The Cape Peninsula is the thin finger of land in the south-westernmost corner of Africa, with the city of Cape Town at its head. As you travel south towards Cape Point, the land gets narrower until it disappears into the ocean, with nothing beyond except Antarctica.
The Cape Peninsula National Park is one of South Africa’s newest creations, only proclaimed in its final entirety in 1998. Table Mountain National Park is the current name of the Cape Peninsula National Park. Several reserves have been incorporated under the SA National Parks umbrella, and now the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, Table Mountain Nature Reserve, and Silvermine Nature Reserve, plus the Boulders beach penguin colony, are cohesively administered.
Recognized globally for its extraordinarily rich, diverse and unique flora, this singular peninsula – with the rugged Table Mountain range meandering down the center and soft white sandy beaches, rocky coves, and sand flats – is a genuinely remarkable recreational asset. Nowhere else in the world does an area of such spectacular beauty and rich bio-diversity exist almost entirely within a metropolitan area than the thriving and cosmopolitan city of Cape Town.
Numerous scenic drives are so impressive they require an unhurried approach, to appreciate their stunning beauty.
The cold Atlantic Ocean (46°- 59°F (8°-15°C), runs down the western edge of the peninsula, while the warmer waters of False Bay (55°- 68°F (13°-20°c), caress the eastern shores. These bodies of water are both visible in some places along the route, and it is often said that the Atlantic finally meets the Indian Ocean at Cape Point.
This is not strictly true as satellite images show that the warm and cold currents mingle off Africa’s southernmost point at Cape Agulhas, 106 miles (170km) southeast of Cape Town. However, there are days when a distinctive line is visible in the ocean at Cape Point, but the sea knows no boundaries and call them what you will, these waters will become the vast Southern Ocean.
The Cape’s flora is unique, containing the world’s Sixth Floral Kingdom, named Fynbos.
This encompasses Proteas, Ericas, Reeds, and Bulbous plants, which flourish in the nutrient-poor soils. Under such conditions, an astonishing diversity of 2,256 species has emerged – more than the whole of Great Britain (which supports 1,500 species), in an area 5,000 times smaller! The Cape contains 526 of the world’s 760 erica species and 96 out of the world’s 160 types of gladiolus, and Table Mountain alone supports 1,470 species.
In the pristine Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, keep your eyes open for beautiful brown and white bontebok antelopes, dawdling tortoises, and dashing ostriches and be on the lookout for cheeky baboons in the parking lot.
In the oceans around the Cape, Southern Right whales entertain thousands of spectators each year when they come so close to shore that you can smell their fishy breath. These wonderful gentle giants of the sea come to the Cape peninsula from August to October to mate and calve. Sightings peak in September, and there are several well-placed viewpoints along the coastline.
Boulders Beach is home to a growing colony of the vulnerable African penguins, which can easily be viewed at close quarters from a wheelchair-friendly boardwalk. They were commonly called ‘Jackass’ penguins, and when you hear a noise like a donkey being strangled, you will understand why.
The birdlife along the peninsula is prolific with iridescent sunbirds, long-tailed Cape sugarbirds, rare black oystercatchers, gulls, and arctic terns, plus raptors like eagles, kestrels, kites, and buzzards.
Highlights of the Cape Peninsula National Park
Cape Peninsula National Park is well-known for being remarkable in its abundance and diversification of both animal and plant life. The visitors can enjoy a lot of activities while exploring and appreciating the nature reserve. A good thing for the visitors is that the majority of the park has an open entrance. However, you have to pay to enter through three main points of access, namely Silvermine, Cape of Good Hope, and Boulders Beach.
All the time spent at this exquisite piece of nature will make you come back here again. To guide you about the highlights and what you can do there, we have come up with a few activities that will make your visit more fun.
- Cape Point
The Cape Point Reserve, located in the Table Mountain National Park’s southern part, is a paradise of outdoor devotees. The reserve brags 7,750 hectares of vibrant wild covers, fauna and flora, spectacular sea views, and sheer cliffs. Cape Point is the principal attraction that is popular for its panoramic views and old lighthouse. The point is attainable via walking or Flying Dutchman funicular.
The prominent beaches of Cape Town, marked by cerulean seas and bleached-white sand, attracts hundreds of people all around the year. No matter if you are into surfing, swimming, or sun tanning, Cape Town has a beach for you as per your interest.
Along the Atlantic seaboard, you will come across well-liked Clifton, Camps Bay, and Llandudno beaches, while further south has quiet beaches of Kommetjie, Scarborough, and Noordhoek. There are several other wild and more concealed beaches inside the Cape Point Nature Reserve, on both False Bay and Atlantic sides. These are all known for all kinds of water-based activities.
- Picnics and Braais
Around Cape Town, Table Mountain National Park offers several barbecues and picnic spots. It is the favorite pastime of South Africans, especially in summers. From charming beach locations like Oudekraal and Buffels Bay to shadier forests locations such as Perdekloof and Newlands, Cape Town has it all for you.
- Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, situated on the Table Mountain’s eastern slopes, are covering thirty-six hectares of the protected mountainside. The gardens have a wide variety of birds and plant species, which makes it enjoyable for the visitors to walk through several segments of the park.
Not only the walk, but it also makes a delicious meal at the restaurant or the picnic on the rolling lawns more amusing.
- Scuba Diving
For the more adventurous tourists, the Table Mountain National Park marine protected area offers diverse diving opportunities, including various nursery and breeding areas for marine family and shipwreck sites.
Famous dive sites include the Oudekraal on the Atlantic Seaboard, Miller’s Point in False Bay, and the SS Maori wreck off Hout Bay.
- Forest Walks
A ramble through one of the rich Afromontane forests of Cape Town is a remarkable and relaxing experience. Afromontane is a word used to describe the common species of animals and plants of the mountains of Africa. The most widespread forest walks include Orange Kloof, Newlands Forest, Spes Bona, and Echo Valley.
Cape Town enjoys a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters and a distinctive spring and autumn. However, with nothing but water all around, the weather can be a little unpredictable, and the wind can whip itself into a fury.
1. Rainy Season
The north-westerly wind brings rain to the peninsula, usually between May and September. The coldest winter months are June, July, and August with temperatures ranging from 45° to 70°F (7° to 20°C). Days are often clear and bright, but the wind can be very chilly, and snow sometimes falls on nearby mountains.
2. Dry Season
By October, the rain usually stops and summer kicks in fast with the days getting hotter until the temperatures reach a peak in December, January and February at around 60° to 80°F (15°-27°C). The summer southeaster can make days on False Bay’s beaches very unpleasant, so when this ‘Cape Doctor’ is blowing, choose the more sheltered Atlantic beaches nearer Cape Town.
The spring flowers of the Western Cape are a magnificent spectacle and emerge in force in about August or September when heat and moisture encourage them to bloom.