Skip to main content

In the summer of 2006, my mum had become so tired of me not doing all that much at school that she sent me to Africa to do volunteer work. To gain some perspective she said. The experience changed my life and when the time came to say goodbye to all the wonderful people that I had met, they made me promise to come back.

Since then, I’ve always had a return to South Africa on the back of my mind. I’ve even had dreams about it. Maybe now was the time I could finally return, 16 years later.

But before I’d go back to the same camp in the north, near Kruger National Park, I wanted to visit South Africa’s “Mother City”, aka Cape Town for a couple of days.

Few cities can boast such a magnificent blend of mountains and sea, covered by dramatic clouds and lit by the African sun.

Flat-topped Table Mountain is the most dominating mountain in Cape Town and can be perfectly witnessed from Lions Head, which has panoramic views over most of the city. On the first day, I walked around Signal Hill via the Bo-Kaap area and I bumped into Lions Head by chance. After climbing up I was quite amazed by the views, especially of Table Mountain, and I regretted not bringing a tripod.

Determined to come back the next day, it turned out to be a lot more cloudy. In the hope it would clear up later on, I went up again anyway.

Looking back while climbing Lions Head, I could see a circular mini rainbow around my own shadow in the clouds below. I don’t quite fully understand the physics yet but it looks like it has something to do with light interference, refraction and water droplets. But yes, this is exactly how I saw it and it was very trippy.

Looking up at the final stretches of the peak at Lions Head, a continuous stream of clouds is created as the strong wind forces the air to rise, cooling it down below the dew point.

Unable to take the photo of Table Mountain that I wanted, this time because of the clouds, I had to return on a third day.

Luckily though, on the third attempt the conditions were perfect and I lost complete track of time taking photos. The last person to come down from the peak happened to be Dutch and made me swap numbers so that I could tell her if I had made it back safely later that night. She said that she otherwise wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

A high dynamic range panorama of Table Mountain taken from Lions Head in Cape Town, South Africa.

A long exposure of traffic leaving Signal Hill, viewed from Lions Head in Cape Town, South Africa.

On my way back down I managed to catchup with the Dutch girl who had previously told me to contact her whether I had made it safely back down. When we arrived back down, she and her friend offered to drop me off back at my accommodation. I asked her in the car if she was now able to sleep tonight and with a smile on her face she said yes.

The next day, walking alongside the base of Lions head towards the Diving Board, I noticed a photogenic Kloof Rd swirling up the hill.

Kloof Rd from above at the foot of Lions Head, Cape Town, South Africa.

Arriving at the Diving Board up in the mountain, a Himalayan mountain goat, or tahr as they are locally known, was standing almost exactly on the “board”.

A Himalayan mountain goat, or tahr, looks out over Camps Bay at the Diving Board in Table Mountain, Cape town, South Africa.

Walking back down from the Diving Board to view the sunset at Camps Bay Beach. The sun was ready to light up to sky.

Sunset at Camps Bay Beach in Cape Town, South Africa.

Looking south at Camps Bay Beach during sunset in Cape Town, South Africa.

About a week after I had arrived in Cape Town, I traveled north east to Hoedspruit, to return to the same camp as where I had stayed in 2006. Hoedspruit is a small town (with an airport) near Kruger National Park. After about 4 weeks at the camp, I decided to come back to Cape Town for one last time and rent a car so that I could travel a little further. First stop: Boulders Beach to photograph African Penguins.

African penguins at Boulders Beach in Cape Town, South Africa. The penguins used to create nests using guano (bird poop) until they were widely removed once people figured out that it was a great fertiliser. The penguins have since turned to creating nests under rocks or bushes or make use of man made nest boxes.

African penguins mate for life and responsibility to incubate the eggs (around 40 days) is shared equally between both sexes.

After African penguin chicks have hatched, at least one parent guards the chicks for about one month. After that, the chicks join a crèche with other chicks and both parents spend most of the day catching fish in the sea.

From just two breeding pairs in 1982, the penguin colony at Boulders Beach has grown to about 3000 birds in recent years. However, the total breeding population across both South Africa and Namibia fell to a historic low of about 20,850 pairs in 2019 and is expected to be completely extinct (in the wild) by 2026.

From Boulders Beach I drove up to Muizenberg Beach, named after a Dutch Wynand Willem Muijs who controlled a small outpost on the mountain in 1743 and later lost it to the English. Nowadays, it’s one of South Africa’s most popular surfing destinations.

Muizenberg Beach is considered to be the main surfing spot in Cape Town.

Driving back west towards world famous Chapmans Peak Drive, a scenic road along the coast of Hout Bay.

The Sentinel mountain near Hout Bay taken from Chapmans Peak Drive in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Sentinal mountain and Hout Bay during sunset in Cape Town, South Africa.

Hout Bay at sunset, taken from the Capmans Peak Drive in Cape Town, South Africa.

The subjects of these images are mostly what you can see from the outside; the landscapes, the buildings, the mountains and its beaches. However, this is only a tiny part of what makes Cape Town. The city deserves to be documented in so many more aspects. If I ever get to make it back, I’d hope to get access (and the courage) to dive into the inner workings of the city and its people and discover how much of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu’s dream of a “rainbow nation” has managed to make it into reality. Saying anything right now would only be paraphrasing anecdotes and not be enough to paint a clearer picture.

So for now, the bottomline is that Cape Town truly is one of the most good looking cities I have ever seen and it is well worth a visit.

References

  1. Seiphetlho, N.L. 2014, African Penguin, SANBI, viewed on 12th of September 2022, https://www.sanbi.org/animal-of-the-week/african-penguin/
  2. Cape Town Tourism, Boulders Penguin Colony, viewed on 12th of September 2022, https://web.archive.org/web/20140312224411/http://www.capetown.travel/attractions/entry/Boulders_penguin_colony
  3. Weber, R.L. 2011, African Penguins battle extinction, Global Post, viewed on 12th of September 2022, https://theworld.org/dispatch/news/regions/africa/south-africa/110617/african-penguins-endangered-species-cape-town
  4. Sherley, R.B., Crawford R.J.M, de Blocq, A.D., Dyer B.M., Geldenhuys, D., Hagen, C., Kemper, J., Makhado, A.B., Pichegru, L., Tom, D., Upfold, L., Visagie, J., Waller, L.J., Winker, H. 2020, The conservation status and population decline of the African penguin deconstructed in space and time, viewed on 12th of September 2022, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7417240/

Leave a Reply