As the final part of our South Africa tour, we visited the coastal towns of Hermanus and Simon’s Town along the Southern Coast of South Africa. During our tour of South Africa, we had traveled from Aha Lesedi, Johannesburg to Kruger National Park and then through the Panoramic Route near Graskop in our first leg of travel. Our second Leg of travel had earlier included Cape Town and from here we traveled to Hermanus, along the Western Cape, about 120 kms away from the city.
We had earlier completed the first leg of our South Africa tour. It included a night at the African Cultural Village, Aha Lesedi, (Read our African Cultural experience here) then two nights of game viewing inside Kruger National Park ( Read our Kruger Game viewing experience here) and lastly two more days in the lap of nature through the Panorama Route ( Read our Panorama Route experience here). For the second leg, our first stop was at Cape Town ( Read our Cape Town experience here)
HERMANUS : A coastal town near Cape Town famous for whale watching!!
Hermanus is a small seaside town, its main market and restaurants built around the old Jetty area. The hotels, apartments and B&Bs are scattered around this jetty while the new jetty is about 5 kms away to the west. Hermanus is well known for its whale watching expeditions and also for shark diving adventures. We had booked our apartment along the beach side road, with a balcony which opened up to the ocean bang in front.
About ninety minutes of drive from Cape Town, through some of the most beautiful landscapes of South Africa lies Hermanus. For us, our drive was marred with road works and unending traffic jams prior to a long weekend. We arrived the previous night, well past 7 in the evening and by then most of the town had retired. Once we were set, I bought a few necessities from the local grocers and a couple of bottles of South African wine. It was dark by then, and we cooked and then sat outside on the balcony to enjoy the sights and the sounds of the sea. It was chilly, the winds were moderate and the sound of the waves crashing on the rocky shoreline felt like music. It relaxed us and so did the bottle of port wine with its strong sweet taste.
Early next morning, after a fantastic sunrise, we went out for an hour’s walk around the beach and the shoreline. We enjoyed the spray of the waves crashing into a large colony of boulders near the shore, and the colours of the rising sun reflecting on its waters. The photographs don’t do justice to the beauty around. Wisps of clouds hung in the distance hills bordering the town and it looked captivating. It was an invigorating start for the day.
Whale watching in Hermanus happens between June and December and depends entirely on the whims of the whales. The sandy ocean bottom and shallow coastal bays are ideal for the whales to mate and give birth to their offspring before they migrate to the polar zones during summer. We inquired about tickets for the whale watching cruises but to our sorrow, found them all booked. Still we decide to give it a try. We drove along to the new jetty and started following up with the three whale expedition agencies who have offices there. They asked us to hang around in case there is any cancellation. We were lucky and soon a cancellation came which took us through.
We booked our whale watching expedition through Hermanus Whale Cruises , situated at Walker Bay around the new harbour. The motorboat has a capacity of about 75 people on its double deck. They take you for two hours of sea expedition, and provides you with a life jacket and a bottle of water/soda. It was a royal experience as we sailed for about five kilometers into the Indian ocean before we caught a glimpse of the giant sea mammal. We saw two of them,each about 40 feet in length, tailing and playing with each other as they swam around our cruise boats. Everyone cheered and pushed their cameras in front. Titir, my daughter, had a trying time, jumping over seats from the port to the starboard as the whales made merry on either side of the boat. The water and warm air sprayed from the spouts at the top of their heads, and a couple of times they cooed a sound too. Watching these giants of the ocean is an exulting experience and made our stay at Hermanus worthwhile.
From Betty’s Bay to Gordon’s Bay : A magical Coastal drive !!
We finished our whale watching expedition at Hermanus, and turned our car towards Simon’s Town a 125 kms away. The road takes you through an amazing coastal drive, the Indian Ocean stays close to you on your left while undulating hillocks and lush vegetation border the right. Stretches of green fields, vineyards, fruit plantations and amazing shorelines are broken by charming villages in between. It was close to three in the afternoon and we wanted to reach Simon’s Town before sunset. So we decided to skip formal lunch, and eat biscuits, cookies juice and chips which we always carry with us during a road trip.
The most scenic landscape during our South Africa road trip came between the towns of Betty’s Bay , Pringle Bay and Gordon’s Bay on this route. The Kogelberg Nature Reserve lies on your right as you drive through one of the most beautiful stretches of coastal drives in Africa. The ocean is a shade of deep blue, the sky a lighter shade and the mountainous nature park with its thick vegetation and rocky elevations to your right. As the road traces its way around the mountainous ridges, the sky with its wisps of clouds, undulating shores along the ocean, and the road climbing up and down over the mountain slopes, it feels heavenly. Hills and hillocks at distances, breaks the linear monotony of a shoreline road, the slowly dying rays of the sun reflecting its varied colours over the turquoise blue water, this drive refreshed us from deep within. We took a couple of stops at various locations along the way, happy to gaze out towards the mesmeric shoreline and enjoy a few moments of bliss. There is no fascinating beauty like nature.
SIMON’S TOWN : Penguins and your gateway to Cape Point
We reached Simon’s Town around five in the afternoon. We had selected this location for two night’s halt, so as to visit the Cape Point which is the southern most tip of the African continent. The other attraction was Boulder Beach which is famous for viewing Penguins this second half of the year. Our second floor floor studio unit which we had booked at Simon’s Town, overlooked another stretch of Indian Ocean and gave a wonderful views over the town which is about 3 kms away. Sipping a drink over the balcony at night, we could see the lights of the town far away to our left. The the occasional car lights breaking the cloak of darkness over a beautiful horizon of rolling waves and simmering lights from distant towns far away.
Next morning we had a fantastic breakfast of poached eggs, bread with local marmalade, sausages, fruits and juice sitting on our hanging balcony, enjoying the sweet fresh air from the ocean. Before this I had experienced the most beautiful sunrise of my life, the sun slowly rising out of the Indian ocean in all its heavenly glory. We were thrilled, our experiences in South Africa far exceeding our expectations every day.
We visited Penguins Colony at Boulders Beach first. The parking lot was a short distance away, and the lane in between had stalls with local vendors selling their gift items. An entry ticket for all, and there is a small enclosure which was thronged by tourists this Friday morning. The Penguin’s Beach is fenced, the enclosure reaching to the end where the rocky shore overlooks the ocean. We watched penguins, scores of them, swimming and frolicking among the waves, playing over the sandy rocks and thick matted vegetation around. We could see mother penguins nursing heir babies and families being taken on a guided walk by the leader of the group. A couple of them stood near the fenced bushes, posing for photo-shoots. It was again a grand experience for us, and Titir, my teen daughter was over whelmed.
Cape Point is a decent 30 minutes of drive from Boulders Beach. We purchased our tickets at the gate queuing after a few cars and then drove another 14 kms deep into Table Mountain National Park to reach the parking lot near the old lighthouse. A small funicular ride is available to halfway to the top to the old lighthouse, and then a flight of stairs takes you to the viewing platform. This is where you can see the two mighty Indian and Atlantic oceans merge together at the southern tip of Africa.
Another few kilometers away is the Cape Of Good Hope, the most south western point of Africa. We reached here around 3 in the afternoon after buying a few collectibles from the Souvenir shop at the parking lot of Cape Point. Cape of Good Hope does not have any tourist offices, lots, or restaurants. It is a spot in nature, with only the Geo marking for the location. The ocean lies in front of you, endless . To the left rises a jagged path of boulders where couples pose for their instagram posts. The more adventurous can walk along the rocky beach or hike up to the mountain top. Tourists were around taking pictures, and we saw hundreds of migratory birds flying over the ocean, while seals were playing amidst the surf and the sea. Some of the tourists searched for their favorite pebble to take back home. We stayed around for half an hour, reminiscing the days when we used to read stories about ships stuck around this Cape and waiting for the westerlies to fill their sails.
On our drive back from the Cape of Good Hope we had the unexpected sighting of an Ostrich. It was happy to give us company for a couple of hundred yards, as it daintily walked alongside our car. We captured our moments with some photographs of our guest before we went off. The final evening of our South African tour was spent at Simon’s Town Jetty, . We had an early supper at one of the restaurants lined up near the jetty amidst its softly swaying boats moored to the jetty. The colours of the sun created a myriad of colours on the waterfront, around the boats and as sailing vessels lined up the shore.
As we sat under the wooden canopy of the seaside restaurant, with the water lapping lazily around the columns of the bridge over the pier, looking far into the horizon, we felt happy and contented. Happy with our experiences here and contented that this trip has exceeded all our expectation. It was time to pack our bags and return home.
Chapman’s Peak Drive : On our return to Cape Town
Chapman’s Peak Drive: Cape Town
The next morning, as the icing to the cake, we planned for a longer drive back to Cape Town International Airport. The flight to Dubai ( through Addis Ababa) leaves at 2 in the afternoon and it left us enough time to add a little extra to our return drive. We included Chapman’s Peak drive, touted to be one of the finest in the world. It runs for a length of about 16 kms along rocky mountains with twists, turns , under scaffolding and tunnels bridges, beside lengths of rocky unstable mountains with the azure blue Atlantic ocean down below. A fantastic end to a brilliant tour, we stopped just a couple of times, again sad to leave one of the most beautiful countries we have traveled to. The list just rose to 25!! 🙂 We returned happy, with tonnes of pictures and dozens of memories of South Africa to last a lifetime.