We have a fascination with odd road signs. In Namibia we snapped many picture of signs that we had never seen before, some of which we never deciphered. We rent a car each weekend in Cape Town and Sandeep drives us around the wineries, ocean routes and mountains. What makes Cape Town memorable for us is its natural beauty, so it’s no wonder than many of the road signs have something to do with nature.
Capetonians seems to defer a lot to nature. The joke about the weather is, “If you don’t like the weather in Cape Town, wait an hour.” The winds off Table Mountain are so strong that the trees surrender in odd angles. One day I literally thought the wind was going to swoop Kayan away. Signs everywhere tell us to take care of nature, be it in the form of penguins or baboons. We weren’t sure if this sign at a Stellenbosch winery was asking us to watch out for ducks or snails. Either way, all four of us obediently had our eyes peeled on the road, although I must say it seems futile to try and avoid snails when driving.
The day after we watched for snails we watched whales along the Whale Coast Route, a stretch east of Cape Town which claims to be the best spot in the world for land based whale watching. Around July, Southern Right Whales migrate from Antarctica. They get very close to the shore, where they rub off their accumulated barnacles on the massive boulders that line the ocean floor. It is still early in the season, but we were lucky to see a few whales in the distance as we sat on shore and ate lunch. We never even knew that the concept of land based whale watching existed and it’s a memorizing experience to be on firm ground while watching these giant creatures out in the vast ocean. We’re planning another trip back in a couple of weeks when hopefully more whales will have migrated.
While there is some marine life we want to see, there is others that we’d rather avoid. The same coast that attracts whales, penguins and seals also has one of the highest concentration of Great White Sharks in the world. Kruger National Park and Great White Shark diving are often cited as the two most popular reasons that tourists come to South Africa. These blue boards educating surfers, swimmers and beach goers about sharks dot the coastline. The last fatal shark attack in these waters was in April 2012, although such attacks are rare. Many of Cape Town’s beaches have official shark spotters and signage that informs people about current shark conditions.
The shark smart board reminded us that we humans are more often encroaching on these animals’ habitats than the other way around. We are so fortunate to be able to enjoy all sorts of animals, from lions to whales, in their natural habitat while in Africa. These experiences have been opportunities for our entire family to really understand that we share this world with so many creatures and that their survival depends on our care and respect.