We had spent a day exploring Cape Town by ourselves on the hop on – hop off bus. While it had been great fun, I had been looking forward to our tour around the western cape as it promised to show us seals, penguins and more. We were picked up at our hotel right on time and I was glad to see that it was a small group tour of 6 people as I had requested and not a full coach tour of 30 people.
After picking up the remaining people of our group we proceeded to Houts Bay which is a old time fishing village some distance away from Cape Town. The drive is a picturesque one along the coastline. We got down at the pier and proceeded for our boat trip around an island called seal island.
As we left Hout Bay behind and moved along the coast we saw Cape Cormorants fishing along the cold waters, their brilliant red patch below their beaks and shimmering black feathers shining in the morning light and giving a great start for the 300mm.
As we got closer to seal island we started getting the foul smell that I had read a lot about. Seal inhabited islands are usually foul smelling places due to their waste produce accumulating on the island. More the number of seals the fouler it becomes, so I was happy that there would be lots of seals there. Soon we could see the island completely covered by the creatures like a blanket. A great experience inspite of the smell.
We circled around the island at a distance prescribed by law. The creatures are well protected here. Limited boat departures in the day. I could imagine if the same was in India and we would have boats racing each other to get closest to the island!! I clicked them from all angles and after the prescribed time allotted to us we started on our journey back.
We saw 2 southern right whales in the distance on our journey back, but before I realised what they were and take a good enough photo they were too far for the camera. So we just watched them swim out into the ocean. As we returned to the pier we waited for the rest of our group to complete shopping for souvenirs and continued on to our next destination.
Next on the itinerary was the Naval colony of Simon’s Town. By itself , Simon’s Town just a small naval outpost of the South African Navy. What makes it a must visit place on a trip to Cape Town is the colony of African Jackass Penguins that have made the beach their home. I have always wanted to see penguins in the wild and this is the most accessible place where you can see penguins. Otherwise you have to go to the southern tips of South America, Australia and Antarctica to see these flightless cute birds.
We bought the tickets to the elevated boardwalk over the beach which houses the penguin colony and proceeded slowly along the boardwalk. Before we reached the beach we saw a head peeking out from the bushes. It was a Rock Hyrax , locally called a dassie. This small creature is the nearest living relative of the elephant and I happily took photos before it disappeared back into the bushes.
As we approached the beach I hoped that the colony won’t be out fishing. Thankfully, they were there in numbers waddling along and resting in the sand. They have become used to the curious humans watching over them from above and go about their business as usual.
We even saw some penguins catching a Afternoon nap standing erect. A very funny sight, reminding me of people sleeping on local trains here in Mumbai.
It was a privilege to just stand there and watch the little birds go about their daily routine. Soon it was time for us to say goodbye to the penguins, albeit reluctantly and proceed to our next destination.
Next on this sunny pleasant day was the Cape Point National Park which has the Cape of Good Hope. Cape of Good Hope is mistakenly known as the southern most tip of Africa. That privilege goes to Cape Agulhas, 150 km away. So we had to be content with visiting the Southwestern tip of Africa. We entered the reserve and proceeded to the Lighthouse which gives you sweeping views of the Indian Ocean. We had booked funicular tickets to skip climbing up to the top in the blazing sun.
The view from top is spectacular on all sides. Sheer cliffs dropping off into the ocean. Its all very photogenic. There is even a touristy distance marker showing distances to other places in the world.
As we started our descent we took photos of the Cape of Good hope from a birds eye view and slowly made our way down. It was lunch time and we had a great lunch at the restaurant overlooking the sea at the Cape Point. Just the view was enough to justify the prices, but surprisingly the food was great too!!
After lunch we proceeded to the point marked as the Cape of Good Hope for our “Patel point” photos. It was very crowded and people were clamouring for their photo with the sign. With some persistence we managed to get ourselves clicked with the sign. Mission accomplished!!
After the whole group had managed to get their photos we started on our way out of the National park. We saw something up on the slope and asked our driver to stop. It was a group of Eland. We had only seen skeletons of these huge antelope in the Kgalagadi and were happy to see live ones in the most unlikeliest of places. They almost look like huge cows!!
That capped off a great day on the Western Cape and we moved to our scheduled visit to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. We had already visited the gardens by ourselves the day before, so we excused ourselves from the group and went to the parts we hadn’t visited yesterday including the huge indoor greenhouse. And luckily we saw a different sunbird feasting on the flowers.
We went about the beautiful gardens again. Had a cup of coffee in its wonderful cafe and returned to our hotel satisfied with the days sightseeing. The night was spent as usual on the waterfront having a outdoor take away meal enjoying the live music.
Little did we know that it was the last sunny day we had in Cape Town. It played havoc on our scheduled sightseeing but that is topic for another post, another day.