Discovering Simon’s Town
Words by Fiona McIntosh, pics by Chris Fallows, Dave Hurwitz, Shaen Adey, Derek Goldman
Sometimes you just have to drop everything you’re doing and seize the day. So when I heard that orcas had been spotted in False Bay I cancelled my meetings and headed over to Simon’s Town.
I’ve driven through this seaside spot numerous times on the way to the Peninsula’s top dive sites, the penguin colony at Boulders Beach and to Cape Point. I’ve stopped to visit the statue of Able Seaman Just Nuisance in the main square, to walk up the Signal Steps to pay my respects at the grave of the famous great Dane and to have a cappuccino at Bertha’s on the Wharf.
One of my annual pilgrimages is to head over to the harbour pre-dawn to join Chris Fallows on one of his trips to Seal Island to watch the predation of great white sharks. You get the picture, a lot happens in the vicinity of Simon’s Town.
But I’ve never stayed over. And what a treat it was. Simon’s Town is less than an hour from Cape Town city centre, but it feels like another world. We stayed at Moonglow guesthouse, high on the mountain slopes in Cairnside, just before you hit town. What a find. A full-length outside deck is the perfect place to chill; the views over False Bay are to die for and the owner-run guesthouse has a wonderfully homely feel.
But it is the attention to detail that really makes Moonglow memorable. Little touches like fresh milk in the fridge (how I detest those awful little homogenised tubs and powdered milk sachets that so many guesthouses provide) and the beadwork, ceramic basins and other African artworks that has been collected over a lifetime of travels.
Best of all our room had a comfy bed with quality linen - another of my ‘must haves’. As we sat on the deck that night enjoying a glass of wine a bright orange ball appeared over the Cape fold mountains then threw it’s light over the glassy water. It’s easy to see where the guesthouse got its name!
The following morning started with a sea kayaking trip round to Boulders Beach with Derek Goldman from Simon's Town Sea Kayaking Tours. “Did you know that his is the busiest shipping lane after the English Channel?” he jested, as we turned right out of the harbour. I fell for it, bemused that there didn’t seem to be another vessel in sight. But he’s so right; we are privileged to live in Africa, far from the crowds.
The water was crystal clear and we could see darting fish and small sharks around the granite boulders, but it was the cute little guys waddling down to the water at Boulders that stole the show.
Ungainly on land, the African penguins plopped into the water then looked at us quizzically as they swam gracefully around our kayaks.
There had been two recent sightings of orcas, and I was hoping that I’d be on the Simon’s Town Boat Company’s trip to Seal Island for the lucky third sighting. It wasn’t to be, but we had an amazing trip and in addition to playful seals (apparently the island is home to some 70 000 Cape fur seals) we saw penguins, dolphins and diving gannets. Not a bad ‘second-best’!
By the time I returned to the mother city I felt refreshed and exhilarated. The 24-hour excursion felt like a ‘proper’ holiday. Something I must treat myself to more often.