I had always assumed that Cape Town was at the very bottom of Africa at the Cape of Good Hope, but the cape is about 90km further south. Close enough to the bottom if you are looking at the whole map of Africa, but not so close that you can stroll out of your hotel to get to the bottom of the continent.
On my first day in Cape Town I met a Thai guy and a Korean guy at my hostel who asked if I wanted to go to the cape with them the next day. They were hiring a car so it would have been a cheap day out if we split the ride. It was forecast to be a rainy day and I still had two weeks to spare so I passed.
To get to the cape I took a tour. I picked Baz Bus, which is a popular backpacker tour bus in South Africa. Their main product is a hop-on hop-off bus service that travels along the coast and onwards to Johannesburg. They also have a Cape Peninsula day tour, which departs from Cape Town. I booked the tour at their head office in Cape Town, and they sell tickets in all the hostels.
The first stop on our trip was at Hout Bay where an optional part of the day included a boat trip to a nearby seal colony. The ocean was rough the day we were there and we were warned the boat wouldn’t be able to go all the way out.
I went anyway and as soon as we left I wished I had stayed onshore. Our boat was riding giant swells and slamming hard on the way down. On just this short trip I began to understand why sailors would fear passing by the cape. I was happy for the boat to return after realising that there would be no pleasure cruise today. Anyway, if you want to see seals you can see them sunning in the port, waiting for generous fishermen to throw them some lunch.
Driving south from Hout Bay the road climbs up a cliff face with amazing views of the coast. This is the view of Hout Bay.
I booked this tour primarily to see the cape and enjoy the scenic drive. What I wasn’t expecting was the additional bonus of penguins. Our next stop was at Boulders Beach, where there is a colony of African penguins.
Boulders Beach is also part of the Table Mountain National Park, which covers Table Mountain (of course) in Cape Town, all the way to the Cape Peninsula, though not in a single contiguous area. Table Mountain is not included in the tour so it is something you should see in your own time (and going up the mountain is a must).
The penguin colony is on the beach right next to the town. There are special walkways so people can’t go on the beach, otherwise you know people would do that. I know that you shouldn’t interfere with wildlife, but these little fellas are so cute that you just instinctively want to reach out and cuddle one, so I was grateful for the enclosed walkway, lest I create an international incident; “Australian tourist caught fondling wild penguins in South Africa.”
Part of this tour includes a short bike ride component. The mini-bus had a bike trailer and once we got to the peninsula we were issued bikes and helmets to ride for part of the way down. There is not much traffic here and it is reasonably flat so it’s an easy ride. Riding along with the wind whistling through the spokes of my bike, it really felt like being at the end of the world.
We had a picnic lunch at one of the tourist facilities and then it was on to the cape. Along the way we met a curious ostrich. I think he was interested more in his own reflection than with us.
Before I visited South Africa I had assumed that the Cape of Good Hope was the most southerly point of Africa. If you are looking to stand at the very bottom of Africa then you are on the wrong tour. The most southerly point of Africa is at Cape Agulhas, which is about 150km away. Cape Point is the western edge of False Bay, so named because sailors would reach the eastern edge of the bay thinking they are now sailing up the coast of Africa, when in fact they have entered a large bay.
In this photo you can see Cape Point and the other side of False Bay.
The park is filled with roaming baboons. They can be aggressive if they think you have food so be aware. Not that anyone would think a baboon is as cuddly as a penguin, but you do get occasional people who have never encountered a baboon or monkey and think it would be fun to feed them. Not a good idea.
On our way to the Cape of Good Hope we saw another ostrich. As you can see the coast is wild and wind-swept, and looking like a sailors nightmare. So much of this coast reminded me of the west coast of Victoria in Australia. The Great Ocean Road and the Shipwreck Coast in Victoria has a very similar feel (just replace emu’s with ostrich’s). I love rugged coastlines like this so I was happy to be here.
At the Cape of Good Hope there is the obligatory photo opportunity at the sign. After fighting off four bus loads of fellow tourists I got a few seconds to get my photo.
Another thing I learned on this tour is that the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet somewhere near Cape Agulhas rather than at the Cape of Good Hope, as so many people believe. Our guide told us that people believed that you could actually see a difference in colour of the water where the two oceans met, as if the oceans knew they were two separate entities as determined by mankind. For the record, there is there is no difference in the colour of the two oceans where they meet.
Even though it’s the most south-western point of the African continent and not most southerly, it’s one of the most iconic geographical points in the world. I usually find that I am disappointed in myself whenever I get sucked in to visiting a geographical extremity, but here it’s so worth it because:
a) it is one of the most famous, and
b) the drive and the coast line to get here is so scenic.
Overall I enjoyed this tour. We had a great guide and driver, and it was the cheapest tour I could find for a whole day tour. I did feel frustrated when we were driving along such spectacular coast line that I couldn’t stop along the way, but these are the tradeoffs for the convenience of a tour.
The ticket cost 690 Rand (about $48USD) and there are discounts if you have a the main Baz Bus tour ticket.
View the 1 day Cape Peninsula tour here, or book anywhere in Cape Town where you see the Baz Bus sign (they seem to be everywhere).
An alternative list of tours can be found on Viator. This includes half day tours if you don’t have all day, plus private car tours.
If you are comfortable with driving then I would recommend renting a car, especially if you have a group.