An Out Of Africa Experience

Written By: The Lowdown - Feb• 01•01

smallcover2001-02The overwhelming feeling that one gets when holidaying on the Cape Peninsular is that it can’t be part of Africa. In fact it probably shouldn’t have been part of Africa. The Cape Peninsular sticks out like a stray toe, that could very well have been lopped off several million years ago if the rumblings from below had been a bit more severe. But fortunately it still is in Africa and is probably one of the most wonderful spots for a holiday to suit all tastes.

We recently spent a week in Fishhoek, which is one small town away from Cape Point. We stayed at Skellies View, an apartment overlooking False Bay … and the whales. There was almost always one at least (Southern Right whales usually) rolling around languidly in the sea a few hundred metres from our balcony. Skellies is run by an ex Kenyan couple, Ann and Keith McAdam. They’re wonderful hosts and love having Zambians to stay. Their rates are very reasonable – for a family of five we paid R380 a day for the apartment (for further information, contact them on email  We hired a car while we were there, but we could have simply taken the train. It’s always on time and runs frequently. It’s advisable to travel first class or on the buffet car (a mere R15 return from Fishhoek to Cape Town, which is an hour away). The only time we really needed a car was to visit friends off the train route and .…. the Great White sharks off Gans Bay, near Hermanus. A visit to the sanctuary of this truly remarkable creature was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Ever since Jaws, Peter Benchley’s novel, and the movie that was subsequently made from it, the Great White has been the most feared creature in the ocean. Countless numbers of people must have been put off a refreshing dip in the sea because of the “lurking danger beneath.” The fact is that in the last one hundred years only seventy-four people have mistakenly been eaten by Great Whites. I say mistakenly because they are not really partial to humans and usually bite them by mistake. Fur seal’s are their favourite, so perhaps, if it’s furry things that they like, hairy chested men should take note, they could be a likely second choice.

There are several cage diving operations in Gans Bay. Our captain for the trip (and the owner of the operation) was Brian MacFarlane, who also runs a guesthouse in Hermanus, conveniently situated on the edge of a golf course and known as the 19th Hole.

The boats head out, usually fairly early in the morning, to Seal Island about half an hour away from the mainland, and home to a colony of about 84,000 fur seals.

Unfortunately on the day that we went out to sea for our visit to the G.W’s there was a howling gale blowing and the water was incredibly choppy, so we didn’t get to go down in the cage to get a close up view. We weren’t terribly disappointed however (some of us were darn right relieved) because we didn’t have to wait long to view the first of several of these giant predators up close. We trolled a plastic seal behind the boat and threw “chum” (fish offal) in the water around us to attract the sharks and waited with bated breath for the first arrival. We didn’t have to wait long.  Suddenly, the water erupted. A magnificently massive creature torpedoed through the surface – white beneath and gunmetal grey above, with the seal decoy in its jaws. The shark flipped over, hit the water with a tremendous splash and disappeared. The sheer power of the attack is what was so fascinating. Some weren’t quite as aggressive and one could almost reach down and stroke them as they swam cautiously up to the boat to take a ragged toothed mouthful of the “chum”. Just seeing this notorious but apparently fragile creature up close was enough for all of us.

For those interested in a more sedate holiday, there’s the wine route to explore (by car), the Waterfront to visit – a train ride from anywhere on the Peninsular and then a bus from the station; a trip to Cape Point (by car); and lunch or an evening meal at any of the endless but wonderful restaurants, where arguably the most delicious item on the menu is freshly caught line fish. Children ranging in age from 4 to 20 can spend time – and free you for a shopping trip in Gardens in Cape Town – at the now famous Rutanga Junction – a sort of mini Disney World.

Our busy days were rounded off by simply relaxing with a glass of chilled South African wine (a sacrilege to drink anything else in this part of the world), and watching the whales wallowing from the balcony while the sun cast a glorious golden glow over the bay. A perfect family holiday, not too far from home!

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