Mālama Kumu in South Africa

November 20, 2015

Today we ventured out to see southwestern South Africa. Our day of exploring, observing, learning and laughing was guided by our gracious, friendly and very knowledgeable hosts Ed and Heather Scott. They not only were great company, but also gave us valuable insight into the historical, political, environmental, cultural and social landscape of South Africa. I was blown away by their knowledge of every bird, plant, town and landmark we passed. Being with them is education at its best!

We started off driving south toward our first destination, Muizenberg, also known as "Surfer's Town." That alone got me excited! Along the way we passed rich forests, vineyards, Cape Town's university and the prison where Nelson Mandela was moved to after 18 years on Robben Island. The scenery was beautiful.

As we neared the coast, the landscape became drier, but still alive with wild-growing protea and native low-lying brush. We drove into Muizenberg on the western corner of False Bay where we were greeted by a spectacular view of this beach town. We stopped at a spot overlooking Muizenberg and its vast white sand beach where surfers playfully rode waist-high waves to shore. Perched on the hillside next to us in a small wooden hut sat a "shark spotter" who carefully watched the water for any signs of danger. Yes, this is shark country and there is a deep respect for ocean life here.

Our next stop was Boulder's Beach, home of native South African penguins. Hundreds of penguins lounged on the beach, resting peacefully as onlookers gawked and snapped photos. It's molting season and many of the birds were half naked, feathers sloughing off on the wind. We learned that while they are molting the penguins do not eat. Most make it through just fine, but occasionally a bird will get "stuck" in this phase and die of starvation. Some penguins sat in and around their nests, holes burrowed in sand mounds well away from the shoreline. This beach home belongs to the penguin.

We continued down to the Southeastern-most point of the continent to the Cape of Good Hope. Dry, low lying brush is decorated with magnificent yellow clusters of protea. We were excited to see groups of baboons and their young traveling along the side of the road. Cormorants crowd on the shoreline rocks and an ostrich feeds near a parking lot, unaware of the droves of tourists snapping photos at an adjacent landmark. Large surf churns through thick kelp beds and the sky is overcast and cold. The view of the vast ocean, steep cliffs and rocky shoreline from the lighthouse lookout was spectacular.

Our journey continued along the shoreline and, after a brief rest stop or two, we arrived at the base of Table Mountain. This prominent landmark gets its name from its flat top, a large South African version of Ka'ala. We took a cable car ride to the frigid top where we took in spectacular views of Cape Town, the Atlantic Ocean and sun rays streaming through cracks in the cloudy skies. The cold windy air finally forced us indoors where we enjoyed hot chocolate and rusk, a local favorite tea time snack.

I can only summarize this day as being enlightening, educational and awe-inspiring. Seeing the African landscape reminds me that there are so many beautiful places in this world and it is worth venturing out to find these jewels. Just remember to dress for the weather and don't feed the baboons!

Submitted by Matt Martinson, Academy PE Faculty