Just 1 hour from the Centre of Cape Town, is the Cape Point Nature Reserve, a must visit place!
This is the windiest spot in South Africa and even if mist covers your view, walking to the lighthouses and looking down is magical. One feels as if this must be the most southern tip of Africa, but that claim goes to Cape Aghulas 150kms east where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. So you are looking down at just the Atlantic Ocean surging against the rocks at the point. Nonetheless, it is inspiring and feels as if you are at the bottom of the continent. There is no land further south until Antarctica and the South Pole.
History: The Portuguese explorer, Bartholomeu Dias was commissioned to find a new sea route to Asia and when he finally reached the Cape of Good Hope, he wrote to the emperor saying he had reached the end of the continent, therefore found a way to Asia. He called the spot, the Cape of Storms. John II of Portugal was so thrilled with prospect of a new trading route to Asia he renamed it, Cape of Good Hope.
Cape Point Lighthouse Walk. 3.4 kms to Old Lighthouse. About an hour.
A further 20 minutes drive from the entrance to the reserve is the parking lot for the lighthouses.
Walk to the old lighthouse lookout, which is up several sets of winding stairs. There is also a funicular transferring visitors to and from the top.
The trail leads starts next to the funicular and winds its way up the hill. Along the route, there are many viewpoints to admire the cliffs, Dias beach and Cape of Good Hope in the distance.
Continue upwards along the trail and you’ll get to the old lighthouse at the top of Cape Point Peak, 238 meters above sea level. It’s quite a climb as they placed it on the highest point of this last part of the peninsula. It was first lit in 1860 but soon they discover that unfortunately, it wasn’t always visible for ships due to low-hanging clouds. The sinking of a Portuguese vessel in 1911, prompted its decommissioning.
The old lighthouse is now an outlook point and central monitoring point for all South African Lighthouses.
Don’t miss the slightly hidden short walk to the new lighthouse as well. To get there, from the old lighthouse, retrace your steps towards the upper station of the funicular. Here you’ll find a little gated trail starting on the backside (east) which heads towards the new lighthouse. A good path takes you downhill.
Near the end of the peninsula, there is a last viewpoint from which you can see the new lighthouse well. Unfortunately, you can’t get to the lighthouse itself, but this view is magnificent. This lighthouse was built in 1919 to solve the problem of the low-hanging clouds.
The new lighthouse is 87 meters above sea level and is the brightest and most powerful lighthouse light in the country, at 10 million candelas in each flash. It is visible up to 63 kilometers out at sea.
Walking in the Reserve:
The reserve is part of the Table Mountain Nature Reserve.
With 1080 species, the Cape Point section boasts one of the highest numbers of plant species for similar-sized areas in the world, including the whole of Britain.
Fynbos, the indigenous flora, needs fire for maintaining the ecosystem. Fynbos form the smallest and richest of the world’s floral kingdoms. Fynbos thrive on infertile soils and fire is the mechanism that recycles precious nutrients from old growth into the soil.
There is wildlife to see as you walk too. These include Mongooses, chacma baboons, cape foxes, genets, polecats, mole rats, porcupines, bontebok, zebra, eland, ostrich, grysbok, leopard tortoises, chameleons, lizards, and snakes such as boomslangs, cape cobras, puff adders.
Seafaring birds that can be seen are albatrosses, gannets, petrels, gulls, cormorants, and oyster catchers. Birds of prey include the African goshawk, black eagle, rock kestrels, and owls but most exciting of all is the peregrine falcon. The peregrine falcon is the fastest bird in the world and can reach speeds up to a whopping 280km an hour when striking its prey.
From August to October, you may see whales.
Walk: The Shipwreck Trail/ Olifantsbos Trail. 3kms. 1 hour 30 mins.
Short and fairly easy trail through fynbos to the Olifantsbos Beach and the SS Thomas T. Tucker, which wrecked in 1942. A WWII troops-and-weapons transport vesse,l this wreck is much photographed! Continue to Sirkelsvlei and pass the Nolloth, a liquor carrier wrecked in 1965.
Walk to Diaz Beach. 1 hour down and back up again.
This is the lovely cove you can see from The Old Lighthouse. It is a 20-minute walk from the parking lot down a steep set of wooden stairs to the beach.
Truly beautiful unspoiled beach of soft white sand. Strong currents so no swimming allowed.
Open 6 to 6: Summer and 7 to 5: Winter.
Emergency number: 021 780 9010