Tunnel Vision: underground tours of Cape Town

Tunnel Vision: underground tours of Cape Town

Image Credit: Cape Town Collectables

Ever wondered what happens under the bustling streets of Cape Town? Now you can find out…

Explore these historic tunnels, with their impressive architecture, as they not only take you underneath the Mother City but also transport you back in time.

Built between 1652 and the 1895, the city’s underground tunnels were intended to divert tonnes of mountain water into the ocean. They were later used for transporting sewerage before they were arched over and forgotten about around 1895, until quite recently when they were opened up to the public.

Now they form part of an exciting and popular historical tour, which makes for one of Cape Town’s more unique experiences.

The long and the short of it

There are two route options:
Heritage and Adventure Tunnel & Dungeon Tour (shorter) An easy to moderate circular route, which takes you below the Castle. It’s suitable for group and individual tours. From R250 per person.

Adventure Tour (longer) A moderate to demanding tour, starting at the top of town and ending at the Castle. This route is suitable only for group bookings, with a maximum of 16 persons and  a minimum of 10 participants. From R350 per person. This is a seasonal tour, which depends on water levels. Participants have to fulfil a fitness test. 

Both routes start at the Castle of Good Hope where visitors meet in the car park. A maximum of 20 people are allowed into the tunnels at one time, and the minimum age requirement is 10. Visitors are accompanied underground by a qualified tour guide and a professional rescue medic. Visitors will receive a permit and a hard hat.

Since the tunnels are very dark, it’s advisable to bring a torch or headlight with you (or buy one on site for R80). Tours take between one and three hours, and end at the Castle of Good Hope or below the slopes of Table Mountain.

Please note The tunnels can be slippery and you will need to climb up and down vertical ladders, up to three meters long, so a reasonable amount of fitness is required. If you are not steady on your feet, it’s not advisable to take this tour, due to the confined spaces, slipperiness and ladders. If you suffer from claustrophobia, asthma, a bronchial illness or angina, you should avoid this activity, as the confined spaces and underground atmosphere can bring these on. It’s also not advisable for women at any stage of pregnancy. Make sure you wear comfortable, closed sports shoes or gumboots, and shorts, trousers or jeans with a long-sleeved shirt.

Pre-booking is essential and must be done at least two weeks in advance. Individual tours take place between September and May, weather-permitting, while private group tour bookings are available daily throughout the year depending on availability, with scheduled tunnel tours on weekends.(After hours and sunset tours available on request.) Please enquire via email.

Date

Until

Time

10 am – 3 pm.

Location

Contact

082 482 4006
mattweisse@mweb.co.za

Cost

R250 – R350 per person (depending on group size)

Disclaimer:

The Inside Guide has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, we do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, cost, time, and location.

Time of publication: 05 August 2016

19 Responses to “Tunnel Vision: underground tours of Cape Town”

  1. Matt

    Cape Town is world famous for the majestic beauty of Table Mountain which seems to embrace the City in rocky arms and seeing tourists and residents alike walking around her streets looking up at the spectacular sight is a common occurrence.
    Let well known is that there is another, mostly overlooked, but fascinating realm to explore in Cape Town right under her centuries old streets. Full Circle was privileged to be shown some of these tunnels by Matt Weisse of Good Hope Adventures and what an enlightening adventure it proved to be!
    If anyone loves Cape Town and/or its history whether you’re a resident of or visitor to the City a few hours with Matt in Cape Town’s tunnels will reveal the City to you in a whole new light and I’m not just speaking about the headlamp you must bring along with you.
    Matt provides a truly amazing historical look at Cape Town unlike any person or tour I have ever listened to or been on. He is passionate, incredibly well-researched and informed and is a veritable walking encyclopedia on the history of Cape Town as a City. The Tunnel Tour is worth it simple to listen to Matt! His talk will leave Capetonians proud and horrified at the same time.
    The next time you drive into town along Strand Street passed the Castle, look to your left at the Castle wall and think about the fact that ships used to moor where you are driving and your car would be under water.
    There is not enough space to go into the history of the City’s tunnels here but they basically began as canals built in various stages as the City’s waste water system that used to flush into Table Bay. When, like most larger European cities at the time, the canals became overwhelmed by the bourgeoning population there were epidemic outbreaks and the City’s leaders acted quite quickly and chose to cover up the canals. Over time the waste water system was updated and improved until now most of these old water canals lie unused beneath the City, although Mountain and spring water does still flow through them into the sea.
    Surprisingly, the tunnels are remarkably ‘clean’ and you are unlikely to see a single sewer rat although there is a faint ‘musty’ smell in some places. You are more likely to see groups of cockroaches which are unexpectedly inactive and just seem to collect in family groups. Most are the normal colour but the odd one may be white.
    Not all the tunnels are old sewers however, and there is an old Post Office Tunnel, some ‘secret’ tunnels for military purposes and even some old bank vaults and old private tunnels.
    It really is fascinating to see the old brick and stone work and recognize the various periods of construction as pointed out by Matt. It is quite staggering how much the City has changed since the first white settlers landed here and it is equally impressive to see all the hand-formed stone-masonry which is as good as it was 300 years ago!
    Tunnel Tours are not only of interest to history buffs and tourists though. They are a great place for business to hold corporate team-building and motivational events.
    There are too many tunnels and things to see in one day and we will very definitely be going back for further explorations… it really is that interesting!
    Tunnels Tours are the hot new must-do adventure in Cape Town but numbers are limited so anyone interested really does need to book in good time.
    For prices and all other information contact Matt Weisse on 0824824006, email him at mattweisse@mweb.co.za or visit goodhopeadventures.com

    Reply
  2. Antonio

    Do you have any brochure or literature for tourists?

    Reply
  3. Errol

    Cockroaches??

    Reply
    • Matt

      Yes, they form part of the fear factor experience. They are harmless and mind their own business.

      Reply
  4. Jackie Ruppersberg

    I walked those in 1972 when I started to work at the Postoffice. They took a whole group of us through it.We started under the station. Will love to do it again

    Reply
    • Matt

      Hi Jackie, you are referring to the abandoned post office mail delivery Tunnel. This Tunnel has been chopped in half by the Strand street underground shopping mall. So get your friends and come join us on a different Tunnel Tour to learn about Cape Town’s fascinating past and the underground River.

      Reply
  5. rikstreet

    Pensioner discount?

    Reply
    • Matt

      Support local Tour Guides, perhaps a nice story will qualify you for a discount.

      Reply
  6. Charles

    How long is the tour, in distance?

    Reply
    • Matt

      The scheduled Tunnel Tour is 2,5 hours of which you spend 45 minutes in the dark.
      If you have your own private group we can Tailor make this Tour to suit your needs.

      Reply
  7. Aloma

    Cockroaches?

    Reply
    • Dawn

      And rodents of various sizes

      Reply
    • Dave, the Underground Guide

      Plenty!
      We have a really good arrangement with them … WE leave THEM alone – THEY leave US alone!

      As for the shy spiders, fresh water crabs, frightened frogs, lost fish, microbacteria, inquisitive earwigs, and rare (but harmless) stray snakes, we have them all trained.

      It’s all good!
      😉

      Reply
  8. deon

    Hi

    What the price per person ?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Heather

      The cost is just to the right of the article above, Deon!

      Reply
      • Dave, the Underground Guide

        The advertised price is outdated, but legal – seeing that it’s published.
        The REGULAR price is R300 pp … That’s for between about 12 and 20 in a group.
        Any less is through special arrangement through Matt (or insistence on outdated, yet currently published, prices).
        Of course, the average price per person depends on the size of the group.
        As a business, we have to charge according to our “BEP” (break-even point).
        So private groups, less than the BEP size, would have to pay enough to validate the expenses … Else we just couldn’t afford to be there for you …
        It’s not much.
        I know.
        ‘Hope to see you soon. 😉

        Reply
        • Tamlyn

          Would they be interested in working with a travel writer on a potential in-depth review of the experience?

          I don’t think many people know about this… I’d love to write about it.

          Reply
          • Matt

            Any time, we love story tellers. You might even get your ticket for free.

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