Agulhas National Park

On the edge of the world

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South African National Parks

On the edge of the world

Cape Agulhas: of storms, long summers and tangible history

We’re driving south; as far south as you can go on the African continent. Wild flowers lead us like yellow breadcrumbs to the gates of the Agulhas National Park.

I feel like we’re on the edge of the world; the jagged coast reminds me of an old map, the kind where world just ends at the horizon, and there are sea monsters waiting below for falling ships. As if to prove this point, we drive past a shipwreck rusting into the sea.

We’re spending the night at the Agulhas Rest Camp, don’t be thrown by the name; it’s practically four-star accommodation. The wooden A-frame chalets have thatch roofs, and inside is immaculate. Our home for the night has two bedrooms, each with en suite bathrooms (tiled and beautiful), and the white beds are big and soft, there’s even a flatscreen TV with DSTV.

But, my eyes are on the view: The boiling blue sea stretches so far it fades into the sky. The chalets have been designed to look natural, so they really are at ease with the surroundings. We’re flanked on all sides with herbaceous fynbos, and we can hear birds within the dense foliage.

Settled, and hungry, we head to the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse for lunch. Dating back to 1848, it was the second one to be built in South Africa. Today it’s a national monument, and inside you’ll find a lighthouse museum as well as a restaurant. And, for a small fee you can climb right up the lighthouse.

But first, we eat. The small restaurant has rustic charm; wooden tables are soft-to-touch from salty air, and bric-a-brac is everywhere: like someone’s home. (From here you can also buy Cape Agulhas Honey Bush Tea.)

Next we explore: we go see where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet; we examine immaculate shells on a beach that looks like a movie set (so perfect); we drive; we play. The chalet is self-catering so before it gets too late we head to the shops in L’Agulhas to buy supper.

The next morning, waking up to the white noise of the sea, we spy shiny flanks of whales in the ocean. The weather for our trip has been sunny, but I’m keen to come back in winter to also experience a true Cape storm.

Things to do

  • Drink wine along the Elim wine route: the southernmost wine-growing area of South Africa. The wineries make stellar maritime Sauvignon Blancs.
  • Grab your binoculars and head to the wetlands to see diverse and rare birdlife, such as the African Black Oystercatcher.
  • Look out for Southern Right whales in spring and early summer.
  • Diving and scuba diving. Pop in at the tourism office by the lighthouse for more information on these activities.
  • Fishing, there’s plenty of angling to be done off the rocks.
  • Relax and braai
  • Hike,there are some fantastic scenic routes: go in spring for a wild flower show like no other.
  • Run, the Foot of Africa Marathon is held here every year in October.
  • Scour museums. The Shipwreck Museum, Elim Heritage Centre and the Lighthouse Museum give a glimpse into a time gone by.

Where to stay

Agulhas Rest Camp – Chalets (by the sea)
We stayed here and didn’t want to leave. This camp is located just 7.8 kilometres from the lighthouse. There are four two-bed and four four-bed self-catering chalets to choose from: so you can bring the extended family too.
Wow factor: the views and the nature

Agulhas Rest Camp - Lagoon House (by the sea)
One word, wow. This location – it’s flanked by a blue lagoon on one side and a pristine beach on the other – is sublime. The historic Cape Dutch house has an appropriate white facade, and inside there are four bedrooms, of which two have separate external entrances and en-suite bathrooms. There is also a kitchen and living area in the house.
Wow factor: the blue lagoon will enchant you.

Rhenosterkop Guest Cottages (inland)
Want to stay on one of the oldest farms in the Strandveld? The cluster of cottages was established in 1742, and the name originates from the skull of a Black Rhino which was found in the area. The farmstead has two two-bedroom cottages and one one-bedroom cottage. While the accommodation has been lovingly restored, it’s still without electricity.
Wow factor: The tangible history, proximity to birdwatching hotspots and the nearby Elim wine route.

Bergplaas Guest House (inland)
This large family homestead is close to Stuisbaai, so bring those surfboards and your surf buddies. The guest house has five bedrooms, four of which have en-suite bathrooms, and is fully equipped with crockery, cutlery, braai facilities and bedding. Great for family gatherings or get-togethers with friends. 
Wow factor: The size of this old farm house and the view of the plains from the veranda.

Tip: For holiday reading get yourself a copy of Driftwood by South African author Dalene Matthee. This moving tale is set in the Strandveld and mentions actual beaches and homesteads in the national park.

By Malu Lambert

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