The Voicemap smartphone app offers a growing catalogue of GPS-based audio tours about cities around the world, including many exploring the Cape Town city centre.
The tours are narrated by personalities from all walks of life, including authors, bloggers, tour guides and ordinary citizens, with the aim of creating engaging stories about the streets, buildings and public spaces that contribute to the rich heritage and culture of the inner city.
Follow in the footsteps of slaves from the Castle to the Slave Lodge and the nearby tree where they were sold, try an authentic tour of Bo-Kaap with a local, relive Cape Town's revolutionary history or learn about Woodstock’s thriving street art scene – using just the app on your smartphone and a pair of earphones.
Developed by a Cape Town-based startup, the app uses your phone’s GPS to guide you along walking routes with directions from one point along the route to the next while pointing out interesting things along the way, and without the need to remove your phone from your pocket.
"All you need to do is listen to my voice. I'll tell you where to go, and tell you about the things we pass along the way. So adjust your volume, put your phone away, and focus on your surroundings," says Matt Weisse, in his introduction to Cape Town's Secret Tunnels and Rivers tour.
The stories unfold through a series of such audio clips – each designed to automatically trigger at exactly the right time as you move from one location on the route to another. "Look to your left, and you'll see the Slave Lodge, with its wooden shutters. That's where we're going - down the paved, tree-lined walkway to the right of it. Let's go," says narrator Lauren Edwards in the Landscape of Change tour.
Voicemap CEO Iain Manley explains that unlike traditional group tours, the app offers the advantage of experiencing the city at your own pace, and at any time that suits you. "You can stop whenever and wherever you like, for as long as you like. The app uses your location to play audio automatically, at exactly the right time and place, and when you start moving again, playback will too."
Voicemap includes some free tours but most cost between R38 and R110, ranging from a 1km tour to several, and from a few minutes of audio commentary to a few hours – depending on the tour. You can also choose to download the tours to your device before setting off to avoid the need for mobile data on the go.
So the next time you’re strolling through Company’s Garden or looking to pass time by in the city centre, consider a self-guided audio tour. You’re bound to learn something new.
Download the free Voicemap app from iOS and Android stores or see http://voicemap.me/tour/cape-town for more information.