Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cape Peninsula: Adorable Penguins and Incredible Vistas!

En route from Franschhoek to Cape Town, we spent a day driving around the Cape Peninsula.  Most importantly (for Stephanie at least), we spent the night at Boulders Beach to see the largest colony of African penguins. 

We booked our hotel solely on the basis that it was the closest to the penguins -- TripAdvisor reviews indicated that you could see penguins from the dining room.  As we ate dinner without any penguin sightings, we were somewhat disappointed.  However, as we were getting ready for bed, a series of loud screeches caused us to rush to the window.  We had read that it was penguin mating season – was this the sound they made mating?  It turns out not, but there were two pairs of penguins hanging out in the courtyard just outside of our room.  The loud noise they were making tells other penguins to keep out of their territory.  Penguins mate for life and return to the same breeding nest, or burrow, every year.  African penguins were originally called jackass penguins because this noise sounds much like a donkey braying.  Lucky us, we were serenaded by loud penguins most of the night – the price you pay for staying as close to their colony as possible.

In the morning, we set out to explore Boulders Beach, the heart of the penguin colony.  There’s really no other way to describe it other than there are penguins absolutely everywhere! 

PSA: African penguins are very endangered!  We saw a group of four penguins back in Knysna, very far from home.  They are forced to travel long distances because their food supply is diminishing.

After spending plenty of quality time with the penguins, we headed to Cape Point, widely regarded as the southernmost point in Africa and the dividing point between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.  As it turns out, Cape Agulhas (150 km to the east) is the true holder of these titles.  But whatever, Cape Point is still close!

Cape Point is also quite far from New York City. 

The views from the lighthouse of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans were breathtaking, although we understand that the lighthouse is often shrouded in fog, which used to lead to an unusually high number of shipwrecks. To escape the tourist hoards arriving by the busload and climbing (slowly) to the lighthouse, we also hiked to the nearby Cape of Good Hope. 

On to Cape Town!  We took the scenic route along Chapman’s Drive, which boasts 114 curves over the course of 9 km, and a speed limit of 20 km/hr.  Giorgio and our Nissan handled the drive perfectly, rewarding us with spectacular views of the Atlantic coast.


PS: Our definitive guide to wine tasting in the Cape Winelands is in the works!  And we hiked Table Mountain today so stay tuned!

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