Cape Point & Cape of Good Hope
Cape Point is one of Cape Town’s most popular tourist sites. It is part of Table Mountain National Park, the most South Westerly point of Africa and is located at the end of the Cape Peninsula. In 1488 Bartolomeus Dias rounded the Cape during a dreadful storm. He subsequently named it the Cape of Storms. On a second voyage, the weather was much kinder to him and he renamed it the Cape of Good Hope. A few years later, Dias died while trying to round the Cape. A monument in the form of a navigational beacon has been erected in the Park in his honour. The Park offers a rich diversity of plant species as well as a marine reserve and animals such as baboons and Cape Zebra. The peak is 249 m above sea level and can be reached by foot or the funicular railway. The lighthouse at the tip of the Peninsula is the most powerful in the Southern Hemisphere.
Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. (8500 ha) 7 Species of antelope including the Eland, Bontebok and Cape mountain Zebra are to be found here.
The Cape Peninsula’s rich and diverse plant life has earned it eight World Heritage Site accolades from UNESCO. The Cape Floral Region makes up only 0.5% of Africa, and yet it is home to more than 20% of the continent’s plants. In fact, there are more floral species in the Table Mountain National Park region than all of the United Kingdom. You’ll find many of these while at Cape Point – recent estimates suggest that there are over 1000 species of plants in the Cape Point region, of which at least 14 are endemic.
There are two lighthouses at Cape Point, only one of which is still in operation as a nautical guide. While still a popular tourist attraction, the old lighthouse built in the 1850s no longer functions – it sits too high above the ocean and is often covered by cloud. Ships approaching from the east could also see the light too easily, often causing them to approach too closely. Because of this, they often wrecked on the rocks before rounding the peninsula. In fact, it was the wreck of the Lusitania, on Bellows Rock below the lighthouse in 1911, which prompted the construction of a new, more effective structure. The new lighthouse at Cape Point is one of the most powerful on the South African coast. Its lights have a range of 60 kilometres and each flash has an intensity of 10 million candelas.
The Flying Dutchman
Legend has it that ghost ship the Flying Dutchman haunts the oceans surrounding Cape Point, unable to make port and doomed to sail the turbulent seas for eternity. One of the earliest reported sightings of the Flying Dutchman Funicular came from King George V in 1881, but several Simon’s Town residents claim to have seen the ship in more recent years. While the myth likely has its roots in 17th-century nautical folklore, these days you can sail to the foot of the old lighthouse in the funicular of the same name.
Today, the funicular is a railroad that provides a novel and exciting way to travel to the upper lighthouse, and is named after the myth above, being called the Flying Dutchman Funicular. At the lighthouse on the summit, you will be rewarded with simply breath-taking views of the Atlantic Ocean. The most recommended time to visit is at sunrise or sunset where the landscape turns into a surreal vista of beauty and charm. While it is reasonably far out from the city centre, there is so much to see along the way. Truly a drive to savour !
Cape Point also offers you the opportunity to see wildlife while you’re in Cape Town. The resident baboons of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve often provide entertainment with their naughty behaviour, occasionally grabbing food from unsuspecting visitors, but the baboon troops mainly stay away from the crowds and are often seen on the side of the road, or on the beach itself
Larger mammals provide a surprise: bontebok antelope are common along the grassy coast but the mighty eland, weighing in at up to 900kg, also occurs in the reserve. Large numbers of eland – sometimes up to 60 individuals – can sometimes be seen in remote grazing pastures. A small herd of Cape mountain zebra can sometimes be seen from quiet roads.
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