This morning we boarded the Cape Point Explorer City Sightseeing bus for a day of touring the Cape Peninsula. We headed south out of Cape Town, through the upmarket suburbs of Newlands and Wynberg.
Our first stop was Boulders Beach, home to a colony of African Penguins! We spent half an hour or so wandering along the boardwalks, watching the penguins waddle around on the dunes and swimming in the bay. A lot of the penguins had chicks and all up I reckon there were about 300 of them. Very cute.
Back on the bus we wound our way along the mountainside by False Bay until we came to Cape Point Nature Reserve. The fynbos ('fine bush') vegetation which is mainly made up of small shrubs, in vivid shades of green, gold and silver, covered the hillsides and is very pretty. Cape Point is home to an array of African wildlife, so we were told to keep our eyes peeled. First sighting was of a female ostrich, followed shortly after by a lone Helmeted Guineafowl. Not an unfamiliar sight for me, as we have a flock of them at home, but it was cool to see a wild one in its natural habitat.
As we pulled into the car park for our two hour stop at Cape Point we were warned to be careful of the baboons. Running into one was a pretty scary prospect, they are fast, agile, fearless and have a wicked set of fangs. Luckily the scariest thing that attacked during lunch was a horrid little Red-winged Starling which pounced on my delicious chicken sandwich. Having to throw almost half of that awesome sandwich out really sucked.
After lunch we hiked up the steep hill to the Cape Point lighthouse. The lighthouse itself isn't very exciting but the location is, with stunning views of False Bay, the Cape of Good Hope and the wild Atlantic Ocean.
I should pause here and say that Cape Town has recently been declared a disaster zone. They are in the grip of a very severe drought and water is rapidly running out. Technically it is the beginning of winter but we did our hike today under a bright sun and in temperatures in the mid-twenties. Western Cape is also famous for its strong winds, nor-westers in the winter which bring rain, but today the air was totally still, an unusual and worrying occurrence for this part of the world.
Back at the bus the tour group all met up to do the hike across to the Cape of Good Hope. Whilst we were waiting for everyone to gather an adult male Chacma Baboon sprang into view and he was certainly the proverbial cat among the pigeons, the scatter he caused was quite funny, a few people took off at a gallop and I have to say if he'd come too much closer I'd have been one of them. He ran along the low stone wall surrounding the car park and ended up making his way onto the roof of the shop. At this time our group was all but ready to go and the guide said if anyone had any food on them they should leave it on the bus. There was a sudden rush of people, myself included, scrambling to get back on the bus to dump our packs because no one wanted to be a target for the crafty, thieving baboons.
We headed off along the hiking trail to the Cape of Good Hope, which is the most south-westerly point of Africa. The hike was about forty minutes, taking us through the fynbos and the along the rugged clifftop, with spectacular views down to the beach and out across the wild Atlantic Ocean. Along the way, we saw a couple of Rock Hyrax, before climbing to the top of the Cape. From here we had awesome views back up the peninsula of the sea mist rolling up over the beach towards the mountains.
After descending to the beach we climbed back aboard the bus, and drove along the western side of the peninsula. We spotted eight more ostriches, including two males, and then we were lucky enough to get a third new mammal sighting. This time it came in the form of the world's largest antelope, a lone Eland grazing on the hillside. I was very happy with this one, though I have seen plenty of Eland at Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo, they are one of my favourites, and seeing a wild one was pretty special.
We continued along out of the nature reserve, but the road still ran adjacent to it, and we were treated to a fourth new mammal sighting, turning our day into a mini safari. This time we saw five Bontebok, red antelope with a big white blaze down their face. Very cool.
The bus ride back took us along the western side of the peninsula, via the Misty Cliffs and then through the Constantia Valley wine region.
Our tour finished around 5:30pm at the waterfront, so we grabbed some dinner at a restaurant with views of Table Mountain and Devil's Peak which took on a beautiful glow as the sun set.