ZEIT ONLINE ARTICLE
(Translated from the original German with Google Translate)
Fur seals and courting ostriches: Cape Town's wild side
September 13, 2021, 9:47 a.m.
Updated on September 13, 2021, 9:50 a.m.
The sea birds say hello: The Cape Peninsula can be easily explored from the water.
False Bay lies flat like a mirror on this winter morning in front of Cape Town's southernmost suburb, Simon's Town. "Not the worst day to go out to sea," says Derek. He has been offering kayak tours in the bay for 20 years. His guests get into the small boats to observe animals that some people in Africa might not even expect.
After a short safety briefing, the group paddles out to sea, past luxurious yachts in Simon's Town harbor and frigates at the neighboring naval base. In three manoeuvrable single boats, Derek and two colleagues accompany the tour guests, who will soon have gigantic company: A humpback whale appears a few hundred meters behind the kayaks to take a deep breath.
The extremely stable kayaks cut through the absolutely smooth water at a surprising speed. Derek heads for a rock that juts out of the water a good 500 meters from the coast and serves as a sunny resting place for an obviously well-fed seal.
The main attraction of the tour, however, are birds that can swim just as gracefully as the fish: African penguins. The only penguin species on the African continent has one of its last refuges at Boulders Beach near Simon's Town. Around 2500 of the black and white feathered animals live in the strictly protected colony that belongs to the Table Mountain National Park.
The story of the penguins
For two to four million years, the flightless birds brooded relatively undisturbed on the small islets off the South African and Namibian coasts. Around 1900 their population is said to have been three to four million animals. Today the species has just 36,000 living specimens. The animals were displaced from the islands because humans took the building material for their nests by breaking down guano - and then also robbed the eggs. The penguins withdrew to the mainland, where predators threaten them.
In the meantime, the birds, as well as large parts of the Cape Peninsula and all coastal areas of the sea, are under the protection of Table Mountain National Park. It has long been recognized in Cape Town that the animals are much more valuable to live in the spectacular water world around the metropolis.