exercising (or picnicking), there’s a coffee or a cocktail waiting for you just down the road. Sound good? Book a flight to Cape Town today.
Image: Jeff Keen