Table Mountain and Cape Point tour
Another early start and there was much to be done today! The first action was a trip up Table Mountain. I opened my curtains with trepidation and was thrilled to see the top of the mountain where the cable car stations was almost totally devoid of its normal cloud blanket .
We were one of the early parties to arrive at the bottom cable car station and beat most of the main coach parties there and didn't have to queue to get on the cable car. The cable car is large and circular in design with a floor that rotates as you go up the mountain, so that everyone gets to take in the beautiful views of Cape Town as you ascend.
We reached the top and immediately took in the amazing panorama, initially over the Atlantic coast and Camps Bay, then along the Twelve Apostles heading south to the Cape of Good Hope and then to the stunning panorama over the city bowl of Cape Town and Table Bay. To the left are the peaks of Lion's Head and Signal Hill and out in the bay is Robben Island, the former prison island where Nelson Mandela spent most of his year's behind bars. This must be one of the most stunning city views in the world (Hong Kong from Victoria Peak is another possible contender).
Unfortunately with much else on the agenda today, we couldn't linger. Down the cable car and then we were off to Camps Bay where a change of driver and minibus saw me join a group with four Brazilians and a Finn! With that we were off down the Atlantic seaboard to Hout Bay, where we indulged in an hour long boat trip to see a seal colony on the rocks just outside the bay. The scenery was wonderful and seeing the seals in their natural habitat was a joy.
From Hout Bay leads one of the most beautiful picturesque drives in the world. Chapman's Peak Drive which gives beautiful panoramas of Hout Bay has recently re-opened after being closed because of rock fall problems. It winds beautifully around the cliffs and delivery you into the relatively flat landscape of the Cape peninsula. From there we continued our drive right down into the National Reserve and eventually to the Cape of Good Hope itself. This is actually in a slightly different pace from Cape Point, which is a couple of kilometres further on. There is nothing much actually at the Cape of Good Hope, apart from a signpost at this, the furthest south-western point in Africa.
At Cape Point, a visitor centre and funicular railway lead you to the top of a rocky peninsula where a lighthouse sits proudly atop the cliffs. The actual Cape Point then consists of a rocky set of cliffs, descending into the ocean. Despite popular myth, this is not the southernmost point of Africa, that accolade going to Cape Agulhas about 200km further round the coast (see the map link above).
After Cape Point, we headed back up the other side of the Cape peninsula, along the shoreline of False Bay, up to Simon's Town where we visited an African penguin colony at Boulders Beach, which was slightly disappointing, just a wooden walkway onto a beach where there were hundreds of small penguins.
We headed further up the coast for a very late lunch at Fishhoek at a lovely beachside restaurant. Then it was time to head back to Cape Town, but not immediately back to the hotel. Our last stop on what had been a very hectic schedule was at the Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens. We only had half an hour to look around and were let in for free - the idea I think was to encourage us to come back and spend more time here at our leisure. The gardens are nestled against the back side of Table Mountain and the gardens and the backdrop were simply fantastic - a wonderful way to round of our trip around the Cape.
Upon returning to the hotel, I was again dead tired and decided to take my third and final meal in the average hotel restaurant. In some ways I do regret this as I know there are many fine restaurants in Cape Town. But I know at the time I just wanted something simple and quick and wanted to go to bed!
Hout Bay and Chapman's Peak Drive
Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point
Penguins and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens