As we descend the rutted road on our Cape Point tour, the wild Atlantic crashing in front of us, bright orange streaks light the sky, signalling the impending sunset. Michala excitedly alerts us to whales in the bay. ‘Where? Where?’ we urgently appeal, half expecting her to be mistaking some rogue driftwood for a whale.
A chance sighting of whales
But then, in the distance, a swirl of air billows from the water, and we spot the unmistakeable glimpse of a whale. We jump from the car, and stand mesmerised on the beach, not quite believing our eyes. The whale season does not begin for a further two months, and we have had more than our fair share of luck today. We have spotted virtually every indigenous species of the Peninsula. It has been one thrill after another, as we have ticked off eland, baboons, penguins, the cape clawless otter, and rock hyrax (dassies).
A wave of emotion passes over me. It’s a truly spectacular end to an amazing day of beautiful scenery and impressive wildlife.
Our exhilarating Cape Point tour
The day began with plans to visit Robben Island, but our plans were thwarted when we discovered that the tour was fully booked. (Note, if you plan to visit, book online well in advance to avoid disappointment). We hurriedly decided to take a road trip down the peninsula to Cape Point, the south-western tip of Africa.
En route, we would explore beaches and villages and take a detour to see the penguins. To do a Cape Point tour justice, you should leave as early as possible to allow more time to see everything this incredible peninsula has to offer.
We left at 1pm and it was definitely not enough time. Here’s the Cape Point tour route we followed which is easily possible in a day.
V & A to Hout Bay
Take the coastal route from the Victoria and Albert waterfront, through Camps Bay and on to Hout Bay. Along the way, there are numerous stopping places where you can admire the views and take in deserted beaches.
We stopped first at Cozy Bay, which is littered with giant boulders and pristine turquoise waters. A short wooden boardwalk leads down to the tiny beach, where you can clamber over rocks or enjoy a dip in crystal clear waters.
Next, a detour to Llandudno beach, a larger crescent shaped beach, fringed with huge rocks. As with most stretches of coastline in the area, torrential waves crash on the shore. It’s hypnotising to watch the swells as they head inwards, battering rocks in their path. Equally astonishing is the lack of commercialisation of the coastline around the Cape. Stunning homes line the hillside around the bay, but there’s no high rise hotels, pumping beach bars or tacky seaside restaurants to spoil the views. In fact, I’ve never seen a coastline so unspoilt!
You can see from the pictures just how awesome the beaches are!
Hout Bay to Simon’s Town
From Hout Bay, take the M6 South to Fish Hoek along Chapmans Peak. There is a small toll of 45 Rand (around £2.20) for this route but it should not be missed. Reminiscent of Big Sur in California, the road hugs the mountainside, and steep cliffs tumble into rocky, foaming waters. There’s stunning views of crashing waves, shimmering headlands and we even spot a porn film in the making! Now that was definitely not the kind of wildlife we were expecting!!
At Noordhoek, we breathe in salty air whilst admiring a long, white sandy beach, backed by flatlands scattered with thatched cottages.
Simon’s Town to Boulders Beach
We take the road towards Fish Hoek and False Bay on the opposite side of the peninsula. Simon’s Town is a charming Victorian village, lined with art galleries and tea shops, and a good place to join a sea kayaking trip to see seals and penguins. You can read about our fabulous trip with Extreme Scene here.
If you prefer to stay on terra firma, continue through town to Boulders Beach. A short walk takes you to the entry kiosk, where you pay a fee of 76 Rand per adult (41 for children) to enter the National Park. The path leads to a small beach, almost entirely enclosed by huge boulders, and we spot our first glimpse of these funny creatures. Even if you are not a penguin fan (if that is remotely possible) the beach alone is worthy of a visit, as a shallow turquoise lagoons sits amidst a circle of moon like boulders.
Allow at least an hour to enjoy penguin frolics. Seemingly oblivious to gawking tourists, they splash, preen, and play to a background of cameras clicking. Although this colony started in 1982, 36 years of existence has not taught the penguins ballerina style grace. They lumber awkwardly across the rocks, tentatively edging into the water and occasionally falling flat on their faces. It’s hard not to laugh, whilst simultaneously wanting to rush to their rescue.
Sensible visitors can follow the boardwalk to the visitor centre for easy viewing, but if you want to get closer to the penguins, and unleash your inner child, take a walk on the wild side. We had great fun squeezing under giant boulders, climbing over rocks, and wading through pools to reach touching distance of the penguins. Be warned however, they have shark beaks and can cause serious injury, so give nesting penguins a wide berth.
On your return to the parking lot, you will spot amusing signs encouraging you to check under your car for penguins before leaving. It seems the little devils get everywhere.
Here’s a few snaps of these cuties!
Boulders Beach to Cape Point
We continued our journey to Cape Point through rocky, heather clad scenery, where sheer cliffs descend up to 200 metres into raging waters. The two major ocean currents of the cold Benguela from the West and the warm Agulhas from the East meet here to create treacherous seas attracting a variety of whales and other sea life. The landscape is an ideal movie set for a moon landing. It’s desolate, rugged and untamed.
Cape natural attractions
The scenic beauty of the cape is not its only allure however. It’s home to the smallest, but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms, hosts over 250 species of birds, over 1,100 indigenous plants and encompasses over 7,750 hectares of land, including 40 kilometres of coastline. Pretty impressive huh?
Cape Of Good Hope National Park
There’s an entry fee of 147 Rand per adult (around £7) and 76 per child. Also, there’s a fine of 500 Rand (£45) if you fail to leave by the last exit time, which was 18:20 when we visited. This did not leave us much time, as we only arrived at 4:30, and you need to allow twenty minutes to return to the exit.
If you leave early in the morning, it will allow ample time to explore the Cape. I recommend at least four hours for the actual national park, as this will give you time to take the funicular to the lighthouse, and explore the offshoots from the main road.
Things to do on the Cape
Wildlife on the cape
Wildlife lovers are in for a treat, as you may spot zebra, eland, other antelope, baboons, dassies and even whales if you are lucky. Signs warn of the dangers of baboons, and it isn’t long before we spot our first bare bummed monkeys, ambling pensively along the road. Although they look nonchalant, do not be deceived. Give them a wide berth, as they are renowned for jumping on cars, and stealing items from your bags.
We were also fortunate enough to see a majestic eland loitering in the undergrowth. Yet another treat!
Hiking the cape
Hikers can do a variety of short and longer hikes, as a number of scenic trails wind through the park. Serious hikers can opt for the overnight 33.8km hiking trail which allows hikers to stay in huts, or cottages, with splendid views.
Hike or take the funicular to the lighthouse
The Flying Dutchman funicular takes its name from the legend of the ghost ship and leaves every three minutes (note, it closes at 5pm). Alternatively, you can hike to the lighthouse for spectacular views, especially at sunset.
We raced there and back, so we had enough time to make a detour to Pegram’s Point. That’s when we spotted the familiar blowing of spray and the outline of whales in the bay. What an incredible end to an amazing day exploring the Cape.
Need to know
You can retrace our steps with the help of Google Maps below.
@capepointsa (T, F and I)