Catch of the Season – Jan Moran Neil lets us in on one of her best kept secrets – False Bay
There’s a place where two great oceans meet, the sea is only ever moments away, the fish you eat has only been caught hours before and the south east breezes blow the blues away, whilst the north west winds warmly embrace.
My editor asked me to write about where I go every year. It’s my best kept secret, but a secret is something I tell people one at a time, so here we go…
False Bay is so called because when sailors first starting rounding ‘the fairest Cape of them all,” as Sir Frances Drake said, it was often mistaken for Table Bay. Table Bay is home to one of the most famous and flattest topped mountains in the world which is often draped with a tablecloth of pure white cloud.
Because my husband had the good fortune to be brought up in Fish Hoek (despite the fact that alcohol cannot be purchased here – plenty is consumed) it is the coastline that hugs the Indian Ocean with which I am, on warm days, more than intimate.
Driving down from Cape Town for about thirty minutes the first village on this coastline which greets you will be Muizenberg. Here you will see the grand architecture of Victorian times before reaching Kalk Bay, a fishing village, renowned for its antique shops, actors and artists trading their wares. I swear, this is where you will taste the best fish in the world: the Harbour House, as the sun slips, with 270 degree views of the sea and bay is a divine experience and Kalkies on the shore will sell you fresh Yellowtail which is somewhere between extraordinary and phenomenal.
We move on down to Fish Hoek where Southern Right Wales can be seen between July and November if you stroll along its famous catwalk.
Drive on down to Simon’s Town, home of 2350 adult penguins – last beak count taken in 1997. In 1983 two African penguins were seen on Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town and two years later they began to lay. It’s the only place in the world you can swim with penguins, but you’re unlikely to pick one up: they’re monogamous. Looking at them, it beats me how they … oh, wonders never cease.
Another of Simon’s Town’s wonders is Just Nuisance. Born on April 1st 1937, it’s no joke that this Great Dane was enlisted into the Royal Navy. His owner ran the United Services Institute in Simon’s Town, a Navy Base. Sailors fed Just Nuisance titbits and so bellbottoms became his friends. So much so that he would jump on trains and get off at different stations to meet his sea-faring mates. Complaints were rife: Just Nuisance liked to lie on the train seats. The problem was solved by giving him Royal Navy status with the trade of Bone Crusher. He was also given a bed in Simon’s Town naval hospital in his ailing weeks and died on 1st April 1944.
Driving on to the tiptoes of Africa, Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope sit on a Nature Reserve of 7800 hectare. The reserve is home to buck and ostrich. Baby baboons play on the roads whilst Father with arms folded sits watching unconcerned: we’re all on holiday.
When Portuguese Bartholomeu Diaz first sailed around the Cape in 1488, on reaching this part of the world, they had conquered the Cape of Storms. Their luck had changed and thus the name of Good Hope has been given to this stretch of land. 120 steps crafted in national stone lead up to an old lighthouse on the Cape Point Peak.
Cape Point is where Africa lazily dips its big toe into two oceans: the Atlantic and the Indian. It’s here that if you look behind you, you sense this wild and wonderful continent is at your heels. If you look to the right, to the left and ahead, there’s absolutely nothing for an awfully long way: India, South America, the Antarctic. And it’s from here the winds arrive from two oceans, gently bathing False Bay with a salty freshness. The way the winds are blowing in this brave country is very important. They call the southeaster the Cape Doctor. It feels good to be there. But it’s a secret, so tell people one at a time.
For a virtual tour of the Scenic South see