Another day, another adventure.
In 1488, Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, making history of establishing direct trade relations between Europe and the Far East. The captain named it “The Cape of Storms”; it was later King John II of Portugal named it “the Cape of Good Hope” because of the great optimism engendered by the opening of a sea route to India and the East.
Today, the Cape of Good Hope (and the nearby Cape Point), is a popular attraction in South Africa, due to dramatic scenery and proximity to Cape Town. Many people, though, had a misconception that the Cape of Good Hope is the southernmost tip of Africa. In fact, the southernmost tip is Cape Agulhas, a cape about 150 kilometers away from the Cape of Good Hope, where the warm-water Agulhas current meets the cold-water Benguela current and turns back to itself, dividing the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Technically, the oceanic meeting point fluctuates between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point; and the Cape of Good Hope, as I saw on their signpost, claimed itself to be the most south-western point of the African continent.
Anyway, enough with the geographical clarifications. We went there for the view, and I was so happy that a glorious sunny day was given to us. It took merely an hour and a half drive along the Victorica Drive from Cape Town to the Cape of Good Hope Natural Reserve, and we also planned to stop by Simon’s Town on our way back to Cape Town in the afternoon. Why did we stop there? You will see, please stay tuned.
Up to the Cape Point
The entire drive along the coast was scenic – as we were approaching the Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope is already in view. First, we climbed up to the lighthouse of Cape Point. There are two ways to reach the lighthouse – either on foot (The Cape Point Lighthouse Walk) or by the Flying Dutchman funicular. We decided to walk as it was a short walk up the cape anyway – the scenery was amazing. The Cape of Good Hope is special to me because the 7,750 hectares of the natural reserve is relatively easy to hike, yet the landscape is generally diverse – with rich flora and fauna, rugged mountains, lighthouses, shipwrecks, and excellent vantage points for diving and whale watching. The Cape Peninsula is embraced by the oceans. As I stood on top of Cape Point, I had an unobstructed panoramic view of the False Bay, Indian Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and beyond. Besides, the Cape has an iconic and remarkable status connecting east and west (before the construction of Suez Canal). In the past, the Cape Point was a turning point for explorers as it was where the sailors from Europe began turning their course from heading south to east. Now, the Cape Point Lighthouse is still used as an outlook point and central monitoring point for all South African Lighthouses.
At the entrance of Cape Point, there were a curio shop and the Two Oceans Restaurant. The restaurant is the only restaurant in the area, but it stands on a perfect location if you want to enjoy a cup of tea, or even a good meal, looking at the False Bay with warming breeze.
Down to the Cape of Good Hope
From Cape Point, we started to walk down the cliffs and reached the beaches. The hike was easy (and it’s possible to drive there) and anyone could have a great time going down to the shore from the high point.
The scenery changed traveling from high to low. The spectacular blues and greens of the ocean crash on cliff faces and lap lazily on stretches of beach along this beautiful part of the South African coastline. There are a number of short hiking trails in the area that if you wish to have a full experience of the natural reserve. Obviously, not all of us could go to all of them, but it’s exciting to know that there are so many options.
Hiking Scenic Trails in the Cape of Good Hope:
Sirkelsvlei Walk – a circular trail and it is an ideal walk to experience the ocean and the landscape around Cape Point.
Thomas T Tucker Shipwreck Hike – the highlight of the trail is definitely the Shipwreck – it was an American liberty ship, named Thomas T Tucker, which struck the Albatross Rock on her voyage during the war in 1942.
Gifkommetjie to Platboom Hike – the trail is 5km long and takes roughly 2 hours to complete.
Farmer’s Cliffs Trail – a fairly easy 8km trail that starts from Smitswinkel Viewpoint to Buffels Bay Beach.
Two Oceans Hike – Also known as the Sirkelsvlei Hike, starting from the gates of Cape Point Nature Reserve to Olifantsbos Beach.
Hoerikwaggo Hike – the trail takes off from Cape Town and it takes about 5 days to reach the Cape Point. The full 5-day hiking experience is dedicated to advance hiking travelers.
In fact, there are several beaches (like Diaz Beach, Maclear Beach, and Buffels Bay Beach) along the coast worth exploring. More, go diving and whale watching, hop on a helicopter, visit the nearby vineyards, ostrich farms, or Good Hope Nursery if you have more time (we saw a wild ostrich walking on the side of the road as we drove to the Cape of Good Hope).
After a few good hikes and took thousands of pictures, we have one more place to go for the day.
We went to Cape Town in May, which technically is still a little bit chilly during night time, but I reckon it was perfect for a sunny day out. I heard September and October are also good months to visit Cape Town and I agree, the warm and sunny weather is perfect for viewing the Table Mountain. We headed to Simon’s Town and I think it’s now clear that we went there for the adorable African penguins at the Boulder’s Beach.
Boulders have become world famous for being a thriving colony of African Penguins in the magnificent wind-sheltered safe beaches. Before we headed to the beach, we explored the town a little bit, and then we took a rest at the Lighthouse Cafe. Simon’s Town is a charming colonial town, with old houses lining along the seaside. It is tranquil, speckled with dramatic rounded Boulders, lapped by the turquoise of the ocean. After our meal, and dropping off the postcards in the post office, we headed to the Boulder’s Beach and before we could see any penguins, we could already smell them 🙂
Once we got in, there were a lot of penguins and I was excited. The beach provides excellent shelter from big waves or excessive wind. This environment allows long, lazy days spent soaking up the sun/. The water here is calm, making them a tad warmer than those of the Atlantic Ocean just a little further on. Therefore, the beach is an ideal place for the penguins, which prefer warmer and calmer waters. Now, the beach is home to over 3,000 birds and penguins. There are three un-obstructive boardwalks for penguin viewing – the boardwalks separate human from the penguins, and so they are free to play, swim and feed and care for their young.
The penguin was once called the jackass penguin because of the sound it makes. They could be found all way from Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape to Namibia, yet Boulder’s Beach is a great place to observe them with ease and proximity.
Something about African Penguins’ life:
Molting – old worn feathers are replaced during the annual molt. In this period, the birds lose their waterproofing and are confined to land for about 21 days. African Penguins “fatten up” before the molt, which is a period of starvation.
Desalination – Salt glands adjacent to the skull enable penguins to avoid the build-up of excess salt obtained through feeding on fish and drinking salt water. Salt is expelled through the nostrils and they get rid of concentrated salt by flicking their beaks.
Foraging – African Penguins gather before setting off to hunt fish in groups. Ungainly and awkward on land, they are superbly designed for life at sea with an ability to swim at speeds of up to 20 km/hr when chasing fish.
Vulnerable – The African Penguin is the only penguin that breeds in Africa and is restricted to the coastline and seas of Southern Africa. Having undergone a massive decline during the 20th century, we have a global responsibility to take care of its future.