The V&A Waterfront with Table Mountain in the background and Capetown and Table Bay as viewed from Table Mountain
We started our recent excursion to Africa in Cape Town, a beautiful city with a population of over 3 million people, making it South Africa’s second most populous city and at over 900 square miles it’s largest in land area. Cape Town is located on Table Bay at the northern end of the Cape Peninsula. The Peninsula is an amazingly rocky, mountainous land mass that juts out from the southwestern tip of the African continent for some 40 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. It is at the southern tip of this peninsula, Cape Point that travelers flock to, camera in tow, to snap photos of themselves at the southern most point of the Africa continent. Cape Town and the surrounding region are unlike most all of the rest of South Africa. The city has a distinctively European flavor; it is considered one of the most multicultural cities in the world, has been designated a “Places of a Lifetime” by National Geographic, and is much more affluent than the rest of South Africa.
While there, we visited the upscale Victoria and Albert Waterfront or the V&A Waterfront, as it is locally known, the actual working harbor of Cape Town. Trendy bars, upscale condominiums, and two world-class aquariums makes the V&A Waterfront Cape Town’s top tourist destination. The offerings of the V&A include two world-class aquariums one of which we visited. While there we saw amazing animals native to the region’s oceans including the ribbon eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita), a peculiar and secretive moray eel inhabiting lagoon and seaward reefs, where buried in the sand or hiding in rocks or reefs it dashes out to feed on shrimp and fish. This strange animal is the sole member of its genus and the only moray eel that undergoes abrupt changes in coloration and sex: it is a protandrous hermaphrodite, meaning that functioning males can reverse sex to become females, a strange creature indeed.
Juvenile ribbon eels at the at Two Oceans Aquarium and Proteas atop Table Mountain
While in Cape Town we also visited Table Mountain, a giant monolith that towers over the city and forms a large portion of Table Mountain National Park. While atop the mountain we walked through a landscape of strange vegetation, a unique plant type occurring nowhere else in the world except for along 120 miles of the Cape of South Africa’s coastline. This flora is so unique it is assigned to its own floristic kingdom, the Cape Floristic Kingdom, which for the most part is covered in fynbos, an Afrikaans word meaning “fine bush.” This arid bushland mimics the dry mountain shrublands of the western United States. Coming from Colorado, it was eerie walking through this landscape filled with plants, although unrecognizable, were very similar in appearance to plants of Colorado’s arid west slope. The fynbos contains plants with strange names like the proteas, the grass like ericas, and the rush-like flowering ratios. I hope you have a chance to visit this amazing part of South Africa and experience the fynbos for yourself, visit the T&A Waterfront, and maybe even take a trip to Cape Point for a photo at Africa’s southernmost point.