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South Africa

Photo story: South Africa

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The South African western coast
The South African western coast

Originally called the Cape of Storms by its Portuguese discoverers, the Cape of Good Hope was so renamed in view of the opportunities opened to Europe by a sea route to India and the Far East. Since its late 15th century injection into hearts and souls, it has long remained of significance to sailors everywhere.

The Cape and Dassen Island

This rocky headland on the Atlantic coast is not Africa’s southernmost point, but rather its most south-western; the cape around which ships turn east after heading south for so long.

The Cape of Good Hope
Cape of Good Hope

The sandstone continues the bulk of the mountains that range from Table Mountain some 50 km to the north, before plunging into the sea forever.

The Cape of Good Hope
The Cape

Two lighthouses mark the Cape. Many ships were lost on the nearby dangers due in part to the original lighthouse being positioned too high and consequently often being obscured completely in the area’s cloud and mist.

Cape of Good Hope historic lighthouse
Historic lighthouse

It was replaced in 1919, set lower down and built precariously on the razor back ridge.

Cape of Good Hope lighthouse

Our long term plans included a foray to the High Latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, and visiting some of the more interesting southern African coast would shave some miles off the long passage. When it was time to leave Cape Town, we began coast-hopping.

Dassen Island
Dassen Island

Dassen Island is a nature reserve found through 35 miles of fog north of Cape Town, fog which lifted after finding anchorage to reveal countless thousands of birds.

Dassen Island birds

Dassen, from the plural of dassie, refers to colonies of rock hyraxes found by its discoverers. Landing on the uninhabited nature reserve is now prohibited.

House Bay, Dassen Island, birds
House Bay flocks

House Bay hosts dozens of seabird species and we spent several days onboard and rowing the dinghy around the bays simply taking in the spectacles.

The majority of these birds are arctic terns, on their migration north from Antarctica.

House Bay, Dassen Island, birds
House Bay dock

No dry land goes unused as cormorants roost on the rocks.

St Helena Bay, rocks and birds

Rocks form protection for anchorage in St Helena Bay, a large bay back on the mainland coast and the last one before we headed north.

St Helena Bay, Dassen Island, rocks and birds
St Helena Bay

Up still farther and a line on a map is crossed – and the traveler enters a new land. Namibia and the Skeleton Coast will be another story.