Cape Point and Boulders – you’re doing it wrong

where are the hoards

Yeah, hoardes of people – this pic was taken in peak season. I don’t deny it can get busy down there but if you wait a few minutes you get a shot like this one.

CapePoint

If the parking lot is too busy, look for this path and step away for a good view.

Whilst faffing about on my Trip Advisor page I happened to notice that some people had rated Cape Point and Boulders as ‘terrible’ or ‘poor’.  I was intrigued enough to read further. Since I can’t comment directly on TA reviews I decided to do it here. All I can say is thank goodness the majority of reviews are not as stupid as these:

Cape Point

“My wife and I are from Durban and were on holiday in the cape. Our passion is history so we decided to go down to cape point as there is so much history there. It costs R90 per adult to get into the park. Once you are in there are various routes that you can drive. We didn’t have much time so just went to the lighthouse. At the lighthouse you can either walk or take the funicular to the top the funicular is a further R100 per person. If you have small children or a pregnant wife such as I do, you are forced to take the funicular to the top. The information about cape point was very poor and crowded by bus loads of pushy Asian tourists!!! There were no tour guides etc we could chat to or other information we could gather so overall we just had the views with no pertinent info.”

  • Dude, clearly your passion for history doesn’t extend to having any actual knowledge of it. If you’re from South Africa you should already know some of that history. Or, you could’ve  stopped at the well-signposted Visitor’s Centre to get info or even buy the very cheap but wonderful little book published by SanParks that explains everything you need to know about Cape Point and the entire Table Mountain National Park. Plus you should’ve given yourself enough time to visit all those routes you mention. Plus you’re talking absolute rubbish about the price of the funicular. Plus you could’ve hired a tour guide. Plus stop bitching about Asian tourists because they’re our bread and butter. Durban wishes it had so many tourists.

“Fairly average as a nature reserve, we had a good interaction with some baboons but didn’t see much else. To the East there were other areas around Hermanus that were far more diverse.”

  • Oh right. One of the most famous spots in the world is reduced to ‘fairly average’. Had you bothered to plan and ask someone a few questions you would’ve taken the trouble to spend more time there so you could drive up and down the side roads where you would have seen some of the most awesome views in the world as well as many other animals. The Visitor’s Centre is there for a purpose. Would love to know more about that illegal sounding ‘interaction’ with baboons.

“The flora of this area was great but as far as the Fauna (wildlife) is concerned, we just saw 3 zebras and 5 ostriches and especially coming from Kenya, we were disappointed completely.”

  • Hmmm that’s because it’s not a game reserve. It’s primarily historic and symbolic. 3 zebras? Lucky you, most don’t even see that. You probably ran into the shop instead of going to the viewpoint next to it – pity because looking towards the Cape of Good Hope there are almost always eland and bontebok lazing on the grass. A little strip of land jutting out into the ocean towards Antarctica is not an ideal location for the great migration.

“Everyone told me that this place was a “must see” in South Africa so I went there and honestly, it is not as cool as it seems! First of all, there is nothing to do. The view is nice and if you are lucky enough you will spot some animals (I saw baboons, ostriches and striped-mice) but that’s it. Most of people will just go there to take a picture in front of that huge sign saying “Cape of Good Hope”, which by the way is always full of desperate tourists that will rush you to finish your photo quickly so that they can do the same. Besides, if the weather is bad I wouldn’t recommend going there as the wind can be quite strong (even during the summer!).”

  • You probably missed the part where the wind is one of the features of that little strip of land. Most people actually enjoy the wind because they get an authentic sense of what it was like for the sailors who battled to round the Cape in sailing ships back in the days when surviving this trip was an accomplishment. Nothing to do? Best hikes in the Cape, shipwreck trail, whale watching while you eat, browsing through the information at the Visitor’s Centre, taking side roads to get away from the crowds, bird watching .. nah, nothing to do. Maybe that’s why clever people hire a tour guide and wear the right clothing.

“The landscape in the nature reserve was lovely but I was a little disappointed there were not many animals to see.”

  • Wrong park! Try Kruger.
kiln

Look at that old lime kiln, right next to a road that nobody bothers to drive down

bontebok

One of the most common sights in Cape Point – a bontebok. Invisible to the naked eye when driving at 70km per hour whilst checking your Facebook or Instagram.

Boulders

“Was so disappointed here. Please remember you have to pay to get into this place. It’s touristy, you can’t get on this beach unless you go further down the road. Expected to see so many more penguins. You basically stand on a viewing platform to watch & take photos. Things have apparently changed over the years due to tourists taking penguin eggs & sabotaging the area for others.”

  • Err no … the reason you pay is because someone has to bear the cost of looking after these endangered birds – mainly by preventing tourists from harming them and sabotaging it for others.

“A combined ticket for Boulders and Cape Point should be available for OVERSEAS visitors (the Green Card works for locals). R60 for a half hour drop in on the way to Cape Point just doesn’t fly!”

  • Another local whinge. You can spend the whole day there, no-one is limiting your time. As a local you should know that there is a much cheaper penguin colony in Betty’s Bay. Go there.

“Share the beach with 2 penguins. Boulders beach is beautiful but after 10am becomes completely overcrowded. Then you are lucky to be able to see any sea or sand.”

  • Where were you? There are 3000+ penguins, the ocean stretches out for thousands of kilometres in front of you, and it’s a beach so sand is a prerequisite. Overcrowded? …. well, you were part of it.

“There are just too many tourists to enjoy Boulders Beach. Yes, the penguins are there. Yes, you can see them very close. But there are literally hordes of tourists. If I had known it was like that, I would have skipped it. Even though the penguins are in the wild, it feels more like a zoo.”

  • Don’t you just love it when tourists come at peak tourism season and then complain about tourists?

“Paying R160 to see 20 penguins is not my idea of a great time. First we went to an empty beach because the inept staff at the second entrance chose not to inform us about the right place to go. After wandering about and taking some wrong stairs, we resorted to going back to the entrance for our money back. After refusing the refund, only then were we informed that there was another viewing point. Along the boardwalk we happened to notice nesting penguins in the bush – again you would think that this would be a great bit of info to give your guests. Once we found this out by accident, the kids had great fun spotting penguins in the undergrowth. Finally arriving at the right place, we were greeted by bus loads of tourists and not enough of a viewing deck to accommodate them. Then we found out that during the day, until around 3pm, most of the alleged 3000 penguins that supposedly live at Boulders are usually out to sea hunting. Mmmmm, all this would be really good to know before they greedily take their money. It is simply not worth the price. Foreign tourists who don’t get to see many penguins and are spending dollars and pounds probably won’t mind though. Here’s an idea…how about special prices for locals?”

  • Blah blah .. another local who exaggerates the price by more than 100%, was probably rude to the staff, didn’t follow sign-posts, and seems to think the area will just look after itself magically with no funds. Oh dear, did we forget to tell you that penguins need to go to sea to fetch fish? Maybe they should double the price and hire people to feed them in front of you.

“We visited this tiny beach January 2014. It was overcrowded and small with many people harassing the penguins. There is an entrance fee and the staff were very rude. Outside the park is a better viewing area with views.”

  • You’re lying on 2 counts – the penguins are never harassed because the walkway (paid for by your entrance fee and my taxes) keeps people at a safe distance. Outside the park? Then you’ll complain that there are only 2 of them.

“Somehow it seemed that penguins were collected and kept here – too may visitors – a crowd – to see a few penguins did not seem worth the effort- frankly seeing them in the Waterfront Aquarium was probably better.”

  • Somehow you were too cheap to hire a guide, right? Somehow you missed reading the brochure and boards explaining that the penguins arrived there all by themselves 30+ years ago after having been almost extinct due to humans damaging their environment. Yes, I agree, the 4 penguins indoors at the aquarium might be better than 3000 on the beach in their natural habitat with eggs and babies and fish in the sea.

“Unless you really, really can’t go on another day without seeing an “African” penguin, I would save your rands. We were processed and pushed through turnstiles along with a busload of Japanese tourists and probably spent less than 10 min looking at a colony of penguins that appeared to be petrified by all the commotion. Not worth the time nor money, in my opinion.”

  • It was your choice to spend only 10 minutes. Sorry about the other people wanting the same experience as you, next time we’ll close the park just for you. Oh, by the way, I’ve been there hundreds of times and have never seen the penguins look anything but bored with the crowds while they go about doing what penguins do. You can even read some more here.
no pensguins2

No penguins. No sand. No sea.

no penguins

A rare photograph of actual penguins at Boulders Penguin colony.

 

Submarine

IMG_3036

I’m used to seeing yachts and other types of pleasure craft in Hout Bay but not submarines so this one caught me by surprise yesterday and I had no answers for my clients. Obviously it’s some sort of exercise by the navy but why they chose Hout Bay is a mystery. I don’t even know if it’s one of ours because I’ve only ever seen grey ones in Simon’s Town.

I would’ve liked to see the sub in the company of this bloke whose telephoto lens the size of a small lighthouse was actually useless at Boulders because he was too close to the penguins. It didn’t stop him from taking lots of photos and laughing off all the facetious comments that everyone was making. He advised us that it weighs a ton and that he isn’t a professional photographer. I think he’s compensating.

IMG_3042

It’s action-packed at Boulders!

Penguin love

Penguin love is a balancing act.

South Africa’s most famous penguin colony, Boulders Beach, is action packed at the moment .. and oh boy are those cute little birds getting action!

It’s a lascivious den of iniquity – the beach and surrounding area is crawling with penguins mating and cuddling and courting and all of it boldly done in full view of tourists, kids included who giggle and ask awkward questions. It’s all about the eggs really. Making eggs, sitting on eggs, protecting eggs, hatching eggs.

We’re so privileged to have this treasure on our doorstep. Many Capetonians don’t have the time to drive all the way down to Simon’s Town but we guides have all the luck, we get to visit them all year round.

My best time of day is late afternoon at the end of my favourite tour.  The light is lovely and casts long shadows, there are less people round, there are more penguins as they come back from the sea all fattened up, settling down for the night.  You can watch the interaction between single penguins clearly looking for trouble as they try to interfere with those protecting their eggs. Here and there a couple will start the process of mating which is hilarious to watch as they rock and over-balance before abandoning the effort, only to try again a few minutes later.

The singletons stand alone – where are their mates? They could be out at sea, they might have fallen prey to a predator, or perhaps they have yet to find one.

The family groups – the young chicks are easy to spot with their grey/brown fluffy down, standing very close to a parent, safe and protected, for now.

Every now and then there is a brief skirmish as a potential interloper is dealt with and a naughty penguin is sent on its way, away from the eggs or the chicks.

I could stand and watch them for hours and luckily most of my clients are happy to do that, too.

penguins long shadows penguins near homes penguins 2

Boulders

I’m exhausted after 3 very long days, hence no blog entries since Monday. First was a tour of the peninsula with French guests.  They loved everything, said our beaches are wonderful with the mountains as a backdrop and far more interesting than in some countries where all the beaches look the same. It’s always interesting to hear the opinions of people who are well-travelled – no gushing and the appreciation is informed. They also ask very pointed, and educated, questions about this country and you have to be on top of your game, bitching about the ANC isn’t good enough.

It was frightening to hear what they had been warned about regarding South Africa. Aside from being told that 3 days is all you need in Cape Town, they had been warned to not venture out of their hotel without being accompanied. So they didn’t have enough time here and missed out on doing things they realised they would have liked to do.

They loved every meal we had together! They eat a lot of fish and especially like sushi so we gorged ourselves at the Two Oceans Restaurant at Cape Point. This restaurant was recently revamped and a sushi bar added so I decided to give it a try. The previous menu was too elaborate and pricey and more suited to an evening dining experience, rather than lunch.  The new menu and service didn’t disappoint at all and I’ll definitely go there again.

As always, we stopped at Boulders to ogle the penguins. I’ve had first-hand experience cleaning and feeding these cute little waddlers so it always gives me a kick to see them.  This crowd all look very busy.. some are still sitting on eggs and you can see the youngsters with their fluffy coats – there’s one looking straight at the camera, wassup, dude? He looks very well-fed, doesn’t he?

I’m quite pleased with the photos I took because the sun was already going down so there wasn’t much light, and camera was on auto as always.

Disclaimer

A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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