We spent our first full day in the Simon’s Town area visiting the Cape of Good Hope – the tip end of Africa you see on the map. We left early as we had heard it can get crazy busy there – which it later did. Lots of tourists visit the Cape of Good Hope despite the weather.
Our first stop was a lighthouse. This lighthouse was decommissioned because it was too high above ground and it gets foggy a lot along the cape so ships can’t see the light. We understand how that is because we didn’t see the lighthouse at times either because of the fog. They do have nice view points.
We saw a Southern Right Whale, however, I couldn’t tell if it was alive or not. The whale just seemed to be floating with its mouth open. Weird. There were lots of Cape Cormorants flying in “V” formations along the coast. Some of the Cape Cormorants were also on nests along the steep cliff face.
After the lighthouse we went to the most southwestern point in Africa – the Cape of Good Hope. Didn’t have our picture taken at the “sign” signifying we were at the most Southwestern tip of Africa. Too many other people vying for a chance to have their photo taken at the sign. We did a short hike up to a viewpoint then left to check out other parts of the park. Much of the habitat is fynbos (fine bush). The cape is part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, the smallest but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms with over 1,100 indigenous plant species. Wow!!!
Off we went in search of birds. However, not much moving around on the windy day. Most of the birds we saw were along the shoreline. I was hoping to see an African Oystercatcher and I wasn’t disappointed. These birds look just like our Black Oystercatchers, only much bigger. At one location there was a group of at least 10. Nice to see that many oystercatchers in one location.
One bird I wanted to see was the Cape Grassbird, but it failed to make an appearance. There were plenty of gulls, terns, and shorebirds, especially at Olifantasbos Point – a marine protected area.
As for other wildlife, this park doesn’t have much – baboons, Zebras, and the rare Bontbok (a type of antelope). We saw all three, plus the Hyrex (aka Rock Dassies). This species is similar to our pikas, only much larger – about the size of a gerbel. They are the favorite food of the Verreaux’s (Black) Eagle. Jack was a happy camper as he has been wanting to see one of these buggers since the start of the trip. It made his day.
Despite the wind, rain, occasional fog, and overcast skies – IT WAS A GREAT DAY TO BIRD. So good in fact we went back the next day. Well part of the reason for returning to Cape of Good Hope was because Jack wanted to do some hiking and my pelagic trip was cancelled again. After 5 weeks in a car, it was nice to hike and stretch our legs.
The day started out pretty nice – blue skies, light wind, a few clouds. We did a several mile hike that took us up a hill to an overlook with an old cannon. Unfortunately there wasn’t a plaque or signboard to explain the cannon. The hike was nice with outstanding views! At the end of our trek, Jack was waiting for me to catch up when a bird flew into a bush about 10-15 feet from him. Up go my binoculars and yes, there was a Cape Grassbird. Score! I was so hoping to see that bird. We actually saw several, and such lovely songs. They were signing from the trees.
Afterward, we headed to Platboom Point beach. Once there we could see the storm coming in from the Atlantic. I felt sorry for anyone up at Cape Point (Lighthouse) or at Cape of Good Hope because instead of a light mist like yesterday, it was flat out raining. Didn’t last long, but enough to get you wet. When the rained stopped we hopped out of the car and took a walk along the rocky beach to marvel at the view and crashing waves. We noticed a Common Ostrich nearby and saw that it was moving its way toward the trail. We decided to turn around so as not to have a face-off, disturb (or upset) the ostrich. Good thing too because once we got back to the car it started raining again in earnest.
As we neared the parking lot we came upon a troop (family) of Chacma Baboons. We backtracked a short distance (baboons can be dangerous) and detoured to our car. As we were coming up to the car there was a male baboon sitting on a nearby pickup truck. The owner of the truck had just gotten back to his vehicle about the same time as we got to our vehicle. It was only as we were watching the baboon and wondering what it might do, that the man finally saw the animal. He got into his truck and started taking photos with his smartphone.
With the rains returning we decided to head back to our guesthouse and just chill out and finish the day with a cup of hot chocolate.
IT WAS A GREAT DAY TO BIRD and tomorrow we head off to the Karoo area in search of endemics to this area. Wish us luck.
Don’t forget to check out my previous blog posts.