Cape Peninsula & Southern Coast

To the south of Cape Town, around the mountains, lies the magnificent Cape Peninsula, which reaches down to the Cape of Good Hope and, finally, Cape Point at the southernmost tip. The views along the peninsula are spectacular.

Our first stop was Hout Bay for a quick boat ride past an offshore colony of Cape fur seals (though referred to as "seals," they are in fact a species of sea lion because they have external ears). We also stopped for a quick wine tasting at Groot Constantia, one of the many vineyards in the region.

Along the way we also got a good look at some of South Africa's unique "fynbos" ("fine bush" in Afrikaans), which are plants that have specially adapted to the coastal climate. Eventually, we made our way to Cape Point itself, which offered sweeping views of the oceans and steep cliffs below. After Cape Point, we drove up the eastern shore of the peninsula, stopping at Boulders Beach to visit a colony of "jackass" penguins that have maintained a beachhead in the area despite suburban encroachment. Penguins are great fun to watch and when these let loose with their strange donkey-like call, it was easy to hear how they came to be called "jackass" penguins. For more information, visit the website of Cape Peninsula National Park. For information about wines of the region, visit The Constantia Wine Route.

About 70 spectacular miles southeast of Cape Town, along the southern coast, lies the town of Gansbaai. I made the trip primarily to go diving (in a cage) with the great white sharks. But the area offers many other pleasures as well. Along the way we passed through Hermanus, a well-known vacation town famous for its whale-watching. The coast is also home to many species of "fynbos" plants. Grootbos Nature Reserve, where I stayed in the lodge, has made great efforts to protect these unique species and offers informative tours and hikes to interested guests.

Other South Africa pages: South Africa: Introduction, Cape Town, Djuma Game Reserve, Great White Sharks and Townships & Robben Island,