Whales, Elephants, Zebras and Warthogs in South Africa’s Capes.
By Florin R. Ferrs
After a week in Capetown, eating Cape Malay curries, browsing in the African markets, going up Table Top and hitting the bars along Long Street, I was quite ready to hit the road.
You can’t come to South Africa and not do a Safari. So I decided to visit the South African National Parks website where I booked a cute bush bungalow in Addo Elephant Park. Addo is not quite as large as Kruger National Park, but it’s quite impressive in its own right, with herds of wild elephants, zebras, warthogs, lions, cape buffalo and even whales and sharks just off its protected beaches. Addo’s main entrance is located about an hour from Port Elizabeth, approximately a ten hour drive from Cape Town, in the Eastern Cape region.
I consult my guidebook and learn that fortunately the 10 hour drive is chock full of South African touristic wonders: The Cape Wine Region, the whale watching coast around Walker Bay and the town of Hermanus, the southernmost tip of Africa at Cape Alguhas, and the “Garden Route”, that links several beach towns from Mossel Bay to the Surfing community of Jeffrey’s Bay.
I have to check out early in order to make it to Jeffrey’s bay on the Eastern Cape by dusk. Fortunately the friendly lady from The Accommodation Shop, who’s in charge of my Cape Town apartment, doesn’t mind showing up at 7am to collect the keys and return my deposit.
An hour later I am driving trough vineyards. I find the sign for Stellenbosh, the jewel of the Cape Wine region. You could be in Napa or Sonoma but with Dutch colonial buildings instead of Spanish. Dramatic mountains rise above a white washed town that is full of trendy shops, cafes and bakeries. I sit al fresco and watch the beautiful people while sipping excellent South African wine. Their reds are world class and their olives are even better.
I head out of town trough vineyards and pine forests before reaching the coast at Hermanus, a town famous for its whale population. Southern blue whales have found refuge there, returning every year to have their young. I see the whale signs and expect a faint puff of water in the horizon, before I realize that what I thought were rocks close to the shore, were actually several blue whales. A group of tourists screamed with delight as a mother whale and her calf swam so close to the rocky shore that they could almost reach out to pet them. Many countries promise a lot to tourists, but very few deliver like South Africa does. I was gob smacked and in total awe before these majestic creatures.
After driving trough interminable wheat fields, ostrich farms and sheep estates, I finally hit the coast at Mossel Bay. This part of South Africa reminds me of California; beach communities dotting the coastline for miles until the city of Port Elizabeth: Knysha, Plattenberg Bay, Jeffrey’s Bay.
I reach Jeffrey’s Bay in mid spring so the town has an