Snuggled along the deep valleys, rolling hills and mountain cliffs, on the western cape of South Africa, the small city of Hout Bay is encroached with snow-white sandy beaches and framed with trees & thick flora. In the midst of this artistic African wonderland is where we spent an entire month during our 8-month extensive tour of S. Africa. An eye opening drive of about 40 minutes from the amazing port city of Cape Town Hout Bay offers a peaceful and serene setting of breathtaking beauty. It rests precariously between towering, jagged peaks, thick jungle and the whitecap surf of the Atlantic Ocean.
[Also see our travel article “The Beaches of Cape Town“]
As a photojournalist, I have traveled the world seeking the unknown, the beautiful and the amazing. I found it all in S. Africa and especially in Hout Bay. Even though I was fascinated by Cape Town I do love the solitude of the less touristy areas and felt immediately rejuvenated as we entered this haven by the sea.
Our crew had arrived late on the night of October 28th 2003 at the Cape Town International airport and had made arrangements to spend at least a month touring just the Western Cape. Our perspective was not to get absorbed by the flowing beauty of Cape Town and maintain a broad-minded approach in exploring the entirety of this southern most part of Africa. Staying outside of the city would allow us to tour it at our leisure.
Departing from the plane after the long 15 hour flight our first and, at the time, only interest was to check in at the closest hotel. After breezing through the South African customs, we took a cab to a referred & quite comfortable hotel a few kilometers from the airport. At this point of our trip our primary and only goal was to pass out in the cool darkness of our rooms, which is exactly what we did. Rising the next morning, feeling total refreshed, we met in the lobby and walked out into the warm clean air of the Cape and was greeted by the slowly rising morning sun. We were totally ready for this adventure and after a hearty breakfast at the hotel, we made arrangements for a driver to take us on a 4 hour-long tour of Cape Town and eventually to our pre-arranged destination, Hout Bay. Driving in and around the city and along the bay tweaked our imagination and my Nikon was feverish in capturing the unfolding glory of this remarkable city. Needless to say, we frequently stopped to shoot hundreds of photos. Witnessing an amazing diversity of culture and scenic beauty throughout the short tour we knew whole-heartedly, that this was just the beginning. Driving just north of the city, we parked in utter silence as we stared at the famous Table Top Mountain. It was covered in a perfectly formed white blanket along its highest plateau illustrating with clarity its descriptive name, Table Top. This city, its people, the open markets of bustling native people excited the very air we breathed. Cape Town is truly one of natures and mans artistic achievements, unparalleled anywhere.
Leaving the city we drove along the winding mountainous road hugging the ever expanding bays and stopped ever so often to film & photograph, not wanting to miss a thing.
Knowing that this tour would definitely not be enough, I had already made arrangements for a rental company to deliver a car to our booked accommodations. Complete mobility was definitely not an option…it was crucial.
As the small 2-lane highway made the last flowing curve down the mountain pass we were fully exposed to the long white beach, the sunbathing people, the rows of cafes and the sky blue water of the bay as it faded off into the expanding Atlantic. Once again we stopped for photos. I knew we would never forget this beautifully inspiring land and knew fully well that our initial instinct to come here was inspirational, to say the least.
Our arranged lodging was at The Martingale House. The white two stories, early 19th century house had been fully refurbished and converted into a multi-floored guesthouse and we were booked to enjoy the entire top floor to ourselves. Our accommodation was a beautifully decorated two bedrooms, full kitchen, dining area, huge bath, and totally self-contained luxury apartment. With the stereo system, large sofas, big screen television and a balcony overlooking the private pool and garden it was the ultimate vacation accommodation. Scanning above the magnificently colored trees and flora was an overwhelming mountain and bay view…it was absolutely stunning. Unloading our bags and after some gracious and warm welcoming from our hosts, it was time to relax, but only for a few hours. I couldn’t wait to get out and explore the area.
After what seemed like only an hour, the driver brought our car and loading our cameras, we were off to soak it all in. The 50,000 plus photos and hundreds of miles of film we shot of S. Africa made sure that this tour would not be forgotten…ever!
Day and night for a complete month we explored every inch of the coast, the mountains, the towns and cities for hundreds of miles in each directions. We dined in small beach side cafes and fabulous restaurants, hiked the hills, sipped local wine from the numerous wineries, danced away the early morning hours at discos and all in all had the times of our lives. We never met or encountered a single ill tempered or even slightly rude person. Our only setback was that we did, however, accumulate way too many souvenirs and as our bags grew heavier and heavier we realized that even after our initial month, there was still much to see & do. We left this beautiful apartment on the 29th of Nov. and after bidding farewell to our kind hosts, and knowing that we could and would not leave the area completely, we drove back into Cape Town to find additional lodging in the city. We ended up staying another 3 weeks in which we took numerous driving tours, some as far as the southern most part of the continent, Cape Point & Cape of Good Hope. The visual exasperations of the wild wind swept capes that had for centuries wrecked hundreds of ships were the ultimate spiritual stimuli, not to mention the family of roaming baboons we encountered along the way. They were rummaging through a large dumpster behind a small roadside café. As they say…one persons trash is often another’s treasure!
Traveler’s Digest most assuredly recommends South Africa in its entirety and this specific region of this most remarkable land on Earth. When you do venture to the region, and your most surely owe it to yourselves to do so, we refer you to enjoy the luxury accommodations and welcoming hosts of the Martingale Estate. And for all you bird lovers, it sits directly across from the renowned bird sanctuary “World of Birds.” Believe me there is no sweeter sound to awaken your early morning hours than the sweet spiritually refreshing songs of African birds. The Martingale House is a fine balance of leisure; comfort and amenities abound in the absolute most panoramic location.
As a Traveler’s Digest highly recommended member, the Martingale House is our preferred choice for vacationers, travelers of all types, business or pleasure, seeking the ultimate accommodation for their money.