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Western Cape Accommodation

Exploring the Cape Peninsula   by Barbara Ulmi

Table Mountain and Cape Town Fr. Bloubergstrand, South AfricaWhat better way to celebrate the arrival of winter in the southern hemisphere than by touring the beautifully diverse Cape Peninsula, during the mild month of June. To start your journey head for the colourful display of ruby, golden and bright orange canopies in the leafy suburbs of Newlands and Bishopscourt. From Cape Town, follow the M3 south, take the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden exit and follow the winding road past lush residences, to the main entrance of this oldest indigenous botanical garden in the world (founded 1913). Here you can admire winter beauties such as the Transvaal Hard Pear and Mandela's Gold; visit Colonel Bird's Bath for a contemplative moment, and replenish yourself with a cup of Earl Grey and a muffin at one of the restaurants in the garden. 

Leave this botanical paradise through the verdant forest stretching toward Constantia Nek, exit the circle on your left and head straight to the Constantia Wine Route, home to the stately Groot Constantia - the oldest wine estate in the Cape, granted to the first governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel, in 1652. Van der Stel being a man of great political stature and a dashing womanizer with an immense amount of charm (possibly acquired on his travels to the Bourgogne and Bordeaux regions in France?), it seems fitting that he named this grand estate after the apple of his eye - the daughter of one of the Dutch East India Company's Heeren XVII whom he had acquainted on his passage to the Cape in 1679. Legend has it that Groot Constantia's red wine was even savoured by Napoleon Bonaparte while in exile on the island of St. Helena. 

Turning your back on the world-acclaimed wine of Groot Constantia, head in the direction of Tokai (echoeing a Hungarian wine region by the same name) with its haunted houses deep in the forest (urban legend has it that at midnight, one of the former Cape freeburger's son rides through the forest on a white stallion). At the end of Tokai Road, follow the signboards to Muizenberg and Fish Hoek. Take panoramic Boyes' Drive and witness the renaissance of the preferred holiday destination of the Victorian times, Muizenberg - today a year-round beach popular with surfers and Great White shark's alike! The drive will merge with the main road running through Kalk Bay, a traditional fishing village founded by shipwrecked Philippine sailors. This quaint town is alive with art and culture - stroll down the main road and visit the many bric-a-brac and trading stores, art galleries and retro cafés. 

Cruise through Fish Hoek, the former halfway stopover en route from Simon's Town to Cape Town and a Calvinistic teetotal town until the mid 1980's, when the mayor of the time - of Scottish origin - decided to introduce a nightcap to pubs and restaurants (liquor stores however, are still non-existent.) The neighbouring harbour town and South African naval station, Simon's Town, prides itself on having had the only Great Dane with a naval rank in recorded history - Just Nuisance, as his mates used to call him, is remembered in form of a statue on Jubilee Square, which provides beautiful views across South Africa's major naval station. Not only well-known for its uniformed seals, but also penguins, Simon's Town attracts many visitors with its penguin colony at Boulders beach. Watch the newly hatched African Penguins - commonly referred to as Jackass penguins - as they wobble their way through the Camphor bushes and over slippery boulders lining the coast here. Male and female are easily distinguishable - male penguins are black and white, female ones white and black. 

Hout Bay From Chapman's Peak Drive, Cape Peninsula, South AfricaA short journey later, passing through Chacma Baboon country (keep those yummy sandwiches to yourself) enter the Cape of Good Hope area of Table Mountain National Park. Here you'll find the only baboons in Africa to have taken to shellfish, and clever enough to scrape Kaolin from the soil whenever their tummies get sore from fuzzy drinks and sweets grabbed from tourists (next time you visit, they might just be sporting hook, line and sinker...) 

On your way to the Cape of Good Hope (the most south-westerly point of Africa, where the two Oceans almost meet) stop over at the Information Centre and commemorate the Portuguese's navigational accomplishments by visiting one of the two monuments in the Park - the Da Gama and the Bartholomeu Diaz crosses. Once at the bottom of the Cape of Good Hope, take that compulsory snapshot of the signboard indicating the geographical hotspot, and double-check its accuracy with your GPRS. If you're less technically inclined head for the lookout point at Cape Point - a 40 minutes' walk from Cape of Good Hope, or a quick funicular ride or short walk from the parking lot just below the old lighthouse. To avoid the bus loads of international tourists on pilgrimage here during summer, opt for a visit during the colder winter months. 

Take a leisurely drive out of the park, passing the Cape Point Ostrich Farm and Zimbabwean curios at Red Hill, until you get to the quaint village of Scarborough, home to rig-workers, artists, painting doctors, and organic food growers. The adjacent surfer mekka, Misty Cliffs, is adorned by the whitest beach in the Cape - Witsand - and is en route to Kommetjie, a seaside playground for grommets and veterans alike. 

Drive past Imhoff Farm on your left, with its cheese factory and Waldorf school, and continue through Sunvalley to Noordhoek - the starting point of world-renowned Chapman's Peak Drive. Built during the First World War (and contradictory to popular belief, not by Italian war prisoners), this panoramic route provides sweeping views of the Atlantic ocean and Hout Bay. 

Visit Hout Bay harbour where the mainly crayfish and tuna harvesting South African Sea Products are based and take a boat trip to Duiker Island to view a thriving Cape Fur Seal colony. 

The lively town of Hout Bay - declared a 'Republic' as part of a charity fundraiser - is worth a trip all by itself, but after a long and adventurous tour of the peninsula, it is highly recommended to complete the last stretch of your trip in time for sundowners in one of the many swishy cocktail bars or restaurants in trendy Camps Bay and watch the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean. 


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About the Author - To plan a hassle free trip to Cape Town, use CityGuideSA - a comprehensive online travel resource with up-to-date information on where to Eat, Stay and Play in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and the Garden Route.


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Latest update: July 18, 2016