Kayaking in central Cape Town

by - November 06, 2020

 After being cooped up inside for months, with the eventual relaxation of lockdown restrictions, it became time for an adventure. So, what do you do when you live in Cape Town, international tourism isn’t really an option due to a stupid pandemic and you have already seen penguins, alpacas and the mythical dassie

You go in search of whales!

Unfortunately, the best place to see whales is in Hermanus and Hermanus is nearly 2 hours away, so we settled for Three Anchor Bay near central Cape Town and lowered our whale-spotting expectations quite dramatically. Either way, we set out on an adventure and it did not disappoint.

Kayaking in Central Cape Town
We went on Heritage Day, a public holiday in September where the multi-cultural people of South Africa honour their respective heritages. Usually they do this by 'braaing', which is the South African word for a barbecue or a cookout, but with a little bit more patriotism. We derive a great deal of national pride from this pastime, so how dare you imply that other nations do the same thing? It’s different, okay? It’s special! 

People also often dress in their traditional attire which is my favourite part of the holiday. This year, matching face masks were also incorporated. 

I think it’s hard for people of British descent who live in previously colonised nations to really get excited about their heritage, so I decided to honour my merfolk heritage instead by returning to what is obviously my true ancestral home: the ocean. 

I should stop to clarify that normally by ‘we’ I mean Rodrigo and myself but this time around, I went on an adventure with my friend Julia. I didn’t take Rodrigo because he’s hollow and I was afraid that if I couldn’t secure him to myself or the kayak, he might end up becoming another one of those pieces of plastic debris floating around in the ocean. I effing love turtles, so I left him behind. 

Kayaking in Cape Town


Kaskazi Kayaks & Adventures

While there are a few kayaking options around, we went with Kaskazi Kayaks and ended up with a nice German fellow named Dirk as our guide. (Because of lockdown, I haven’t encountered anyone with a foreign accent in ages, so that was nice.) We were lucky enough to have him all to ourselves which was good because, as it turns out, we were not very good at steering and went off course ...consistently. What course? 

If we had been with a group we would have been ‘those people’ who are always off doing their own thing (which, if you’ve read about my India trip, is not really new to me either). Dirk was very patient with us. 

Kaskazi Kayak tour in Cape Town

The Cape Town coast can be a little crazy with winds blowing in different directions, currents and rough seas, but we managed to go on an obscenely beautiful day when the waters were calm and there was a very slight breeze.

While I expected our steering to be better, I didn’t have much faith in my upper body strength at all and was quite surprised as to how far we actually managed to kayak down the coast in our two-hour session.

At first, all we saw was litter. It was a little distressing to see how much plastic was floating around out there. I tried to fish it out with my oar but it took me a while before I quite perfected my litter-fishing technique. 

Girls on sea kayak

 At one point I tried to fish out a Blue Bottle. If you’re not South African, you’re probably thinking, “Well that’s good, bottles don’t belong in the ocean irrespective of what colour they are,” but actually, a 'Blue Bottle' is our term for a type of sea creature. I believe in other parts of the world it would be referred to as a ‘Portuguese man o' war’. What a complicated title! Who came up with that? It doesn’t roll off the tongue at all! And then what is the plural? Portuguese men o' war? Portuguese man o' wars? If you accidentally say ‘of’ instead of ‘o’ have you mispronounced it? And is there a collective noun for them? I have so many questions! 

I was just happy to have spotted some ocean life! (Well, apart from the kelp growing beneath us.) Eventually, we saw some birdlife. I think we even saw a penguin! And, after a while, I spotted a fin and nearly lost my mind. It was a dolphin fin and dolphins are magical! We stared at the same section of water for much longer than we probably should have. We had no idea what was to come! 


Dolphins spotted from Kayak in Cape Town

Satisfied that we had seen a dolphin fin from far away and gotten our money’s worth, we continued on. What started with a vague sighting, led to a few encounters with whole pods of dolphins, on one occasion, even swimming right under our kayaks. It was incredible! While a whale-spotting would have been nice - and do occasionally happen in these waters - with whole pods of beautiful dolphins swimming around us and beautiful views of Table Mountain from the sea on a gorgeous spring day, how could anyone ask for more? 

Kayak tour group surrounded by dolphins

Maybe on the Day of Reconciliation (South Africa’s next public holiday), we will have to make that trip to Hermanus after all and be reconciled with the whales we didn’t get to see ...or maybe just some more Portuguese Men of Wars.


How to get to Kaskazi Kayaks: 

Address: 179 Beach Road, Mouille Point, Cape Town.

While Kaskazi Kayaks does have an office at the petrol station at this address, you will meet your instructor on the beach right outside the kayak storage facility. 

There is a parking area located conveniently just next to it. You don’t have to be a dummy like me and cross the road to the office and then cross back again. 

There is a surprisingly well-cared-for public toilet (by South African standards) on the slope that takes you from the parking area down to the beach. 

Kaskazi Kayak meeting point map

Do You Need to Take any Safety Precautions while Kayaking?

Cape Town is far from the safest city in the world. It’s best to store your valuables out of sight in your car or at another location. The other alternative is to leave your valuables in the kayak locker. I did this and had no problems. 

 

Is Kayaking Social-Distancing Friendly? 

While you may not be able to keep a distance of more than 1.5 metres from your kayak partner, you should have no problem keeping that distance from the rest of your group. 

Face masks can be worn but can also be uncomfortable when involved in such physical activity. 

The open-air nature of this experience makes it more social-distancing-friendly than many other activities and it makes for a great way to experience Cape Town.


How Fit do you Need to be for Kayaking?

I don't consider myself to be fit at all so I expected to struggle with Kayaking. It turned out to be a lot easier than I expected and we travelled a lot further than I thought we would be able to go. Having said that I have no previous injuries or fitness issues. 

Kayaking against the backdrop of Table Mountain
 

What to Wear for Kayaking in Cape Town:

  • Comfortable beach wear is suggested, or something that you would feel comfortable rowing in. 
  • Cape Town weather can be unpredictable so a jacket (or windbreaker) is recommended. (In fact, if you carry one of these with you for the entire duration of your time in this city, you probably won't regret it.)
  • Shoes are unnecessary. Flip flops are perfectly adequate to get you to the meeting point and then you can kayak with bare feet. You could also wear water shoes if you absolutely must. 
  • Sunscreen, hats and sunglasses are all recommended. The South African sun can be harsh.

 

What to Bring for Kayaking:

  • You can bring a waterproof camera or action camera if you want. It’s not really necessary though, as our guide took photos of us at no extra charge and they were much better than my own.
  • Water. You'll probably be thirsty when you're done. 
  • A towel and a change of clothes were also recommended. We didn’t really get wet, except for our feet. I would suggest that you save some of your water or bring a spare bottle to rinse off your feet and something to dry them with, especially if you have to put shoes on to drive.  

Taking a photo from a kayak

When is the Best Time for Dolphin-Spotting in Cape Town?

Granger Bay (where Kaskazi Kayaks operates) is known as one of the best places in Cape Town to see dolphins. Heaviside dolphins are very commonly spotted here. While they are present all year round, the water is considered to be most nutrient-rich between May and late November, attracting more fish and therefore more dolphins to these waters.  


Other Companies that offer Kayaking in Cape Town:

Central Cape Town:

 Simon's Town:

 Hout Bay:

 

Kayaking in Cape Town


 Things to do close to Kaskazi Kayaks:

  • Stroll along the Seapoint Promenade  
  • Picnic at the world-class Greenpoint Park
  • Play putt-putt at the not-as-world-class putt-putt course
  • Sample some unconventional ice-cream flavours at The Creamery 
  • Or go on a little train ride at the Blue Train Park 

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