Waddling penguins and hiking around Cape Point | South Africa

After being warned about how dangerous the local minivans and trains can be in South Africa we opted for an Uber to take us from downtown Cape Town to a little village called Glencairn Heights. It was a very safe neighbourhood near a beach and would be our base for the next four days whilst we explored the surrounding area. The accommodation was so lovely, a beautiful self contained cottage with high ceilings and sun light piercing through the windows. It would of been perfect had we not had so many power cuts and water outages.

Our first day trip was a few kilometres south in Simons Town. It’s home to Boulders Beach which is part of the Table Mountain National Park and home to hundreds of penguins. A wooden boardwalk led us past the penguin nests in the dunes to a platform overlooking the beach. Dozens of penguins were hanging out on the beach and more were waddling down the dunes towards the sea. We watched them bathing in the water in groups, cleaning their feathers and searching for fish. They were all very chilled until we saw a women in a wetsuit and snorkel swimming their way, causing them to dart for the beach. It’s forbidden to be on the beach here so the park wardens had to shout at the women and shoo her away.

Just beyond the rocks was Boulders Beach where humans are allowed to walk and swim so that’s where we headed next. The beach had calm, turquoise water with fabulous big boulders which we had to climb over and under to reach certain areas of the beach. There weren’t many penguins around compared to the last beach so we just sat on a rock and waited for any that might walk our way. A couple of tourists clearly thought getting an Instagram photo was more important than respecting wildlife as they stripped down to their thongs, walked beyond the ‘no entry’ sign and blocked three penguins from entering the sea. I was fuming. One of the women literally laid down acting like it was a photo shoot for a tacky mens magazine and the poor penguins just stopped in their tracks, not sure where to go as the route to the sea was blocked.

Anyway, we had a group of about 8 penguins waddle past us which was very sweet and then we sat on a boulder by the sea and eventually a group of penguins came for a swim right in front of us. It was really nice observing them from above as we could watch them frolicking in the water and swimming like absolute torpedos. There were also some very cute little marmot-looking animals behind the beach.

I had a hike in mind for afterwards but it involved hitchhiking to the start and after ten minutes of sticking our thumb out we decided to skip that plan and just stroll along the coast. We wouldn’t normally hitch hike in South Africa but seeing as this road just leads to the national park and therefore mostly has tourist traffic we felt safe. We walked south for about 10km, passing idyllic white sand beaches without a soul on them. In the distance we could see more mountains beyond the sea and little sailing boats tacking across the shark infested waters. Once we felt like we’d walked enough and were happy to head back we stuck our thumb out and eventually a lovely Israeli couple pulled over for us.

The following day we wanted to explore Cape Point. We could see it was possible to get there by Uber or Bolt but there was no way to get back as there’s no taxis lingering around the area as it’s just a remote national park, so it’d be another hitchhiking day. Once we were dropped off we began our hike towards the lighthouse right on the southern tip of the Cape Peninsular. It was quite shady in the early morning so it wasn’t an impressive view in my opinion.

The next hike was to the Cape of Good Hope where a well marked trail led us along the cliff tops where we spotted ostriches and walked high above remote beaches. There were quite a few people around this point and we could see lots of cars in the car park which was promising for our first hitch hike of the day. Our plan was to get a ride about 6km so we could hike along the other side of the peninsular but we soon spotted a group of about 10 ostriches wandering along the road. We really wanted to catch up with them but my goodness was it hard, whenever we began to get closer a car would scare them and they’d all run off at lightning speed. By the time we caught up with them it didn’t seem worthwhile hitching so we continued walking to the main road. Troops of baboons were running past us and we watched as they attacked some people for their food. They’re pretty terrifying animals and a man was trying to scare them off with his beach umbrella…the baboons won. We quickly realised we’d have to look for another area to eat our lunch!!

We hitched with an Afrikaans guy and his friends from Texas for a few kilometres and then we wandered down a quiet road to the east coast around Buffels Bay. I just liked the look of this area when I was researching things to do and we weren’t disappointed. The views were incredible with pointy mountains rising right by the sea – in fact it reminded me of Norway! It felt so much wilder and more beautiful here than at the busy Cape Point yet hardly anyone seemed to explore this hidden gem. We walked along the coast, passing empty beaches, idyllic tidal pools and big sand dunes.

By this point we were getting very hungry after delaying our lunch to escape the baboons. The area we were in seemed pretty safe so we set up our picnic of cheese and crackers right on the shores of a twinkling tidal pool. It was a prefect spot until I realised the area was infested with these sort of woodlouse looking creatures. They were way bigger than woodlouse though and much faster, kind of like a mix with a cockroach and they loved the shady spots AKA under my butt or our backpacks. I hated them but I didn’t realise quite how many there were until I lifted up my bag to leave and about 20 began darting off in all directions. Craig’s bag had even more under it and they had even ventured up the fabric so we had to flick them all off and shake everything.

We walked back up to the main road, past a sunbathing snake and we were quickly picked up by an Afrikaans family who were very entertaining to chat to. They dropped us off in Simons Town so we decided to head back down to penguin beach as the light would be better in the afternoon compared to our previous early morning visit. It was a pretty wild and windy day so the sea was choppy but it was a fabulous blue colour along the shoreline. Interestingly it was high tide and there was almost no beach to walk along and only the odd penguin so if you plan on visiting make sure you do it at low tide. The main beach with the viewing platform had a lot more penguins on it so we admired them for a while. They’re so entertaining to watch; jumping from rocks into the sea, running down the dunes like they’re late for an appointment and getting knocked over by the waves. While they might be very clumsy on land they are in their element in the water, swimming with such ease.

We enjoyed our time staying in Glencairn Heights and being walking distance to a lovely beach where we braved an icy dip, but after four days we arranged to move to another area called Muizenberg which was about 10km away.

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