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Penguins with my porridge

Looking over False Bay with a glass of bubbly in hand, Jim Freeman started his day in style at the Tintswalo at Boulders Villa

Anyone who thinks penguins are cute has never tried to clean one after an oil spill. The little buggers wriggle like demented cats and, if you do not have their heads grasped firmly, they will have chunks out of your flesh faster than you can say Exxon Valdez.

They are, however, endearing creatures and it is easy to see why so many visitors to Simonstown equate them with the quaint historical town. When you see black and white on the road from Simonstown to Cape Point, it is not a zebra crossing but African penguins heading to-and-fro from their nesting scrapes under the fynbos and Boulders Beach.

Boulders Beach, operated by SANParks as part of the Table Mountain Nature Park, is one of just three penguin nesting sites on mainland Southern Africa. Overlooking the tiny, secluded beach is the all-suite Tintswalo at Boulders Villa, the latest accommodation addition to the Tintswalo Group’s portfolio of luxury game lodges and boutique hotels (www.tintswalo.com).

The villa was previously run on a bed-and-breakfast basis but Covid-19 restrictions prompted the introduction of in-house dining for resident guests. Two-course meals (R380 pp, half price for children under 12) are prepared in front of diners and presented on the terrace overlooking False Bay, around the fire-pit (weather permitting) or in one of two enclosed dining areas.*

I was one of Chef Dustin Hammond’s “guinea pigs” on my visit. “You are starting with prawns with lemon and garlic butter as well as a piece of herb-crusted kingklip accompanied by a light salad of cucumber, apple, and orange. Main course is a grass-fed beef fillet with mushroom sauce and pan-fried carrots and mushrooms on the side,” he explained. The meal was wonderfully paired with a Springfield Estate Whole Berry cabernet sauvignon.

Tintswalo at Boulders Villa opened just over two years ago as – says group chief executive Lisa Goosen wryly – “part of our pre-Covid expansion programme”. “One of my cousins is an estate agent. He called to say he found the perfect spot for another ‘Tintswalo’. I just rolled my eyes and said ‘whatever’ …”

Fortunately, her mother, Tintswalo-founding co-director Gaye Corbett, was in Cape Town from Gauteng and when she heard the property was in Gay Street, insisted they take a look at it. “We fell in love and bought it lock, stock, and barrel. We had a lot of fun redecorating.”

In keeping with the maritime history of Simonstown, the nine suites are named after famous ships, including the Dromedaris, Grosvenor (wrecked off the East coast of South Africa in 1782), HMS Endeavour on which Captain James Cook “discovered” Australia in 1770 and Captain William Bligh’s mutinous Bounty.

Like all Tintswalo properties, Boulders Villa is offering discounted accommodation rates to residents of SADC countries. These rates are valid until 19 December. I stayed in Waterwitch, named after a twin-masted yacht built in Scotland in 1878 passing into the hands of the British Admiralty where it was pressed into service as a survey vessel 15 years later. Waterwitch sank in Singapore Harbour in 1912 after being accidentally rammed while lying at anchor.

For those who love to sleep with windows open and be lulled by the surf, Simonstown is extremely sheltered, and you are more likely to hear lapping wavelets than pounding breakers. Strangely though, while penguins are far from melodious, I found their incessant braying (which once gave them the name jackass penguins) quite soporific; perhaps it was the wine at dinner …

False Bay in the early morning is often spectacular. The sun rises on the far side of the bay, from Gordon’s Bay to Hangklip (depending on the time of year), initially silhouetting the Kogelberg, Roman Rock lighthouse, and the naval dockyards before bathing them in gentle pastels.

Gaye Corbett is well known for her quirky attention to detail when it comes to décor and I was amused to note the pair of carved penguins atop the marmalade jar at breakfast. So tickled, in fact, that I poured myself another glass of bubbly and toasted the raucous birds below. Bottoms up, fellows!

*Light midday meals are also available. However, on the other side of Simonstown, the Tintswalo group recently converted the once-legendary Glencairn Hotel into an upmarket but casual family restaurant and bar named Barstaurant (check www.barstaurant.co.za for the menu). It is family-friendly and open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Text: Jim Freeman | Images: Supplied