Nov. 16, 2016:
Today, we had to bid farewell to our home of the last three weeks aboard the Navigator. Both Jim and I felt a bit nostalgic to be leaving the old girl! Since we are going to be here in Cape Town for the next three days, we made arrangements to have a driver pick us up at the ship, and take us down the Cape Peninsula to Cape Point Reserve and the Cape of Good Hope. Our cousins, Chris and Debbie Clark, had raved about this area and the drive to the Cape, so we eagerly jumped in the car with our driver, Matt ( from African Blue Tours) and off we went!
We really enjoyed the drive through the suburbs of Cape Town, past the University of Cape Town, and up over the mountains ring the city, and over to the Indian Ocean side of the Peninsula. Sadly, South Africa has the distinction of being the country with the highest income inequality in the world. For obvious reasons, this results in a very high crime rate, and most of the lovely homes were sheltered behind high walls, many of them electrified, and barred windows were common.
Our first stop was in the colonial seafaring town, called Simon’s Town, which lies on False Bay. The views along the coast from here are awesome, and the colonial era architecture is very quaint. Then, it was off to achieve my prime objective for the day; photographing the African penguins! Me amo pinguinos.
Boulders Beach is home to a large colony of African Penguins (about 3,000), which nest in in the coastal scrub dotting the sand dunes lining the rocky beach here. Interestingly, until the 1980s, the penguins only nested offshore on the small rocky islands. However, in the 1980s, a breeding pair established themselves onshore, and a cottage viewing industry was born. Nowadays, the beach is thick with penguins, and the area belongs to the Cape Reserve Park Service. They have built a very convenient wooden footpath which winds along the nesting areas down to the beach. I think you actually get closer to the penguins here than you do in Antarctica!
However, as you can see, the winds were so extreme, the Penguins were mostly all hunkered down against the wind. In short, most of them looked miserable!
From Boulders Beach, we again crossed the spine of the Cape Peninsula, and entered the Cape Point Reserve area. This area is on of the the most densely floral areas in the world, and is referred to as the Cape floral kingdom. The whole area is thickly carpeted with a kind of heather-like ground cover called fynbos (“fine boss”). South Africa’s national flower is the King Protea, but there are many varieties of these bulbous spiky flowers, as well as many other types of wildflower so. This drive is glorious from September through November, and we are seeing the last of the spring splendor.
Shortly after we enter the park, we see a ranger armed with something like a paintball gun. His job is to make sure the roving bands of baboons don’t stray from the park. Very soon thereafter, we saw some of the escapist baboons ourselves by the side of the road. Shortly thereafter, we saw an ostrich by thee side of the road, and then whole nesting colony of Cape cormorants.
Our first stop was at the Cape of Good Hope, which our guide was quick to point out is NOT the southernmost point on the African continent (that honor goes to Cape Agulhas, about 100 km. To the east). Instead, the Cape of Good Hope is the south-westernmost point in Africa. We jostled with zillions of tourists to snap these quick pictures at the commemorative sign.
The next stop was higher up on the Point, where we hiked the equivalent of 60 flights of stairs to see the views from the old light to the “Two Oceans” (Atlantic and Indian), and the new lighthouse, which is substantially lower on the Point, and can be seen at sea for over 40 km.
We rewarded ourselves with a killer meal at the Two Oceans restaurant, which had killer views along the Indian Ocean side of the Cape.
Then we proceeded to drive back towards Cape Town along the Atlantic side. We passed bay after bay of unbelievable views. The tour was originally scheduled to have us take a ferry from Hout Bay out to Seal Island to see the huge colony of fur seals there. However, the winds were blowing so hard, we opted to skip the boat ride. Particularly when our guide, Matt, suggested that we could stop at a winery instead! So he took us to the Cape Point Vineyard, which was situated overlooking a glorious stretch of coast.
We then drove back over Chapman’s Peak which gave us a lovely views of the mountain range called the Twelve Apostles. We also made photo stops in Llandudno and Camp’s Bay. All in all, this was an incredible day, and we’re looking forward to driving into the interior to the Stellenbosch region for some wine tasting and a picnic.