The South-Easterly wind in the Cape has a way of blowing so hard that you get a good workout just by walking against it or feel like you have developed the ability to fly a couple of centimetres every time you take a step in the same direction!
The least blustery months are usually between September – October and February – April so we have hit some of the windiest times by coming for November – January. On days like this, a trip to the beach really is out of the question as the waves are often flat, and the sand gets blown straight between your teeth as soon as you open your mouth. The best way to enjoy being by the sea, without getting too cold or blown away, is to visit some of the many stunning seaside towns along the coast and to explore their restaurants, shops and harbours. Two of my favourite places to pass these kinds of days are Kalk Bay and Simon’s Town.
Kalk Bay is a little fishing village off the coast of False Bay up the West coast of South Africa. I have been visiting Kalk Bay since I was a child and it has never lost its magic. The harbour creates a picturesque backdrop to gaze upon while enjoying fresh-from-the-sea fish and chips. Every second restaurant specialises in sea food (mainly fish and chips) but one of our favourites is Kalky’s. This little harbour-side restaurant is simple and bare and only adds to the genuine feel of the food and the atmosphere. Kalky’s have their own fishing boat which goes out with dozens of others at the crack of dawn every morning, so you know that you could not possibly get fresher fish anywhere else!
The seals that come to scrounge any leftovers from the fishing boats each day are a real attraction down here and often draw crowds of tourists
Travel Tip: while the seals may lay about looking tame as a lap dog, just remember that they are wild and if you get too close they can and will bite your hand off. Only exception is below where we met a man and essentially his pet seal who he had taught to pose for photos!
The best part about Kalk Bay are the quaint boutique stores and restaurants that line the roads. If you take the time to properly explore the little side streets, you can come across the most amazing little shops, stocked to bursting with all kinds of treasures.
While we rarely eat anything other than fish and chips down at the harbour when we visit Kalk Bay, we do have a couple of favourites when it comes to watering holes. Octopus Lounge is cheap and cheerful with a very laid back and friendly atmosphere – the perfect spot for a quick Savanna to “rehydrate” and find some shelter from the sun under their small canopy of trees in the back garden.
Another bar full of fun and vibe is Cape to Cuba. This restaurant and bar sure has made a name for itself in recent years as it is a completely open plan restaurant with sand-covered floors the whole way through. The Pina Coladas here are amazing! I had never had one before and now can’t get enough.
A 5-10 minute drive up from Kalk Bay is Simon’s Town, home to the South African Navy, and for more than two centuries it has been an important naval base and harbour. The two main attractions in Simon’s Town are Boulder’s Beach and the harbour.
Boulder’s Beach is somewhere I visited many times as a child but have not been to for a while now. It is a sheltered beach made up of inlets between huge granite boulders (hence the name). It is a popular tourist stop because of a colony of African penguins which settled there in 1982. 10 years ago, you used to be able to go down onto the beach for free and swim with the penguins, but now you have to pay an extortionate amount to be able to go down to the water. You can, however, do the penguin trail for free which takes you along a wooden path on the hill above the beach where you can see the penguin’s nests and spot a Dassie (a guinea-pig-like animal, pronounced Dussy) or two.
Travel Tip: the same rule applies to the penguins as it does to the seals – don’t try and pet them because they have a nasty bite!
The harbour is still a favourite destination for my family out here. You can easily lose an hour or two exploring the local market stalls and having tea and cake at Quarterdeck overlooking the boats, bays and large naval ship anchored a few hundred metres away, as well as the statue of Just Nuisance – the only dog to ever be officially enlisted in the Royal Navy! Like all things here in Africa, Just Nuisance has a fascinating story behind the statue which is worth reading into if ever you have a spare few minutes.
African market stalls are famous for their creativity using wood, bone, metal and beads to create beautiful hand-crafted products. We met a lady making beaded animals and were shocked to discover that it can take her 5 hours to create one medium sized beaded animal which will sell for about R50 (about £3)! It is worth bearing in mind when wondering around these stalls that, while everyone loves a bit of bartering and getting the best deal possible, all these products have been hand crafted and the time and skill that it takes to do this deserves a lot of respect.