The Southern Peninsula, also know as the Cape Peninsula, encapsulates the area from Hout Bay (including Llundudno) down south along the Atlantic-side coastline to Cape Point. It then stretches north along the False Bay coastline past Simon's Town, up to Muizenberg and then finally inland diagonally back to Hout Bay again following the line of the Table Mountain National Park.
When to Go
For beach and sightseeing holidays, the summer months between October and April are the best times to visit Cape Town in general. The summer months are also characterised by the south-easterly winds known locally as the ‘south-easter’, the strength of which increase as you travel further south. December/January is the time most South Africans take their annual holiday and the summer break for school children, so booking is often essential. The Season changes in April and October have unpredictable weather.
Winters are mild with temperatures ranging from 8ºC to 17ºC. Winter is the rainy season but it is also the best time to dive, surf and to see whales and sharks in False Bay. It is also the flowering season of a lot of fynbos plants. There is something to be said for sipping on the Cape’s award-winning red wines and enjoying a warm crackling fire, while a storm rages outside. Winter storms churn up the sea, whipping the mucus from the kelp into white foam which gives the distinct ‘smell of the sea’.
Cape Town has a Mediterranean-style climate: wet and cool winters, dry and warm summers. Average summer temperatures are 24ºC with January and February averaging 26ºC. Cape Town lies 34 degrees south (latitude) however, it’s environment is a collection of micro-climates of which the Southern Peninsula has more than one. Apart from the air pressure, wind and temperatures, a few other factors influence local weather including the cold current, mountains and built-environment. It is a good idea to check the weather forecasts for the daily weather.
The cold Benguela Current (which moves north past Cape Town) and the prevailing southeast winds cause upwelling (which is when colder water from lower levels rise to the surface). This makes for very cold water on this side of Table Mountain. The cold waters are rich in biodiversity and home to many organisms. One visible organism is Sea Bamboo (kelp) which is washed up onto the beaches during winter storms. The fronds can grow up to 15m. Common on the rocky coastline, this kelp provides ecosystem niches and shelter for fish nurseries. It is what creates the very distinct but pleasant ‘smell of the sea’ in the air, which is mostly noticeable in winter.
The predominant vegetation type in this sandy region of the valley is the endangered Hangklip Sand Fynbos. The sides of the valley are home to Cape Granite Fynbos. Peninsula Sandstone Fynbos can be found higher up on the surrounding mountains. The latter two vegetation types (also both endangered) are endemic to the Cape Peninsula and cannot be found anywhere else in the world.
The Southern Peninsula is a patchwork of built-up areas in the mountain valley and along the coast. Parts of the area falls into the Table Mountain National Park where small and often endemic animals such as tortoises, snakes, lizards, frogs and toads can be observed.
The game reserves are the place to see large mammals such as Cape Mountain Zebra, Chacma Baboon, Rock Hyrax (known locally as dassies), Genet, Lynx, Striped Field Mouse, Cape Grey and Water Mongoose and Cape Clawless Otter.
Antelope are also found here, including: Bontebok, Eland, Cape Grysbok, Red Hartebeest, Grey Rhebok, Steenbok Grey Duiker and Klipspringers.
Note: Please always be aware of Baboons in and around the mountains. Please do not feed them.
Look out for the bright blue-headed Southern Rock Agama, the prehistoric-looking Black Girdled Lizard and the Cape Skink. There are some interesting endemic and endangered Amphibians: the Table Mountain Ghost Frog is a special find, but look out for the Cape Chirping Frog, Cape River Frog, the endangered Leopard Toad and the tiny Arum Lily Frog. The two species of tortoise, the Angulate Tortoise and the Parrot-beaked Tortoise, are common.
There are 22 snake species, ten of which are non-venomous, although they can still deliver a nasty bite if provoked. Some of the venomous species include the Cape Cobra, the Puff Adder, Boomslang, Rinkhals and Berg Adder. The good news is it they are mostly shy and will avoid human contact. The one you are most likely to encounter is the Puff Adder which enjoys nice warm spots, such as rocks and pathways (best to keep out of its way).
Insects play an integral role in the fynbos ecosystem either by directly pollinating plants or as a vital source of nutrient for birds and animals. Some are especially adapted to pollinate specific plants. Look out for butterflies such as the Mountain Pride Butterfly that is the exclusive pollinator of a variety of red plants such as the Red Disa and the Red Crassula.
The many niches and habitats that exist (ocean, shoreline, cliff-face, rocky highland, fynbos, forest and suburbia) contribute to a large species count, as does the geographical positioning at a continent's corner, many vagrants and seasonal visitors can be spotted. For a full bird list or birding checklist see the SANparks website or for further information on birding in the Cape Peninsula, The Cape Bird Club’s website has more information.
Apart from the usual seaside gulls (Kelp, Hartlaub's and Black-headed Gulls), you can also encounter Cape Gannets, Black-Browed Albatross, Sooty Shearwater, White-Chinned and Giant Petrels. The endangered African Black Oystercatcher can be seen on the rocks cracking open mussels. Cormorants include; the Crowned, Bank, White-breasted and Cape Cormorant. They make a spectacular sight when returning home after a day’s fishing, flying low in V-formations. If you are out on the water you will usually come across African Penguins bobbing in the water, or you can easily take a trip to Boulder’s Beach to see them on land. One of the few places (other than islands) where penguins come ashore.
Under the water
Species that occur here range from microscopic planktons, crustaceans, abalone and rock lobster to the Great White shark and the Southern Right Whale. Numerous types of fish such as those good-eating fish; Hake, Yellowtail and Cape Salmon. Others include Red Roman, White Steenbras and Galjoen – popular for recreational anglers but under strictly regulated conditions due to their threatened status.
To find out the status of fish, simply SMS "fish species" to +27 79 4998795.
Travelling around in this area of Cape Town is best done with a hired car, taxi or Uber. The MyCiti bus system does not function in the Southern Peninsula yet and private bus companies run routes within and around the Southern Peninsula only. The traffic to the city centre and northern areas is congested and best avoided during rush hours. The locals that can, prefer to stay in the south and venture further north only when necessary.
The Cape Town mobile app TCT (Transport Cape Town) includes the trains. The app is available for the following smartphones: Windows Phone, iPhone android and Blackberry and under the name ‘TCT’ (look for the red logo).
There are plenty of safe and reliable taxi companies in Cape Town, but you cannot just hail a taxi in the street, a telephone call is required.
Mini-bus Taxis are shared taxis can be hailed in the street on busy routes. There is a lot of bad press about minibus taxis, to be safe stick to the busy routes during the day.
Uber operates in the Southern Peninsula.
Scooters and Motorbikes can be hired.
Metrorail operates short distance commuter trains from Cape Town to Simon’s Town through the southern suburbs. For the map of the lines see Metrorail.
Beautiful beaches, breathtaking scenery, nature reserves and quaint seaside villages. The Southern Peninsula has a different feel to the rest of Cape Town. Although mostly urban, there are still some rural and natural areas of Table Mountain National Park thriving.