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May 2012

Paddle along kelp-tossed coves, laze upon a secluded beach and taste the salt water on the afternoon breeze … sea kayaking is this summer’s ultimate ocean experience. Take some time out to explore the Cape of Great Swells.

Sell your golf clubs. Cancel those weekly meditation classes. And fire your shrink. Now pool all of your savings, invest in a sea kayak and plug into the ocean’s motion. Nothing quite compares to paddling out into the swell on a windless day with the afternoon rays warming your back.

False Bay is a good place to test the waters, especially if it is your first time on the ocean. The quaint Simon's Town harbour offers excellent protection from the wind, allowing you enough time to get your equilibrium and settle into an easy rhythm.

Once you’ve negotiated the undulating shoreline swell, take time out to enjoy the view. People may refer to the peninsula as The Cape of Storms, but on a good day it rivals the vibe of any exclusive island escape you might care to mention.

There may be a lack of swaying palm trees, but the characteristic rock formations and fynbos slopes of Table Mountain more than make up for this. This is the fairest Cape at its most bountiful, so expect anything from African penguins frolicking in your wake to seals flicking up a friendly flipper.

The ultimate encounter, however, has to be with pods of southern right whales frequenting the peninsula coastline during the winter months. Sightings of these gentle giants are likely between May and August, and it certainly rates as an unforgettable experience.

Don’t Miss This

Everyone’s been to Cape Town, but if you’re not a South Peninsula local, you won’t know about these places….

Rondevlei Nature Reserve, Tel. +27 21 706 2402: Situated near Muizenberg and home to the only hippos on the Cape Peninsula.

Solole Game Reserve, Tel. +27 21 785 3248: Watch buffalo at the waterhole while drooling over a thin-base pizza; on the Kommetjie Road.  

Fish On The Rocks, Tel. +27 21 790 0001: This Hout Bay institution at the far end of the harbour makes the best fish and chips in Africa.

Bon Appetit Restaurant, Tel. +27 21 786 2412: Understated French cuisine and impeccable service, right in the heart of Simon’s Town.

Southern Right Hotel, Tel. +27 21 782 0314: Sink a Stella while watching the whales play in Elsje’s Bay; just down the drag from Fish Hoek en route to Simon's Town.

Getting There

The coastal road circumscribing the peninsula rates up there with the world’s most beautiful day drives.

To get here from the City Centre, head along the Blue Route towards Muizenberg and follow the coastal road in a clockwise direction. Once you’ve meandered through St James, Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek, stop off in Simon's Town for your aqua adventure. Long Beach is a safe launching area if you have your own kayak; otherwise you can arrange guided trips from the harbour.

Expert Tip

Johan Loots has written a number of books on kayaking and is the chairman of the Recreational and Commercial Sea Kayaking Association of South Africa.

Every adventure sport has some element of danger, so it is imperative to subscribe to the guidelines below in order to assure your personal safety, says Loots.

Always check the weather forecast before setting off on a kayaking trip.
Never go on the water without wearing a PFD (personal flotation device, or life jacket).
Pack the requisite gear, including a first-aid kit, water, cellphone and a signal flare.
Know your distress signals and be sure you can handle your craft in rough conditions.
Protect yourself from the elements by wearing protective clothing and ample sunscreen.
Above all, respect your fellow paddlers and the environment.

Sea Kayaking DIY

When to go: The secret season in the Cape is not such a secret anymore. April through to June is blessed by the weather gods, with September to November looking good too.

Packing a Punch: After your boat, the key items on your list are a light-weight paddle and a good quality life jacket. Don’t forget a waterproof pouch for your phone, a whistle, a flare kit, windproof paddling jacket and a comfortable wetsuit if you’re taking on the Cape winter.

Worst Case Scenario: Beware: an afternoon paddle can turn into survival on the high seas in the blink of an eye. Weather conditions in the Cape can shift and, before you know it, you might be enveloped in a thick fog. A compass will ensure you can find land again, while a length of rope and some duct tape will help you fix a broken rudder or minor leak. Also pack a warm top, a windproof paddling jacket and some energy bars to keep you going.

Must-have Accessories: Thule’s modular roof-rack systems are unmatched when it comes to transporting your kayak on your car. Combine their revolutionary “Hydroglide” unit with the form-fitting “Kayak Carrier” for a failsafe combination that will keep you and your kayak safe.

Toy Glory: Before you glide onto the tide, you need to decide exactly what type of kayak you need. If you’re a beginner, opt for a more stable sit-on version or a hybrid version such as the Paddleyak Swift. The latter craft is manufactured from polycarbonate and features self-draining scuppers and a low freeboard for easy re-entry. Two hatches, adjustable footrests and a robust rudder system make the Swift a perfect multipurpose craft for sea and freshwater paddling.


Table Mountain National

Cape Town

Hout Bay

Cape Point National

False Bay

Kayak Africa (Official site for The African Sea Kayak Society)

PaddleYak Sea Kayak Store and Trips (V&A Waterfront)

Nightjar Travel