Published: June 21st 2012June 19th 2012
Gondola viewed from Table Moutnain
The gondola to the top of the mountain is a slick operation. Cars run about every five minutes so the wait is minimal. Unfortunately the operation closes frequently for high winds, but the weather was stunning for our visit.
Today, we had a fantastic day in South Africa! Still tired after too short a sleep, waking to darkness at 7am was a shocking reminder that June is Winter in South Africa. The short Cape Town days, (8am to 5pm) are in stark contrast to the long Summer days in Amsterdam (5am to 10pm). We showered and dressed and got down to the breakfast buffet in time to meet our guide at 9am. Karl from Rhino Tripping was our private guide for the day. Although we had given him a rough outline of our plan for the day, we adapted our plan using his expert guidance. He had checked on the status at Table Mountain and knew that conditions were good and the cable car was operating so we headed there first. He tells us only 45% of Cape Town visitors see Table Mountain (even though it is the number one tourist attraction) because the mountain is so commonly closed due to high winds and cloud cover. The base of the cable car was only a short drive away, and the cable car takes you to the top of this magnificent imposing peak that overlooks the entire city. The views from
Andrew and Lauren at the Peak
Spectacular clear day at the top of Table Mountain
the top were spectacular and we walked along the trails on top enjoying views from various directions. We oohed and aahed over the rock hyraxes (commonly known as "dussies"), which look a lot like guinea pigs but are apparently more closely related to elephants. We chose "medium" out of three different length walks on top and enjoyed spectacular views in all directions, looking back towards the city or out towards the ocean and southward towards the Cape of Good Hope. Afterwards, we took the cable car back down and rejoined Karl for our day trip to Cape Point. As we made our way south in Karl's comfortable van, we were impressed by his extensive knowledge of both history and the flora and fauna of the area. Our first stop was Hout's bay where we took a short boat ride to see a colony of Cape Fur Seals on "Seal Island". The boat ride was chilly and a bit windy, but offered great views of the coast, and of course, up-close views of the seals. The waves crashing over the rocks of seal island were a gorgeous site and well worth the trip. Andrew planned to try his hand at shark
Clear view of "Lion's Head"
The pointy hill on the left is "Lion's Head" and the shorter hill on the right is "Signal Hill" aka "The Lions Rump". Our hotel is just on the other side of the rump.
spotting, but was disappointed to learn that this seal colony has, for some reason, not attracted the attention of the local Great White Shark community, quite common in this area. We returned safely and continued on our way south through Chapman's Peak Drive - a very beautiful toll road reminiscent of California's Highway 1 near Devil's Slide. Our guide told us that winding Chapman's Peak Drive is commonly used by Hollywood to film car advertisments on seaside roads because it is much less expensive to close to traffic than its California counterparts. Our next stop was across the cape in Simon's Town on "False Bay" to see the African Penguins. On our way, we stopped for lunch at Seaforth Restaurant, a spectacular seaside restaurant selected for us by Karl. We had a lovely seafood lunch an outdoor patio with lovely views of the bay, and just a short walk from the penguin colony. Lauren quite likes penguins and was clearly excited to see them in the wild. Penguins are native to the islands on the southern tip of Africa, but didn't move here to the mainland until the human inhabitants cleared out all the predators from the cape. We were
Rock Hyrax (or Dassie) (pronounced Dussy) on top of Table Mountain, looking down at the ocean beyond.
charmed by their antics for a while and shot many photographs before returning to the van to head further south. From here we passed many signs warning us of the dangerous baboons. Our guidebook had described them as basically akin to street thugs who would threaten you for your food. Karl fully agreed with this and added to it with several amusing local tales of human-baboon interactions. Despite the stories, we still hoped to see at least one, but were disappointed in this one aspect of visit to the Cape Peninsula. We drove onwards, stopping to photograph some wild Ostrich before reaching the Cape of Good Hope (AKA the Cape of Storms), the southwestern-most point in Africa. The cliffs and the sea were spectacular and we lingered for a while taking in the beauty of what is said to be the most violent of Earth's oceans, watching the waves crashing on the rocks and shooting photographs. We had thoroughly enjoyed all the stops and the sun was starting to get low in the sky as we headed towards our final stop for the day - Cape Point. This is the southernmost point of the cape peninsula and home to a
Lauren and John on the Boat Ride
The boat ride was short and reasonably calm if a bit windy. The seals and the views back into the bay were excellent.
150-year old lighthouse. The lighthouse serves to warn ships that they are nearing land, but the Cape is so often covered in thick fog and the seas are so rough that some 680 shipwrecks lie below the waters and make a wonderland for scuba divers. We hiked up the trail to the lighthouse and various lookout points looking southward towards Antarctica. The tip of the cape becomes impossibly thin, and from our vantage point up at the lighthouse, we looked down on the sheer cliffs. We marveled for a bit but were quite wiped out from our day. Sonia and Andrew took the funicular down, while Lauren and John raced them on foot. The funicular won, but not by a lot. Back in the van we pushed ourselves to stay awake and learn more from Karl as we made the 90 minute drive back into Cape Town. Inside Cape Town, just off a city freeway in Table Mountain National Park, Andrew's eagle eyes spotted a zebra. None of the rest of us saw it and at first we really didn't believe a zebra would be within the city limits, but Karl confirmed it as a possibility and the next day,
Seals in Hout's Bay
Colony of seals on this rock just a short distance off shore.
John and Lauren also spotted a zebra near the same location. We were soon back at the hotel, and, after a short break, we headed back to the waterfront and enjoyed a lovely (if meat-intensive) dinner at Belthazar. It had been quite a day --- Table Mountain with its views and its dassies, Hout Bay and Chapman's Peak Drive with it's stunning cliffs and the Cape Fur Seals, Simon's Town with lunch at the water's edge followed by penguin-watching, Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point with their rough seas and the threat of baboons, and some ostrich and zebras for good measure. We unwound in the hotel room with an episode of "The Simpsons" and were quickly asleep.
There are more photos below