Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Cape of Good Hope

Simon's Town harbor on False Bay
After two amazing weeks of safari adventures, we returned to Cape Town for a few days before the start of the next leg of the World ARC. This leg is long: 3700 nm from Cape Town, SA to Salvador, Brazil. We will get a 72 hour stop in St. Helena near the midway point. So now it was time to see the last bits of Cape Town and surrounding areas and do a big provisioning.

He claims he makes these. They are made of wire and beads.
Our desire to get out of the city and see the surrounding area was enhanced by the recommendation of a drive/guide. While on our safari, we met a family from Philadelphia who had just come from the One & Only Hotel near the marina. They highly recommended that we call Jimmy – so we did.

After an early morning start, we headed south to the Cape of Good Hope. Of course, we had sailed past it, but not close enough to see anything. In fact, one must stay well off shore in that area as there are hundreds of shipwrecks to be avoided. When looking at them from land, it is easy to see why sailors do not go close to shore.

The drive from Cape Town was along a coastal road and through the mountains. It was absolutely breathtaking. I can’t even remember how many times I commented on the beauty of the trip just on the way down to the tip of the Cape.

We stopped at Simon’s Town on the way. Of course, there were street "artists" (rather "vendors" of someone's artworks) setting up their booths for the day. Simon’s Town is the home of the South African Navy and has a rich maritime history. The main street is filled with quaint shops and old well-maintained buildings. It is an old historical town.

We did see a number of people carving wood into various animals, bowls, statues, etc. So, I do believe most of it is hand carved, sanded and finished. Just not by the person who is selling it in one of many, many craft stalls. At least it doesn't say: Made in China!

A view across False Bay to the Cape of Good Hope peninsula.
Just beyond the town lies Boulders Beach in a sheltered cove. This is the home of a large colony of African penguins. We saw hundreds of them sitting in the sand. Many were young and they were molting their fluffy feathers. As soon as the process is finished, they take to the water. The area is part of the South African National Park system so it is protected.

This world famous colony of African Penguins lives near a residential area even though they are an endangered species. Thriving there between Simon's Town and Cape Point, it is one of the rare locations where the African Penguin can be seen at close range while they wander free in a protected natural environment.

The habitat is also protective as it is bordered mainly by indigenous bush brush above the high-water mark on one side, and the clear waters of False Bay on the other. The area consists of small sheltered bays, partially enclosed by granite boulders some 540 million years old. The South African National Park system has built boardwalks along the beach so visitors can view the penguins without damaging or invading their habitat. This also allowed us to be a few feet from the penguins, who did not seem to be afraid of humans.

In 1910, there were around 1.5 million African Penguins, but by the end of the 20th century, only 10% of those remained. Their eggs were harvested as a food source. Even though they can swim at an average speed of seven kilometers per hour and can stay submerged for up to two minutes, they are a food source for sharks, Cape fur seals and Orcas (also known as Killer Whales). Their land enemies include mongoose, genet, domestic cats and dogs, and the Kelp Gulls which steal the eggs and new born chicks.

The colony started with just two breeding pairs in 1982 and has grown to over 2,200 as of a recent count. Commercial pelagic trawling in False Bay has been limited which accounts for a increase in the supply of food for the penguins: squid, pilchards and anchovy.

Their distinctive black and white coloring is a vital form of camouflage in the water. White for underwater predictors looking up and black for predictors looking down into the water helps them survive. We were there during the peak molting time in December so we saw the fuzzy little ones shedding their fluff. They were preparing to head out to sea to feed since they do not feed during molting . After they eat, the penguins will return to land in January to mate and begin nesting from about February to August.

Our last stop of the morning was at Cape Point, which is the most south-westerly tip of Africa and the end of the Cape of Good Hope peninsula. This area is a World Heritage site and is part of the Table Mountain National Park. It is the southern end of the mountain range that begins 60 kilometers north in Cape Town.

The Cape of Good Hope has a diverse range of habitats for its 250 plus species of birds. The terrain goes from rocky mountain tops to beaches and the open sea. Large animals are rarely seen in this area, but there are many small animals as lizards, snakes, tortoises, mice, mongoose, otters and insects.

You can see some of the shipwrecks where the water
is breaking beyond the point. There are many wrecks.
Many people believe Cape Point is where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic Ocean, but it is not! This actually occurs further east at Cape Agulhus on the 20th meridian. We rode the Flying Dutchman funicular up to 286 meters above sea level to see the view from the lookout and lighthouse. The other option was to walk up a long steep path. NOT! The views were breathtaking.

Dennis climbed up to the top! Not me, thanks.
Since we left Cape Town at 7 AM, we were among the first to arrive at Cape Point and had no lines. As we were leaving, the cars were lined up for several miles waiting to get into the park. We were very happy that we asked to leave Cape Town much earlier than most tours.

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