Though we were sad to say goodbye to the team at La Clé des Montagnes, we felt rejuvenated as we started our second day: exploring the Western Cape with Hands up Holidays. Having kicked off our trip by vineyard-hopping our way through the wine region, day 2 with our guide, Janise, was dedicated to the coast.
We headed straight for Cape Peninsula, located just south of Cape Town.
Much of the Peninsula is part of Table Mountain National Park, making for a scenic drive along the water, untouched by commercial or residential development.
Occasionally, we’d drive through a little beach town, and Janice would share the history of the region — stories of German, Dutch and Scottish settlers who moved to the Western Cape and tried to bring a piece of home with them. Little towns like Muizenberg, Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek looked adorable as we passed through and are likely worth a stop, but we had one priority for our second morning: visiting with the penguin colonies at Boulders Beach.
Boulders Beach (& PENGUINS!) // We were up & out of La Clé earlier than we had hoped, but it did prove to be a good idea as far as penguin-spotting went — we practically had all of Boulders Beach to ourselves!
Naturally, when we spotted our first penguin waddling past, we all started screaming…
Easily one of the most stunning beaches we’ve seen, it’s closed off entirely to humans so that the local penguin colony can flourish, uninterrupted and undisturbed.
(JK, you don’t have a choice in the matter, they stink).
As their colony grows, the penguins are spreading out more and more. You can even swim with the birds at some of the local public beaches — just guard your food, because apparently they’re pretty mischievous!
February to August is their mating season, which meant that the sand was full of these goofy little birds… stumbling around, sleeping on nests, and waddling into the ocean to cool off a bit and find some lunch.
As mentioned, it’s ideal to get here early before the crowds roll in, and if you’re visiting in September & October, check the conditions first — that’s when they go back out to sea to feed up before moulting, so you may not see too many on land.
Cape of Good Hope & Cape Point // After our time with the penguins, we drove a few miles south to the Cape of Good Hope at the very tip of Cape Peninsula — and stopped to see a some more silly birds along the way, this time of a slightly larger variety.
While we kept our eyes peeled for more of these ridiculous beasts (no seriously, they’re hysterical), Janice dove into the history of the Cape of Good Hope. Our travel partners and Portuguese friends, Ana and Renata, were already well-versed on the historical significance of the Cape. Spotted in the 15th century by Portuguese explore, Bartolomeu Dias, the Cape became an important landmark along trade routes from Europe to the east. Known for its rough seas and high number of shipwrecks during the days of exploration, it was once called Cape of Storms.
It’s also the most southwestern point of the African continent, which seems like kind of a funny distinction, no? You can get further south…. and further west… but can’t get further southwestern than here!
Anyway, we again lucked out with our timing, because we had the area all to ourselves. After a quick, totally appropriate photoshoot in front of the famed sign, we headed to the lighthouse at Cape Point, which is accessible by either stairs or funicular.
You can guess which we chose. #Lazy.
Lunch was arranged at Two Oceans, which was next to the lighthouse and offered its own stunning views of False Bay. Unfortunately, we’d still had very little sleep since stepping off the plane, and it was starting to hit us as we ate. We finished up lunch, climbed back in the van, and made our way to Cape Town.
Also, it should be noted that if plant life is your thing (…to each his own?) the Cape Peninsula has one of the most diverse groups of plant species on the entire continent of Africa. Personally, we were more interested in the wildlife, and wouldn’t be satisfied until we saw the local baboons we’d heard were scattered around the park.
Luckily, just as we were driving out the front gate, Janise spotted a sassy little trio, hanging out on some rocks:
Happy to say goodbye now that our monkey mission was accomplished, we were excited to see what Cape Town had in store. Zipping along roads that hugged the cliffs of the Western Cape, we drifted in and out of sleep, waking to snap a few more view pictures along the way.
We will say this, though: Boulders Beach, the Cape of Good Hope and the lighthouse at Cape Point are major attractions, meaning we were surrounded by busloads of tour groups flocking to have their pictures taken. Since we got an early start to our day, we arrived at all three locations just before a huge rush of buses, which allowed us to get some tourist-free snaps. Had we gotten there any later, our experience may have been drastically different. If you’re visiting South Africa, especially during the peak tourist seasons, make sure to arrive early to avoid crowds.
However, if you’re a lazy traveler such as yours truly, then maybe insert a relaxing day of wine-drinking and spa-visiting in between your crazy whistle-stop tours? We know what we’ll be doing on our next trip to South Africa.
the romantic & the wino
– This trip was in partnership with Hands Up Holidays, but all opinions are, as always, our own.