Certainly one of the highlights of my visit to South Africa was the morning before our flight. We decided to book a private car to Simon’s town. Yes, this was an additional and unexpected cost, however, in the big scheme, we already spent the time and money to get down here. And sometimes, the best way to maximize your time and your trip is to be flexible.
I would never have thought about using this private driver option in the past. I haven’t been accustomed to traveling other than for work. But when hubby and I were in Macedonia, the only way to get to Kokino was to hire a private car (one that was referred to us by friends at the local U.S. Consulate). This turned out to be a fantastic experience — as those of you who are used to doing such a thing probably already know.
So, we booked Jeremy, our driver from the African Pride Hotel, now a Marriott Autograph Hotel, to drive us through the Bo-Kaap neighborhood (another thing we wanted to do but due to my dumb foot injury couldn’t do on our own), then drive us to Simon’s Town, to see the penguins, then straight to the airport.
You might think this sounds rushed, but you wouldn’t be right. We had a great breakfast, met Jeremy at 8:00 a.m. and drove through the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, with it’s brightly colored buildings, with a running dialogue. As it turns out, Jeremy was born and raised in Cape Town. We heard about the real estate issues, the cultural differences, etc. from an on-the-ground POV.
We had a lovely drive out to Simon’s Town, a naval base town, with more local history about a fire, the devastation to the local snakes –Cape Cobra and others– and how the college students studying geology, botany, and zoology hike along the trails. We drove past some of wine country, and then to the home of the African Penguins, formerly known as Jackass Penguins.
We walked the short walk from the parking lot, through a neighborhood street, to the Penguin beach. We paid, went through the turnstile and headed to the walkway. I thought that we would — wait!!! Wait!! There they are!!! Penguins!!!
I couldn’t believe it — right there. Not 10 steps from the start of the walkway — it keeps people off of the penguin’s beach—there were penguins. Not one or two penguins, but at least 10 penguins and the further down the walk we went, the more penguins we saw, until we arrived at the end of the walkway, viewing the beach, the Indian Ocean, large rocks, black Commorants with orange beaks and claws, and a hundred penguins.
My husband and I were delighted. I have to say that the light earlier in the day is absolutely magical. The African Penguins shimmered and their inimitable shadows waddled towards the water. Soon, the sound we were hearing was becoming clearer.
One penguin would point his beak straight up to the sky and start the sound, then another, and another. It sounded like donkeys braying. Ah. Now I am reading the sign. That’s how the name Jackass Penguin was first assigned to these birds. I am a little slow when it comes to connections.
Bottom line: This was one of the top highlights of our trip to Cape Town.