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Simon's Town Things to Do: 47 reviews and 68 photos
Penguins on the beach south of Simon's Town
Although I personally loved seeing the whales, Simon's Town is mostly known for its penguin colony. Yes, you read that right, penguins!! They live on their own beach outside of town, approximately 2 kilometers south of Simon's Town towards the Cape Point Nature Reserve.
Sailing: Southern Right Whale
Simon's Town is located at the False Bay and the whale you are most likely to see in this Bay is the Southern Right Whale, although other species of whales also visit the area (Bryde's Whale, the Humpback Whale and the Killer Whale). If you are here at the right time of the year, which is during the winter time from June through November, you'll be amazed how easy it is to spot the Southern Right Whale!
The Southern Right Whale lives on plankton and tiny crustaceans like copepods, krill, etc. They are filter feeders that swim slowly with their mouth open, constantly eating. They become on average 50 years and the maximum size of an adult female is 18.5 metres and the weight is around 130 tons. The main characteristics and the way to quickly recognize a Right Whale from other whale species is the fact that it has no dorsal fin on its back, and the presence of callosities on its head. The 'callosities' are quite distinct and make each individual unique. They show as white spots on the head and are in fact white warts or rough skin patches covered by whale lice.
How this whale got its name of "Southern Right Whale" is rather cynical and sad however. It was called "Right" because it was the 'right' whale to catch: they are slow swimmers which makes them easy targets (they swim at a speed of between 0.5 and 4 km per hour, however can reach a top speed of 18 km per hour). They are also rich in oil and baleen which the whale hunters were after and as an added bonus they floated in the water when killed. This made that the family of the "Right Whales" became one of the most ruthlessly hunted of all species of whales. The hunt started as early as the 11th century, and the right whales were endangered by the mid-1800's. The positive news is that the right whales were world-wide protected around 1935, although the situation for the northern cousin of the right whales still looks bleak. It just breaks my heart that this species has been hunted to the edge of extinction.
But back to the here and now; what absolutely fascinated me about watching these impressive whales was seeing some of their typical behaviour. Some movements you can watch from the shore are:
* Sailing: (photo 1) this is a when the whale raises its tail and keeps it vertical for long periods of time. Why the whale does this isn't a 100% certain but possibly it is a means of temperature control.
* Breaching: (photo 2) this is the most spectacular move of them all, and you'll be without a doubt in awe the moment you see the whale 'hop' out of the water and splash down again with amazing force. It is so impressive to watch this oddly graceful leap out of the water and then see it fall back in the water with a great splash.
* Blowing (or spouting): when air is blown from the lungs through the blowhole.
* Lobtailing: a whale will raise its tail and slap the water hard: probably a signal of some sort; a sign of alarm or annoyance. It is often seen with mothers and calves.
* Spyhopping: the whale lifts its head above the water and appear to be observing what's happening on the surface. And well, that is exactly what they are doing!
Southern Right Whale
Simon's Town is surrounded by mountains and from the water's edge the land rises steeply up the slopes. We were lucky enough to rent a little apartment build on one of these mountain slopes just to the north of town. And what can I say, the views from here were fantastic! The main attraction from our little balcony were the whales that visit the False Bay during the months of June to November. Being here at the beginning of October was excellent timing to see the whales.
I had hoped to see one or two whales from the balcony, but once I started searching the sea with my eyes I spotted dozens and dozens of them. Some very close to shore, some a bit further away in the bay. But no day passed by without admiring the whales; it was totally fascinating and I couldn't get enough of it! And not only from our little balcony we got these amazing sights, also driving along the coast we spotted several very close to the shore and even at the harbour of Simon's Town.
We had originally planed to visit the town of Hermanus, which is located on the other side of the False Bay. This little town is famous for its whales and even has a Whale (Town) Crier to announce where the whales are. But why drive all that way when the whales giving such a spectacular show right here, at Simon's Town? Don't forget to bring your binoculars though! Or if you enjoy taking photos a good zoom lens.
The attached photo was taken from our balcony with a 500mm lens and a tripod.
Down Town Simon's Town
Simon's Town, or in Afrikaans named 'Simonstad', is located to the south of the city of Cape Town. This little town is situated on the shores of the False Bay on the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula. For me this little town was the home base for a few days while exploring the Cape Town area. The location to me was superb, the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve was just around the corner and the city of Cape Town was still in easy reach. But maybe best of all of this location were the gorgeous views over the False Bay.
Simon's Town has been and still is an important Naval Base and it is also said to be a lovely picturesque little town. Maybe I had my expectations up too high, I don't know, but I have to admit that I didn't fell under the spell of Simon's Town itself. Not that there is anything wrong with it, it just didn't have 'it' to me.
We made a little stroll through the town's centre and admired some of the traditional architecture (see photo) which was nice enough, but didn't have the wow-factor to me. The natural surroundings on the other hand of the Cape Peninsula are breathtaking and for that alone I would love to revisit Simon's Town and, most of all, to visit the Cape Peninsula again.
Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope
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