5 favourite jaunts in TMNP

2012-11-13 15:37
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Pics: Cape of Good Hope

We check out the Cape of Good Hope section of Table Mountain National Park and spend the night at Slangkoppunt Tented Camp.

It's a wonderful thing that happens when you manage to shake loose the dull shackles of routine and take a fresh look at your own backyard. Things that had become commonplace are suddenly infused with charm, places you never bothered to explore turn into treasure coves and people you'd never notice become tellers of intriguing tales. 

At least this is what I found during a recent overnight adventure into the hidden depths of Table Mountain National Park, an incredible expanse of natural heritage stretching from Signal Hill in the north to the very tip of Cape Point in the south. 

While the urge to make the most of this right-on-my-doorstep wonder had often crossed my mind, it took an invitation from SANParks and a convenient, comfortable ride from the Green Cab company to actually get my butt into gear and go. What a shame! 

As mentioned above, the park comprises much, much more than only the iconic mountain it's named after. It's a natural heritage site, a new wonder of the world and also home to the smallest, yet most diverse floral kingdom on the planet. Baboons, penguins, various antelope species and even a choice selection of fascinating amphibians find sanctuary in its life-giving beauty and humans are invited to enjoy the forests, beaches, braai areas and magical accommodation offerings. 

So, while a day and a half is certainly not enough to explore every delightful nook and cranny, the five places we did visit just whet my appetite for more weekends like these. 

1. Oudekraal

Nestled into a picturesque and protected cove not too far away from Camps Bay, Oudekraal beach and braai area is one of Cape Town's most magical spots. Grassy terraces flow down to large, round boulders, a white patch of beach and clear, calm water. Braai facilities are dotted all around the area, and a large boma, able to accommodate 60 - 70 people, can be rented out for functions. 

Oudekraal's charm is boosted further by the fact that its large boulders are not static, like those at lots of other beaches. Instead, these granite gargantuan move around with tides and shifting sands, which means the beach will look different pretty much every time you go. 

Cost: R20 conservation fee per person. Free for people with WildCards or Capetonian residents with GreenCards. 
Times: 8am - 6pm 
Contact: 021 438 9555

2. Cape of Good Hope 

While Cape Point is not, in fact, the place where the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans meet, as popularly believed, it's definitely one of the most majestic landmarks on the African coastline. To experience it to the full, take a stroll to the old lighthouse, or if you're feeling lazy, hitch a ride on the funicular. Up here, you're guaranteed to be blasted by forceful winds and blown away by the magnificent view stretching out below. Undoubtedly a high energy zone, it will leave you feeling both drained and invigorated.

Gather your strength at the stunning, newly renovated Two Oceans restaurant, where I highly recommend you try a dish of good old-fashioned fish and chips. Once you feel revived, take a drive around to experience the full beauty of TMNP's Cape of Good Hope section, and maybe even stop at the information kiosk to join one of their brand new marine walks. 

Cost:R90 per adult, R40 per child. Free for people with a relevant WildCard or Capetonian residents with a Green Card
Times: 09:30 - 17:30
Contact: 021 780 9204

3. Boulder's Beach

First established in 1986 when a pair of perky African Penguins came across this cosy stretch of coast and decided to settle there, the colony has grown substantially and is now home to about 2100 breeding pairs and their fluffy babies. A tidy boardwalk takes visitors along the burrowed nests, hidden among the lush indigenous undergrowth and a variety of viewing points look out over the beach that serves as both a nursery for the chicks and a launching pad for adult hunting expeditions. You can even take a picnic basket, don your costume and spend a day on the boulders in their midst. 

Even though it may look like the penguin colony is bursting at the seams, the numbers tell a different story, as 2100 breeding pairs is a worrying demise from the 4500 of five years ago. This reflects the general well-being of the endangered African penguin, as the 36 000 breeding pairs spread across the 26 different colonies, have dwindled to 18 000 in the past 10 years.

So, when you visit the beach, remember to appreciate the fact that you can still rub shoulders with these tuxedoed little cuties and find out what you can do to join conservation efforts. 

Cost: R45 per adult, R20 per child. Free for people with a relevant WildCard or Capetonian residents with a Green Card.
Times: 07:00 - 19:30 in summer, check out the SANParks website for other seasons. 
Contact: 021 786 2329

4. Rhodes memorial 

While the memorial itself may not have that much to do with South African conservation, it's located within Table Mountain National Park, resting at the foot of the formidable Devil's Peak. Designed by master architect, Sir Herbert Baker and built in 1912 to honour former Cape Colony prime minister and mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes, the monument is an excellent spot to get a solid bird's eye view of the northern outlying areas of the Mother City. 

Climb the 49 granite steps, pose with the majestic stone lions that keep watch and then head on over to the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant for tea and scones, light sandwiches, cocktails... or maybe a champagne breakfast. If you've never been to Rhodes Mem (as Capetonians affectionately call it) before, go there before the end of the year to celebrate its centenary. 

Cost: Free
Times: You can visit the monument at any time of day, the restaurant, however is open between 9:00 and 17:00
Contact: 021 687 0000

5. Hoerikwaggo Slangkop tented camp

Nestled into a patch of lush vegetation that separates the town of Kommetjie from a rocky section of its long white beach, you will find a tiny village of round-roofed tents that would make a hobbit family feel at home. We were lucky to reach our base for the night just as the sun started slanting toward the west, lending a certain laziness to the already tranquil air. 

With only six tents, which are each able to accommodate two people, the camp is sure to provide a private, quiet and exclusive getaway for the most city weary soul. While it feels like you're in some remote island beach camp, Kommetjie's shops and restaurants are a comfortable stroll away, and firewood can be purchased from the park office when you enter. A boardwalk takes you from the camp to the beach, and you can walk all along to the Slangkop lighthouse, which is the tallest cast iron tower on the SA coast. 

Tents do not have their own braaiing facilities, but guests can make use of the beautiful, rich wooden communal area kitchen and braai. 

Read more on:    travel south africa


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