As Tulear, southernmost port in Madagascar, slid into the haze astern, steep beam seas ran from the southeast into the Mozambique Channel. Six hundred miles later the Agulhas Current flowing down the African coast gripped Whale Song and pushed her south at 11.5 knots against head seas. A welcome diversion, dozens of dolphins burst from the crests of rising swells and headed east, and above them raced squadrons of terns. Near shore just before Cape Town, the wind died, the sea flattened. Only whales, blowing and breaching, disturbed the calm, glassy surface that melted into pale sky.
The city of Cape Town felt more like Europe. Yet within a short drive we saw the worst of South Africa (the cardboard townships) and the best (Table Mountain National Park). Two ostriches crossed the road, looking down on the stopped cars. A male baboon charged into our car, yanked out my camera bag and ran — lenses, flashes, memory cards spilling down the road. Finding no food, he abandoned the bag on the edge of a cliff. There, at 34 degrees south, Africa is cool, and a colony of penguins thrives on this coast washed by the Southern Ocean. This cold current sweeps up the western shore of Africa, causing a persistent haze to hide Namibia's high dune shores fronted by shoals. Called the Skeleton Coast, it produced many shipwrecks in the pre-GPS age. Even today only diamond mining ships come near it.