Now here’s an experience to remember. Walking down a tunnel that exists below the streets of Cape Town in an intertwined series. These were built in the 1860’s when the settlers wanted to start expanding the city. At that time the water flowed in streams and rivers above ground from Table Mountain all the way to the ocean. There was so much water that they decided to divert the flow directly to the ocean in order to build roads and buildings on ground level. The water would’ve been put to use much better if it went to the city instead of washing away, because now we have to outsource our water supply. For now though, there’s an opportunity to explore this brilliant underground network of ancient tunnels.
The tour enters the main tunnel up in Vredehoek on an open park. Here we put on our gumboots and climbed down a manhole, dodging the cobwebs and being careful not to bump our teeth out on the cement. From here we starting making our way down the tunnel, bending over at first until it opened up wide enough to stand up straight. The water still flows down here, so some walked wide-legged on the sides while others, like me, just splashed on through. As you walk down, you see three different architectural constructions on the inside of the tunnels, showing how the three sections were built in different historical times. Every now and then we passed by a manhole overhead and we could hear the cars driving past on top – quite an unnerving sound the first few times!
These tunnels are surprisingly clean and the water that flows down here can still be used, it just needs to be purified. The deeper you get into the city, the more cockroaches are crawling on the sides, but they were never close enough to creep me out too much. After about 2km we climbed back up a manhole and popped out on the grounds of the Castle of Good Hope, which was pretty rad and a little disorienting. It took a moment for me to regain my bearings, but then I realised what an incredibly fantastic thing I just did. I explored a world that exists below the surface of Cape Town!
How to book
You can book this Below the Surface tour of Cape Town through Figure of Eight. It costs R270 per person for a tunnel tour.