Penguins and The Point

Friday was our first full day in South Africa and we decided to head out of town for the day. Our particular target was to see the colony of African Penguins that nest at Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town about 45km down the coast. After a false start in trying to find the right road to get there, we improvised slightly and took the much slower, but very interesting, coast road. This took us through towns like Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay, which was South Africa’s first resort town back in the 1860s.

After getting to Simon’s Town, we found the Penguin Centre very easily. African Penguins are on the red endangered list so access to the colony is controlled, with the area accessed through a turnstile pay point and along a couple of boardwalks to either side of the little bay they are in. You can get very close to the colony and they seem fairly untroubled by the humans milling around on the boardwalks above them. Ishbel took the photo at the top of the page, which gives an idea of how close you can get.

Having made it this far, why not drive the extra 25km to Cape Point, just south of the Cape of Good Hope, where you can see two oceans collide. We did that, and were very glad we did. As you drive down the road, there are several signs warning that baboons may be on the road, and advising that they are wild and dangerous animals that should not be approached, and definitely not fed. We didn’t see a single baboon all the way down.

The Point itself is part of a National Park, so we paid our entrance fee – ZAR 303, or about £17 each – and drove down to what seemed like the end of the earth.  There is a funicular railway that runs up and down to the lighthouse, but we decided to walk up since it was such a beautiful day, and maybe we would see baboons. It was a long climb, and no baboons appeared.

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Ishbel gets another photo credit here as she took this panoramic shot looking north back along the peninsula with ocean either side.

We decided to take the funicular back down to avoid the toll on the knees from the steps. I was pretty thirsty by this time but when we got down we found that the shop and restaurant had closed early for stocktaking and there were no drinks to be had. What we did find, however, was that the baboons were out in force wandering around the restaurant and car park searching for scraps left by previous diners. We had ticked that box so headed back to Cape Town by the more direct route.

We dined at Charango Barbecoa, just around the corner from our apartment where I had a 200g fillet steak for ZAR 200, about £11. Ishbel had lamb ribs for the same price. Eating out in Cape Town is not expensive.

After a long day, we settled back in the apartment to relax and have an early night. At around 10:30pm, we heard a brass band playing somewhere close by and decided we would investigate. Having been warned repeatedly about the dangers of Cape Town at night, we left any valuables at home and went out to see what was going on. There was a huge march just one block over from us and people were carrying lanterns with 1834 written on them. From our visit to the Slave Lodge on our first day, I remembered that December 1st was emancipation day for slaves. We asked one of the marchers if emancipation was what was being celebrated and that was indeed the occasion. We followed along for a few blocks enjoying the festive atmosphere before heading back to the apartment for the night. It’s always nice to stumble upon things like that.