Discover one of Africa’s most iconic must-visit landmarks
Cape Point is Africa’s most southwestern promontory, sweeping out into the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Town. It’s an enigma, offering a little bit of everything to those who venture here.
Here’s why you’d be missing out if you don’t visit Cape Point during your upcoming trip to the Mother City.
The Cape Point area is prone to violent storms with low visibility and violent waves. The ‘Point’ was at one time a place of dread and a welcoming beacon for sailors of yore. By day, it served as a navigational landmark but when fog or darkness descended, it presented a considerable risk.
Esteemed sailor, Bartolomeu Dias discovered Cape Point in 1488, on his way back from the Port Alfred area and promptly christened it the ‘Cape of Storms’.
Many a ship ended its journey dashed among the jagged rocks littering this part of the Western Cape coastline.
Almost a decade later, in 1497, Portuguese King, João II, ordered Vasco da Gama to investigate the area. It took Da Gama three attempts and five days to round the point.
Nowadays, you might discover two tall white pillars with a cross on top. These pay tribute to these two brave sailors who first ventured this way.
In 1859, a lighthouse was erected at 238m above sea level on Da Gama Peak to warn seamen of the impending landfall. This proved wholly ineffective in misty conditions and a second lighthouse was built in 1911. This is South Africa’s most powerful lighthouse, emitting three consecutive flashes of 10 million candelas every second as it revolves, with a range of 60km. The old lighthouse is still in place and serves as a central monitoring point for all the country’s lighthouses.
The old lighthouse still stands and is open to curious visitors via a strenuous hike or by taking a three-minute trip on the Flying Dutchman funicular.
Due to its elevated location, the old lighthouse offers staggering views of the oceans and coastline of the cape. There’s always a chance you’ll spot whales from August to October, and folklore enthusiasts keep their eyes peeled for a sighting of the Flying Dutchman ghost ship.
This ill-fated vessel is said to sail the high seas off Cape Point desperately signalling for help, over three centuries after it was torn to shreds by the tempestuous Atlantic.
You can take the 3.58 km hike from the parking lot to visit both lighthouses. The ramble to the old lighthouse is short, steep, and well used.
Many visitors prefer to take the three-minute trip on the wheelchair-friendly Flying Dutchman Funicular which comprises two 40-seater carriages. The funicular leaves the parking lot every three minutes to take the 585-metre-long track to the viewing point just below the lighthouse at the summit.
The funicular runs from Thursday to Sunday between 9am and 5pm.
Although Cape Point doesn’t mark the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, meet, it’s easy to believe that these churning waters represent this clash of giants.
The ocean puts on a spectacular display of raging waves churning over the rocks almost around the clock. On land, Cape Point is awash with gentler scenes of diverse animals and plants and rugged cliffs.
Cape Point nestles in the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve, which is part of the Table Mountain National Park. TMNP is well-known as the custodian of millions of plants which make up the universally acclaimed Cape Floral region, a World Heritage Site.
You’ll also find some of the Cape’s most beautiful beaches around Cape Point, surrounded by lush valleys and rimmed by pale turquoise waters.
There’s no shortage of sandy stretches to admire and enjoy around Cape Point, but there are a few that stand out above the rest:
This crescent-shaped haven boasts waters awash with every shade of blue from navy to aquamarine, progressing from light to dark as the ocean deepens. The powder-soft sand is a treat for relaxing, reflecting, or sunbathing in these tranquil surrounds. You can braai and picnic here and at the neighbouring Bordjiesdrif Beach if you bring your own grid and firewood.
This secluded, unspoilt beach is a great place to spot some of the resident wildlife while admiring the coastal views. You can also walk or jog among the pale sand dunes and challenging rocks or dip your toes in the chilly Atlantic waters.
Diaz Beach is another pristine, out-of-the-way stop for those who enjoy their privacy. It’s a 20-minute walk from the parking lot to the stairs leading to this glorious place. You can’t swim here, but the beautiful scenes and tranquil atmosphere more than makes up for that.
Olifantbos Beach is a veritable showcase of all that Cape Point comprises, with melancholy scenes of shipwrecks juxtaposed against wonderful wild fynbos.
Apart from the staggering diversity of flora, representing over 1 000 species, Cape Point is home to many wild creatures. Baboons are common, as are ostriches, and you might also catch sight of a variety of antelope and the following:
There are over 270 species of birds resident in the park, including raptors, sugarbirds, sunbirds, guineafowl, bokmakieries, Egyptian gees, and numerous pelagic birds.
You might catch sight of these while admiring the views or during one of the many excursions on offer within the park.
You can hike among the abundance of Cape Point any time of the year, but winter does have its challenges. The main hiking trails are:
The less energetic can enjoy a day trip with guided E-bike tours that traverse the park to take in all its most iconic sites.
If you’re eager to try something completely different, you can book a foraging expedition around Cape Point. During this outing, you’ll learn about the natural abundance on tap in the waters and on land. You’ll even learn how to make a meal out of what you find.
Helicopter tours offer a different perspective of this wonderful landscape, departing from the V&A Waterfront and taking in aerial views of the Twelve Apostles and the wine estates of the False Bay coast on the way back.
For a closer look at the ocean, eco boat trips with their knowledgeable local guides will enthral you with expert information about the ecosystem. Avid fishermen can try their hand at catching longfin, yellowfin, big-eye tuna, and skipjack on deep sea fishing outings.
Spending the Day at Cape Point
During your visit to this iconic park, you can recharge the mind and body by enjoying a meal with a view at the Two Oceans restaurant or pick up a light meal at The Food Shop.
Don’t neglect to stock up on mementoes of your trip at one of three retail outlets onsite.
Find out more about the delights on offer in South Africa by browsing our blog or get in touch for more information.
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