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South Africa Spectacular
[Photo Story] Stunning scenes from the Cape Peninsula
Nicolas van der Leek (Nick)     Print Article 
Published 2006-11-01 14:07 (KST)   
I spent last weekend driving around Africa's southernmost* coastline, the Cape Peninsula. It's a spectacular peninsula. We saw whales smashing their tails just outside Kalk Bay harbor (on the outskirts of Cape Town), and then another one drifting towards Simonstown a few kilometers down the coast.

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We also went for a walk on Boulder's Beach (near Simonstown) and saw a few penguins jump out of a small wave and run-waddle towards some nearby boulders.

At Kommetjie, which has stupendous views towards world-famous Hout Bay, we saw a baboon sitting on a white roadside rock, taking it all in.

You don't have to be a scrawny squirrel chasing after an acorn to appreciate this much abundance. When life unfurls around you in such vivid color, it is not hard to find oneself imbued, colored in, filled with a sunny sense of wellbeing.

When you see creatures lazing about in a bright blue ocean, glittering with stars, the world seems well, and a place where we can live good and healthy lives together. But beyond the obvious abundance of life here, is something far more astonishing.

The southern tip of Africa survived the last Ice Age virtually unscathed. The evidence of this is in the region's extreme floral diversity.

The Cape Floral Kingdom has at least 9,000 different species. The high importance of this area is put into context when it is compared with the world's other biodiversity hotspots.

What's even more fascinating are the endemics. Endemics are plants found in only one region and nowhere else.

The Cape floral kingdom has over 6,200, many more than are found in the British Isles. Early Dutch explorers called these endemics -- bushy plants they encountered at the Cape -- "fynbos," a reference to the fineness of the leaves.

If you want to see the sort of plants that survived the Ice Age (and thus were around for millenia) visit the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve, or climb Table Mountain (which forms a backdrop behind Cape Town) and pay attention to the interesting floral forms around you.

A protea, for example, does conjure up a different world. Perhaps not Middle Earth, but a place filled with bigger and tougher creatures. Proteas are some of the largest and most colorful floral forms, growing taller and bigger than most flowers.

South Africa's national cricket squad are named after these plants. Proteas, big pink or red lantern-like plants, are found growing on the cliffs beside the sea throughout the Cape Peninsula. They occur nowhere else in the world. Visiting the peninsula is like visiting the world thousands of years ago.

Seal in Kalk Bay Harbor
©2006 Nick van der Leek

Penguin at Boulders Beach, near Cape Town
©2006 Nick van der Leek

A ship in Kalk Bay Harbor encapsulating the spirit of the city and its people.
©2006 Nick van der Leek

Baboon surveying his kingdom at Kommetjie, on the Cape Peninsula.
©2006 Nick van der Leek

The view towards Cape Point
©2006 Nick van der Leek

Chapman's Peak with Hout Bay (and the rear end of Table Mountain) in the background
©2006 Nick van der Leek

Penguin Colony: An unusually quiet day on Boulders Beach, near Simonstown.
©2006 Nick van der Leek

The perfect building for an antiques shop!
©2006 Nick van der Leek

Lost penguin near Boulders Beach, Simonstown
©2006 Nick van der Leek
*Technically an area a few hundred kilometers East from Cape Point, Cape Agulhas, is the southernmost tip of Africa.

For more information on the author, please visit www.3xluck.blogspot.com.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Nicolas van der Leek

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