The Beauty That Surrounds Cape Town
Not only is Cape Town itself a very worthwhile stop in South Africa (as discussed last time) but so are a number of destinations within easy reach of it.
For wine lovers, less than an hour away are the Cape Winelands, currently on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. Two popular villages are Franschhoek, shown here, and Stellenbosch.
Tours of the wineries can happen via the hop-on hop-off Wine Tram, by bicycle, horseback, Harley, walking or private driver—or by helicopter!
Another popular excursion from Cape Town is Hermanus, where you can see abundant sea life, including massive Southern Right Whales. (Peak whale-viewing season is between June and October.)
Photo courtesy of Leonardo Lanza, Wikipedia
Though Al and I weren’t able to make it to Hermanus, we had a fascinating escorted day-trip that I would like to share here. Be prepared for some wildlife and great scenic beauty!
The drive along the coast itself was stunning. We thought this was beautiful: a lookout over Hout Bay, with view of Chapman’s Peak. Little did we know, we hadn’t even gotten to the best part yet.
We continued along the 5-1/2 mile Chapman’s Peak Drive, whose 114 curves were carved into the side of the mountain a century ago. Wow!
No wonder Fodor’s says its views “[rival] those of California's Pacific Route 1 to Big Sur.” Ali Lawrence, in “35 Most Amazing Roads in the World You Should Drive in Your Lifetime,” puts Chapman’s Peak Drive as #2.
Looking back toward Hout Bay from Chapman’s Peak Drive.
I’m sure I would be happy to take this tour ten times, just to see the beautiful water views!
A stop along the way provided an opportunity to shop for souvenirs. A couple of these little wooden people followed me home.
As we approached the artist community of Noordhoek, this gorgeous white beach came into view. Wouldn’t it be great to ride horses there (a popular activity, actually) or wade in that tide pool?
On our way to the Cape of Good Hope we passed a troop of baboons, including this mom and baby.
We also saw ostriches enjoying the beach views.
Here at the Cape of Good Hope we were standing at the most southwestern point of the entire African continent. I don’t think our driver was exaggerating when he said we were having gale-force winds. The Cape of Good Hope should never be confused with the Cape of Good Hair!
I loved what the wind did to the water, though. I had never seen such spray.
After the Cape of Good Hope we went to Cape Point, where we took the Flying Dutchman funicular to the lookout, which peaks at 780 feet.
It spite of its breathtaking beauty, Cape Point is also known for its danger. This is near where the warm Indian Ocean waters collide with the cold Atlantic, resulting in dangerous swells and currents—and countless shipwrecks. Even fishermen, scores of them, have been swept to their deaths by freak waves.
From our vantage point it was mesmerizing to watch the ever-changing patterns of white foam, azure, and deep marine blue. Not even 100 photos would capture the magic of that view, but here’s one more.
Back down the hill in the funicular. This was a fun ride in itself.
The gift shop at Cape Point was quite nice.
The next stop was on our absolutely must-see list for the Cape Town region: Boulders Beach. It was not because of the beauty of the beach, though that was significant.
It was because of its little tuxedoed residents that we wanted to see it. One of them is seen here, preening himself.
One normally expects to find penguins in colder climates, not in the land of leopards and lions. But the African penguin is only located along the southwestern coast of Africa. Its pink eye actually helps to keep it cooler: the hotter the temperature, the pinker the eye gets as the body sends more blood to the area where—not being covered with a thick coat of feathers—it is cooled and recirculated.
Sadly, the African penguin is endangered. From a known high population of 3 to 4 million in the 19th century, by 2000 their numbers had dropped to 200,000. And by 2010, to just 55,000. If this rate continues, the African penguin will be extinct by 2026.
(Al describes this photo as, "They just had an argument, and they're walking away." :))
The final stop on our tour was Kirstenbosch Gardens, located back in Cape Town, on the back side of Table Mountain.
It was the curators at Kirstenbosch Gardens who, with careful cross-breeding over 20 years, were eventually able to develop a yellow Bird of Paradise, called Mandela’s Gold.
With a day this full, this naturally had to be a brief stop, but it was enough to know that this is a place where one could happily spend several hours. I would have liked having time to grab a bite here.
As is generally the case with travel, there’s never enough time to do it all. And in that regard, we join in the hopeful refrain, “We’ll just have to come back!”
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