Touring Table Mountain National Park
On the third of a series of weekends away with SANParks we did a tour of Table Mountain National Park including some of the lesser known attractions of this diverse and rather spread out park. Although we all live and work at the base of Table Mountain there is a lot more to this National Park that stretches all the way from Signal Hill to Cape Point, Cape of Good Hope. Once again transport was provided by the Green Cab meaning we could sit back and enjoy the views as we made our way to our first stop Boulders Penguin Colony.
We were shown around by the Section Ranger for Boulders who told us a little more about the penguins, in particular how some of looked a little unkempt with fluffy feathers and even patches of no feathers. However this is perfectly natural when they malt and starve for 2-3 weeks while they can’t fish because of losing the waterproof coating. So chances are if you see the penguins looking a little dishevelled, don’t panic they are probably just malting. They don’t all malt at exactly the same time and there were several penguins down by the water who appeared to be discussing the plan of attack for the next fishing expedition.
Next up was the Cape Point section of the park otherwise known as the Cape of Good Hope, which a lot of us Capetonians know for the lighthouse down by the point where we take overseas visitors to marvel at views back across False Bay but there is a lot more to this section than that. After entering the park we stopped off at the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre where we were met by Sergeant Marissa who lead us on a short walk to one of the many ponds in the park where she told us about some of the amphibians you can find in the park if you are lucky enough like the Cape River Frog (which we actually got to see) as well as the endemic and endangered Table Mountain Ghost Frog (which is very rare and only found in the Mountain section of the park – maybe one day I’ll see one).
From here we made our way down to one of the beaches where we learnt about the marine protected areas along the coast and ongoing fight with abalone poachers. On a positive note though you are free to swim at these beaches, several have braai facilities so feel free to take along a picnic, tidal pools to swim in so don’t forget your costume or just enjoy a stroll along the sandy shore.
Having worked up quite an appetite we made our way to the newly renovated Two Oceans Restaurant which probably has one of the best views of any restaurant in Cape Town and a selection of delectable seafood dishes to match from classic fish and chips to sushi.
No visit to Cape Point would be complete without a visit to the lighthouse, whether you walk up like I did or take the funicular railway, it’s worth it for the view and to look down on the south-western most tip of Africa.
Feeling like we had down quite a lot for the day the unanimous decision was to head straight for the Slangkop Tented Camp to relax for the rest of the day and that’s just what we did. Nestled within indigenous Milkwoods, no more than 100m from the sea, this marine-themed tented camp is the perfect location to watch the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean. There are 6 tents which each have two single beds and my recommendation would be to get a whole lot of your friends together so you have the place to yourselves and enjoy this ‘camping’ experience while enjoying the comforts of a full kitchen, enclosed braai area (in case the weather is bad), electricity and hot water.
Did I forget to mention that the camp is situated just next to the Kommetjie Lighthouse with its light pattern of four white flashes, separated by 4 seconds every 30 seconds. I tried for a while to get my camera settings correct to capture the beams of light it emitted and finally captured this one which almost does the scene justice.
The next morning we were collected again by the Green Cab and driven around Chapman’s Peak Drive. I travel on this scenic road twice a week for work but seldom get the enjoy the view. With only a handful of viewpoints you can stop at the best is undoubtedly at the top where you can see back towards Kommetjie (where we’d just stayed the night) and in front of you lies Hout Bay. A visit to Cape Town wouldn’t be complete without a photo of this view in your album.
The next stop was Oudekraal Picnic/Braai Site which I have also driven past several times a week over the past ten years in Cape Town and never been to. Here there are several braai areas and picnic tables for you to bring your own food and enjoy superb views along the Twelve Apostles towards Lions Head and Table Mountain while a relatively protected rocky cove offers a great place for children to play in the ocean.
And to end off, although I’m not so sure it was entirely deserved, we had a champagne breakfast at Rhodes Memorial restaurant and tea garden. I couldn’t resist devouring several scrumptious scones and as a result couldn’t finish my full cooked breakfast. Whether it’s a quick catch-up over tea, a business lunch or a lazy Sunday afternoon this is a classic Cape Town spot that everyone knows and they have several indoor seating areas so don’t change your plans just because there’s cloud on the mountain.
So you see, there’s more to Table Mountain National Park than a big flat rock and the cable way. Hike a new trail, try a new picnic spot and see this wonderful park from a different angle!