The Fairest Cape of All

Photo: Katja Laingui

The Fairest Cape of All

05 November 2020 | Tourism

At Cape Point, where the Table Mountain-group disappears into the sea, Da Gama Peak defiantly rises to a height of some 250 metres.

By Christina Rockstroh

The platform around the old lighthouse at the top of Da Gama Peak, is, where every person would like to spend some time at least once in their life. You invariably end up gazing across the expanse of the ocean and feel, as if you have just reached the end of the world. Many are convinced that this is the very tip of Africa and that they can see the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean merge in a straight line to the south. That is an incorrect assumption, but who cares - it is a traveller’s dream come true. Cape Point has magical appeal and is easy to reach by picturesque coastal access roads in the greater Cape Town area.

From the parking lot below Da Gama Peak a steep slope leads up to the lighthouse. Instead of the arduous climb, you may choose to take the funicular that takes you to the top in three minutes - to an area with terraces and benches allowing you to take in the glorious view. From there it is a short climb along a staircase leading to the actual lighthouse perched on sheer rock faces high above the crashing surf. Many more pathways and stairs allow you to do some exploring. Far below towards your right - next to a beautiful sandy beach - is the Cape of Good Hope and on the left - at the end of the last rocky outcrop - the newer lighthouse.

Soon after the first lighthouse was built in 1859, it proved to be ineffectual in foggy conditions. Sixty years later the powerful second lighthouse was put into operation just 87 metres above sea level. For those, who would like to take a closer look: it is situated half an hour’s hike from the parking area.

Bartholomew Diaz was the first European Seafarer to circle the southern tip of Africa in 1488 and promptly called it the Cape of Storms. Nearly 100 years later Sir Francis Drake had the good fortune to experience it as the fairest cape in all the world.

The funicular is called the Flying Dutchman. The famous legend of a ghost ship, which is doomed to eternally sail across the seas, has its origin in the Cape of Good Hope. As the story goes, the captain of a Dutch ship in distress called on the help of the gods or the devil back in 1641 - he ended up being doomed for eternity.

As part of the neat infrastructure at the lower station, tourists will find a kiosk, a souvenir shop and the spacious “Two Oceans Restaurant” with magnificent views of False Bay. A considerable number of tour groups descend on this facility for lunch, thus it is advisable to make reservations in advance.

The nature park at Cape Point is criss-crossed by narrow roads and hiking trails. The Shipwreck Trail on the False Bay side of the park, takes about 90 minutes. The location of a dozen wrecks is known at the tip of the Cape alone. One of these ill-fated ships, is said to have transported a cargo of buffalo, which made it safely to shore. Today’s Buffels Bay offers braai facilities, a tidal pool and toilets.

It is thanks to the persistence of farsighted Capetonians, that this spectacular landscape of mountains and seaside was placed under nature protection in 1939. Now it is part of Table Mountain National Park, which extends from the iconic mountain down the entire length of the Cape Peninsula. Its vegetation is unique and its Fynbos world-renowned. While it is the smallest of the six floral kingdoms of the world, its more than 2200 flower species make it a hotspot of bio-diversity with proteas, ericas and orchids found in abundance.

Cape Point is no longer blessed with much fauna though. The Big Five and other larger mammals were hunted to extinction or displaced soon after European colonisation. Ostriches are a fairly common sight - and baboons, of course. Absolutely nothing escapes their attentive eyes, even if they seem totally disinterested.

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