My experiences living in Cape Town and travelling in Africa

Posts tagged “nature

Hiking a charred Chapman’s Peak

Hiking up Chapman's Peak above Hout Bay

Hiking up Chapman's Peak above Hout Bay

I had wanted to hike on the mountains above Cape Town since the fires last week to see first hand the extent of the damage and seeing as I had never climbed Chapman’s Peak before it seemed like a perfect opportunity to do so. A new friend from China asked if they could join me and I don’t normally like taking people on hikes that I haven’t done myslef before but after checking the route and map in Mike Lundy’s Best Walks in the Cape Peninsula it looked straight forward enough. So after an early rendezvous in Hout Bay, and a despite a cloudy start to the day, we took our first steps along the ash covered path.  It wasn’t long before we saw our first signs of regrow. The hike was very easy, possibly aided by the lack of grow along the path as a result of the fire damage and we made it to the peak in under an hour. The visibility wasn’t the best with cloud hanging over table mountain so we couldn’t see across to Gordon’s Bay but Noordhoek Beach and Kommetjie were bathed in sunlight and the view back towards Hout Bay is much like what you see when driving over Chapman’s Peak Drive, only

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The light at the end of Africa

Cape Agulhas Lighthouse

A couple of weekends ago I was lucky enough to visit Agulhas National Park for the third time in as many years. (see my previous trip here) The occasion was the official opening of their new Rest Camp chalets and I must admit there was something quite nice about being the very first person to stay in one of the new thatch-roofed log cabins. The crisp new linen and fresh, fluffy towels. Carbon copies of the existing chalets they have added several extra single and double room units with a few modern improvements like fancy fireplaces to keep you warm in winter and sealing around the edges to ensure the wind doesn’t sneak through under the thatch (a fix they will be applying to the older units as well now).

My only criticism of the chalets is that they are built quite close together and some of the new ones have been built behind the old ones, but if you can get one of the front units and even better one of the units on the end you can wake up to uninterrupted views like this everyday so my advice would be to call the SANParks booking office after making your booking as ask if one of the front units are available when you go.

Agulhas National Park Accommodation

Agulhas might not have the big five like Kruger but it has its own unique appeal. Less than 3 hours drive from Cape Town at the southernmost tip of Africa. You can explore the coastline or follow the hiking trails through the fynbos or just sit out on the deck of your chalet and finally finish that book you started reading weeks ago.

A visit to Agulhas wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the southernmost tip of Africa, which is where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.

The Southernmost Tip of Africa, where two oceans meet #capeagulhas #travel #southafrica

A post shared by Rory Alexander (@rory_alexander) on

The other must do in the area is to visit the Cape Agulhas lighthouse which was built in 1848. Rather unfortunately the lighthouse was built from sandstone which doesn’t last very long when exposed to the elements. It has however undergone extensive renovation and is now open again and inside is a great museum with the history of the lighthouse and is well worth a visit. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not one for history and museums but tourism officer Maureen Fourie gave us a fabulously succinct history of the area and tour of the museum. Her passion for the area is palpable and she summed up the significance of where we were as she explained that when you stand at the southernmost tip looking south, “you have two oceans in front of you and over your shoulder, behind you, is AFRICA.”

Agulhas -9628

Something I’ve never been able to do before and which I would recommend is climbing up to the top of the lighthouse. To get to the top you ascend three very steep wooden ladders that creek and groan followed by an even steeper final steel ladder, the walls of the tower close in around you. Emerging through a heavy hatch at the top you are treated to a 360 degree view of Cape Agulhas and if you look closely, you can even see the bulb that is responsible for  helping so many ships navigate safely past this treacherous piece of coast.

If you’ve never been to Agulhas, or like me, have been but never had the chance to go up the lighthouse then why not plan a trip to southernmost tip of Africa. And whether it’s a weekend away or part of a longer Garden route road trip you can rest up in the serenity of Agulhas National Park.


My Lion’s Head Resolution

Lions Head hike

For the last two years friends and I have started the year off with a hike or two on the numerous mountain peaks that surround us in Cape Town. While enjoying ourselves on these hikes we’ve all been guilty of saying that we really should do it more often given the proximity and access to great hiking trails we have in our very own city. Then work starts getting busier, our social calendars get booked up and inevitably the hikes become fewer and further apart until it’s the end of the year again and as everyone gets bored os sitting on the beach we end up hiking again. Well not this year, 2014 is going to be different.

Lions Head hike

A friend from gym said they wanted to start a weekly climb up Lion’s Head on a Wednesday evening and of course I was in but the first week it clashed with one of the Summer Trail Series runs and was one of the hottest days of the summer but I had made the resolution and climbed up anyway. The second week however there were a group of us that made it and what a great evening it was for a climb to the top. Starting at 6:oopm we were half way up as the shadow of Lion’s Head was slowly creeping towards the foreshore but my favourite view on the way up is continue reading + 7 more photos


Hiking the India Venster trail up Table Mountain

India Venster hiking trail

In another first for 2014 I climbed Table Mountain using the India Venster trail. I have lost count of how many times I have hiked up Table Mountain but I had never been up India Venster until last weekend. The week before I had climbed Lion’s Head with a couple of friends and we all said we should climb Table Mountain again but we all agreed the usual route, up Platteklip Gorge, was boring so I suggested we try something new. India Venster is said to be more technical and not for the novice hiker but we were up for the challenge and so the date was set.

India Venster hiking trail

I always advocate an early start when hiking, so you get to climb in the cool of the day and before the suns rays get to harsh. The plan was to meet at half past six at the lower cable station. Well, that was the plan but there was a slight mix up in communication which saw me only waking up at 6:10 not ready to hike. After a slew of messages and slightly desperate phone call from the rest of the group who were already there (because I was the one who supposedly knew the route), I told them to start hiking and I’d catch them up. continue + see 8 more photos


Shark diving, without a cage

Scuba diving with cow sharks in Cape Town

One of my main goals during my visit to Thailand in November was to scuba dive and get my PADI Open Water Certification which I did and ever since all I’ve wanted to do is dive. The only problem with diving in Cape Town is the cold water of the Atlantic Ocean compared to the balmy 28 degree water of the Similan Islands off Thailand. Nothing a wetsuit (or two) could remedy but it takes a lot more effort. I booked the dive with Pisces Divers in Simon’s Town where you can rent all the gear you need (if you don’t have your own) and off we went to the boat launch at Miller’s Point. As I stood on the jetty I couldn’t help but ask myself if it was worth all the effort. Wearing a full wetsuit, booties, gloves and a second short wetsuit and hood over the top it was hotter than the sauna at my gym. Not to mention carrying the air tank, mask and fins.

Scuba diving with cow sharks in Cape Town

Once we were on the boat motoring to our first dive point, the cool breeze and excitement of diving underwater again made me forget about all the gear I was wearing. We arrived at our first dive spot which was Partridge Point, known for the colony of Cape Fur Seals that live there and after a safety briefing our skipper counted us down three, two, one … read more + 11 photos


One of the first to see ‘Into the Mind’

Into the Mind feature film

Recently I got the opportunity to watch the worldwide premiere of this feature film. In fact, thanks to time zones I was the one of the third group of people in the world to see it. From this auspicious beginning the night just got better.  Having been invited by a friend I didn’t know that much about the film but I trusted their judgement and knew it would be worthwhile. Some research the afternoon before attending the screening revealed the Into the Mind “is is a story of rising to the ultimate challenge. Having the courage to risk fatal exposure and the perseverance demanded on the quest for achievement. These are not solely physical feats, they are mental conquests.”

Intrigued I watched the trailer (see below) after which I was really looking forward to seeing the movie. Shot on location in Alaska, the Himalayas and Bolivia the cinematography was beautiful, the scenery breathtaking and the sound track moving. The movie looks at why we are inspired to rise to challenges in our lives and what we learn on this journey to attain them with a series of chapters that I didn’t always follow and there were a few sequences which I feel didn’t fit with the tone of the piece but on the whole it was a really interesting film.

I am not sure when it will be screened again in South Africa but there are still screenings going on around the world but if you get the chance I would recommend you watch this film of for nothing else but the scenery, cinematography and sound track. Find out more at http://intothemindmovie.com/ otherwise here is a taste of what to expect from ‘Into the Mind’.


Weekend away at Olifantsbos Cottage

Last weekend for my dad’s birthday we decided to go away as a family but long car journeys aren’t that desirable an option with two young nephews. Looking closer to home I suggested we try one of the SANParks cottages in the Cape of Good Hope section of Table Mountain National Park, better known as Cape Point. Luckily for us at relatively short notice there was availability and plenty of beds for our whole family and a few friends.

Olifantsbos Cottage

As the weekend neared the weather forecast wasn’t the best but nothing a fireplace and several bags of wood couldn’t fix. The rest of the family all went out on the Friday and I joined them on the Saturday. After lunch and an afternoon nap, there was a break in the rain and so continue reading + 13 more photos


Legends & Heroes

What do you get when you take a clear winter’s day in Cape Town, have a helicopter filming from the sky, three more cameras on the ground, a huge Freightliner Argosy truck and trailer rig and Table Mountain as a backdrop?

A pretty rockstar filmshoot that I was part of a couple of weeks ago and here’s the end result…


Supermoonbow

I wasn’t in a position to photograph the supermoon rising last night but did venture out into the garden later in the night when it was high in the sky. Looking up I was amazed to notice a large ring around the moon in the high cloud that was sitting above the mountain. This phenomenon of a rainbow created by light reflected by the moon, rather than direct sunlight, is known as a moonbow. Less colourful than their daylight equivalents they are much rarer and so even more special when you get to see one.

Rory Alexander Photography

Did you see the moonbow over Cape Town last night?


Addo to Oudtshoorn

Cango Caves

After a fantastic few days in Addo it was time to head back to Cape Town, this time via the scenic Route 62 (R62) but we had one last stop on the roadtrip, Oudtshoorn. You may be asking yourself what there is to see and do in Oudtshoorn.

Cango Caves

Probably the most well-known attraction just outside the town of Oudtshoorn is the Cango Caves where you have the option of a standard or adventure tour to explore this incredible cave system. As long as you aren’t claustrophobic I would highly recommend the adventure tour as you get to see a lot more of the cave system. While the caves are impressive the place we visited next was turned out to be Oudtshoorn best kept secret… find out more + 8 photos