Playing tour guide, my first stop is this vantage point overlooking the splendid vista of False Bay. Simon’s Town lays at the foothills, and way in the distance on the opposite side is Cape Hangklip. The small town bustles with a distinct naval ‘air’ having been established as a naval base by the British in 1799 and where today the SA Navy is stationed. We’ll pass through it, as we’re on our way to visit Boulders to see the African penguin colony.
The Boulders area is dotted with impressively sculpted granite rocks sheltering discreetly placed sandy coves. Here a colony of African penguin (Spheniscus demersus) have found a comfortable nesting area. From just two breeding pairs in 1982 the population numbers have increased to about 2200 in recent years.
We will venture down the boardwalk to see the main nursery.
As you will note the houses are quite nearby – this is as close to an ‘urban’ colony as can be imagined. The area is fenced off, but often the penguins stray beyond the boundaries and care must be taken driving or parking to check if all is clear.
Sadly the African penguin is listed in the Red Data Book as an endangered species, and the birds are in considerably more trouble than rhinos. With the decline in shoal fish such as pilchards and anchovy they could be heading for extinction in the not too distant future.
To end the tour, a nod to the eminent granite Rock Stars, all of 540 million year old. A pathway follows along the coast for a nice leisurely stroll and swim to top off the experience.
It rained on New Year’s eve here in Cape Town and we awoke at dawn on the morning of the 1st to the gentle patter of raindrops still falling. Now five days later it’s back to parched earth and the dam level aggregate has dropped to 29.1%. We are worried; very worried. The City Council warns that Day Zero could happen as early as 18 March – that is when the taps will be switched off and citizens will have to queue for water at designated collection points.
Meanwhile the summer season is in full swing; beaches, scenic sights, vineyards, restaurants are all buzzing with festivities and happy visitors. At times residents feel overwhelmed and scuttle off to the lesser known spots. Or get up early to beat the queues to the beach or nature parks.
This past week the mornings have been sweetly scented and cool and as we’ve set out to hike or cycle through our favourite nature reserve we’ve tended to see animals on the move, generally moving through an area foraging. Recent sightings of five different baboon troops highlight how their behaviour changes when their territory overlaps with the park’s recreational areas or how the attractants in town, like the refuse bins lure them off the mountain. For most of the year the baboons forage on natural vegetation or in the rock pools. Come summer and the picnic spots draw them like bees to a honeypot.
Below the Buffels troop check out the barbecue area for scraps.
In contrast the baboons in the photos (below) of the Kanonkop troop like to forage in natural vegetation.
Chacma baboon picking sourfigs.
The fruit of the sourfig is high in vitamin C
Seaching for sourfigs.
Baby rides jockey style.
A favourite scene – juveniles with a baby picking the berries from Rhus crenata.
Sister is playing nursemaid and keeping an eye on baby while mum forages.
So intent on eating his meal of Leucodendron cones.
Chacma baboons in restio field.
There’s always time for a bit of rough and tumble.
On the Atlantic side of the Peninsula, another troop – probably the Olifantsbos troop dash across the beach in a strong breeze to get to the rock pools to forage for mussels and other shellfish delicacies.
Beach scene when the wind was blowing.
Heading to the rock pools.
The dash across the beach.
The sand was stinging that day.
The Smitswinkel troop are generally kept off the road by the conservation rangers, but this season we’ve found them on the road several times – a hazardous situation for both baboons and motorists.
Smitswinkel troop on the road.
Every piece of plastic is a target for inspection by the baboons.
The contents of a refuse bag.
Baboons from the Waterfall troop sometimes make excursions into town to raid the rubbish bins –
Bin raid in Simons Town
Bread has a high calorie reward for a baboon.
Street bins are not locked and the lids easily knocked off.
Picture the scene: the Smitswinkel baboon troop (23 individuals) going about their daily routine. There they are minding their own business, foraging for food along the scenic route to Cape Point when along come some eager tourists looking for photo opportunities. Granted, generally the baboons are protected by the Human Wildlife Solutions rangers who are contracted to manage their movements but today the animals give them the slip and they roam freely. Usually the rangers successfully keep them off the road. In the past this troop has suffered badly through the negative impact of visitors encroaching into their space and through motorists feeding them. I have blogged in previous posts here and here and in December last year.
So what is it about this narcissistic obsession of taking “Selfies”? The visitors in this scene are Spanish speaking and are obviously not familiar with keeping a respectful distance from wild creatures.
Chacma baboons at Castle Rock, Cape Peninsula.
Chacma baboons _ the Smitswinkel Troop along the road at Castle Rock.
It’s always a treat to come across Cape Point Reserve baboons and i was lucky to observe a large troop this morning while out for an early morning cycle. High on the menu are the watsonia corms which are reappearing after the fire. The regenerating vegetation is a drawcard for many of the browsing buck and we’re sighting eland, red hartebeest and bontebok. As the troop moved along one of the young male baboons acted as the rear guard, herding the slower moving mothers and babies while the alphamale looked rather battleworn showing a nasty open wound on the head. It’s tough at the top, an alpha has to keep ontop of the game by fending off competitors.
A female rests at the pool.
Leucadendron laureoleum are favourite snacks.
The rear guard climbs up a tree pincushion for a better view.
Tucking into watsonia corms
Stripping the outer sheath from the corms
Baboon mothers show a gentle patience with their offspring.
Simon’s Town has a naval tradition which stretches back to 1795 and to the first British occupation of the Cape. A visit to the Naval Museum or the local history Museum showcases the area’s rich historic record. The air of tradition still lingers through the old colonial buildings and the dockyard base and in the village square is a bronze statue of a much loved and rather unique member of the Royal Navy. Attaining the rank of Able Seaman, “Just Nuisance”served his time in the early 1930’s. He was signed on with full rations, issued with a seaman’s cap and identifying dog tags. His trade was noted down as “Bonecrusher” and his signature was recorded with a paw print. Today his memory is commemorated by a yearly “Great Dane” parade around the square, and he is fondly remembered as a vital part of folklore history as being the only dog to have served in the Royal Navy.