Much of the Cape Peninsula is taken up by the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, home to many species of plants and animals, and beautiful scenery. Everybody who joins a tour of the Cape Peninsula will visit the reserve, and be glad that they did. In the days when transport was slower, however, some of the people who lived in this windswept wilderness felt isolated. This may explain a recurring theme among the hauntings here.
The Flying Dutchman has been seen from the reserve, and keepers of the Cape Point lighthouse often recorded sighting her during storms.
In the reserve, baboons have been seen to form a circle around one of their number, and to intimidate it with barks and gesticulations. This is said to be a baboon "court". It is said that if found guilty, the accused baboon must leap into the sea and die. Some people have claimed to have seen these "executions".
Visitors are sure to see baboons at close range. Their behaviour and abilities never ceases to surprise, and some think that in spite of their tails, their intelligence compares favourably with that of the anthropoid apes. Khoikhoi people used to say that baboons can talk, but pretend that they can't because, otherwise, white men would make them work. This subterfuge does not always succeed. Near Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, there was a baboon called Jack which operated railway signals on behalf of a crippled signalman, J. E. Wide. It became so good at its job that it did not require instructions, although, presumably, the signalman always watched to make sure. In the early nineteen-nineties, journalists photographed a baboon working as a shepherd in the Northern Cape. It was a wild baboon which had been watching the shepherds at work. For no explicable reason, it decided of its own accord to help them with their task. It may still be working at its chosen profession.
Baboons in the reserve are unusual in that they sometimes eat shellfish. Once, a young baboon thus engaged was seen to be dragged into deep water, and drowned, by an octopus.
The homestead Buffelshoek has become a tea room. A ghostly woman in white has been seen in the building. The spectre tried to cradle an elderly woman, as though she were a child. It has also been seen outside, under a cypress. Screaming and wailing has been heard at night. The despairing spirit may be the wife of a man who killed himself, after learning that she was pregnant by another man.
Near an old cemetery in the reserve was another house, at which the manifestations were so frightening that the house was demolished. There is also the Skaife House, on the west of the reserve, which is used by researchers. Here, a man used gas to kill himself, but his troubled spirit remains. At Klaasjagersberg, there is a group of cottages in which the reserve's rangers live with their families. The lounge of the oldest cottage is a "rondavel", or circular building. Here, the spectral body of a suicidal man is seen hanging from the rafters.
Sea serpents are sometimes seen from the Cape Peninsula. On one occasion in the nineteenth century, a sighting was shared by Dr. Biccard, superintendent of the Somerset Hospital. He described it as 150 feet long, with a dark body and a bulbous, white-spotted head. On another occasion, witnesses included C.A. Fairbridge, an authority on marine biology.
Outside of the reserve, at Boulders beach in Simonstown, the wild penguin colony is on the itinerary of any good Peninsula tour. Be warned, however! On a tour which I joined, the guide, in a rush, implied that the beach was difficult for unfit people to reach. For that reason, some of the older members of the tour stayed on the bus, so as not to inconvenience the others and delay the driver. When I got to the penguins, it was without having to walk a long distance, or scramble over rocks, or climb up and down hills. A fairly short walk from the car park, along a straight and level tarred road, will bring you to the penguin sanctuary, and you will start seeing penguins even before you walk along the wooden platform, which has been built for viewing the penguin colony. I was furious, and complained to the tour company. However, that was too late to help those individuals who had stayed on the bus, so that the guide would not be delayed by slow walkers. You will have travelled thousands of miles to see the wonders of the Cape. Don't be put off by a bored tour guide who wants to finish early!
If a tour of the Peninsula includes the nature reserve, it will also include the famous Chapman's Peak scenic drive (as long as the road is open). Along this road, a procession of ghostly monks has been seen. The origin of this haunting is unknown.
Your Peninsula tour will also surely include the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, known for its superb scenery, as well as being the best place to get an idea of the richness of the Cape Floral Kingdom. In the garden is the spring of the Liesbeek River. In this spring, too, lady Anne Barnard is said to have bathed nude while on a picnic. For this reason, the bird-shaped sunken pool at the spring is sometimes called Lady Anne Barnard's Bath. However, she may have bathed in the spring before the pool was built. It is also called the Bird Bath, and some say that it is not because it is shaped like a bird, or because it is for the benefit of birds, but because it is supposed to have been built by one Colonel Bird, in 1811. (The pool, however, is built of Batavian bricks. Batavia was a Dutch colony in the East Indies. Would Colonel Bird have still been importing bricks from there, five years into the second British occupation of the Cape?) Again, Lady Anne haunts the castle, so why not here?
A Peninsula tour will include a chance to go on a cruise, to see the thousands of seals in False
Bay. Dolphins are sometimes sighted on the cruise, and from the mainland. If you are in Cape Town
from August to October, you will also have a good chance of seeing whales from the Peninsula.