The Cape Peninsula

Day-tripping in a mini-bus is not normally our thing, but it was offered to us after a bit of confusion over the pricing of our camping trip to come, so we accepted. The tour was an exploration of the Cape Peninsula - I had been there many years ago during a work trip, but the fair Nello had not.

Thus, we hopped into the mini-van a bit after 8am with three others and our pleasant and knowledgeable guide, Sele, to head quickly southwards out of Cape Town between the Atlantic Ocean and the western ramparts of Table Mountain.

Duikers Island fur seal colony

Our first stop was Houts Bay, a fishing port and marina wedged between the southern end of Table Mountain and Chapmans Peak. Here we boarded a boat for a quick trip out of the bay and around an impressive rock point to reach Duiker Island. The purpose was to check out the local seal colony. Now, we've seen fur seals on many occasions, so the novelty was not in seeing a seal, but was in the sheer number of Cape fur seals that lolled about on the low flat rock bed of Duiker Island. It was an impressive sight .... and smell.

Panorama of Houts Bay from Chapmans Peak Road

Cape fur seals at Houts Bay

African penguin at The Boulders

After rounding the cliffs of Chapmans Peak on a feat of engineering - the road, in parts, cut in to almost vertical rock face - our next stop was The Boulders penguin colony near Simons Town, on the False Bay side of the peninsula. Here again, the novelty was not seeing penguins, but the numbers of them happily wandering about the sheltered dunes and beach area in broad daylight (and even down a nearby street). Even better, it was breeding season and many were still sitting on nests shared with with one or two fluffy grey chicks. From a few pairs 40 years ago, this colony of African penguins now numbers over 2200, a great success story in species recovery.

A tryptych of African penguins

Then it was on to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, a large part of which is low, flat and dry, covered with a low fynbos vegetation. It looked good cycling country, which was just as well, because Sele stopped to unload the mountain bikes from the rack in his trailer - a chance for the fair Nello and I to do a bit of riding up and down the low hills of this open landscape. Passing the visitor centre we turned right for a pleasant sweeping run down to the beautiful white sand of Platboom Beach. With the heights of the Cape of Good Hope in the distance and a small flock of ostriches grazing on the vegetated dunes, it was the perfect place for lunch.

The open flats of the Cape Nature Reserve

Riding towards Cape Point





Old cape-style cottage

The road down to Platboom

On Platboom Beach

Ostriches at Platboom Beach

The brief bike ride over, our final destination was the cape itself, first to climb up to the old lighthouse at Cape Point, perched on the edge of 200m cliffs. Below to the south, low flat-topped cliffs jutted out into the blue of the sea. The physical setting of the Cape of Good Hope understates its almost mythical status - the conjunction of two great oceans, Atlantic and Indian, and a reknowned marker for sailors past and present.

Cape Point lighthouse

View from Cape Point Lighthouse

Eland at the cape

From the lighthouse, we did the short hike to the cape itself. The route descended quickly from the lighthouse base station to follow the line of eroded cliffs out to the cape. In places, the rock was red-tinted, in places almost white, as the board-walked track meandered between the deep blue of the Southern Ocean and the curious succulents and low spiky shrubs of this headland.

Boardwalk on the way to the Cape of Good Hope

Looking back to Cape Point

Sitting on the Cape of Good Hope

To sit on the high-point of the rocks and look out to sea, imagining the sailing ships of yesteryear rounding the famed Cape of Good Hope on their way to Australia was the highlight of a superb day. I even pictured my great-great-great grandfather give a wave from the deck as he headed off to a new life in a new land. What would he make of all this now? "Gute Reise, Ludwig".

Ocean vista from the Cape of Good Hope

So thanks, Sele, for a great day out on The Cape Peninsula - magnificent scenery, good exercise both cycling and walking, and a nice bit of reminiscence to boot.