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Spend the day at Cape Point
Where wild views and pirate coves meet hiking trails and tidal pools
Though most famous as the site of the towering promontory that looks out over the collision of South Africa’s surly ocean currents, the Cape Point Nature Reserve – a popular Cape Town tourist attraction that lures thousands of sightseers each year – is also a world-class place to while away a day hiking, biking, swimming, bird-watching and braaing.
Billed as the most southwesterly tip of the African continent, the reserve’s narrow finger of land and the edge-of-the-world, sea-meets-sky views it affords, are certainly must-sees for those journeying to the Mother City on vacation; but the park as a whole is also a geographic phenomenon that can just as aptly appeal to seasoned locals and experienced South African holidaymakers.
Apart from the jagged, 200-m-high sea cliffs and breathtaking vistas, the 7750 hectares that make up the reserve include wild beaches, fynbos-rich valleys, sun-warmed tidal pools and a mosaic of flora and fauna: the stretch of land is home to 250 bird species, 1100 indigenous plant species and a wealth of both small and large animals (from the Cape Clawless Otter to the eland).
Not to mention, a whole host of activities await those looking to reacquaint themselves with South Africa’s scenic beauty. An assortment of walks, hiking trails and cycling routes wind their way over the various vantage points and through the fragrant bush, and a handful of picnic, swimming and braai spots are available for those looking to simply relax and unwind.
On a more adventurous note, the reserve includes access to angling and ping sites, and surfers can also get their stoke on via the sizeable ocean swells.
Finally, if a day trip seems like far too little time to pack in all the things to do at the Cape Point Nature Reserve, spend the night at one of the self-catering accommodation options on offer: the Eland & Duiker Family Cottages or the Olifantsbos Guest House.
For more information about the reserve and its many activities, contact the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre at +27 (0) 21 780 9204.
20+ FUN FACTS ABOUT CAPE POINT
- The Cape Point Nature Reserve has been considered a nature reserve since 1938, and was incorporated into the Cape Peninsula National Park – part of the Table Mountain National Park - in 1998.
- The cliffs at the reserve’s southern point tower more than 200m above the sea and feature three clearly-defined promontories: Cape of Good Hope, Cape Maclear and Cape Point.
- Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Dias became the first to round the Cape Peninsula in 1487. He nicknamed it the “Cape of Storms”, for the notoriously bad weather in the area.
- There are 26 recorded shipwrecks around Cape Point.
- One of the most famous legends regarding Cape Point is that of the Flying Dutchman, a ship supposedly headed home to Holland from Batvia (now Jakarta) in 1641. When the vessel approached the Cape, the stormy weather so typical to the region shredded the ship’s sails and waves engulfed the deck. Terrified, the crew begged their captain, Hendrik van der Decken, to turn back, but he had rounded Cape Point on several occasions and refused to submit to the elements. He bound himself to the wheel, swearing that he would sail around the peninsula, even if it took him until Doomsday. The story goes that an angel appeared on the deck, but the enraged captain drew his weapon and shot her. The captain’s wish to round the point was granted that night, but the price was that he and his crew met their deaths and were doomed to sail these waters forevermore.
- For the past three-and-a-half centuries, a phantom ship glowing blood red in the night with a mad, bald captain at the helm has been sighted by many a sailor. They say she lets down her row boats with ghostly men aboard who approach, searching for a good samaritan to deliver their letters back home,wherehome, where they haven’t been for more than 300 years.
- Evidence of the point’s many past shipwrecks lies scattered along the coast, from west to east, and can still be seen today from a number of shipwreck hiking trails. The viewpoints include Olifantsbos (Elephant Bush) Point, Die Hoek van Bobbejaan (The Corner of the Baboon), Buffels (Buffalo) Bay and Cape Point. To find out more about hiking routes, visit the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre within the reserve.
- The Flying Dutchman Funicular, a cable-drawn carriage named after the infamous ghost ship, not only provides visitors with an exciting and novel mode of transport to the panoramic views at the top, but it also saves sightseers a long uphill walk from the car park (believe us, we know).
- The word ‘funicular’ originated in the 17th Century from the Latin term funiculus, derived from the word funis (rope).
- There are a number of hiking trails to be found in the nature reserve. The best way to get acquainted with the various routes is to stop over at the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre, where you can speak to an informed staff member or pick up a detailed brochure for a mere R3.
- Bordjiesrif and Buffels Bay offer great angling opportunities, as well as safe tidal pools for swimming.
- The Cape Point Souvenir Store stocks a wide variety of products – t-shirts, mugs, fridge magnets and more – that can’t be found anywhere else in South Africa for purchase in; visitors can also buy the Cape Point Certificate, an official record of visit.
- Alternatively, visitors looking for some maritime memorabilia, the Lighthouse Five – the curio shop near the lookout point next to the funicular’s top station – has everything nautical and more. Take home treasures like ships’ wheels, brass bells and Ngwenya glass figurines, to name but a few.
- The recently renovated Two Oceans Restaurant boasts breathtaking views and a world-class menu. While their specialty is fresh seafood – including a varied sushi selection – the restaurant caters for vegetarians and meat-lovers alike, and they also have a kiddies menu.
- On the other hand, if you haven’t quite worked up a hefty appetite, but are feeling a bit peckish, there’s also a snack shop next to the restaurant.
- Cape Point has two lighthouses. The first lighthouse is stationed at the top of the funicular and was commissioned on 1 May 1860. Unfortunately, built too high to be effective when mist rolled in, the beacon failed to save many ships navigating through the Cape of Storms.
- The second lighthouse was commissioned on 11 March 1919, and was built closer to the water than the first, so that ships could see the light even during the worst of storms. With 10 million candle power, a reach of 63-km and three flashes every 30 seconds, the lighthouse is billed as the most powerful in South Africa.
- As part of the Cape Floral Kingdom Heritage site, the Cape Point Nature Reserve boasts more than 1 100 species of flora indigenous to the area (that is, such species don’t grow in any other part of the world).
- During whale season – from the end of July to the end of October – you can spot these massive mammals moving past Cape Point in their annual migration, a movement that can take them distances of over 5000-km.
- Bring your binoculars to spot some of the 250 different species of bird life, from the large ostrich to the tiny Cape sugarbird. Additionally, the reserve is home to the Cape mountain zebra, the eland – the world’s largest antelope – the mongoose, the dassie (rock hyrax) and the (in)famous chacma baboon.
Note: Do not feed the baboons; this offence is punishable with a fine. Also, do not leave your car doors unlocked or windows open as the baboons are very intelligent and highly opportunistic.
THE CAPE POINT NATURE RESERVE’S OPENING HOURS
The Cape Point Nature Reserve is open seven days a week (Monday to Sunday), from 6am to 6pm.
CONSERVATION LEVIES FOR THE CAPE POINT NATURE RESERVE
Entry to Cape Point costs R50 p/child (under the age of 12), R105 p/adult, and is free for Green Card holders. A single ride on the Flying Dutchman Funicular is R16 p/child (aged 6 to 16), and is R39 p/adult; a return ticket costs R21 p/child and R49 p/adult.