In summer the waters of False Bay are several degrees warmer than those on the Atlantic seaboard, which is why Cape Town’s oldest and most popular seaside development is along this flank of the peninsula. A series of village-like suburbs, backing onto the mountains, each served by a Metrorail station, is dotted all the way south from Muizenberg, through St James, Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek and down to Simon’s Town. Each has its own character with restaurants, shops and places to stay, while Simon’s Town, one of South Africa’s oldest settlements, is worth taking in as a day-trip and makes a useful base for visiting the Cape of Good Hope section of the Table Mountain National Park and Cape Point.
Boulders Beach takes its name from its huge granite rocks, which create a cluster of little coves with sandy beaches and clear sea pools, which are gorgeous for swimming. However, the main reason people come to Boulders’ fenced seafront reserve is for the African penguins (formerly known as jackass penguins). African penguins usually live on islands off the west side of the South African coast, and the Boulders birds form one of only two mainland colonies in the world. This is also the only place where the endangered species are actually increasing in numbers, and provides a rare opportunity to get a close look at them.
Access to the Boulders reserve is through two gates, one at the Boulders Beach, (eastern) end, off Bellevue Road and the other at the Seaforth Beach (western) side, off Seaforth Road. Both entrances are signposted along Main Road between Simon’s Town and Cape Point. At Seaforth, there’s a small visitors’ centre and deck, from which two boardwalks lead to either end of Foxy Beach where you’ll see hundreds of penguins. Most people walk from Seaforth to Boulders, looking at all the penguins in the bushes along the paths, where there are masses of burrows for nesting. At Seaforth itself, there is safe swimming on the beach, which is bounded on one side by the looming grey mass of the naval base. While there are no facilities of any kind on Boulders Beach, there is a restaurant with outdoor seating and fresh fish on the menu at both of the entrances to Boulders.
Cape Town's top whale spots
Cape Town's top whale spots
The commonest whales around Cape Town are southern rights, and the best whale-watching spots are on the warmer False Bay side of the peninsula, from August to November. You could also try your luck on the Atlantic seaboard at Chapman’s Peak towards Hout Bay, and between Llandudno and Sea Point, where the road curves along the ocean. Whichever seaboard you’re visiting, remember to have binoculars handy.
Along the False Bay seaboard, look out for whale signboards, indicating good places for sightings. Boyes Drive, running along the mountainside behind Muizenberg and Kalk Bay, provides an outstanding vantage point. To get there by car, head out on the M3 from the city centre to Muizenberg, taking a sharp right into Boyes Drive at Lakeside, from where the road begins to climb, descending finally to join Main Road between Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek.
Alternatively, sticking close to the shore along Main Road, the stretch between Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town is recommended, with a particularly nice spot above the rocks at the south end of Fish Hoek Beach, as you walk south towards Glencairn. Boulders Beach at the southern end of Simon’s Town has a whale signboard and smooth rocky outcrops on which to sit and gaze out over the sea. Even better vantage points are further down the coast between Simon’s Town and Smitswinkelbaai, where the road goes higher along the mountainside. Without a car, you can get the train to Fish Hoek or Simon’s Town and whale-spot from the Jager’s Walk beach path that runs along the coast from Fish Hoek to Sunny Cove, just below the railway line.
It’s worth noting that there are more spectacular whale-spotting opportunities further east, especially around Hermanus and Walker Bay. For information on the latest whale sightings in False Bay, contact Alan on 072 930 4798.