Simons Town’s rescue boat, Spirit of Safmarine III is undergoing a complete refit at Tree Tops Marine that will give her another 20 years of life. The ex-RNLI boat has served at the Table Bay rescue base, as well as Simons Town and is due for a little tender love and care. She is going to be fitted with new props, new engines, a complete re-wire and of course a complete respray.

Spirit of Safmarine III at Tree Tops. Simon's Town

The strip of land hugging the coastline between the shores of Muizenberg and Simons Town is some of the most visually beautiful land in Cape Town. There are a few ways to explore this: rent a car, a scooter, and bicycle or use the Metrorail train which runs along the coast.

If you are coming from the CBD then head towards Cape Town Central and book a ticket along the Simons Town line. They are cheap and have stations at the heart of every suburb you wish to explore.

In the summer months a steam train runs on Sundays which is loads of fun for the family and train enthusiasts – prices can be a little steep in comparison at R220 for adults and R150 for kids aged (3-12) But this may prove a once in a lifetime experience as the coaches date from 1922 -1938 and even has a lounge car with a cash bar.

For those of you who prefer to take their time and meander along the coast, I suggest stopping at Muizenberg, St James, Kalk Bay and Simons Town.

Muizenberg

Muizenberg next to Simon's TownRenowned for its long beach and friendly waves Muizenberg has a long history that history buffs will find fascinating. With sites such as Rhodes Cottage, seaside home of Cecil John Rhodes, the site of The Battle of Muizenberg and Het Posthuys (The Post House)- one the oldest buildings in South Africa which was built by the Dutch East India Company. The waves are great for surfing, body boarding and swimming. There are also lifeguards on duty and shark spotters who look out for any sharks swimming anywhere near to shore.

St James

The next stop along is the seaside St James, here you will be able to swim in the sea-pool and sunbathe on the beach in front of the famous colourful beach huts. St James has many stairways leading up the mountain to Boyes Drive a road that lends a stunning perspective to your trip along the coast. This is a great beach for moms and their kids to catch some sun and enjoy the ocean.

Kalk Bay

The seaside fishing village of Kalk Bay is a must-see. Tucked out of the way of the often vicious South Easterly wind and nestled at the foot of the mountain, it is a truly magnificent place. With the aroma of rich espresso emanating from the many coffee shops mingled with the incense burning in others combined with the shades of sunlight in the hours just before it sets. Ask people about Kalk Bay and the adjectives fly; picturesque; quaint; vibrant; gypsy to name a few. The harbour sells fresh fish brought in on a daily basis. Kalk Bay is an article on its own. A walk along the harbour’s pier to the lighthouse is lovely whether it’s raining or shining.

Simons Town

Simon's TownThe train slows and stops before your eyes are ready to leave the majestic ocean, you have reached the final stop – Simons Town. Dotted with aqua-marine coves between large grey granite boulders and with powder, white sand beaches Simons Town is a truly beautiful place. With places of interest such as Boulders Beach with its penguin sanctuary, the Scratch Patch, a gemstone treasure hunt and the South African Naval Base, be sure to set aside enough time to explore at leisure. Don’t worry about packed lunches either, all along this route are coffee shops, restaurants and confectionaries all enticing you in with their inviting smells and friendly staff.

Simon's Town Penguins Holiday Cape Town

Boulders Beach in Simonstown is home to some 2500 penguins, these penguins are known as jackass penguins because of the braying sounds they make. They look so awkward the way they waddle and hop around but you will be amazed at how they can jump, they have even been known to climb fences that were erected to keep them out of private gardens.

Boulders Beach is probably one of the only places in the world where you can swim with penguins. These penguins have become quite habituated to people, just a word of warning though they can inflict a really nasty bite so best not to get too close to them.

Jackass Penguins  with chicks in Simons Town Cape Town Holiday

Jackass penguins usually start breeding at about four years old, they keep the same partner for many years and return to the same nests each breeding season. Nests are usually burrowed into the ground or under the undergrowth to protect them from the sun. Normally penguins produce between two or three eggs per season. Parents share the nesting duties with one staying on the nest whilst the other goes out in search of food. The partner left on the nest will stay without food or drink for about two and a half days until the partner returns. Chicks are closely watched over by the parents until they are two months or a little older if they have not had sufficient food.

Jackass Penguins juvies moulting Simon's Town Western Cape

The penguin chick are born with fluffy grey feathers which they slowly lose as they get older until they get their adult black and white coat. There is a calendar of activity for the Jackass Penguins at boulders that comprises as follows:

January – Juveniles are moulting and adults are feeding up for the breeding season
February to August – The breeding season
September to October – The penguins are feeding up for moulting
November to December – the moulting season

Boulders beach is within easy reach of Cape Town being a 45 minute drive, they have walkways and viewing decks where the penguins can be seen swimming and nesting, it is amazing to see them with their chicks during the breeding season. We highly recommend a visit to Boulders Beach to observe these funny little creatures.

Cape Town – I left the house as dawn was little more than a vaguely glowing promise on the horizon. It was chilly, too, cold enough for my breath to condense in the still air. There wasn’t so much as a hint of a breeze and it promised to be a spectacular morning for a walk. As I drove to the coast, the beacon atop Muizenberg peak caught the first of the sun’s rays, glinting and glimmering in apparent invitation to head into the mountains.

I had planned to hike up Bailey’s Kloof and walk a circuitous route that would provide a moderate amount of exercise and still afford, for the most part, a good view of False Bay. I had in mind that the whales should be here by now and it is always a special moment each winter when I spot my first one. Certainly Dave Hurwitz and his crew at the Simon’s Town Boat Company have been posting superb pictures of the early arrivals – a remarkable number of humpbacks as well as southern rights – and I had high hopes of catching a glimpse of a breaching monster during my travels.

As I climbed out of the car on Boyes Drive a thin, low mist, no doubt caused by the chill early morning air, hung over the Cape Flats and drifted gently out to sea, driven by the lightest of north-westerly breezes. The scene was suggestive of some smouldering Middle Earth landscape from a Tolkien novel – it made for a surreal start to what promised to be a gorgeous winter’s morning.

The first part of the hike – isn’t it all too often the case? – was straight up a steep trail that meanders only slightly towards Mimetes Valley, and I stopped regularly to check the flat, calm bay for signs of a whale. Well, I stopped because I was out of breath and my legs were tiring rapidly after too many days of sitting at home avoiding the worst of the winter weather, but I did use the rest breaks to scan the horizon in search of a visiting leviathan.

It was a perfect day for walking, the sun was climbing higher in the sky and the protea bushes seemed to light up with a near-incandescent glow as the day brightened.

In Mimetes Valley, as the first warming rays peaked over the rocky outcrops and pushed back the night’s chill, the birds sang for all they were worth to welcome the new day. Grass birds, high on their perches, chattered joyously and I couldn’t help but wonder if I wouldn’t also be moved to song having spent a frigid night in the mountains.

Simon's Town Nature AttractionsA thin, low mist hangs over the Cape Flats and drifts gently out to sea, driven by the lightest of north-westerly breezes.Picture: Tim Rolston

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For the small creatures that inhabit these vales the arrival of the sun must feel like winning the lottery, and more than likely proves to be a real and metaphorical life saver.

By now I was growing more and more appreciative that I had risen early. There was barely a sound, no wind to rattle the restios and no traffic noise in the background. Just the quiet tinkling of running water, the remnants of last week’s heavy rains, and all about the chirping and fluttering of birds, flitting from bush to bush, defining territories and searching for breakfast.

It is easy to imagine that winter is a dull time but the amount of life in the mountains is quite remarkable.

I reached Muizenberg cave and took the obligatory crawl through a wormhole to the other side, a childish pleasure perhaps, but still something that needs to be done, at least to my mind.

Then I headed up onto St James’ Peak and once more scanned for a whale. For a moment I thought that I had spotted one, but alas, it turned out to be a mat of kelp, ripped loose from the shore during the previous week’s storms.

Heading down a meandering path towards the coast again I could see all of the bay laid out before me and I kept my eyes peeled for signs of movement, to no avail.

In a protected dip the flora changed and there were black-bearded proteas just beginning to flower and a variety of different ericas adding colour to the landscape. It is these micro-habitats which create the remarkable diversity of the Cape floral kingdom. Where previously I had hardly seen a flower, now there were proteas bursting forth all around.

Orange-breasted and double-collared sunbirds were everywhere – they seem to like these protected pockets of fynbos.

Having had high hopes of spotting my first whale of the season and not expecting a lot else, once again nature surprised with her bounty, and although I never did spot a southern right, I did enjoy a lovely walk, filled with wonderful flowers and dozens of brightly coloured birds. I suppose it is simply that one has to get out there and see what Mother Nature has on her programme. It may be unpredictable but it is rarely disappointing. – Weekend Argus

Whales Simon's TownThe general misconception is that Hermanus is the only place to view the Whales coming past our beautiful coast, but Simon’s Town has some of the most spectacular views around and it just over the mountain from Cape Town. Add our lovely accommodation to the mix and you have the perfect holiday.

The best area to spot whales in Cape Town is on the warmer False Bay side, and Simon’s Town is a prime location for whale watching during the whale season. Whale Season runs from mid-August to mid-October when the Southern Right Whales return to these warm waters. Good points of view include Boyes Drive; which runs along the mountainside between Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay; the main coastal road running from Fish Hoek to Simons Town. There are plenty of view points and restaurant along the main road, where you can observe the whales, with good off road parking.