Table Mountain Marine Protected Area
Did you know?
Symbolic padrãos (large stone crosses) were erected at Cape Point to honour Portuguese explorers of the 1400s.
As you stand at the very tip of the long crooked Cape Peninsula, part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, it feels as if you are inhaling air freshly blown at you from the icy Antarctic.
Below you, on either side of the peninsula, waves are breaking on a rugged shore. It is all too easy to imagine that on one side is the frigid Atlantic and the other marks the end point of the warm Indian Ocean. In fact, the two inter-mingle all along a vastly greater area, the entire southern coastline of South Africa.
Still, there is no denying the drama of the spectacle. Also, the diversity of marine life here is extraordinary, matching that onshore. The marine park contains 43% of the all the species along South Africa’s coast, making it something of an undersea biodiversity hotspot.
The Table Mountain National Park MPA stretches all around the Cape Peninsula, from Mouille Point near Cape Town's centre all the way around to Muizenberg in False Bay. It includes rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, a lobster sanctuary, and a number of ‘no-take’ zones that act as nurseries for over-exploited fish species.
Wandering along the tip of the Cape Peninsula is a highly intelligent tribe of baboons that spends a large amount of time consuming seafood – mussels, washed up shark eggs and other edible flotsam and jetsam. Primatologists have argued that thanks to their seafood diet, these baboons seem brighter than others living off less nutritious foods.
The Table Mountain National Park MPA offers a high degree of interaction with this incredible seascape. You can surf here, scuba dive and snorkel (bearing in mind the water is icy), kayak, whale-watch and kite-surf. The park itself is well worth exploring with its craggy mountains full of windswept floral beauty.
Just bear in mind those very clever seafood-eating baboons and don’t leave your car open as you step outside to admire the scenery.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Table Mountain National Park
Tel: +27 (0)21 712 2337/0527
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111
How to get here
From Cape Town's centre, head towards Muizenberg (about half an hour's drive) and carry on south towards Simon's Town. You'll soon enter the Cape of Good Hope section of the Table Mountain National Park. The Table Mountain Park Marine Protected Area will be all around you.
Best time to visit
This area is dramatic any time of year, but the fynbos is in full flower between September and November.
Around the area
You can see (and visit) South Africa's tallest cast-iron lighthouse at Slangkop, at Kommetjie.
Length of stay
This is a delightful destination for a half or full day. Or stay for five days and do the Hoerikwaggo Trail, which you can book through South African National Parks.
Where to stay
Cape Town itself, along with little peninsular towns like Kalk Bay, Muizenberg, Kommetjie, Scarborough and Simon's Town, all have excellent accommodation options. But you may want to ask about the few rather splendid self-catering options within the Cape of Good Hope (the peninsula) section of Table Mountain National Park.
What to eat
There is a restaurant at Cape Point. Simon's Town has lovely seafood restaurants too.