Sea Kayak in Hout Bay

A paddle-perfect cove, a seal-crowded isle, and cold, cold water
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Where the waves are modest and the water
is frigid: the sandy beach of Hout Bay
(Nathan Borchelt)

I don't think I shook off the zombie-like effects of jet lag from the 13-hour flight from New York to Johannesburg (followed by a two-hour layover and another flight to Cape Town) until that first wave hit our two-person kayak and drenched me as I paddled into the surf of Hout Bay. Make no mistake, even with the late-summer sun beating down, the Atlantic is cold, and after that frigid baptism, I quickly realize that the real struggle won't be fighting the waves; it'll be to stay in the boat and out of the water for the duration of our two-hour excursion.

Much to my pleasure, after clearing the breaks, the water seldom breaches the hull. Even when the occasional fishing or motor boat churns up the water into powerful swells, the wind proves more difficult to fight than the waves, and soon my paddling partner and I are cruising after Barry and Janine, our guides from Adventure Village, an outdoor tour operator based in Cape Town. A third boat follows behind us, completing our flotilla.

We follow Barry and Janine as they paddle under the docks of Hout Bay. Even with a sudden influx of urbanites anxious for a calmer life in the suburbs, Hout Bay is a working harbor, and retains an air of rustic charm that's absent from other waterside Cape Town haunts like the Victoria and Albert Waterfront, the western-style shopping-and-docks complex in the city's main harbor.

Opposite Hout Bay, a rocky incline leads to the start of Chapman's Peak Drive, one of the world's foremost coastal routes. Unfortunately, recent rockslides keep the first stretch of the road closed to vehicles until repairs are complete. The 2,600-foot outcropping known as Sentinel Peak marks the southeastern edge of Hout Bay, its base continually punished by crashing waves.

Published: 20 May 2003 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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