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Cape Town – Wildlife Abounds, Even Where You Least Expect It

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MMMim

I realize this will all sound ridiculously hokey, but I have dreamed of going to Africa since I was 9 years old, when I received a book about African Animals for Christmas, and I was completely captivated by drawings of amazing wildlife and interesting landscapes.  All through the years, my interests have rarely strayed from thoughts of African wildlife.  I watched every Disney and Wild Kingdom documentary, read and watched Gorillas in the Mist, read Dian Fossey’s book Virunga, followed Jane Goodall’s amazing research, devoured every National Geographic article about the Continent, and even the story of Baroness Karen Blixen, told onscreen in “Out of Africa”, and Disney’s “The Lion King”, spurred my desire to go to Africa.  Well, it has been a long-time coming but I finally made it, 45 years after receiving that book. It took a bit of work to get to Africa, including one nasty false start.   

 

We skipped across the continent based on bucket-list items of interest for both my husband, Jay, and I.  Originally our trip was to start in Kenya, and it was a case of, “well if we’re already on the continent, we should just fly down to South Africa to dive with Great White Sharks” (Jay’s bucket list).  Well okay, if we’re over there, perhaps we could add a side trip to Uganda to visit the gorillas (my bucket list).  Okay.  Needless to say, the trip ended up looking a lot different than originally planned, but it was fantastic, if just a little hectic!

 

We did end up in all of our planned destinations, but in reverse order than originally planned, starting in South Africa (SA).  So, this is just a quick report about the 6 days we spent exploring Cape Town and its surrounds.  I did not include a safari in South Africa, as my 9-year old self told me that a safari should be taken in Kenya or Tanzania (silly me, well that’s what my book showed!), and we were there mainly for shark cage-diving and had added whale watching to that as well.  So, I do apologize if this isn’t quite SafariTalk material, but it is a practice of sorts for the Uganda and Kenya portions of our trip.

 

Finally, my husband and I boarded the KLM flight on 2019 September 19, bound for Amsterdam (direct from Edmonton, Alberta).  It was about a 7.5-hour flight, so we arrived early the next morning in AMS.  Overall it was a pretty good flight, the plane seat configuration was good, seats were also fairly comfortable, with decent leg room (we are both tall), and KLM also feeds you, and the food’s not too bad.  Best economy flights so far.  We had a 24 hour lay-over in Amsterdam before heading off on a very long flight to Cape Town, South Africa (SA).  We spent the afternoon walking around Amsterdam and taking a canal cruise, and having dinner before heading back to the hotel.  We had a great nights’ sleep before the next leg of our journey, and the day in Amsterdam had allowed us to re-set our clocks, and (mostly) ward off jet-lag.

 

On 2019 September 21, we were up early (this was to be a continuing theme for the duration of the trip), to get back to the airport for our 11.5-hour flight to Cape Town, SA (I should have checked Google Maps - I had no idea that our flight would be that long - Africa is a big place – rookie mistake)!  Overall the flight was good, and when all was said and done, neither Jay nor I felt too beat-up by the experience. 

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MMMim

Again, this portion of our trip was a seat-of-the-pants organizational effort by me (although I have planned trips to Europe without issues) and I did luck out in choosing my tour operator in SA.  Craig (owner of Southern African Tours) was very quick to respond to emails and catered a 5 day private tour of Cape Town and surrounds based on our interests.  We were assigned a fantastic guide, Derek, who catered to our every need, and made sure we saw what was interesting and important to us.  He answered innumerable questions on everything as well.  I should also add that the B & Bs (Braeside – within walking distance of V & A Waterfront; Chartfield – Kalk Bay; the Esperanza in Oranjezicht, basically at the foot of Table Mountain) recommended by, and used by this company were absolutely fantastic!

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Our first day in Cape Town, prior to our official trip, we visited the V & A Waterfront and the Two Oceans Aquarium.  The aquarium was excellent, and provided a very good insight to what might be existing off of the SA shores.  As we are not divers or snorkellers, this was a great opportunity to educate ourselves about the marine environment of SA, although I realize that captive animals are not everyone’s thing.  On our walk to the V & A, we walked through Green Point park to the sea wall. We saw, well to us anyway, very exotic flowers (calla lilies growing wild – these are potted plants where I’m from) and exotic birds (great cormorants, red knobbed coots, Egyptian geese, hadada ibis).

 

Day 1 of the tour: we were scheduled for a trip up Table Mountain, but Prince Harry and Megan took precedence, even though we booked our tour to SA before them.  Instead, we drove to Hout Bay to cruise to Duiker Island to see the Cape fur seals. The majority of the seals on Duiker Island are males waiting out their time until they reach the right breeding age, between the ages of 8 to 12 years (size dependent).  Duiker Island is not a breeding colony, as the sea can get very rough (yes it can) and the pups would be washed off the rocks.  The island is most densely populated from January through March during the seals’ moult, when they stay on the rocks and don’t hunt, relying on the fat they have stored in their blubber.  The island was not far from the mouth of the bay, and the sea swell was huge; it was very difficult to take photographs and hang on for dear life.  It was nice to see the seals up close.  There were some in the water around the rocks, but most of them appeared to be sunning themselves on the rocks; there were thousands of them.  Downwind of the rock is an olfactory experience.

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Edited by MMMim
forgot pictures

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MMMim

This was followed by a visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – highly recommended for budding (or otherwise) botanists and birders.  The gardens are representative of all the major biomes found in South Africa, so not just flora native to the Cape area.  There was certainly a lot to see at the gardens, and we really only scratched the surface, walking for about 2 hours.  We started in the Fragrance Garden, which contained a lot of plants with scented flowers and leaves, mainly types of geraniums: lemon, chocolate, clove, eucalyptus.  We saw the Vygies (mid-day flowers that open only in the sun, we know them as ice plants) and Annual Gardens, all the succulents and Namaqualand Daisies in full bloom.  The Mathews Rockery with native succulents and bulbs.  We visited the Dell, the oldest part of the garden, featuring a spring, Colonel Bird’s Bath, tree ferns and shade plants.  Another interesting area we visited was the Cycad Amphitheatre with several species of these ancient plants, unchanged since the time before dinosaurs – very rare, unusual and expensive.  We saw the remnants of Van Riebeeck’s Hedge of wild almond trees, planted in 1660 as a boundary to the newly established settlement at the Cape.  The wild almond trees create elaborately twisted and twined, dense thickets – a perfect hedge.  They grow wildly, and anywhere the long branches touch the soil, they put down more roots, resulting in a huge tree complex.  We walked the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, the ‘Boomslang’, a raised walkway through and over the trees of the Arboretum – great views.  Of course, we walked through the Arboretum too, with its 450 southern African tree species, great birdlife, and lovely forest flowers (the clivia lilies growing under them, beautiful, I used to have something similar as a houseplant).  We were also able to spot some birds, the little Cape white eyes and a big spotted eagle owl sound asleep on a tree branch.

 

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We tried to ascend Table Mountain again, but the line-ups were tremendous.  Our guide, instead took us up the road towards Devil’s Peak for fantastic views of the city, and then over to Signal Hill for fantastic views of Table Mountain.  Again, unexpected, and exotic to us, helmeted guinea fowl wandering about.  As well, walking some of the trails we saw unusual bushes, they looked like they were dead, kind of brown and crinkly.  On closer inspection, the brown dead looking leaves were actually flowers, resembling snap dragon flowers.  Near 2 of the bushes we noticed some really big bees, just 1 bee per bush, and the bees were behaving strangely, almost like they were guarding the shrub – their territory.  It turns out that was exactly what they were doing.  They were carpenter bees, a solitary bee species, and the males can be territorial. 

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Day 2: We were scheduled for our shark cage-diving experience today, but had chosen the afternoon dive, as a 0330 hrs start to drive from Kalk Bay to Gansbaai (Goose Bay) did not appeal to us.  Although we had read stories (after we had booked this leg of our trip) that the great white sharks had disappeared from the False Bay area of SA, we had been assured that they were still swimming the waters off Gansbaai.  The sharks have apparently disappeared due to orca predation over the last few years, but good news, a recent article reports a great white sighting in False Bay, near Seal Island, just last month – hooray, they may be returning to the area!  Fingers crossed.

Well, we left for Gansbaai at 0830 hrs via the coast road, more stunning scenery you would be hard to find anywhere, for our dive at 1300 hrs.  Derek has discovered that we are amateur bird-nerds and is finding ornithological opportunities as we travel, so on our way we stopped at a little town called Vermont, to see the ‘duck pond’.  A small tidal estuary with a good variety of birdlife – greater and lesser flamingoes were the feature.

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On arrival in Gansbaai, the tour company (Marine Dynamics, very professional group, very impressed by them!) took down our particulars – wet suit size, dive boot size, next of kin, solicitor’s name and address – then fed us a decent lunch, talked about sharks and conservation, then loaded us on the boat.  The weather was not stellar, very cool and windy, and the waters were quite rough.  The boat trip to the dive site was only about 15 minutes, and on arrival, we were given our wetsuits and gear for the dive. 

 

As we struggled in to our wetsuits on deck, the sharks arrived.  They do chum, and they do entice the sharks closer to the cage using a lure of fish heads, but the sharks are not fed.  We were a bit pessimistic that we would see a great white, as there was a Cape fur seal in the water near the boat when we arrived, and we were pretty sure that he wouldn’t have been there if he might end up being lunch. The first sharks that we saw were the Copper sharks, also called Bronze Whalers, which are, true to the name bronze to olive-gray above with a metallic sheen, and a white underside.  They have a slender, streamlined body, a tall, pointed dorsal fin, and a long, pointed snout.  They have 29-35 upper tooth rows and 29-33 lower tooth rows.  The teeth are serrated, and the upper teeth have a distinctive hooked shape (I can confirm this).  A large adult can reach 305 kg (672 lb) and 3.3 m (11 feet) long (they seemed a lot bigger!).  They are fast-swimming predators, frequently hunting in large groups.  Their prey is mainly cephalopods, bony fishes, and other cartilaginous fishes.  Off SA, the species associates closely with the annual sardine run.  Bronze whalers, while large and powerful, are not particularly aggressive towards humans (unless in the presence of food), and rarely attack humans.  However, the species places 10th in the number of unprovoked attacks on people (great whites place first). 

 

 

My husband was into the cage with the first group, while I stayed on the upper deck taking photographs; what a great vantage point to watch those amazing animals.  I still wasn’t 100% sure that I would be getting in the cage.  Jay absolutely loved it!  Then it was my turn.  As my husband pointed out in an email home, this was a big deal for me, as I was facing a lot of fears: deep water, big waves, very big fish with large pointy teeth, and changing into a rubber suit in front of a lot of strangers.  I figured if I was already in the wetsuit, I should just get in.  Apparently, my eyes were as big as saucers, and I whispered to my husband as I passed him, “I’m scared”.

 

Second groups turn, and I was first into the cage, and had to swim to the end of the cage at the back of the boat.  It was a bit disconcerting, not to have footing, being tossed around by the waves, and not to let toes or fingers slip beyond the cage.  Definitely out of my comfort zone.  It was really hard to dive down to see the sharks, even with a weight belt – my body shape makes me naturally buoyant.  You had to dive down when they yelled shark, left or right, as they trawled the disgusting bait hook in front of the cage, and given my position in the cage (right at the end by the back of the boat), right into my face.  So, dive down, hold breath, hold onto the bar, don’t stick body parts out of the cage, while a very big shark swims by, AND take a picture of it.  Most of our underwater pictures are of bubbles and steel bars. 

 

Not only that, remember where they were chumming from, off the back of the boat.  Yup, I was chummed more than the sharks.  Out over my head (thank goodness for the wetsuit hood), and back into my face the next time I went under water; definitely trying to keep my mouth shut.  I came out of the cage with very bruised shins from trying to scrabble back onto the foot-bar without losing toes.  The water was very rough and really tossed you around, but the sharks were just amazing underwater!  First you would see the bait lure coming towards you, and then the big jaws champing down on it.  Most often the sharks would just veer off as the lure was pulled from the water, but sometimes the sharks would try to visit you in the cage; nose through the bars, big tail thrashing, gnashing on the bars, right in your face!  The first time that happened (my second dive down) I popped up, almost drowning myself, and I’m pretty sure I said a bad word – I hope they can edit that out of the video.  I saw a lot of action, as all the sharks turning left were drawn right to me.  I was elated when I finished my turn in the cage.  I had done it; I had dived with the sharks (okay, so I was in a cage, but…).

 

Marine Dynamics was very generous with cage time for each person, and a second trip into the cage was offered (Jay went for a second round).  The marine biologist on board told us that there had been 20 different sharks visit with us that afternoon (up to 10 at a time). Unfortunately, no great whites showed up (there had been one seen in the morning), but as I mentioned, numbers have been dwindling ever since the 2017 orca predations.  The orcas slice out the sharks’ livers in brutal attacks, and leave the remainder of the carcass.  The great whites were killed and the others left the area).  Gansbaai does look a bit deserted, there were lots of closed up shops, and very few shark boats in the water.  I have to admit that I was very disappointed not to meet my biggest fear up close and personal that day. 

 

Other wildlife viewed that day were chacma baboons, on the way to Gansbaai, and a group of Burchell’s zebra standing out on a hillside on the way back.  We travelled back to Cape Town via the mountain roads, also very scenic.

 

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Day 3: The weather was vastly improved today, and we set off with Derek at 0815 hrs to Cape Point/Cape of Good Hope (in Table Mountain National Park). We stopped in Simon’s Town to see the memorial to ‘Just Nuisance’, the only dog ever to be officially enlisted in the Royal Navy.  He was a Great Dane, who between 1939 and 1944, served at HMS Afrikander, a Royal Navy shore base in Simon’s Town.  He died in 1944 at 7 years of age, and he was buried with full military honours.  He was a very nice mascot, and it was a lovely story; I cried (warning, I do this a lot). 

 

We then stopped at the African penguin colony (or Jackass penguin, for the noise they make (braying)) at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town.  They are very cute, and everywhere, hiding in scrub, hiding in holes, all over the beach.  We walked down to the beach on a boardwalk and there were hundreds of penguins; the estimate is approximately 2,200 in this colony.  They were nearly wiped out in this area, but have made a remarkable recovery.  There were a few fluffy grey chicks, that were fairly large (they are called ‘baby blues’ because of their blue-grey juvenile plumage).  There were lots of birds headed into the water to go fishing too.  Oh, and yes, penguins are smelly too, but not as bad as the seals.

 

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We arrived at the National Park, and Derek was shocked that we had been pretty much the first in line, as this is one of the top destinations for tourists.  Like Table Mountain, I will stress to arrive early. We took the ‘Flying Dutchman’ funicular up to the top of Cape Point (you can walk – we were saving ourselves for Uganda), where the old (built in 1859), non-functional lighthouse was.  They stopped using it as it was too high and was quite often obscured by fog – kind of defeats the purpose of a lighthouse.  We climbed the steps up to the old lighthouse, and the views from there, especially the one to the Cape of Good Hope (CGH), were absolutely stunning (I can’t help myself, this is really the only word to describe the Southern Cape scenery).  The functional lighthouse, built in 1919, atop Dias Point, is down the cliff someway, lower and further out, easily seen by ships.  We walked down to see it, but it was not quite visible, however, there was a cormorant colony built into the cliff face.  That was interesting to see, lots of birds, coming and going, bringing back fish and seaweed to their nests, and heading back out again.

 

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At the base of the funicular, Derek pointed out 5 eland antelopes out on the flats before the CGH – amazing.  They were quite far out near the boardwalk, and were difficult to photograph, but with binoculars, we noted that one big old bull was a bluish colour compared to the younger 4 bulls that were tan coloured.  We also saw our first ostrich; a small female, on the beach, on our way around to the CGH – of course!  We then drove around to the CGH for the obligatory photo – most southerly point.  Ah no actually, they have had to change the sign, and it now reads the most south-western point of the African continent, because the most southern point was determined to be at Cape Agulhas, 170 km southeast of Cape Town, up the eastern Coast.  Who knew!?

 

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The CGH/Cape Point have also been attributed as the meeting point of 2 major ocean currents, the cold Benguela (the Atlantic Ocean) along the West Coast and the warm Agulhas (the Indian Ocean) on the East Coast.   In fact, the meeting point fluctuates along the southern and southwestern Cape coast, usually occurring between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point. However, Cape Agulhas has been recognized by the International Hydrographic Organization as being the beginning of the dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  Agulhas wins again!

 

Off we went again.  Derek took us down a little side road in the park, and there were 5 male ostriches on the beach dunes.  As we left there, 3 females marched over the hill to join them.  Another trip up a side road, the Oliphant Bos (elephant bush) road, wound well out into the park.  We saw quite a few more ostrich, some with little chicks.  We saw the rare Bontebok, a very colorful antelope, which can only be found in the Western Cape region.  We saw more eland, but again they were quite far off the road – they seem quite shy.  Saw a couple of black girdled lizards too – a wonderful drive, all the wildlife being quite a bonus.  After leaving the park we headed out to Chapman’s Peak, a scenic drive, built on a base of granite rock, 331 m up Sentinel Mountain.  Great views across Hout Bay Harbour and across to the Rhino, which we had sailed around to Duiker Island.  From across the bay, the horns, face, neck hump, and sway down to the back was visible.  We finished the day at Constantia Glen Winery, absolutely beautiful, to have a wine tasting accompanied by a charcuterie board. 

 

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Day 4: This morning, we were on the road to Hermanus by 0830 hrs.  Our first stop was the Cheetah Outreach Centre (sorry @optig – I’ll maybe have to rethink this).  Their primary goal is to promote the survival of the free ranging, South African, cheetah.  From an estimated 100,000 cheetahs at the turn of the 20th century, the population is currently estimated to be 7,100. Shrinking habitat, dwindling natural prey, and conflict with human activities are the primary causes of this critical situation.  They use cheetah encounters/cheetah ambassadors to encourage people to really bond with the animals.  They believe that if people truly care about the animal, they will be passionate about their conservation.  They run the Anatolian Shepherd Dog program, whereby the Cheetah Outreach Centre train and provide sheep dog guardians for sheep flocks, to try to reduce predator conflict with livestock farmers in free-ranging cheetah territory (trying to prevent cheetah deaths).

 

We were to have an encounter with the cheetah cubs at the centre.  After a briefing and biosecurity precautions we entered their enclosure, ‘heavily’ protected by volunteers.  We were not permitted to wear hats, sunglasses or dangling jewellery in case the kittens wanted to play with them.  We met 3 of the 4 kittens, brothers Blake and Elliot (5 months), and Amelia (5 months, not related to the brothers), under the shade of a tree.  Six-month-old Dante was in the shade of a hut, and we didn’t meet him up close.  All of the cubs were completely sacked out, it was tremendously hot at 1030 hrs.  One cub lifted its head once, but otherwise they didn’t twitch.  I had hoped the cubs would be younger, and a bit more social and interactive, but hey, they’re cats, they sleep.  They certainly tolerated being petted and stroked.  I was a bit surprised by the coarseness of their fur, although they were older cubs, they still had a fluffy look to them, so I was surprised when the fur was not soft.  The adults are apparently softer.  I would love to have encountered an adult too, just for comparisons sake.

 

We didn’t take the coast road to Hermanus, but went over the 2 mountain passes we had been through on the way back from Gansbaai.  We stopped at a scenic viewpoint to view Cape Town, and there was a troupe of chacma baboons, so I got an opportunity to photograph them.  Our guide couldn’t quite understand my excitement at seeing baboons (hey, I’m from Canada).  I had a great look at a momma and a really tiny baby – so ugly-cute!  1529787198_SafariTalkCapeTown(59).JPG.1551dbfcf043363e65dda3d30279022c.JPG

 

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Edited by MMMim
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MMMim

On arrival in Hermanus we headed to the pier to catch the whale tour to see the Southern Right Whales with Hermanus Whale Cruises.  We were the last to board a large boat seating approximately 62, kind of a big old tugboat, and ended up sitting below.  Not exactly ideal for whale watching, but apparently the top deck sways more, so even with Gravol, I thought this may be. 

 

We chugged out to the marine reserve and quickly encountered the Southern Rights.  I think the first 2 were a mother and her calf, but it was difficult to tell, as they seemed quite shy, and we didn’t really see much of them.  Derek had said that they often come right up to the boat and out of the water, like they are showing off the calf, but these 2 didn’t.  Next, we saw 3 (maybe 4) adults, but they were also shy.  One did swim close to the boat and I do believe it eyed us, but didn’t really emerge from the water.  We did get a good look at a few of the ‘faces’ with their white bumpy growths called callosities.  These are naturally occurring patches of rough, calcified skin, which are found on the upper surface of the whale's head, above the eyes, on the jawline, chin and surrounding the blowhole. The callosities are actually grey, but their white appearance is due to large colonies of lice, barnacles and parasitic worms that reside on them. Yuck!  That was it though, and it was time to head back.  Compared with other whale species we’ve observed in the wild, these were pretty mellow; no spy hops, no breaching, just floating.  They got their name, the Right Whale, due to the ease of killing them, and retrieving their carcasses.  The captains used to say, “These are the right whales to kill”.

 

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MMMim

Day 5: We were on the road for 0815 hrs this morning, on our way to the West Coast National Park to see wildflowers and birds.  We stopped in Bloubergstrand at the beach to see Cape Town from across Table Bay.  The view of Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, and Cape Town was beautiful, and the beach at Bloubergstrand was so white, and empty.  I guess it was still spring, and yes, we all dipped our feet in the bay, and yes, the water was very cold!

 

The scenery/landscape on the approach to and within the West Coast National Park was very arid, and a sand dune ecosystem (strandveld). There was a huge weaver colony right by the front gate, and I saw another malachite sunbird while we waited for our entry, but again, it didn’t sit still long enough for a picture.  The Postberg Reserve, also known as the Veld, is where the majority of the wildflowers are located.  In the spring, the Veld is carpeted with pink, orange, and white daisies, and heath-like vegetation, known as fynbos (fine bush).  The characteristic plants of the fynbos are proteas, ericas (heather-like plants/flowers), hardy Cape reeds, and plants known as geophytes that survive harsh conditions underground as bulbs.

 

At the second guard gate, Derek asked where the flowers were.  The guard said it was the end of the flower season, and there were no more flowers, normally they lasted for 6 weeks, but this year it had only been 3 weeks.  So, we missed them; nature is a cruel mistress.  While we decided our next move, we noticed a small puddle on the side of the road caused by the water tanker.  The puddle was absolutely heaving with bird life.  We sat for quite some time and watched pied starlings, Cape weavers, Cape bulbuls, sombre greenbuls, Cape spurfowl, and Cape and yellow canaries, go about their business.  A little male weaver had a frenetic bath, while other birds had a drink, and one spurfowl just sat in the puddle cooling off (another scorcher today).  We watched a female weaver dismantling a nest.  The male builds the nest to attract the female, but if she doesn’t like it, she tears it down. Fussy.

 

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We decided to continue on to the Postberg Reserve anyway.  Derek has a very keen eye for animal life.  He spotted the tiniest lizards (black girdled lizards) on rocks, the biggest red and black grasshopper (Cape locust), the biggest black fuzzy caterpillar, and a huge centipede for us to look at.  We saw a lot of ostriches, some with big chicks and some with little chicks, a big herd of Cape Mountain Zebra, bontebok, a herd of springbok, and many shorebirds and raptors.  Derek kept talking about tortoises being in the park, so we were looking at all the rocks near the roadside for one.

 

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We finally made it through the Veld, and while there was no carpet of daisies, there were little pockets of colorful daisies left over, mainly orange and pink, there were larger shrubs with pink flowers on them, and large patches of large yellow ice plant daisies.  While there weren’t a lot of flowers to see, there was a yellow wash across the landscape from some tiny little yellow plant, and you could see that there was still a faint purply/pink type of plant carpet left.  I also found some white Star of Bethlehem (wonder flower), related to hyacinths, flowering along the roadside.  We spent some time down on the shoreline, watching the waves and the shorebirds, and headed back.  On our way out of the park, we were commenting on our great animal sightings, and Derek said, “if only we could find a turtle”.  Jay and I both said, “right there on the side of the road”!  Good thing Derek didn’t run it over.  What a gorgeous angulate tortoise, a decent size, just munching his way along the roadside.  Ask and ye shall receive (I should have been asking for elephants).  Jay and I also saw a very big black mole snake slither across the road and into the shrubbery. 

 

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Unfortunately, it was time to say our goodbyes, and Derek dropped us off at Hotel Verde Cape Town Airport.  I had only booked this hotel because it was close to the airport for a very early morning flight, so we weren’t expecting much from an airport hotel, but it was really very nice.  The hotel was the first hotel in Africa to offer 100% offset carbon-neutral accommodation, boasting a sustainable design, carbon neutrality, energy efficiency (solar panels, 3 wind turbines, regenerative drive elevators, energy-generating gym equipment, geothermal cooling/heating), water saving (grey water recycling in toilets, landscape watered with non-potable water, use of water-wise indigenous plants, rainwater collection cistern), recycling and composting facilities, and use of environmental friendly products.  They even have an eco-pool with surrounding wetlands. The pool water is kept clean by circulating through a living ecosystem of aquatic plants, and no salt, harmful chemicals, or sterilisation systems are used.

 

Not only was the green concept interesting, the room and the facilities were excellent, and the restaurant was wonderful.  Again, we were not expecting much from an airport hotel when we went to dinner, and yet, we were treated to exceptional service and excellent food.  I can’t recommend this hotel enough!

 

And here ends our time in Cape Town - tomorrow we head to Entebbe, Uganda.

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wagtail

Loving this! Well done for conquering your shark fears.

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xelas
1 hour ago, MMMim said:

(I should have checked Google Maps - I had no idea that our flight would be that long - Africa is a big place – rookie mistake)

That's because the world is round and not flat :D!

 

1 hour ago, MMMim said:

There was certainly a lot to see at the gardens, and we really only scratched the surface, walking for about 2 hours. 

And even walking the whole day does not reveal all of its secrets! But you have it in glorious blooming colours, something we want to come back for :wub:.

 

1 hour ago, MMMim said:

We finished the day at Constantia Glen Winery, absolutely beautiful, to have a wine tasting accompanied by a charcuterie board. 

This is the time when having a driver really pays off :).

 

1 hour ago, MMMim said:

Derek said, “if only we could find a turtle”

It is so easy to spot a tortoise in South Africa, isn't it so, @Dave Williams:lol:.

 

1 hour ago, MMMim said:

tomorrow we head to Entebbe, Uganda.

Me too ... literally tomorrow :o

 

 

@MMMim this is one lovely trip report with great photos! I have enjoyed it very much. I hope there will be wifi in Entebbe, to read the next instalment "on location".

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kittykat23uk

@MMMim I too will be heading to Entebbe tomorrow to meet up with @xelas and @Galana I very much enjoyed this report, takes me back to my own two trips to the area. A shame about the great whites, but I bet it was exciting diving with those bronze whalers. I think all we got was great whites on my shark dives 🦈😁. I went in twice on my trip. I think I was giggling like a maniac when those toothsome devils came too close to the cage! 

 

It seems you covered most of the highlights I did, although you didn't get up Table Mountain did you? Or did I miss that? Maybe next time and hopefully you can get to see West Coast in full bloom. If you are budding birders I can highly recommend the albatrosses boat trip too. 

 

 

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TonyQ

You certainly made good use of your time in the Cape. Great photos.

Thanks for posting 

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MMMim

Thank-you for your kind words everyone.  We really enjoyed Cape Town. @kittykat23uk unfortunately Prince Harry messed up our Table Mountain day and we couldn't fit it in anywhere else.  I was not prepared to stand in line for 2.5 hours - precious time - to get up the gondola (we tried twice, morning and late afternoon).  Our guide took us along the road from the gondola line-up, towards Devil's Peak and the views were superb.  My husband asked Derek if we would see anything else/different from the top of Table Mountain, and Derek replied that it would be the same view, just further away!! :)   So we decided we would skip the ascent. 

 

I would have loved great whites!  So jealous!!  My bad though, as it was really the reason we were there, we should have gone a second time to see if we could see them.  Ah, hindsight. @Atravelynn posted a fantastic trip report (Show us you claspers) about the sharks, and I certainly wished that we also could have hopped a little plane and flown up the coast to see the great whites, but again, our trip was not structured that way.  Next time.  And next time, albatross boat ride too (I did not know that was a thing).

 

@xelas @Galana and @kittykat23uk I hope you have an absolutely fantastic time in Uganda!  

 

Cheers

Heather

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kittykat23uk

Thanks Heather, well you have a good reason to return to the Cape at some point then! Sitting on the plane to Entebbe waiting to depart from schipol right now 😀

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Atravelynn

Cape Town and Uganda--what a diverse combo!

Nothing hokey about always wanting to go to Africa. 

Your shark dive was a real personal triumph and you have the video to prove it! (R-rated for language??)   I've never done the dive.

Great job with the bontebok and your turtle sighting.

You were there at the correct time for whales.

I really liked Hotel Verde as well.

You made excellent use of your 5 days in the Cape Town area!

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MMMim

@Atravelynn

I hadn't really thought of that, but yes, very diverse!  Socio-economic, politically, climate, animals, and then on to Kenya after Uganda for a more diversity.  Definitely an action packed 3 weeks.

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