Canoeing past flamingoes, eating with seals and hiking Lions Head | Cape Town

The coastal town of Muizenberg is famous for it’s good surf which brings amateurs and pros to its popular beach. Craig found a really lovely place for us to stay just north of the town on the shores of a lake and canal system. It was a bit over our budget at €37 a night but it included free canoe use so when you factor that into the price of renting a canoe we figured it was worth the splurge. The property was built in a prime location on the tip of a spit of land and facing north – which in the Southern Hemisphere means you get the sun all day. We had a large room with a little kitchenette and the most amazing view from our balcony which led right out onto the garden and the shores of the lake with mountains in the distance. There was even a pool in the garden although we didn’t fancy a swim as it was totally natural and filtered with algae and pebbles so albeit it looked clear I wouldn’t want my foot to touch the creepy floor. We started our day by canoeing around an island which is part of a nature reserve where we spotted an otter swimming in the water. They’re a little different to the European otters we’re used to as these ones have a funny little nose and no claws. Our host has never seen one and has lived here for years!!

We took a stroll down to Muizenberg beach where there were rows of colourful beach huts. For some reason they’ve all been abandoned and are totally unused or maintained which is a shame but they looked absolutely fab with the sea and mountains behind. After exploring the beach area we headed to a supermarket about a kilometre from our accommodation. Suddenly two men jumped over a wall right by a cemetery and started walking straight towards us. I thought we were about to be in serious trouble, they were topless and had their T-shirts wrapped around their faces like balaclavas and my heart began pounding. I could see their eyes looking us over and I felt like they were sussing out if it was worth mugging us. I didn’t like it one bit. We didn’t realise but behind the shopping centre was a large township so a lot of very poor people live in the area. We later spoke to our host about the area and if it was safe and she said she wouldn’t walk there…but she did also say that most people in that township are Malawians so it’s not as violent as other townships.

The next day we enjoyed an ultimate chill day at our property. We took the canoe out in the early morning while there wasn’t a farts wind and all of the glorious mountains were reflected in the water. Needless to say we were a little sad to be checking out but there wasn’t any availability for more nights so we decided to make our way to Hout Bay, another coastal town but it was set on the west coast of the Cape.

The town felt a bit rougher than the previous places we’ve stayed where we were very much in safe little bubbles. Here there was a large township at the entry and we met a few shady looking characters while walking to the harbour for the weekend market. It was actually the worst food market we visited around Cape Town, I had a terrible falafel wrap and Craig had some flavourless tacos which was a shame. But we did buy some homemade soup and sourdough bread to take back to our room for an easy dinner.

When we walked back we stopped at the main harbour area and spotted some cape seals swimming in the water. They were way bigger than the other seals we’ve seen around the world and some of them had some nasty scars from plastic getting caught around their necks. The local fisherman were throwing scraps over the jetty and the seals were all fighting for the foul looking fish innards. After taking a few photos a few suspicious looking men came our way and we didn’t feel safe around the harbour so we packed up and headed off.

We spent about 5 nights in Hout Bay so we did a mix of travel planning and sightseeing. One day we caught an Uber to a beach which is within the Table Mountain National Park but it was closed during the week days which was a big shame so we walked along the road to Llandudno Beach. This neighbourhood is said to be one of the safest around Cape Town. The locals pay an additional fee for extra security so they had a security man at the entrance road who checks cars number plates to see if the car is reported stolen etc. The beach below the posh neighbourhood was nice but nothing special. We watched some surfers riding the waves and then we continued on a coastal trail that led to Sandy Bay. From there we could take a shortcut back to the neighbourhood where we were staying but our host said to be careful as muggings have been reported on that quiet route. She recommended waiting at the beach to join someone else on the trail. Just as we arrived at the beach we spotted three Afrikaans coming down in their bikinis so I felt a little safer but there wasn’t anyone else in the area and it definitely felt very remote and wild.

Sandy bay was absolutely stunning though, the water was an intense aqua blue colour and a steep mountain rose behind the shoreline. There were natural rock pools filled with crystal clear water and colourful anemones clinging onto the rock walls. We decided to risk the 800m shortcut instead of the 3km walk back to the road followed by an Uber so off we went up a steep sandy track. I didn’t feel safe but maybe it was all in my mind. It was hard-going walking through the sand and the path was all overgrown with bushes so anyone could be hiding and waiting to mug us. Suddenly a man appeared out of nowhere and I jumped out my skin and thought ‘well, this is it’ but he continued past us. My heart was pounding though and we were wondering if he was a scout, maybe he’d message a friend further up the trail and tell him two tourists with valuables were on their way. We didn’t talk so we could be quiet and we hiked so damn fast that I was dripping with sweat. We soon spotted a lamppost with a camera marking an empty carpark which meant relative safety from that point on, but geez I did not enjoy that walk one bit. From then on we were walking through a rich neighbourhood with electric fences and security so we could relax but it just reiterating how shit it would be to live here. Imagine feeling unsafe walking just 800m to a jaw dropping beach. We even moved Craig’s penknife into his pocket incase we were attacked. The chances are fairly low but it still happens and when the locals protect their houses like Fort-Knox and everyone warns against walking in remote areas so you can never be too sure.

Another day we walked along the scenic coastal road known as Chapmans Peak. Most people drive the route but we had time to walk and take in the view of the mountainous coastline. Afterwards we walked along the sandy beach back to the harbour as our host recommended a cheap eatery by the sea. It was a fast food joint built inside a shipping container and the roof top was a lovely patio area to dine with a view across the harbour and mountains. Seals were swimming in the sea below us too so it ended up being a lovely little stop-off.

With our Africa travel route still unplanned we needed a bit more time to figure things out and our lovely host from Muizenberg was heading off on holiday for a week and offered her lakeside property for a cheaper price so we spent a whole week there. It was like a little holiday, we did a big food shop for the week so we could keep costs down by cooking our own meals and the location was fabulous. We spent the week relaxing in the cozy apartment with a mountain view from every window and the canoe ready for adventures on the lake.

One morning we woke before the sun and set off on the glassy water which had a thin layer of fog hovering on the surface. The mountains began glowing a golden red colour and we were lucky to spot a small group of flamingoes. We paddled around trying to get a better view of them and albeit they were mostly white, their underside was the typical pink colour so seeing them inflight was really impressive.
We also tried out surfing for an hour and a half and I forgot how exhausting it was. We were beaten by the waves and my arms were aching from all the paddling but we had a lot of fun and after not surfing for many years we were happy to still be able to ride the waves.

The week relaxing gave us time to figure out a plan so we booked a flight to Victoria Falls and will do some volunteering in Zimbabwe too. We had three days back in Cape Town before our flight but they weren’t exactly relaxing. Trying to get USD for a good price was way harder than we expected and we spent a lot of time getting stressed out and running back and fourth. But we stayed close to the waterfront so most days we headed there to enjoy the music entertainment, from locals singing and doing traditional dances with metal rings rattling around their ankles to a world music festival with bands from Canada, Italy and New Zealand. We also enjoyed taking adoptable dogs for walks around the harbour and eating at our favourite food market in Cape Town at the Oranjezicht Market which has the most delicious Cape Malay food and perfect flat whites.

On our final day we tackled Lions Head, the pointy mountain rising from the city as we didn’t hike it on our last visit. The path corkscrewed it’s way around the peak until just below the rocky point where we had a vertical section involving ladders, metal steps and hand-holds which I absolutely hated. Luckily there was an easier route we took back down. The view from the top offered the best vantage point of Table Mountain and the stunning coastline around the city so it was definitely a worthy hike to do. Now it’s time to say goodbye to Cape Town after almost four weeks in the area.

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