Africa is so amazingly diverse, if you can imagine it - we have it somewhere. (As well as a lot off stuff that people find hard to imagine!) Be it a lazy, tropical Island breakaway or a hard core, adrenaline filled adventure - I will do my best to help you get the most out of your holiday. Seeing that this blog is a brand new project - it will take a while to grow. If you have a particular destination in mind that has not been featured yet, just send me a mail and I will assist in any way possible. Postings on this blog are based on personal experience. I plan to rate places and venues visited on a 'must go' or 'avoid' basis. I will also give a Lemon Award to the very worst festering pits that I have had the misfortune of stumbling across... If you have a comment, or your own input - lets have it! Complaints and compliments received from readers will be forwarded to the relevant venue for comment and/or follow up action. Please bear in mind that opinions expressed in this blog are my personal views only and I do not presume to know everybodys tastes... Any other advice dispensed is based on personal experience, and may not be factually correct. I therefore will not be held responsible if you do something silly after reading my advice on the matter. My main purpose here is to help you to think and plan in the right directions. I trust that you will have as much fun visiting this blog as I plan to have while writing the posts.

Thursday 26 April 2007

Cape Point Nature Reserve

After reading my article titled ‘Here be monsters…’ my sister (who is a passionate Cape Townian) contacted me and took me to task for my shameless slandering of the Cape Point Nature Reserve because of the baboon issue. What can I say? It is a problem and people should be made aware of it…

She is also right though. The Cape Point is one of the most awesome nature scenes to be found out there. So I have decided to write for three reasons: Firstly to tell you how great it is, secondly to tell you what had happened between me and the clan Papio Ursinus (despicable beasts, no matter how you look at it…) and thirdly to tell you how to visit the reserve and have a baboon free experience!

Natural Splendour

Described by Sir Francis Drake as ' the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.'

The first time I ever went to Cape Point, it was the same sister mentioned above that took me there. During the drive down through Simonstown, it was already apparent that we were in a breathtakingly beautiful part of the Cape.

Visitors to the reserve can take a nice, brisk walk up to the old lighthouse that was built there in 1860. Due to the fierce weather conditions (fog) there, it was not always visible and a new one was built, a bit lower, in 1914. This is the most powerful light house on the South African coast. There is a funicular available if you aren’t much into walking up steep slopes…

Next to the car park, there is the reputable Two Oceans Restaurant where one can enjoy a lovely lunch or glass of our fine Cape Wines while looking out on the awesome scenery. The restaurant has also been ‘baboon proofed’, so harassment won’t be included in the bill…

There is also a curio shop on the premises.

All over the reserve there are short looped walks as well as a few delightful little beaches.

Birders will thrill at the sight of peregrine falcons plummeting down from the cliff tops, African black oystercatchers hopping about the rocky shore, ocean birds soaring about and sunbirds flitting amongst the fynbos.

Various antelope species like the endemic bontebok, blesbuck and Cape Mountain Zebras roam the reserve and ostriches are often seen striding along the beaches.

Although the restaurant, main parking and lighthouse areas are well guarded by rangers, the walks and beaches are not… This brings us to the next section:

Primeval warrior

On a recent trip to Cape Town, my girlfriend and I decided to spend a day relaxing on one of the little beaches in the reserve. Buffalo Bay – the little white patch in the picture to the left. The view is from the restaurant deck, looking back towards Simonstown over False Bay.

When we got to the parking space at the completely deserted little beach, it looked like we were in for an idyllic day! I quickly got out our fishing gear and headed out to make my first cast of the day as quickly as possible (something I just do…) leaving my girlfriend sitting next to our rental car, busy organising her equipment.

After a few minutes I looked up just in time to see an elongated snout peek over her blissfully unaware shoulder to see what she had in her hands! Seeing that it was nothing edible, it turned its beady little eyes towards the car…

We had made the mistake of not immediately winding up the windows and one of the back windows was still open - without further ado it leapt right in. Luckily I always keep most of my valuables and loose items in the trunk of the car, except for a packet of sugar we used for our coffee on this occasion. A baboons’ sweet tooth is as finely developed as any I’ve seen…

A few seconds later, the second, much larger baboon also hopped into the car despite us screaming like pure bred banshees and dancing around with waving arms. I now had to deal with two baboons in the car, one sneaking up behind me, and another ten or twelve busy ambling along in our direction. At that time I was wearing only my swim shorts and a fishing rod…

It’s amazing how naked one feels without a shirt or shoes when staring into beady little eyes, filled with malice, backed up with large yellow fangs and a nasty attitude. I was running around like a true cave man with only a big rock for defence, chasing off the circling baboons all the while trying to intimidate the car occupying duo into retreat!

Baboons have a nasty habit of ripping, tearing, biting, scratching and defecating on (then smearing) everything they come across. I’ve had this happen to me once in Zambia and I can tell you, the smell takes a looong time to go away, no matter how often you wash the car.

At one stage, after the large male decided to leave the car, the smaller one actually got out of the car and stormed me! After my strategic retreat, it calmly climbed right back in and carried on. Trying to throw these beasts with rocks was also very frustrating. The clever buggers sit and watch the trajectory of your hurled projectile, and then lightly step aside at the last moment…

After what seemed an eternity, I eventually got the main troublemaker out of the car with beast-like cries and threatening gesticulations. Adrenaline charged and full of vinegar we both uttered victory yells that would have done Tarzan extremely proud!

After the whole incident, the whole troop retreated a bit, probably to hold council on what the next angle of attack will be... That signalled the end of our Cape Point day (at 8:30 am) so we headed on to Hout Bay (via the absolutely stunning Chapman's Peak Drive) for a seafood lunch and drinks to settle the nerves.

Baboon free experience

You can ‘baboon proof’ your visit to Cape point, or similar places by keeping the following in mind.

Baboons are primarily attracted to food; the best preventative is to keep food out of sight.
Don’t walk around with anything edible in your hands. They will try to grab it off you.
Don’t pack out a picnic in an area where there are baboons, but no rangers.

Always keep your eyes open. In areas where baboons are nuisances, there are often signs posted.

Keep your car closed and the windows wound up. Very important! :-)

Try and stay in areas where there is supervision by rangers.

Cape Point is visited by thousands of people each year, and the baboon incidents only occur every now and then, and always involve food.

Chances are that you may not even see one… Do yourself a favour and go there, the Cape Point is truly well worth the effort!


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