A Swell Time at Sea
Cape Town is South Africa’s adventure capital. With a wide range of adventures —from abseiling off iconic Table Mountain to diving with sharks in the ocean— there’s certainly no shortage of options to get your adrenaline pumping here. But if you’re looking for one of the more physically challenging activities, there’s nothing better than kayaking from Cape Town to Cape Point at the southern tip of Cape Peninsula.
During his intrepid voyage around the world in the 16th century, the English sea captain, Sir Francis Drake, wasn’t exaggerating when he called this area “the fairest Cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.” His words still ring true today. As the Indian and the Atlantic oceans meet, it creates prime conditions for sea kayaking and the views are breathtaking. Table Mountain rises up toward the sky and the bay sweeps into a seemingly endless coastline. Along the way, you’ll also see Signal Hill, Lion’s Head, and the 12 Apostles. The trip from Buffels Bay to Cape Point takes approximately 4 to 6 hours, with the option to transit around Cape Point, the Cape of Storms, and the Cape of Good Hope. Seals and dolphins often swim alongside kayakers, and you might even see some whales in the winter. Shorter tours are also offered off the coast of Cape Town, often heading south past Clifton Beach, known for its white sand beaches and topaz blue water. There’s abundant bird life on the rocks at Clifton, including cormorants, seagulls, and albatross.
Another incredible kayak trip departs from Simon’s Town, a suburb of Cape Town on the peninsula’s eastern side. After departing from the shores of sheltered False Bay, you’ll paddle a few kilometers south to Boulder’s Beach, where African penguins have lived since around 1985. Today, almost 2,500 of the tuxedoed birds call the beach home. On your way there, you’ll go past Ark Rock, which is usually covered with sea birds. As you continue paddling through the waves toward Boulder’s Beach, you’ll probably hear the penguins long before you see them; their unique call carries across the water. Even though you know they’re coming, your first sight of them is literally jaw dropping, as you see thousands of black-and-white birds waddling across a white sandy beach sheltered by giant granite rocks. This remarkable penguin colony is only one of two land-based colonies in South Africa; the other one is at Betty’s Bay.
Kayaking around the southwestern-most part of Africa is sure to get your heart pounding, and not only because of the physical exertion. Paddling around the peninsula’s rugged cliffs and private coves, among abundant marine life but few other people, you almost start to feel like an explorer yourself—one who would make Sir Francis Drake proud. —JS
Cape Town Tourism Information Center, Shop 107 Clocktower, V&A Waterfront ( 021/ 405-4500; www.tourismcapetown.co.za).
Tours: Real Cape Adventures, Cape Town ( 021/790-5611; www.seakayak.co.za). Paddler’s Kayak Shop, 62 St. Georges St., Simon’s Town ( 021/786-262; www.paddlers.co.za).
When to Go: Year-round, although you’ll have the best chance of seeing whales from Aug–Oct; Nov–Mar brings warmer weather.
Cape Town Airport.
$$ The Cape Cadogan, 5 Upper Union St., Cape Town ( 27/21-480-8080; www.capecadogan.com).