Garden Route – Day 9 (Boulders Beach)

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Boulders Beach – Home of the charming African Black-Footed Penguin

ITINERARY:

6:30 am – Leave for Cape Agulhas

7:15 am – Arrive at the Southernmost tip of Africa!

11:00 am – Arrive in Noordhoek

1:00 pm – Sea Kayaking near Cape Town (read more to see revision)

4:00 pm – Visiting Penguins at Boulder’s Beach

Today was another very full day, with a fairly tight schedule to keep. It took a lot of convincing but I finally persuaded the others that it was worth taking an hour of drive time onto our journey to make a stop at Cape Agulhas. This often overlooked site is not only the southernmost point of Africa but also the official meeting place of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Such a monumental area could not be missed! The reason there was some doubt was because we had heard the area wasn’t all that exciting and because it would add an additional hour of driving to our already long drive. I think it was worth it. It was only a half hour drive south of Bredasdorp and the town of L’agulhas itself was quaint. In fact, I had read in my book that there are some spectacular giant tidal pools where one can spot all manner of amazing marine creatures, but I couldn’t sway the others to stop and visit since we were already leaving our cottage at 6:00 am just to come for a quick peek at the placard.

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It took us a while to find the plaque actually, we had to walk down this roadway which turned into a boardwalk, skirting the edge of a rocky coastline. Apparently the area is known for it’s many shipwrecks, which wasn’t too surprising considering how jagged and rough the coast proved to be. We finally found the large stone plaque and took turns posing for photos before returning to the car and steering North.IMG_0383a We had booked a two hour sea kayaking tour with Kayak Cape Town (http://kayakcapetown.co.za) for 1:00 pm and we were really excited because Jessi had never been kayaking before. As per our booking, we called the guide in the morning to just confirm that the weather was okay to go. It turned out that it was not. Apparently the winds had picked up and the swells were too dangerous to make the trip out.. We were quite disappointed, but we obviously understood that this was out of anyone’s control. We slowed our pace a bit, no longer needing to race to be anywhere.

We decided to stop by our Cape Town lodging in order to drop off our stuff before going sight seeing (in true paranoid fashion, we had too much stuff to cram into the trunk and figured it would be too appealing to thieves if we put it all in the back seat). We arrived at our destination after a bit of confusion in a cute little suburb of Noordhoek, our self-catering cottage was amazing! We had booked with Ekogaia (http://www.tripadvisor.ca/Hotel_Review-g312666-d1407967-Reviews-Ekogaia_Farm_Cottages-Noordhoek_Western_Cape.html) and originally we were going to stay in the Spiral cottage but instead we booked the Helix because the bigger cottage was already booked. We paid a deposit before arriving which was super easy since they accepted payment through paypal (hooray!). When we drove up we were greeted by the owners who happened to live on site (just a stone’s throw from our cottage!).

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Once more I forgot to take a photo pre-disaster, but it was incredibly spacious, with a nice big kitchen equipped with fridge, hot plate, toaster oven, microwave and toaster. There was also a nice big bathroom, a safe, a cozy living room and then up the staircase was the loft where there were two nice big beds with windows overhead so we could stargaze. We dropped our things and left since the housekeeper was still busy cleaning. We decided to fast track our plans to go and see African Black Footed Penguins. Originally, the kayak trip was supposed to take us to Boulder’s Beach to see them up close, but since that was cancelled we figured it was easy enough to just go ourselves.

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One of the big pushes for us to spot these beautiful birds was the fact that Dan had been working at an aquarium that had these penguins (where I volunteered) and we were really anxious to see them in the wild!

We arrived in Simon’s Town around noon and had a quick look around. We saw that there was a fee to actually go down to Boulder’s Beach in order to swim, but we didn’t want to swim, we just wanted to see penguins! We walked down a path headed in the opposite direction to see if we would luck out and spot a feathered friend. We were in luck! There were some penguins along the rocky shore, lounging and sunning themselves and we were not that far away. Now, at this point we left the path in order to get closer, I won’t say that it was a great idea, in fact we probably weren’t supposed to, but we assumed this was the only time we were going to see these penguins! We snapped some quick shots before returning to the path again.

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Sitting on the rocky shore close to the penguins

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A couple of penguins hopping out of the water

We were pretty pleased with the amazing spot we found but we figured we should probably check out Boulder’s Beach to see if there were actually penguins there. We bypassed the ticket booth and followed a path that ran behind it to get a better view of the area. Sure enough, we could see that there were people swimming mere metres away from the penguins! We figured it would be worth the cost, but we were starving and decided to get lunch first.

We stopped by a restaurant adjacent to the beach called Boulder’s Beach Restaurant (http://www.bouldersbeachlodge.com) and I ordered the vegetarian sandwich which was quite tasty (I was confused by the ingredient ‘rocket tomato’ but it was just a tomato). We then headed over to the ticket booth and paid for entry. We stopped by the bathroom quickly and Dan was excited to see that there was a box of free condoms (note; he wasn’t excited to get condoms, but because this verified that every South Africa National Park bathroom seemed to stock up on them). We then headed down to the beach. It became instantly obvious why they named it Boulder’s Beach:

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Even if there had been no sign of penguins, this was a really cool area to explore and swim around in. It was sheltered from the sea and the water was a comfortable temperature in the shallows. We immediately located a nice high spot on a boulder for us to lay our clothing and shoes out. I hadn’t brought any of my belongings (not even my camera) since I was paranoid about theft and mostly about water damage. This beach is probably one of the safer areas to leave valuables however. It was a bit crowded in the main beach stretch so we went to explore the boulders beyond to see if we could spot some penguins up close. We were in luck! Within a few minutes we had rounded a bend and ended up in an area with small congregations of birds here and there. When we stayed still in the water, they even swam right by us!

We were having a good time admiring the birds when we noticed a spectacular occurrence. A male was carrying a twig in his beak and bowing his head, moving slowly towards a female. Dan was explaining that this was courtship behaviour and that the twig was meant to be a nesting material as a gift for a possible mate. Neat fact – these penguins will mate for life and work together to raise their chicks. Unfortunately for the adorable male, the female flat out rejected his offer and walked away. It was very much one of these moments:

If you don’t watch Arrested Development, that may not have meant anything to you, but I can guarantee it was a sad moment indeed. The male just stood there, head hanging down, completely dejected. Jessi was sitting in the water nearby and felt bad for him so she jokingly held her hand out as if to accept the twig. And believe it or not, he walked over and gave it to her!

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We were just shocked! We just laughed and scared the poor guy off after Jessi didn’t present her cloaca (mating in birds involves a ‘cloacal kiss’, it’s a thing, look it up). We decided it was for the better because their offspring would be strange and confused, and most likely look rather terrifying. Not to mention the mess. Oh what a mess these little guys make. Anyway, it was great and we had an amazing afternoon. We were even able to spot where the nesting colony was not far off from our swimming area but we knew venturing over there would definitely disturb the birds and we didn’t want to risk that.

We then stopped at the Pick ‘N Pay for groceries before heading home and enjoying a meal of soup and grilled cheese (strangely I ate more grilled cheese in Africa than I have in Canada). We had a wonderful day, and I can’t wait for tomorrow and the adventures that a new day will bring!

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As a side note – We had a lot of people that were surprised that Penguins lived in Africa. It seems there is a lot of mystery surrounding penguins and most people believe that they are strictly found in cold habitats. There are also penguins that live in New Zealand, South America and even the Galapagos Islands! One thing that is true is that penguins are only found in the Southern Hemisphere, so you will never see a penguin and polar bear living in the same place (nice try Coca Cola).

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