Cape of Good Hope
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe rewards awaiting visitors to this well-known landmark located at the bottom left hand corner of South Africa are rich indeed. Known locally as the Cape Peninsula, it more famously trades as the Cape of Good Hope, a name bestowed on it in 1488 by Portuguese navigator, Bartolomeu Dias . His discovery was a major revelation at the time, as it confirmed that there was indeed a sea passage to the east around southern Africa. The prospect of other undiscovered riches in the Americas to the west was still some time away.
The Cape of Good Hope lies at the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula, and comprises a series of rugged rocks and sheer cliffs clambering more than 656 feet/600 feet above sea level. This wild unpopulated section of landmass cuts deep into the South Atlantic Ocean, and provides a spectacular backdrop for this National Parks’ incredible bio-diversity. It falls within the World Heritage site of famous Table Mountain National Park, and encompasses 7,750 hectares of rich and varied flora and fauna.
Historical PerspectiveDias appropriately nicknamed the peninsula the Cape of Storms. The sea routes around this coastline are among the most dangerous anywhere on the planet. No surprise then, that this ocean gateway has gained the respect of countless sailors from every nation over many centuries. Fine by day with clear navigational landmarks, it can change moods in a moment with the sudden arrival of a frontal system, or when fog or darkness descend.
Witness the incredible number of ships that have fallen victim to this treacherous stretch of coastline down the ages. Assistance for sailors first arrived in 1859 when the prominent lighthouse was commissioned, standing majestically as a beacon of hope at 820 feet above the sea. It is still operating to this day, occupying the highest point of Cape Point Peak and guiding mariners safely as they head off in all compass directions.
Getting to the Cape of Good HopeSince the Cape of Good Hope is a day-only destination, visitors can select from a wide range of accommodation options in and around the beautiful city of Cape Town, with its own multitude of tourist attractions. If self-driving from Cape Town – remember that South Africa operates right hand drive - take the Atlantic Ocean route and follow it through Sea Point. Join the picturesque coastal road through Camps Bay , and then drive on in the shadow of the Twelve Apostles until reaching Llandudno and then Hout Bay. Pick up the spectacular cutting along the cliff face to Chapman’s Peak , and head towards Noordhoek, Kommetjie, Sweetwater and Witsand.
The quaint seaside village of Scarborough is the last settlement before the entrance to Cape Point aka Cape of Good Hope. An alternative and equally spectacular drive back to Cape Town is on offer along the False Bay eastern side of the Cape Peninsula, via the naval port of Simon’s Town and the seaside resort of Muizenberg. Many tourists opt for the comfort and convenience of one-day coach tours available through a number of licensed operators from central Cape Town.
Things to Do and SeeThere are a number of things to do and see in the stunning environs of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. The verdant, but treeless, landscape is in fact covered in fynbos, a unique collection of low growing bushes/shrubs, considered to be the smallest but richest of the planet’s six floral kingdoms. This means that the views are open and clear as vehicles drive along the central spine of the peninsula as they head south, eastward towards land’s end, the actual Cape Point itself. Here, the famous lighthouse perches on the very edge of the world as it operates and signals permanent warnings for those at sea. A myriad of unspoilt serene beaches with incredible white sand present on both sides of the isthmus and seem to invite the visitor tantalizingly.
Remember to watch out for the wildlife that abounds in this magnificent reserve while driving through. Several different species of Buck and the Cape Mountain Zebra abound. Also ranked among the permanent residents is the mischievous Baboon but be careful not to feed or get too close, as they have been known to attack humans in certain situations. Look to the air too, where as many as 250 different bird species await the avid birder.
Apart from the splendid views in every direction, the Two Oceans Restaurant offers fine food and excellent wines of the Cape for the hungry visitor. A more splendid eatery in which to enjoy the magnificent surroundings would be hard to envision anywhere.
Quick Picks – If Time PermitsThere are three curios shops to browse around in the reserve, or visit cultural and historical sites involving monuments to the early intrepid seafarers like Dias and da Gama. Swimming is on offer in the Buffels Bay tidal pool, as are some incredible guided walks in various areas around the point, including the shipwreck trail – some of the 26 incidents are still around to see. With more than 1,000 indigenous plants unique to this area, photography makes good sense. Ending on a mythological note, keep a watch for the legendary Flying Dutchman - ask the locals about this ghost ship
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Author: robric. Last updated: Jan 23, 2015