I mentioned in my Capetown blog that further highlights await the traveler who ventures beyond the City Bowl and V&A Waterfront. I was referring to the scenic Atlantic beaches and communities, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, and of course the excursion up Table Mountain itself. We visited all these and more on our Day 2 excursion to Cape Point. The Cape of Good Hope, made famous by Portuguese explorers Diaz and De Gama, is part of the Table Mountain National Park. It is a scenic excursion and photographic safari par excellence! We packed in a full day to catch the highlights.
We began the day with a photographic stop in the Bo Kaap neighborhood with its colorful houses and stunning venue. Then it was up and over the shoulder between Table Mountain and Lion’s Head to the Atlantic beaches. The Atlantic coast of the Cape is sprinkled with sandy beaches and intimate coves surrounded by granite boulders or picturesque fishing villages, all with a scenic backdrop of the Cape’s dramatic spinal chain of mountains. Our first stop was Camps Bay and the spectacular 12 Apostles. Twelve peaks dominate the vista beyond this arcing golden sand beach. We stopped for photographs in the early morning light.
Then it was on to lovely Hout Bay, another stunning view, and more photo ops. This time, the highlight is the bay itself with its striking northern headland. Further south we were ready for a rest stop so we visited an ostrich farm. We’d seen a few wild ostriches in Namibia, but only at a great distance. So it was fun to be “up close and personal” with these strangely gangly yet majestic birds. Then back on the bus for the final leg to Cape Point itself.
The Cape is the southwestern-most point of Africa and the meeting place of the Indian and Atlantic oceans. Bartolemeo Diaz was the first European to sight the cape in 1494. Later, Vasco de Gama would round the point, sale on to India, and open a new era of European history - the shift from Mediterranean to Atlantic trade and the age of exploration. My overriding impression of this historic place: it’s windy! At the southernmost extreme, the Cape narrows to a vertical, rocky point jutting out into the sea. Crashing waves from the dual oceans break on the plunging cliffs of the point, adding to the drama.
A picturesque lighthouse tops the highest point and travelers can hike out to several view points to take in the dramatic scenery. Baboons beg for food and generally make a nuisance of themselves. For those not wishing to climb, there is a handy funicular to take you most of the way up. After our blustery visit we circled back to the actual Cape of Good Hope (not the southernmost spur) for the obligatory photo op with the sign. We waited patiently in the long line of tourists to take our shot.
The morning was long over so we started back north, this time driving the eastern edge of the Cape along False Bay. We stopped for lunch in the pretty harbor village of Simons Town. After lunch we visited Boulders Beach. The beach itself is worth a visit with its tumble of huge boulders which divide the sandy bay into smaller coves and inlets. But the real draw is the colony of cute, African penguins that call Boulders home. Handy boardwalks have been built so visitors can be in and among the birds without disturbing them overmuch.
With still more to see we proceeded north toward the back of Table Mountain. We visited Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Being there at the end of their summer, the gardens displayed only a few flowers, but the rolling verdant terrain of the park was a pleasant respite. Locals were enjoying picnics on the expansive lawns and those interested in flora could explore the great variety of plant life on display.
Our final stop of the day was the jewel in the crown. We arrived at the cable car station for Table Mountain at the end of the afternoon. The rotating cabin swept us up to the top where we enjoyed the tremendous views and waning afternoon light. The rugged, rocky terrain of the mountain’s plateau top glowed reddish gold in the last rays of the sun. Views down to the harbor, V&A Waterfront, City Bowl, and Atlantic coast added to the experience. We had only about an hour at the end of our busy day, but it was enough to wander about and soak in the views and rugged landscape. It was a fitting end to a jam-packed excursion day. After returning to our hotel home on Long St., tour members were free for dinner. I opted for Indian – tandoori ostrich! One of the best meals I had in Africa.