Our last day in South Africa was jam-packed...
We started at Boulders Beach watching the penguins. They're called 'jack-ass' penguins - apparently because they sound like donkeys but the politically-correct term is now African penguins. Far less fun.
There were lots of other tourists at the Boulders Beach colony, but there was an isolated part of the boardwalk that provided an even better view of the penguin beach that John and I took the few extra minutes to walk to. The penguins were so neat... and surprisingly small. There were a few seagulls on the beach that looked bigger than many of the penguins.
After gawking at the penguins for a while, we drove around the tip of the continent to Cape Point Park (www.capepoint.co.za).
We had intended to do some hiking at Cape Point, but it was so incredibly windy that we just got blown around - not a good thing on steep trails with long drops down to the surf.
Once we had decided that hiking was not in the cards, we walked up to the lighthouse at Cape Point. Cape Point is almost the southern-most part of Africa (Cape Agulhas about 150km south-east is actually as far south as you can go in Africa),but it was astonishing how much farther Antarctica is... around 4,000km to the closest Antarctic coast and 6,248km to the South Pole. And 16,431km to Vancouver!
We drove around Cape Point a bit looking at the giant crosses that guide sailors, hiking up the Cape of Good Hope, and doing some fantastic dassie-spotting! Dassies are the common name for the cape hydrax, which are often thought to be the closest living relatives to elephants... apparently this may not be true, but I still thought the little creatures were pretty cool!
One dassie seemed really curious about us and got really close to me as John snapped pictures. I was so excited about seeing dassies before going to South Africa, that this was certainly a highlight.
We watched some incredible wind surfers, explored the shoreline and then spotted a giant plume of smoke rising from close to Cape Point. We followed a fire truck from a distance back towards the Point and saw flame spread through the fynbos (dense scrub).
Fire trucks seemed to be trying to put out the fire as people parked alongside the road and watched the action. We were getting ready to go... and then we heard the helicopter.
We watched the helicopter scoop up water from the ocean and dump it on the fire. It was astonishing how close we were to the helicopter and the fire. John took hundreds of pictures (quite literally!) and after about 40 minutes a second helicopter arrived. Finally it looked as though the two water-bombing helicopters had put out the fire... lots of steam and smoke...
Once we got back to the hotel, we headed out for a substantial sushi dinner and one last bottle of South African wine while still in South Africa.