Last week I had one of my long-time dreams come true, flying over Table Mountain National Park, and the beautiful city of Cape Town, and the Cape Peninsula. My friend Jean Tresfon took me up in his little gyrocopter, which is ideally suited to aerial photography, because of the unobstructed views it offers, as well as its stability.
I’ve grown up in Cape Town, and have photographed the peninsula and surrounding ocean countless times, all from the ground. So to get airborne over my home town was truly epic! Conditions were perfect for flying – and for photography, although there was a bit of heat haze. Check out some of the photos below.
Jean and I were treated to some fantastic views of the scenery, as well as a few pods of dolphins at Noordhoek Beach, a Southern-Right Whale and her calf near Melkbos, a shoal of yellowtail fish near Fish Hoek beach, and plenty of seals at Seal Island near Hout Bay. Then there’s the colour of the clear, emerald water – it looks tropical, but it’s icy cold, due to the upwelling of the Benguela Current by the strong south-easterly winds
My flight with Jean confirmed for me a few things.
Table Mountain, the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Town are almost one and the same thing. Without the mountain and the sea, Cape Town wouldn’t be the beautiful city it is. I guess it’s an obvious statement, but for me, it’s worth emphasising, because the national park’s conservation of the mountain, the peninsula and the marine protected areas play such an important role in Cape Town’s allure – if not the most important role!
Just imagine if this area wasn’t protected – chances are there would be condominiums, shopping malls, suburbs and bright lights all over the mountain and the peninsula. As you can see from the photos, there is already so much development around the mountain and along the ocean.
Table Mountain National Park (especially the Cape Point section and the cable car above the city) is one of Africa’s top tourism attractions, so it’s important for Cape Town’s tourism business. And if it wasn’t for Table Mountain and the fresh water that flows in its streams, the city would never have developed here – Saldanha Bay 100kms north (near West Coast National Park) is a much safer harbour, but because there is no permanent fresh water there, the first European settlers set up camp at the base of Table Mountain.
Finally, there’s the incalculable “wilderness” value that the mountain, the peninsula and the sea provide for citizens and visitors of Cape Town and South Africa.
There are not many major urban areas in the world which have such easily accessible natural, unspoilt natural places – all within a few kilometres of South Africa’s second-biggest city! How amazing is it that one can run along pure-white beaches, drink fresh water straight from the streams on Table Mountain, or go diving with seals, or surfing alongside dolphins, or dodging great white sharks! (Okay, the last one is not exactly fun, but it’s great to know that all this incredible wildlife and natural, unspoilt scenery is right near millions of people living in Cape Town).
And this is Cape Town’s – and South Africa’s – greatest asset: the proximity of mostly unspoilt and diverse natural areas…a lot of other countries have already lost theirs, but we haven’t, and as a nation we should do everything to protect our wild areas. We may have many other issues in South Africa, but for those of us who are able to explore these places we are still very lucky to live where we do. And it’s why these places should be accessible to as many people as possible (within reason), so that they too can enjoy them.
It’s also worth mentioning that the sizeable population of Muslim people who live in Cape Town consider the mountain to be at the centre of a sacred circle, within which they are protected from danger and tragedy. Many of their religious leaders are buried in kramats around the peninsula’s mountain chain. Me, personally, whenever I walk on the mountain or swim in the cold water, I always emerge a happier soul.
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years incarcerated on Robben Island in Table Bay, and would gaze at the mountain, dreaming of a better future.
He says it best: “Over centuries Table Mountain has stood as a symbol of human capacity for hope and freedom. Whether for the Khoikhoi tribes fighting colonial domination, for Indonesian and Malaysian slaves who for generations have buried their leaders and holy men on its slopes, or for twentieth-century political prisoners. It is a sacred, precious place. To us on Robben Island, Table Mountain was a beacon of hope. It represented the mainland to which we knew we would one day return.”
Thanks Jean again for the awesome opportunity!
And wishing everyone a peaceful, happy festive season – and a good start to 2013. Thanks for all your support over the last year!
For more, go to vh275.dev-ls.co.uk and www.facebook.com/yearinthewild. Thanks again to my sponsors for making it all possible. CapeNature, South African National Parks, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Eastern Cape Parks, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Ford, Evosat, Conqueror Trailers, Vodacom, Digicape, Lacie, Frontrunner, Safari Centre Cape Town, K-Way, EeziAwn, National Luna, Nokia , Garmin, Goodyear, Global Fleet Sales, Hetzner, Clearstream Consulting, Escape Gear and Trailcam Adventures.