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Cape Town South Africa - Penguins, Nelson Mandela And Pinotage

Explore the vibrant city of Cape Town in South Africa, known for its penguins, rich history of Nelson Mandela, and renowned Pinotage wine.

Discovering the Penguins of Boulders Beach

Be sure to check out our overview post here to get a sense of entire trip before diving into Cape Town.

Landing day PXL_20230502_151053869 (1)

Our first day in Cape Town was really a relax and get used to the time zone and climate day. We decided to start the day with a massage at our hotel, the Pepperclub hotel which was a perfect was to get kinks out afte the long flight over.  The hotel offers a free shuttle service to and from the Victoria & Alfred  Waterfront (V&A)  which we took advantage of to walk around and soak in the sunshine.  We walked along the seawall and found our way to the Grand Africa Cafe and Beach for lunch.  We had the place to ourselves as it was off season. Still the weather was perfect as we had lunch on the beach, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  We walked off lunch by wandering through the V&A which consists of many shop and restaurant filled piers. After a lovely dinner, we caught an Uber ride back to the hotel.



Face to face with NelsonPXL_20230503_092116588 (1)

Our tour officially started the next day when we took a 5 mile ferry ride to Robben Island. We first toured this world heritage site by bus where we learned it’s history as a leper colony, a place to stash political prisoners from the 17th century, a whaling station, a WWII defensive battlement and of course a maximum security prison during the Apartheid times.  We saw the limestone pit that prisoners quarried as well as the rock pile a triumphant and free Mandela started upon his return..  We then took a walking tour through the prison, led by a former inmate.  This was where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years behind bars.  The brutality of the prison was clear from both the physical appearance as well as responses from our tour guide.  Mandela’s cell was tiny,(8 x 7 ft) had no bed (only a straw matt) and no running water. We also saw the small garden Mandela planted in one of the courtyards and we learned of how information was smuggled among prisoners, including getting news from the outside from the newly captured.  In one technique, they cut open a tennis ball to put notes in and hit over the wall to a different quarter of the prison.

After lunch back at V& A waterfront, we went to Table Mountain.  This aptly named mountain towers over Cape Town and can always bePXL_20230503_135417074.PANO (1) seen, provided the clouds aren’t enveloping it.  The cable car to the top rotates so everyone can experience all the views.  Once at the top there’s a short nature walk that offers magnificent views of the city, the surrounding countryside and the peninsular. There’s even some great viewing of local wildlife.



Face to face with Penguins

The next day was spent on a grand tour of the peninsula adjacent to Cape Town. It afforded some great views of some of the upscale neighborhoods of Cape Town, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and associated beaches.  Our first stop was Seal island.  We were the first boat out in the morning so as to avoid the inevitable crowds. It’s a relatively short boat ride to the island where we got close to see a very large and active herd of seals. We spent 30 minutes watching the seals – having a great time.  


Next we stopped at the Cape_of_Good_Hope for some great scenic overlooks.  In theory this is where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, but as the adjacent aptly named False Bay suggests, it’s not quite there.  But good enough for us.  We climbed to the top of the lighthouse structure to get a fabulous 360 degree view.  On the way out we even saw some wild ostriches wondering the grounds.    We stopped on the other side of the Bay to great a fabulous view looking down at seal island where we spotted whales having a great time near the coast.


We continued to Bertha’s restaurant in Simon’s Town where we had a traditional South African meal waterside.  This is where we had ourPXL_20230504_133604774 first Melba pudding, which set the standard for the rest of the trip.  From Bertha’s it was a short ride to Boulder's Beach where we saw an active penguin colony.  It was very well set up with a board walk overlooking the beach.  From there, we could see penguins nesting, fishing, surfing, and just kind of waddling along the beach.  These are African penguins which are still an endangered species. We particularly enjoyed watching the penguins (trying) to ride a wave to the beach; sometimes they had to go back out and try another wave to get enough momentum to stand upright on the sand.  Terrific stuff.




Discovering PinotagePXL_20230506_080652192.PORTRAIT.ORIGINAL

The next morning we headed out to the winelands. This is an area just East of Cape Town. It’s a beautiful setting.  First we toured through the university town of Stellenbosch with what they call “Cape Dutch” architecture. We found lots of  history and energy.  Then we made our way to Franschhoek where we stayed for two  nights.  The town is lovely just to walk through with lots of very nice places to both shop and eat.  We two fantastic dinners there in fact.

The following day was reserved for wine tasting. First we went to Boschendal and then to Middelvlei wine estate where we had a great local barbaque outside on a picnic bench watching the farm animals roam around among the grape vines.  The menus are heavy on meats, including local Kudu, beef, chicken and lamb. All very tasty indeed.  Wine tasting was done outside at both vineyards in beautiful settings.   WE discovered the local wine varietal Pinotage, some of which was really quite tasty. Hence forth when we ordered wine at diner, it was Pinotage!

Our next post will be all about Kruger national Park.

Africa Blog Post Links

Overview of our Trip to Africa

Cape Town

Kruger National Park


Chobe River Cruise


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