Following a trip to Cape Town and Hermanus a week or so ago, I decided we had seen and done too much to concertina everything into one blog post. Hence the birth of a new short series – the Cape Town posts. Post #1 featured our visit to Kirtenbosch botanical gardens, where we picnicked with the long-lost rellies. Here is post #2 – a little more exciting, a little more smelly and hopefully a little more cute.
When we first told the children we were moving here to South Africa – something you can read about in this post – one of the promises we lured them with was the opportunity to see penguins in the wild. And that we would go whale-watching. So one of the first trips we booked was to Cape Town in October – where we would be able to tick both of these items of our “to-do” list within a couple of days of each other.
After the visit to Kirstenbosch (which you can read about in the first of my Cape Town posts), we drove over to the other side of the peninsula and down to the penguin colony at Simonstown. On the way we stopped to look at a beautiful panorama over one of the many pristine beaches in that region – marred only slightly by the fact that a shark-watcher was perched up on her seat by the road looking out for any ominous shapes in the waters below….
We reached the famous Boulders Beach where penguins live side-by-side with their human neighbours, apparently completely unafraid and therefore probably as tame as you will find any wild animals to be. The children were straight in there, getting right up close and personal with the cute little black-and-white fellows – although making sure not to get too close as there were plenty of warnings that the birds do bite!
We visited another penguin colony a couple of days later in Betty’s Bay on the way to Hermanus – they really are the most engaging creatures and I don’t think you can ever have too many penguins! However, as well as penguins one of the other cute creatures you come across a lot here are locally called Dassies (pronounced Dussies) – also known as rock hyraxes. These fat and furry guinea-pig like creatures are found wherever there is a warm rock to sun themselves on, although weirdly their closest living relative is apparently the elephant! Anyway we found them all over the place – Table Mountain, rocks by the beach, next to the penguin colony….
We eventually left the penguins behind and made our way to the second stop of our short Cape stay: Hermanus, a town on the coast which seems to have based its entire economy on the excitement of whale watching. One of the reasons this is such a popular thing to do down there is because at this time of the year you can almost always see whales from the coastal pathway without the need to go out on a boat trip. The waters off the coast of South Africa are a popular mating spot for the whales – the mums then hang around for a couple of months until their calves are old enough to make the trip back to Antartica. Thus many of the whales you see around there are the mothers and babies.
However, although we did see passing whales from the clifftop in the town we decided we would like to get a little closer and so booked a trip on one of the boats that ply their trade out of Hermanus every day. And we are very glad we did – as you can see from these pictures we were certainly able to get pretty close to these magnificent creatures:
We did see whales breaching (jumping right out of the water) but it was a little further away and you try taking photos of a whale jumping – most of the results tend to be of a big splash or a few bubbles! Anyway we were more than happy with our encounter – in fact I would say the whole experience was quite breathtaking and more than exceeded our expectations. I don’t think our daughters thought for a moment we would get this close – it is another of those experiences (along with very close meetings with elephants and rhinos) they are unlikley to forget in a hurry.
We really enjoyed Hermanus – Cape Town is gorgeous and has lots to do, but Hermanus felt less rushed. It was nice to be able to walk around, even at night, without worrying too much and not to have to sleep behind bars. We were also lucky to have an unexpected visit from another long-lost relative – another 2nd cousin of mine who dropped in on his way home to Mossel Bay from Cape Town and ended up staying the night so he could enjoy a glass or two of wine!
Talking of wine that whole area is well known for its wine-growing and we passed winery after winery as we drive around the region. Sadly we didn’t have time to go on any wine tours but this leaves us with an excellent reason to go back!
But one last creature to delight us during our stay was this magnificent owl we found perched in a tree outside our guest house. It may be a common bird in that area, I am not sure – but it was certainly eye-catching!