South African Journey: Baboons and Penguins and Mountains, Oh My

More Quarters South Africa BreakfastDay two.  And this is this breakfast spread that awaited me.  Because, you know, who doesn’t want to gain a bazillion pounds on vacation?

Cape Town More Quarters Hotel

Breakfast Buffet at the More Quarters, Cape Town S.A.


We spent the day with a tour guide. who took us to Camps Bay Beach, Cape Point National Park, The Cape of Good Hope (within the park), Boulders Beach, and the spectacular Kirstenbosch Gardens. Because, you know, who doesn’t want to be reminded that their own city, while exciting and fabulous in it’s own way, cannot compete even a teensy, weensy bit with the spectacular beauty of Cape Town?

I’d been worried that the kids would be bored with the scenery part of things. I’m happy to stand on a precipice just looking at an incredible view, but two ten year olds? Not so much.

Turns out, I was wrong.  They, too, are blown away by how gorgeous everything is. Here is the view of Camps Bay that started off our tour:

Camps Bay Beach 1

Gorgeous, right? Cape Town, and the surrounding suburbs are all about the gorgeous. Which of course only makes me wish I had 1. Exercised and dieted before we left, so I wouldn’t look like some inflated version of myself in every picture, and 2. gotten my hair done before I left so I wouldn’t look skunk-like in those same pictures, given the state of my roots. Good thing I take a lot of scenics that don’t include me! (or do include me – but really, really, small.)

Camps Bay Beach, South AfricaCamps Bay Beach 3Family ay Camps Bay South Africa

It’s funny, how people come to NY and ooh and aah over it.  All I can think as I walk around this city is “really?”  The geographic beauty of Cape Town leaves New York in the dust.

Just take a look at these:


Now, don’t get me wrong, I like the Disney-fication of Time Square as much as the next NY native…which is to say not at all.  But there’s something about natural beauty that trumps neon beauty every time.

Still, the kids were starting to wonder where the wildlife was. I mean, really. This is Africa.  Aren’t there supposed to be wild animals everywhere?  I was glad it took a while for us to see animals.  Because I think that there are so many people who, when they think Africa, either think of Lions and Rhinos or of shoe-less children living in poverty.  And of course, those things do exist here.  But I wanted my kids to see that Africa also has a cosmopolitan, sophisticated side.  Complete with sushi bars and designer duds.  Not because I want them to think that every place in the world is like every other, but because I don’t want them to think that Africa is any “less” than any other place. And sadly, I do think that that’s the perception out there.  We hear so much about what’s wrong with Africa – the corruption, the famines, the ethnic wars and tribal violence – that we forget, Africa is also a vibrant, growing, changing, technologically savvy continent.  To only think of a place as what’s wrong with it diminishes it in our esteem, and creates a sort of cultural snobbism. I hope that by bringing my kids here, they can get past that.

And yet – they wanted to see those animals. Good thing Cape Point National Park, which includes The Cape of Good Hope – the most South Westerly point of Africa, and the symbolic spot where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet – well, goo thing it also happens to be teeming with baboons.

South Africa Baboon

You know how, when you’re driving in the woods, there are signs that say “deer crossing”?  Well, here, the signs say Baboons Crossing.  Seriously. There are wild Ostriches, too.  I didn’t get a good picture, but look.

Ostriches at the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

Image via Wikipedia

The walk to Cape Point was steep and windy enough to push my 75 pound son into the railing that’s there to keep people from plunging into the ocean below, but it was worth it for this view:DSC_0405

The kids have been studying igneous rock in school,and I love how this particular rock (on the right) shows the layers and layers of…life that made it.  Talk about the world as your classroom.  But we went from the majestic to the just plain cute, when we left Cape Point and went to Boulders Beach to see the penguins. (And yes, there are African penguins. Native.  Contrary to popular cartoon, they don’t just live at the North Pole.) Check out how close you can get.

Boulder Beach South Africa Penguins

How awesome is that?

After a seafood lunch by the beach where the penguins played, we headed for the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Where my son, using the techniques he learned from BeccaRama’s sister Jess, from Rising Shutterbug (take a class.  totally worth it) took these arty-farty (and quite good) shots. Amazing what a good camera, a few lessons, and a ten year old kid can do.

DSC_0507 DSC_0523


So there you have it.  Day two.  On Day three, we’ll be visiting a slightly less scenic side of South Africa – we are going into the Townships with the help of Mataps from Monkey Biz, a non-profit that supports 450 women by teaching them the craft of African beading, giving them the supplies they need and then buying and selling their creations.

It’s going to be another beautiful day in Africa.


  1. anna rabinowitz says

    Oh, the trip sounds beyond wonderful. So great to hear about what you’re doing and to see the great photos.

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