Row, row, row your boat ...

October 20, 2005

By Murray Williams

You can either watch it on the National Geographic channel – or you can see it for yourself! – Darren Tarling.

We were paddling surfskis in that aquatic haven between Kogel Bay and Rooi Els. Surrounded by those scarred, dramatic mountains, we found ourselves joined by several hundred dolphins and revelling in the midst of a giant school of pelagic fish. The dolphins leapt with joy crazily around us and seabirds dived deep from the sky, like falling rockets.

You'd normally only see it on the TV nature channels. But we were living and breathing it. Tarling's quote, whooped out loud, are words to live and die by.

Fast forward a year to Simons-town. Have you seen the penguins lately? Do you know where to find them?

Sure, you say: go to Seaforth, walk down that new boardwalk and stop right there, for a far more sensational experience beckons.

Simon's Town bay, the safe sanctuary for ships battered in Table Bay in early colonial days, is home today to the South African Navy, a yacht club, a new waterfront and the famed jackass penguins.

The little land-based colony is a rarity. But the boulder-strewn coastline is now a major tourist attraction. Great work has been done by the conservation authorities to host busloads of tourists, with new walkways and view points.

But have you tried seeing it from the sea?

Meet Derek Goldman, a quiet, witty, true gentleman with a great love for ocean kayaking.

His company, Sea Kayak Simons-town, runs waterland wondertours from the harbour south to Boulders Beach and the penguin colony.

The biggest problem you'll encounter is clapotis. No, it's not a scary new STD, just the technical name for the choppy sea that you'll find washing up against any harbour wall.

So paddle out wide towards Long Beach on far smoother waters, then turn right and run with the gentle swell down towards Boulders.

You'll see the giant new navy Corvettes lurking in the harbour, seals sunbathing in the water, flippers waving. You'll paddle past the eerie Ark Rock, seals bathing in the sunshine, see masses of seabird life.

You'll also see the hordes of tourists crowded on the land-based decks staring down at the penguins. But you'll see them popping up out of the water next to you, returning home from a long, successful fishing trip

. You'll see them in their natural surrounds in the big blue.

A guided sea-kayaking tour, though, is just where the adventure starts. Simon's Town is blessed with some of the most tranquil seas – and safe conditions – in the whole of the Cape.

“So few people know what kayaking's about,” Goldman says. “They think it's so hard, but it's not. Anyone who is fit enough to do a gentle, two-hour hike can do it.”

When the wind howls, either from the south-east or north-west, it always blows on-shore, so paddlers are always safe knowing that they can only be washed safely home to the coastline again.

Between paddling strokes, the warm summer waters are perfect for flopping into with goggles and a snorkel; crystal clear and aqua- marine between those magnificent granite ocean outcrops.

The adventure market has been flooded with dozens of different kayak manufacturers in the past five years, but most are stable and easy-as-pie to balance on.

A wealth of advice is available at the shop in Simon's Town, or at one or two others listed below. And once you're a kayak owner, there are communal trips a-plenty for the newly converted.

“In Australia and the United States kayaking is huge; there are hundreds of thousands of paddlers there. But in South Africa it's just taking off,” said Goldman.

“Kayak manufacturing is a big export business for SA, but hopefully the sport will grow here too now.”

Anyone who doesn't try it – and I am speaking from first-hand experience – is simply missing out on the best False Bay has to offer. Or you could just watch it on DStv.

Contact the following for info:
For news on Derek Goldman's paddling adventures contact Sea Kayak Simon's Town on or on 065 707 4444

Go to for kayak sales and training courses or call 021-786-2626