Photo Friday: Cape Peninsula, South Africa

After our extremely relaxing weekend on the West Coast, we returned to Cape Town, where I worked the following three days, pretty much from 6:30am until late afternoon daily, before going out somewhere delicious to eat each evening. (South Africa does a lot of things right, but at the very top of that list is fine dining.) On our final day there, however, SVV went on a Cape Malay cooking tour with our friends Brian and Layne, then the three of them rented a car for the afternoon and swung back by the ship to pick me up. Our destination: the Cape Peninsula.

When my mom, sister and I were exploring South Africa last year, we spent a day driving down to Cape Point, but we didn’t stop at too many of towns in between. My South African friend Alison said Kalk Bay is one of her very favorite places in the Western Cape—and Alison had definitely been right in recommending Langebaan—so we took her advice once again.

Once we got to Kalk Bay, we pulled over and parked—kudos to SVV for his skills in not only driving on the opposite side of the road, but parallel parking on the opposite of the road in major coastal traffic—and darted in and out of the cute boutiques that dotted the main road. But something else caught our attention on the horizon…whales!

It’s the height of whale season in South Africa, and people pay a lot of money in Hermanus to see these guys on a formal whale-watching tour, but we had our own private viewing of a right whale and her baby, barnacles and all, not 100 feet off the shore.

There’s also a pretty cool enclosed area of the ocean at Kalk Bay where swimmers can do laps. Though as strong as the surf was, I’m not sure I’d want to go in and risk my life, barriers or not!

We walked along the train tracks as the path to the beach was flooded, which might not have been the brightest idea as we narrowly escaped a train and had to hop onto a ledge to avoid being road (tracks?) kill. We didn’t even hear the train coming—luckily, a local yelled at us to get out of the way before it was too late! A cautionary tale for those of you visiting Kalk Bay in the future.

And can we just talk about how pretty Layne and Brian are? They are definitely one of the best-looking—and nicest—couples I know. I’m so happy they live “up the road” from us in Virginia, so we can stay friends long after Semester at Sea is over.

After a bit of time in Kalk Bay, we drove up the road to Simon’s Town as Layne, Brian and SVV had never seen the famous penguin colony at Boulders Beach.

It was well after closing time so I didn’t think we’d have any luck, but as we pulled into the parking lot, a penguin popped his head out of the bushes as if telling us we should venture further. (This sign was not made in vain. The penguins really do hang out dangerously close to the road and parking lot.)

While we went down to the main beach last time we were here, that part was indeed closed on this visit, but we found a wooden path that led down to a different part of the penguin sanctuary entirely.

Penguins waddled along atop the boulders—now do you see why its called Boulders Beach—being generally merry and so cute, you wanted to snatch one and take it home with you in your purse. Brian almost tried to do this very thing when the little girl (we assume) penguin at the entrance started batting her eyes in his direction.

As it happens, it was not only moulting season—we saw clusters of feathers everywhere—but also mating season, so we did indeed hear a bit of penguin adult time going on in the bushes.

As a result of the moulting, we also saw a lot of scantily-clad penguins!

They may be smelly, but they sure are adorable to watch from afar.

That night, we stopped at Alison’s favorite restaurant in the world, she claims, Olympia Cafe, and shared an excellent meal and a bottle of wine with great new friends before returning to the M/V Explorer for our final night in South Africa.


If, like us, you can’t get enough of the ocean, check out renting one of these coastal cottages in Wales for your next vacation.

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Comments ( 43 )

  1. I LOVE penguins! I’m definitely adding this destination to my “must visit” list.

  2. I so loved watching the penguins I went to Boulder twice. But I was there during the wrong season for whales. How very cool.

    • I’ve seen a lot of whales before, but never ones with barnacles like these guys…they sort of looked like big, painful scabs, ha! Not so pretty.

  3. Penguins!! So, so cute!! What gorgeous views, I really must get myself to SA.


  4. I did not know penguins were smelly. Too bad cause you just want to pick one up and hug it.

    • I think all animal that live in colonies together outdoors probably smell, but they’re nowhere near as bad as, say, koalas =)

  5. Beautiful location and I love the penguins! We just visited the new South African penguin exhibit at the Toronto Zoo and the penguins were a big hit with my younger daughter – would love to see them in their natural habitat. Are Trixie and Violet still traveling along with you??

    • So here’s the thing–Trixie and Violet “disappeared” during our stay in South Africa at the B&B with the two dogs. They were on the bedside table one day, gone the next. I’m thinking they might have been buried in the yard!

      However, I have felt terrible ever since and even found Littlest Pet Shop at Toys R Us in Malaysia yesterday–but no Trixie and Violet (I bought a whale so they’ll have a “friend,” though). So my mom found replacements on eBay and had them shipped to my friend’s house in Japan. They will rejoin our voyage in Tokyo, and Scott will put his PhotoShop skills to the test for the in-between ports πŸ˜‰

  6. I’m disappointed to hear that they’re smelly too. They sure are cute. Thanks for all the great pictures.

  7. This is making me so excited for my trip next month! Hermanus and Simons Town are both on the list, but I’m now adding Kalk Bay too!

    • You will love Kalk Bay–so many cute stores and it will still be whale season. But you must promise me you’ll have dinner at Olympia Cafe–one of the best meals I had in South Africa, and that’s saying volumes!

  8. Please tell me you stuffed a penguin in your purse???

    • Contemplated it, but they check us pretty heavily when we get back on the ship, and something tells me a stowaway penguin wouldn’t fly with security πŸ˜‰

  9. ANIMALLLLLSSSS. Okay, now that that’s out of the way. Love the sign in the parking lot. They have the same one for the rare blue iguanas at the Botanical Park in Grand Cayman!

    • Why have I never seen these blue iguanas? All the more reason to plan a dive vacay to the Caymans, no? I love weird wildlife!

  10. Adorable penguins! I feel like you get some great shots of wildlife – I love it. I would probably try to steal a penguin too, they look quite purse-sized.

    • Don’t they have penguins near you at the southern tips of Argentina and Chile? Or do you have to actually set sail to see them? Regardless, I think Lola needs a friend!

  11. Thanks for giving me even more reasons to visit South Africa! Penguins, gorgeous coastline, whales & fine dining?? Yes please!
    I am heading to the Galapagos in December & I am hoping to see some penguins there.

    • Now there’s somewhere I haven’t gone but am dying to! Semester at Sea has an Enrichment Voyage to the Galapagos in May, and I’ve already started the begging to hire me back for that =)

  12. I can’t wait to go back to my FAVORITE country in the world (after the good-ole USA, of course!)

  13. AAAAAAAAAH! PENGUINS! I fucking LOVE penguins! They are my favoritest animals ever that aren’t currently curled up on my lap. I’m pretty sure Kyle would have had to watch me to keep me from trying to stuff one in my pocket and take it home. Soooo jealous you got to see the penguins!

  14. great pics, am a big fan of penguins

  15. My love of penguins is serious. I love them beyond words. They are one of my most favorite critters and I can’t help but laugh at them. They’re just so silly.

    And whales! Oh! Whale sightings are the absolute best – on our Alaska cruise we had a massive pod of humpbacks following along beside us and it was an absolutely incredible experience.

    And yay for Virginia friends!!

    • Virginia friends are the best kind of friends =)

      Given your love for penguins and all things furry and cuddly, you DEFINITELY need a trip to South Africa. You can ride a penguin! See a giraffe after it’s just been born! STEAL A PENGUIN!

  16. Penguins at Boulders Beach and Whales! You visited Cape Town area and South Africa during the right season. Awesome!

  17. Can’t get passed the part that penguins are smelly. Disney kept that from us.

  18. Maybe I’ll go see the penguins tomorrow – thanks for the tips, KL!

    • You totally should! You can take the train there, actually, though only do say in high-peak times and during daylight hours as it’s meant to be sort of dangerous at night.

  19. I tried to touch a penguin once. I bit me. Lesson learnt.

  20. I’ve been having a really hard time deciding between Buenos Aires, Cape Town or Bhutan for my next big adventure and then I saw this post. Sigh…Help Kirsten! I think you’re going to say Cape Town though. Your photos got me on a wanderlust spree.
    Natalie T. recently posted..NEAR: The Toronto Bucket ListMy Profile

    • I haven’t been to the other two so I can only speak for how awesome Cape Town is! But I really want to visit BsAs and Bhutan, so I don’t think you can go wrong with any place you choose. (Though South Africa is one of my favorite countries in the world!)

  21. Beea-uuu-tiful. I did a travel lesson with students where we “went” to South Africa, and I not only taught them some English but ignited a huge wanderlust in myself. I need to see these penguins!

    PS I’m glad you didn’t die on those train track, that would have been a whole ‘nother blog post, yes? o.o
    Sally recently posted..Snapshots of IstanbulMy Profile


  1. […] But given that the surf looked like this, I knew we had no chance of seeing our barnacled friends. […]

  2. […] and they quickly rose the ranks in the category of Our Favorite People, Ever. It really only took a day in South Africa for us to know they were going to become our lifelong buddies, but international travel has a way […]

  3. […] and they quickly rose the ranks in the category of Our Favorite People, Ever. It really only took a day in South Africa for us to know they were going to become our lifelong buddies, but international travel has a way […]

  4. […] But given that the surf looked like this, I knew we had no chance of seeing our barnacled friends. […]

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