“O sea-bird, beautiful upon the tides,Dafydd ap Gwilym, “Yr Wylan” (To the Sea-gull) 1969
White as the moon is when the night abides…”
Africa is a bit of a tourist conundrum. As a continent, we still use the ‘darkest Africa ’tag as a way of indicating that Africa remains wild, a land with wide open places where the Big Five roam free and tourists all dress like 19th-century explorers. On the other hand, we have places like the V&A Waterfront, which represents the cutting edge in 21st-century tourism attraction; a combination of history, technology, position and (of course) shopping opportunity. There are also tourists ambling around the V&A precinct dressed like 19th-century explorers, but maybe they are on their way to the wilds for a safari.
Africa, travel and safaris are synonymous. The word itself comes originally from the Arabic safar, meaning a journey, however, ‘safari’ itself is actually a Swahili verb meaning ‘to travel’. Richard Burton (the explorer, not Elizabeth Taylor’s fifth and sixth husband) introduced the word to English speakers in the 1850s, and it has been the quintessential word for an adventure ever since. The actual first recorded expedition that could be called a safari actually took place in 1836, when an early Victorian traveller called William Cornwallis Harris led an expedition to observe and record African wildlife. This set the tone for future eco-tourism. In the words of the official description “…a not too strenuous rising at first light, an energetic day walking, an afternoon rest then concluding with a formal dinner and telling stories in the evening over drinks and tobacco.” These days the energetic walking is usually replaced by a comfortable 4×4 and the formal dinner is normally a braai, but the idea remains unchanged. Authors Jules Verne and Rider Haggard gave rise in the 1870s to a style of novel known as Safari Adventures, and soon the whole world was entranced by the idea of safaris. Sadly, a few gung-ho individuals added guns to the mix, and rather than recording and observing wildlife, trophy hunting became the norm. This abhorrent practice is still popular with some people; with luck, the legislation will eventually stop these heroes from killing beautiful animals for killing’s sake.
Not all safaris are landbound, we have to point out. The oceans have creatures that far outweigh the Big Five of our game parks if the size is the criteria, and the beauty and diversity of the sea life are mind-boggling. At Waterfront Charters we are proud to be running our Ocean Safari cruises; one of our core values is the preservation and conservation of marine life, and the best possible way we can spread the message is by showing guests the magic that is alive in, on and above our seas. To this end we utilise our RIBs – those in the know will recognise this acronym, for those who don’t it stands for Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat – and these vessels are ideal for the modern-day ocean safari. With twin (very) powerful outboard motors, the rigid hull of the name married to strong side-forming air tubes that are pumped to a high pressure gives rigidity and safety to the vessel. Passengers are seated low in the vessel, and this offers superb close-up viewing opportunities. The RIB’s are the stealth fighters of the marine environment: powerful and quick, safe and buoyant, and quiet and furtive when required.
A Waterfront Charters Ocean Safari is the perfect way to experience the Atlantic Ocean. It’s no luxury ride, we admit: don’t expect champagne and truffles. But do expect thrills and action as you get up close and personal with the abundance of creatures that surround us. From playful seals to pods of dolphins; sunfish and penguins; whales (at the required distance) and orcas (in season); seabirds too numerous to mention and…of course, views. The iconic Cape Town views of mountains and blue ocean, golden beaches and our bustling harbour. What a perfect combination.
No fishing rods, no spearguns: just viewing pleasure and exhilaration. A perfect cruise year-round in fact, for locals and tourists alike. And we don’t mind at all if you are dressed like a 19th-century explorer – just hold on to your pith helmet as we plant the throttle.