Our second day in Cape Town started at 8:00am. We were met by our guide, Peter, on the street outside our apartment. Peter introduced himself and gave us an overview of his experience as a guide and his background growing up in the Cape area. After our brief orientation, we drove through the town towards the western coastal road for the scenic trip to Cape Point. The two lane road winds between the coastline on one side and the ragged mountains on the other. There was light to moderate rain for the first hour or so of the trip which obscured some of the view, but even so, the land and waterscape were amazing.
We travelled southwards about 30 kilometers and then stopped to take photos at Hout's Bay and then again at Chapman's Peak a little further down the road. Even through the mist and low lying cloud, the view across the bay to Chapman’s Peak was spectacular. We stopped one more time to take photos of the beach and thatched roof houses at Noordboek before heading towards the naval base at Simon's Town.
This area was first settled by the Porteugese and then the Dutch in late 1400's and then eventually, the British. It was initially set up as a stop along the spice route to India to give the sailors a break from the long journey and to re-supply the ships. As we drove through Simon's Town we caught sight of the new German Corvairs that have been purchased to protect the coastal fishing routes. While the ships are new, Peter informed us that the Navy is not as discipliined as it once was as a result of the dire economic situation that has impacted South Africa.
A short 5 minute drive past Simon's Town we arrived at one of our “must see” stops in the Cape - Boulders Beach and the renowned African penguin colony. Aftrican penguins are only found along the coastal waters of Southern Africa and while it is estimated that in the early 1900’s there were approximately 1.5 million of the frolicking birds, today they are an endangered species with their main predators being sharks, seals, seagulls and humans. Oil slicks along the shoreline covers them in oil and is a further source of endangerment. In 1982 two breeding pair of penguins were brought to the Boulders from Dyer Island (about 3 hours down the coast from Simon’s Town). Today, through intensive conservation efforts, there are over 3000 penguins that make their home in the waters around Boulders Beach.
After parking our car we walked through the parking lot to a boardwalk that leads to the beach entrance and a conservation office where there is a 75 Rand (approximately $7 USD) conservation fee to visit the penguins. The raised boardwalk continues toward the water and serves to keep human traffic off of the beach while still allowing unobstructed and close-up views of the penguins. African penguins used be called Jack-Ass penguins because of the donkey-like braying sound that they make. We could hear the penguins well before we could see them as we approached the beach, and can attest that they truly deserve their monicker.
The penguins were scattered around the expansive beach which had shrubby vegetation and granite rocks (hence the name “Boulders”) from the shoreline to the water. The beach was about 100 meters in depth and there was a small protected inlet at the water where most of the penguins were gathered. About a dozen or so were sitting on nests protecting their 1 or 2 chicks from the seagulls that were lingering around the beach. Dozens more were waddling on the sand and countless others were fishing and swimming in the shallow water just offshore.
One abandoned chick was struggling on the sand near a mother and her nest. The handful of tourists on the boardwalk were trying to keep a hungry seagull from attacking the chick. Every time the seagull approached the chick, someone would wave an umbrella or make a loud sound to keep the seagull away. We waited for someone from the park to remove the chick (there is a volunteer association that makes sure all of the birds are protected) and finally someone arrived.
After spending about an hour with the penguins, we reluctantly left as we had so much more to see along the coast of the Cape. From the Boulders, we continued to travel south past Miller's Point where we spotted a whale about 150 meters from shore. We continued to see it breach several more times in the span of about 5 minutes.
As we arrived at the Cape of Good Hope National Park the sun began to break through the parting clouds. We entered the park and drove through the desert like terrain which is the said to be richest floral kingdom in the world. There are hundreds of species of flowers and succulents - some only found in this area. We spotted vibrant green sunbirds feeding on the Pin Cushion Protreas which have a spiky yellow flower that provides nectar to birds and bees.
We continued along the narrow road downwards toward the cape, and spotted a pair of ostrich, a male and a female that were looking for food at the side of the road. As we approached the beach we marvelled at the turquoise water and the rich marine food source of seaweed along the shore. An outcropping of rocks in the water made a perfect sunning deck for a group of seals and waterbirds. We marvelled that we were at the southernmost part of Africa and the only thing between us and Antarctica was the Ocean.
After walking around the beach, we got back in the car and drove around to Cape Point at the very tip of the Peninsula. We took the cable car up to the top and walked the rest of the way to the lighthouse where we had spectacular 360 degree views of the surrounding area. The water from this vantage point was deep green and turquoise cast against a bright blue sky dotted by wispy clouds. It was breathtaking!
We spent nearly an hour taking it all in, then walked back down the stairs to the parking area and met our guide for lunch. He had booked us a table in the Two Oceans restaurant overlooking the bay. We ordered a bottle of South African Chenin Blanc to go with our lunch which consisted of an appetizer of Springbok carpaccio along with calamari and a main course of King Klib which was the line fish of the day.
After lunch we drove back to Cape Town stopping at the sign for Scarborough along the way, so Kim could visit her relatives (ha ha). Back in Cape Town, we went to the Kristenbosch Botanical Gardens ($7/person). These are beautiful gardens with treed canopy paths, large sloping lawns, concert stages and quiet natural picnic areas. The backdrop is Table Mountain with wonderful views of Cape Town and surrounding area looking out to sea. The skies had darkened on our return to Cape Town and a light mist and rain added a tropical feel to the whole area.
After an hour of leisurely walking around the garden we left for the apartment arriving just after 4:30pm.
Following our long day of driving around the Cape, we took some time to relax, rest our eyes, and then got changed and walked down to the waterfront for dinner. We chose to eat at the Belthazar as it had been recommended by our guide Peter who frequents it quite often. It is an upscale but casual restaurant that overlooks the harbour on the upper level in front of the Shopping Complex. Even though it was cool, we decided to eat on the patio where they had heaters, but still wore our jackets. This restaurant boasts the largest wine by the glass menu in the world so rather than become completely overwhelmed we took the recommendations by the Somelier. I ordered a very nice Pinotage (King Belthazar) which was a wine from a local winery that had been commissioned by the restaurant. Kim had a Sauvignon Blanc - both were excellent. We both chose the Rib Eye steak as this was one of the specialties of the restaurant. I had sauted spinach and mushrooms as sides. We reminisced about our day over dinner and then took an Uber to the apartment ($2.50).
Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.