I ended up in Plettenberg Bay (known as “Plett”) for one simple reason- on warm days I’m liable to leave my jacket in the overhead of a bus or train and forget about it, but always realize the error of my ways and get it back. This happened when I stopped off at George and the driver dropped it off at a Plett hostel, so there I went.
As far as places to randomly end up in your world travels that you weren’t expecting, Plettenberg Bay is a top choice. A small seaside resort town on the Garden Route frequented primarily by South Africans on summer holiday it was a little quiet in wintertime, but the view more than makes up for it-
So gorgeous and so startlingly like California it was hard to believe Santa Cruz or Santa Barbara weren’t just around the bend. Look, there were even surfers!
A view from the water back towards town, every available surface with an expensive vacation home perched on it, shuttered for winter. This was also the first place in South Africa were all the houses weren’t surrounded by tall fences and the like (maybe a third weren’t) and it’s funny how houses that don’t look like miniature fortresses seem like the odd ones so quickly-
Anyway, one of my primary goals while in Plett was to do something very special that occurs every South African winter- go say hello to the whales!
Every winter the Southern Right Whale comes to shore to calve, meaning so close that you can see them from shore if you’re lucky. I’d seen whales twice before- once on the way out to the Great Barrier Reef, once briefly in the Caribbean when something large enough to resemble a house surfaced briefly to breathe- but whales are cool and are a lot smarter than they let on so I wanted to check them out.
Back in the days of commercial whaling these guys were named the “right” whales because when you harpoon one when it dies it floats instead of sinking. Hooray! They’re still endangered from that chapter of gruesome carnage, but luckily rebounding very well in recent years.
Anyway, whales are cool but it’s really hard to take impressive pictures of them. So we shall move on.
Near Plett is a place called Robberg Peninsula, where there is a seal colony. Thousands upon thousands of seals. It turns out seal colonies smell really bad so your only defense is to pray the wind blows in the other direction, but they’re plenty cute so tourists will still flock to see them.
Finally after all that getting acquainted with some aquatic-leaning mammals, I took a page out of their book and helped participate in the Beach Relaxation Project of Plettenberg Bay. Because if I have learned anything on this trip it is that perceptions of weather sorely depend on what you’re used to- sure it’s winter here but it’s probably warmer than it gets in some places in the US in summer, so why not? The water’s plenty freezing though; turns out the surfer guys are a touch crazy…