As a tourist, it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the “tourist traps” that entice you with all of the must-see and do attraction tours. While touring popular spots in a new city is part of the experience, it’s important not to miss out on the authenticity of it all. Part of traveling is about immersing yourself in new cultures, which is what VoiceMap is all about. With their tours, you get the point-of-view and knowledge of an insider, which sets the experience apart.
What is VoiceMap?
VoiceMap is an interactive walking tour app that allows you the freedom to explore at your own pace. The app uses GPS to play audio automatically as you walk and provides directions along the way. If your data is limited or you don’t have access to Wi-Fi, you can download the audio tours beforehand and use the offline maps provided. You can start, stop, or pause the tour at any time.
With VoiceMap you don’t have to watch the screen, as with many other walking tour apps. Instead, you can switch the tour to “pocket mode,” stick in your earphones, put your phone in your pocket, and listen to the storyteller as you walk around and take it all in. With simple and descriptive directions and information, the tours are easy to follow.
Iain Manley, founder and CEO of VoiceMap, says the goal of the app is to change people’s perception of audio tours. “People [typically] think audio tours are not an exciting thing to do, [but] we want a very personal perspective.” He adds that they want to provide “a way of seeing a place through someone else’s eyes.”
VoiceMap connects listeners to passionate people who have stories to tell. These personal perspectives change how people see and experience places by walking you through their story. People can see the same place a thousand different ways, and with VoiceMap tours, you get the chance to look into someone else’s world.
Manley says one of the most rewarding things of working with VoiceMap is “working with people who are extremely passionate about a particular place and [have] a particular perspective on a place.” That passion can be felt through the voices and stories you hear in VoiceMap’s audio tours.
V&A Waterfront Audio Walking Tour
In order to get a better feel for what VoiceMap is, I did the walking tour at the V&A Waterfront. The script for the tour was actually written by Manley, and is a free, 1-hour, immersive tour that takes you all around the Cape Town hotspot. Starting at the Tourism Information Centre, the tour begins with a welcome message and a brief historical background of the Waterfront. Earphones and free Wi-Fi are available from the Information Centre.
As the tour started, I was surprised at how easy and accessible the journey was. The app would accurately play audio recordings automatically as I arrived at each location listed along the route, and the information was engaging. I was transported back in time as the stories I listened to brought the location to life with different interviews from people central to the story of the Waterfront, sounds from its past, and information about the Waterfront’s daily operations and plans for the future.
After starting at the Information Centre, you’ll make your way past Nobel Square and through the bright and busy Watershed Market. After that, you’ll loop around the Two Oceans Aquarium, stroll along the water towards the Clock Tower, and end in the Silo District. This tour is definitely a must-do when visiting the Waterfront. You get to see more than just the surface level – you get to listen to what the Waterfront was and is.
How it works
- Download the VoiceMap app, available on iPhone and Android devices
- Sign up using Facebook or email
- Select Cape Town from the menu
- Download the Reinventing the Tavern of the Seas tour
- Once the tour has finished downloading, plug in your headphones and tap Start
Voice Map has 350 tours available in 120 cities to date, with 45 walking tours in Cape Town alone. If you’re looking for the best tours around Cape Town, check out the Bo-Kapp and Groot Constantia tours which are both Manley’s favorites.
There are new audio tours published every week, with the option to create your own audio tour with VoiceMap’s publishing tool. Other language options are available, including German, with more on the way.