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Category ArchiveHistory

Professional Tour Guide

Michael Wilcox is an all round adventurer with years of experience in the outdoor space.

His introduction to hiking and the love for nature happened at the early age of five when he started joining his father on fishing trips to the coastal regions of the Cape of Good Hope section within the Table Mountain National Park.  This included hiking through the fynbos to reach fishing spots at the water’s edge.  He remembers playing in the rock pools of the intertidal zones as well as catching “klip vissies” (small rock fish) there.

In later years he went on to join a swimming club, become a water polo player and a lifeguard.  The aquatic activities further expanded his love for the ocean. In fact, he spent over 25 years of his life volunteering as a beach lifeguard along the False Bay coast, as well as volunteering as a crew leader on the Cape Town Helicopter Surf Rescue service.

Soon after getting married, Michael and his wife Bridget embarked on an extended backpacking venture across Europe and the Middle East. Over time the two of them have been fortunate to travel to and experience 23 different countries around the world.

It is this love for nature, the outdoors, hiking and travel that made for perfect ingredients to become a Cultural Guide, an Overnight Off Trail Mountain and Adventure Guide, and to register a Tour Operator business called Tusk Adventures & Tours.

Here are some of Michael’s achievements over the years:

  • Special interest in Fynbos (indigenous vegetation of the Western Cape province)
  • Special interest in the indigenous seasonal flowers of the Cape West Coast and adjacent interior, Cederberg, Namaqualand and the Northern Cape
  • Special interest in coastal regions and intertidal zones
  • Special interest in KhoiKhoi and San culture
  • Special interest in San Rock Art (cave paintings)
  • Special interest in politics, colonial and apartheid history
  • Special interest in shipwrecks and lighthouses
  • A registered Regional/Provincial Cultural Tourist guide:-
    (Northern Cape, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga)
  • A registered National Overnight Off Trail Adventure Mountain and Wilderness Trekking guide
  • Certified by the Cape Wine Academy
  • Member of the Cape Tourist Guides Association
  • An experienced hiker, mountaineer and adventurer (over 40 years)
  • Hiked in Lesotho, Spain, Portugal, Scotland, Israel, France, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Namibia, Mozambique, Australia and all over South Africa.
  • A trained Wilderness First Aid responder
  • Experienced Rescue Mountaineer
  • Responder at Delta Search And Rescue
  • Responder for the Western Cape Wilderness Search And Rescue (WSAR)
  • Volunteers  alongside members of the Western Cape Department of Health
    Emergency Medical Services, Helicopter Rescue, Technical Rope Rescue, Off Road Rescue,
    K9 Search And Rescue, Sea Rescue and other emergency crews
  • Trained on the International Emergency ICS (Incident Command System)
  • A trained volunteer Tourism Trauma Support Worker
  • Certified category C freshwater and marine offshore boat skipper
  • Founder, co-ordinator and guide at ECO Mates Environmental Outreach Project
  • Volunteer Safety Patroller at Table Mountain National Park
    (SANParks)
  • Volunteer guide at Table Mountain National Park (SANParks)
  • Holder of a Professional Driving Permit (PrDP)
  • Representative at the Table Mountain National Park (SANParks)
    – Park Forum
  • Ad Hoc safety officer and rescue mountaineer with Wilderness
    Logistical Support Services at outdoor, hiking and trail running events
  • A weekly studio guest on a Cape Town Radio station talking about “The Great Outdoors”
  • Volunteered as a duty beach lifeguard for more than twenty five years
  • Past squad leader at the Cape Town Sea & Surf Helicopter Rescue
    service (approx 10 years)
  • Past member of Western Province Lifesaving elite helicopter response team
  • Past Climbing Convener of Cape Province Mountain Club
  • Past Safety Officer at the Table Mountain Hiking Challenge
  • Past Chairperson of the Hikers Network
  • Past coordinator at the Hikers Network Rescue unit
  • Past manager at SafetyMountain Tracking
  • Past safety advisor at The President’s Award Youth Empowerment program
  • Past guide at The President’s Award Youth Empowerment program
  • Past convener for Lion’s Alert Disaster Response
    (Lion’s Club of Kirstenbosch)
  • Past member of City of Cape Town municipality
    Disaster Risk Management unit
  • Past Captain at Alpha Surf Lifesaving Club
  • Past Equipment Officer at Alpha Surf Lifesaving Club
  • Past competitor for Western Province Surf Lifesaving Union team
  • Holder of numerous competitive lifesaving and rescue awards

 

Be out and be safe

 

 

 

 

Early Bo-Kaap part 1

The history of the Bo-Kaap

The Dutch East India Company (DEIC) or the Vereenighde Oosindia Companje (VOC) decided to start a refreshment station at the Cape in 1652.
This is on the back of their expanded occupation of the south east Asian island region which began around 1607. The islands of what we know today as Sumatra, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and others then became known as the “Spice Islands”.

By around 1740 during the first Dutch occupation, the Cape started to experience a certain problem. The demand and interest by white European people from countries like Holland, England, Scotland, Germany, France, Italy, Portugal and others started to increase. These folks were keen to live in the Cape, do business in the Cape and by then even saw the Cape as a favorable holiday destination.

So, this rise in European interest meant the Cape had a problem in that there was no infrastructure to support this growing demand. No or little housing, buildings, warehouses, hotels etc.
The original custodians of this land, the KhoiKhoi, were not skilled to do the required trades. Yes, there were slaves imprisoned at the Slave Lodge, however, the new project required much more labour as well as better skilled artisans and tradesmen to work on the expansion of the Cape.

Since the VOC had colonised the Spice Islands from the early 1600s, the Dutch had trained those locals to be of use to their colonisation aspirations. So the VOC chose tradesmen from Batavia especially (modern day Jakarta Indonesia) to build infrastructure for the expanding European population and interest in the Cape of Good Hope. Trades such as bricklaying, carpentry, roofing, furniture making and more were required. These were indentured workers who were no doubt poorly paid, much like the indentured workers who were brought from India to work on the sugar cane fields of Natal. They also happened to be of the Muslim faith, just like the vast majority of the slaves who were brought to the Cape from as early as 1658.
The two reasons why the VOC chose to enslave people from the Muslim faith were (i) the fact that the Dutch considered it “unchristian like” to enslave another Christian, and (ii) the fact that the VOC felt the Muslim people would not consume alcohol which would hinder their production.

But now the VOC was sitting with a second issue, where were these tradesmen going to live? This is how it was decided to zone the area which later became known as the Bo-Kaap, as a place for these artisans and their families to reside in.
Jan de Waal arrived in the Cape around 1715 and later became an official for the VOC. He scored the tender to construct the original houses in the area. It is believed that the first dwellings were built in what is today known as Leeuwen street.
The brief was to design small single story apartments, flat roofs, small windows, maximize the space hence no or little place for washing lines or gardens.
This is how the original name of the area was Waalendorp, after Jan de Waal, with the main street known as Waal straat. This street ran from lower Pentz street down to the Slave Lodge. It was during the second British occupation when they Anglicised quite a few of the Dutch street and place names, which is how the section of Waal straat between Buitenghraght straat and the Slave Lodge became known as Wale street.

The houses were built using one of the two shale rock types in the Cape, namely the Malmensbury Shale which was mined from the lower slopes of Signal Hill. They used mud and clay for mortar. This was to bond the shale rock and stone and also for plaster.
As a result, the buildings were very hydrophilic, susceptible to rising and penetrating damp problems. The few windows meant little ventilation, and together with the damp issues, as a result, the residents regularly suffered from asthma and other bronchial ailments.

To try and overcome the damp problem, the residents resorted to a method that was already in use for ages along the coastal Mediterranean region.
They collected sea shells which were baked in a kiln similar to a pizza oven. Once removed it was allowed to cool after which it was placed in wine barrels and crushed. The resulting white powder was called lime. This lime was then mixed with sea or freshwater to form a slurry, which was then slushed onto the walls as a waterproofing measure. This method is called lime washing or white washing.
So, initially, all the house were white in colour, and this lime washing had to be done multiple times a year to try and maintain its effectiveness. It was more about waterproofing than decoration, however, the residents made sure to re coat the houses before the end of Ramadaan as they prepared to celebrate their new year ahead.

When one walks up Dorp straat, Leeuwen straat or Pentz staaat especially, you will notice how each house is different in design, particularly around the architraves, facades, doors, windows and front walls. There is a specific reason for this.
Before I get into that, let me just acknowledge that gentrification, renovation and modernisation of the houses in some cases, led to a deviation from the original architecture where improvements have been done kind of “out of syllabus”.
The original residents were tradesmen mostly from Batavia and they would be contracted to European bosses. Now, if I was working for a German man for instance, he would fine tune me to work in the German style and theme.  If my neighbour worked for an Italian boss he would be trained the Italian way.
So when it was weekend or when we would have had free time, we would start decorating our houses using the styles we learnt from our bosses. This trend became a kind of fashion and some residents even tried to out shine each other. The reason why this was possible is the fact that even though the houses were built for renting, the VOC did not mind what residents did to the buildings.

As time went on the residents themselves referred to this area as the “Bo-Kaap” meaning “Upper Cape”. They referred to the area below Buitengraght straat as the “Onne Kaap” meaning the “Under” or “Lower Cape”.

Michael Wilcox
Tourist Guide

 

 

Castle of Good Hope Walking Tour

Castle of Good Hope

Construction of this building commenced in 1666 by Zacharias Wagenaar, who was the second commander of the Cape. It the the oldest building in Southern Africa which is still in everyday use.

You will have a chance to enjoy a memorable experience by visiting old jail cells, a swimming pool, guard houses, canons, old games from the period of the 1st Dutch occupation, Cape Malay museum, Torture Chamber, Nelson Mandela diaries and letters, audio-visual displays, the history of the “Armed Struggle”, apartheid, uprisings and much more.

This is a very good educational travel through time.

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens Walking Tour

 Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
“Fun by nature . . . we’ll take you there”

*Child friendly*

Itinerary:-

  • Indigenous vegetation
  • Trees, flowers, and plants
  • Fresh floral displays
  • Khoikhoi (indigenous people of the Cape)
  • Dinosaur and Cycad Garden
  • Table Mountain National Park
  • Braille Trail
  • Desert display 
  • Conservatory
  • Baobab tree
  • Bonsais
  • Prehistoric fossils
  • Nelson Mandela display
  • Sculptures and other art displays
  • Elevated bridge walkway
  • Beautiful views
  • Photographer’s paradise
  • Natural water springs
  • Birdlife
  • Other interesting information & more

The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is a natural wonder situated adjacent to the Table Mountain National Park.
Here, evidence was found to support the fact that the area was inhabited by Stone Age man more than 2000 years before Europeans first discovered this land. The area was also part of the Khoikhoi’s pastoral land before the Dutch East India Company decided to set up a refreshment station in the Cape.

Many indigenous plants and trees can be found here. The general term for the naturally occurring plant life in the Western Cape is called fynbos (fine bush).
This indigenous vegetation consists of four main families.


The walking tour will include many hidden gems that one can only enjoy and appreciate with a knowledgeable Tourist Guide.

(This tour does require one to pay an entrance fee at the gardens)

Service ends

We are ready to welcome you!

Cape Town on Foot

Historical Tour of Cape Town
“Secret places . . . we’ll take you there”

 

 

Itinerary:-

  • Places of interest
  • Khoisan history (indigenous people of the Cape)
  • Slave history
  • Buildings
  • Architecture
  • Statues
  • Streets
  • Works of art
  • Ruins
  • Artefacts
  • Plants and flowers
  • People
  • Cultural heritage
  • Public squares and open spaces
  • Apartheid
  • Churches
  • National monuments
  • Sites of significance
  • Memorials and more

 

Join us for a historical overview of Cape Town.

Learn about the indigenous Khoisan people and their lifestyle prior to colonisation.

We’ll touch on how and why the Cape of Good Hope came about. Going on to be the first Europeans to reach our shores. From the Portuguese to the first and second Dutch periods, to the first and second British periods, to the Apartheid era, and finally the New Democratic South Africa.

We’ll start the tour at Greenmarket Square, then move on to St. Georges Mall (which is like the Las Ramblas in Barcelona Spain).

You’ll get to learn and see how the naturally available rock was used in the construction of buildings and other features.

Since Cape Town was the first place in Southern Africa to be developed into a city, most of the old buildings were the first of its kind in the African Sub continent. Like the first, Government, hospital, church, police station, fire station, banks, cathedral, jail and many more other buildings.

We touch on the Flower Market and how it came about.

Visit the ruins of the oldest structure that was built by Europeans in Southern Africa.

See artefacts that were unearthed during the construction of modern buildings, and how first world influences can be seen in the architecture of structures and buildings as well.

The British influence is quite apparent in the streets, and even see where the reigning Queen Elizabeth II of England celebrated her 21st birthday.

We will learn about the Castle of Good Hope, the oldest building (still in use) in Southern Africa. Guests will get a sense of what life in the settlement of the Cape was like, almost 400 years ago.

The dark side of the Cape Colony has to be the system of slavery. And likewise, the dark side of South Africa has to be the system of apartheid.  You’ll have an opportunity to learn more about how these practices impacted the Khoisan and the mixed race people of this region. 

The influence of leaders like Nelson Mandela was able to achieve the birth of the New South Africa whereby freedom for all is possible.  As a result, the country could open up to the world and this includes welcoming millions of visitors to our beautiful city year after year.

The tour finishes back at Greenmarket Square where one can enjoy refreshments at one of the many restaurants there.

Service ends

This tour is ideal for:
Visitors
Locals
School excursions
Youth groups
Clubs and organisations
Family and friends

 

World War 2 military outpost

A hidden gem

The Western Cape South Africa has so much to offer in terms of history, including ruins and remnants of battles and  World wars.
Forgotten buildings such as these can be visited by booking a day tour with us. The guest will enjoy scenic drives along the coast and over mountain passes, a short hike, wine tasting at an estate or two, a leisurely boat trip, local cuisine and more.

This building was constructed for use during World War 2 to guard against German U Boats and other naval vessels which were considered to be hostile to the “Allied forces”.

100_2346

This fort was armed with two “16 pounder” guns which were mounted on carousels in a way that they could be rotated to face their intended targets. 



Some of the operating instructions that were painted on the walls can still be seen today.

100_2329

The bunkers, change rooms, arsenal and workshop is situated at a lower level beneath the main structure.




The plinths where the two diesel generators that provided the electrical power once stood, can be viewed as well.
About 50 meters above this section is the “lookout” from where the operations were controlled. From here there was  a good view of the guns and across False Bay.

100_2339

The canter levered roof of this lookout was designed without supports in the front, and is still good today.


You are welcome to contact us for tours or excursions such as these. Let us arrange a memorable day’s fun for your group. All you have to do is sit back and relax in one of our air-conditioned mini busses.

“Secret places . . . we’ll take you there”

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