My travel report
Impressions from the Cape – Part 3
Cape Peninsula, Seals, Penguins and Sharks
By Ralph Kratzer
In the early morning of our third day in Cape Town we were on our way to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, both sites located in the vast Table Mountain National Park, home to the Cape Mountain zebras, Cape foxes, dassies and voracious baboons whose feeding by visitors is strictly prohibited.
The Cape of Good Hope is one of the places in the world I was already fascinated with as a school child during geography and history lessons. The Portuguese seafarer Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to reach the Cape in 1488. He called it the “Cape of Storms”. For centuries (until the construction of the Suez Canal), ships had to pass the dangerous southern tip of Africa on their way from Europe to India and the Far East or vice versa. After circumnavigating the cape and stashing fresh water and food, sailors felt “good hope” to reach their final destination. Erroneously it was believed for a long time, the Cape of Good Hope or the nearby Cape Point would be the site at which Atlantic and Indian oceans “join”. In truth, this place is, from the geographical point of view, Cape Agulhas – the most southern point of Africa (about 250 kilometres south-east of the Cape peninsula).
However, the day’s first destination was the picturesque fishing port of Hout Bay. There we boarded a motorboat which brought us, after a short trip, to a small island, resting place for a large colony of seals.
After visiting the daily market in Hout Bay and a breakfast in the harbour, the journey continued along the Atlantic coast to the Cape of Good Hope and the nearby Cape Point, the most southernly point of the Cape peninsula, with its fabulous views from the lighthouse, which can be reached either by foot or with the funicular “Flying Dutchman”. A paradoxical story by the way: The “new” lighthouse, which is still in operation, had to be built at a location where it was not too visible for the sailors from the distance, because the predecessing lighthouse further up the hill was either covered in mist and clouds or, in clear weather, recognizable “too early” which tempted one or the other helmsman or captain to approach too close to the Cape and ended in fatality for a number of ships. After the wreck of the Portuguese liner Lusitania in 1911, it was decided to erect the present lighthouse further down the hill.
In the afternoon we arrived at Boulders Beach, breeding ground for hundreds of African penguins, also called black-footed penguins or jackass penguins. Why these merry fellows have been given this weird name, although they have in appearance nothing in common with donkeys, becomes quite obvious when you hear their bray. They indeed sound one hundred percent like their four-legged jackass colleagues.
Back at the hotel in Cape Town, we made plans for the next day, which was scheduled as a leisure day.
Actually we wanted to use the day inter alia for a helicopter flight over Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula. But it was not to be.
Shortly after awakening my girlfriend Sarah complained of stomach malaise and abdominal pain. I still felt pretty well, but later in the morning the tables should be turned. While she was getting better, I felt more and more miserable. Helicopter flight good bye!
Also an alternative city tour in an open double-decker bus was not a good idea for me, as the intervals between urgent visits to the toilet became unpredictable.
So we took a taxi and visited the Oceanarium in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, called the “Two Oceans Aquarium“. In spite of my lousy feeling I was impressed by the view of this diverse underwater world. The dimensions of the whole construction are enormous and bold divers can join sharks and other marine hunters in the huge predator basin.
Until now I cannot explain what the reason was for the malaise we both had that day, but the good thing was, as fast the symptoms came, just as fast they disappeared again. The next day, I was fit again and ready for a visit to a vineyard in the Winelands of South Africa.
By bus we went away from the coast to the hinterland of the Western Cape province, specifically to Stellenbosch.
More about that and the visit of the world-renowned prison on Robben Island in the next part of my travelogue.
Note: As always in my travelogues you can learn more about an issue mentioned in the article by clicking the bold underlined links.