A private Cape Peninsula tour that follows the Atlantic Seaboard, via Hout Bay and Chapman’s Peak, to Cape Point for a delicious picnic lunch is one of South Africa’s best safari experiences. Return to Cape Town via Simon’s Town, Kalk Bay and the world-famous African penguin colony at Boulder’s Beach.
It was our day of discovering the Cape Peninsula: ‘The fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth,’ as Sir Francis Drake described it. My partner and I were collected from our hotel early one morning by a charming private guide, Charles, and we set off on our exclusive Atlantic Seaboard drive.
Our route took us past Camps Bay Beach with its rows of restaurants and palm trees, and along a seaside road dominated by the towering Twelve Apostles, a line of serrated peaks overlooking the Atlantic. First stop was breakfast at the five-star Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa. Our meal was scrumptious, with views over the ocean to die for.
Then we pressed on. Charles showed us the remains of a shipwreck at Oudekraal, a beautiful cove with granite boulders and lime-green water. We passed the gorgeous beach at Llandudno, then drove over a neck and down to the fishing harbour of Hout Bay.
There we put on wetsuits and boarded a boat headed for Duiker Island, for a chance to snorkel among Cape fur seals. Some of these gregarious creatures were crowded on the rock while others dived and swam around us, making for great photo opportunities. The towering peak of the Sentinel and mountains of Chapman’s Peak formed a dramatic backdrop.
Back in Hout Bay, we drove up Chapman’s Peak Drive, one of the most spectacular passes in South Africa. The precipitous road, built between 1915 and 1922, was a marvel of engineering at the time of its construction.
Heading up the drive, Charles pulled off at a ruined building. We got out to have a look at the remains of East Fort. This gun battery is one of four coastal fortifications built in Hout Bay during the period 1781–1806. The bay was seen by the Dutch government of the day as the soft underbelly of Cape Town, exposing it to possible marine invasion, particularly by the British.
‘East Fort was garrisoned by the Pondicherry Regiment and includes four ruined buildings,’ said Charles. ‘If you look down the hill, you’ll see a gun battery comprising 18-pounder cannons which have been restored and are ceremonially fired on special occasions.’
We continued up the drive, pausing at the top to stretch our legs and admire the jaw-dropping views of the horseshoe bay, the waves pounding against the cliffs below us. Next, we came to the village of Kommetjie where we had a closer look at its fine lighthouse, which dominates a rocky point that is legendary among surfers.
‘Slangkop Lighthouse is part of the Marine Protected Area of Table Mountain National Park,’ explained Charles, ‘At 34m, this is the tallest lighthouse on the South African coast. Before its lamp was officially lit in 1919, many ships had fallen foul of the treacherous coastline between Cape Town and Cape Point.’
My partner wasn’t feeling too energetic, but I scampered up the winding stairs to the lamp room for magnificent views of the coast and the gnarly surf spot known by locals as Outer Kom.
Then it was onward down the peninsula’s western shore. We stopped for coffee at The Village Hub in Scarborough. It’s a cosy spot and the coffee was just the ticket. I had a peek into Cape Point Bakery, which offered healthy breads and cakes, but I knew lunch was on the horizon … so desisted.
We arrived at the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, which lies within Table Mountain National Park, and drove to the iconic Cape Point, the southwesternmost tip of Africa. ‘Don’t only admire the drama of the landscape, look down,’ advised Charles. ‘You’re in the midst of the Cape Floral Region. The plant life here is simply amazing.’
We caught a funicular called The Flying Dutchman to the old Cape Point Lighthouse, which saved us an uphill slog from the car park. The panoramic views of False Bay, the Atlantic and craggy cliffs of the point were simply mesmerising. I spotted a whale far below, wallowing in the swell. Instead of having lunch at the crowded restaurant, Charles whisked us off to a secluded corner of the reserve for a delicious picnic lunch overlooking the sea.
Driving back up the east side of the peninsula, we stopped at Simon’s Town, which has served as first a Dutch, then a British, naval base since the 18th century. It’s a charming town packed with character and naval atmosphere: you almost expect the Union Jack to still be flying. Just outside town lies Boulder’s Beach with its world-famous colony of African penguin. We couldn’t resist a stop and a few photos of these adorable birds, perched on the boulders or wobbling about on the beach.
Our last port of call was Kalk Bay, to look at the quaint old fishing harbour. We bought ice-creams and ambled down the main road, packed with antique shops, art galleries and restaurants.
Then it was back to our hotel after a long and unforgettable day that had given us a perfect picture of fairest cape that Sir Francis, my partner and I had ever seen! Our Cape Peninsula tour was a wonderful addition to our South African safari.