Lions may not roam the streets of Cape Town, but the city and its surrounds are a nature-lover’s delight. There are plenty of places on the Cape to get up and close with wild animals or discover beautiful plants that grow nowhere else in the world.
Ride the Flying Dutchman Funicular to the top of Cape Point, over 200 metres above sea level. Cape Point is located in the southern region of Table Mountain National Park, where the natural vegetation of the area, called Fynbos, comprises the smallest but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms. There are 9,000 plant species found here, making the cape not only a dramatic meeting of rugged cliffs and ocean, but also a vibrant landscape of colourful flowers in the springtime.
Walking back down the cape along the easy walking path, watch out for the cheeky baboon colony who call this area their home.
More info: capepoint.co.za
Cape of Good Hope
The most south-western point in Africa, Cape of Good Hope has the most instagrammed sign in the South Africa, with a queue of people wanting a selfie at all times of the day. We bypassed the line and instead strolled up the Cape on the lookout for a few of the 250 species of birds who call the national park home.
While my untrained eyes don’t see any birds of note, I do spot some of the small animals who are abundant in this area – antelope, ostriches, Rock Hyrax (also called a “dassie”, it looks like a small wombat crossed with a quokka) and even some seals. Herds of Zebra are also known to live in the area, plus otters, mongoose, tortoises, snakes and lizards. Between June and November the cape is an excellent vantage point for spotting the Southern Right Whale.
This tiny cove, nestled between Simon’s Town and Cape Point, is one of the few sites where the African Penguin colony can be seen up close in the wild. What was once a 1.5-million strong population of African Penguins has dwindled in recent years to around 50,000, placing the breed on the endangered species list.
African Penguins are active on the beach during the day, with a few hundred spotted swimming, fishing and generally lounging in the ocean and dunes when we visited. Entrance to Boulders Beach is 65RAN (around $6.5 AUD).
More info: http://www.capetown.travel
Catch the 360° rotating Table Mountain Cableway to the top of one of the oldest mountains in the world. Take in the scenery on one of three easy walking trails at the peak – landmarks such as Robben island, Lion’s Head and even the southern Cape are visible from the top.
Table Mountain is also home to an incredibly diverse range of plant, animal and insect species, with many of the plant species found nowhere else in the world.
More info: http://www.tablemountain.net
The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden sits in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain. Established in 1913, it is the first botanic garden in the world to be included within a natural World Heritage Site.
Over 7,000 species of plants are carefully nurtured at Kirstenbosch, many of them classified as rare and threatened.
More info: http://www.sanbi.org/gardens/kirstenbosch
Use a metered taxi or Uber for taking short trips around Cape Town. For longer journeys, such as the Capes and Boulders Beach, either hire a car and self-drive or book an escorted tour. We travelled with the very knowledgable and kind Francois from Hylton Ross.
Where to stay
I stayed at the brand new, beautiful Bliss Boutique Hotel. This five star luxury hotel has stunning views of Table Mountain, Table Bay, Robben Island and the Atlantic Ocean.
Located 20 minutes from the centre of Cape Town, Bliss is ideal for visitors who want to escape the hustle of the city and relax in the quiet neighbourhood of Sunset Beach.
The location is also ideal for visiting the nearby Durbanville wine region. Don’t miss the private path to Sunset beach over the sand dunes for an early morning walk. The view is extraordinary.
Find out where else you can see wildlife in Africa here.
I visited South Africa as part of the Australian Society Of Travel Writers’ annual general gathering. While my trip was supported by South Africa Tourism Australia, all opinions are my own.
Christine is the editor of Adventure, Baby!