Approaching South Africa on an ocean voyage from either Europe or South America, the first sign that you are in South African waters is the beam of the lighthouse at Cape Columbine just outside Paternoster…
Shining out to sea as far as 30 kilometres in good weather, the lighthouse warns mariners of the perils of the treacherous Britannia Reef which has been the nemesis of many a vessel. Built in 1936, it is situated on a high promontory in the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve and from it the sea is visible in a spectacular 180 degree arc from horizon to horizon.
The area is named after the barque, Columbine, which went down there in March 1829, obviously before the lighthouse was built, but the giant oil tankers and other vessels that ply the West African coast today can thank Cape Columbine for warning them of the dangers that lurk below the surface.
If you are looking to get away from it all, for an escape with a difference, the National Ports Authority today hires three houses at the site. The thrill of staying right next to the lighthouse while its benevolent beam sweeps across the inky sky, in which millions of stars are visible that you never see in the city is unequalled.
You can clearly see the enormous prism that magnifies the relatively small light into a long range beam. When things get foggy, the foghorn down on the rocky shore is activated and its mournfully evocative sound adds immeasurably to the isolated experience.
There are three very well priced houses here, the biggest being Blue Bells, which has the best views. Set a little further back is Forget Me Not, a cosy little hideaway for romantic couples, with its own Jacuzzi. The third one is called Tumble Weed.
They are all self-catering, unserviced, and are nautically spic and span, fully equipped with whatever you need.
Should you want to take a dip, there is a sparkling rock pool, a little way from the houses. Be warned—the water is ice cold. Blue Bells has a typical West Coast boma to shelter one from the fierce winds which can blow here from time to time. This is just the place to gather with some friends, plenty of grog, and good food, spin a yarn or two and let your hair down.
Buy meat and things in Vredenburg on your way there and don’t forget wine. The houses all have fridges of course, but only one bathroom, so work to plan if there are more than two of you in each house. Rates are very reasonable.
Paternoster, once an impoverished fishing village, and now a weekend retreat for the moneyed, has nevertheless maintained most of its charm, albeit on a bigger scale.
There are some good places to eat here, the best of which are Gaaitjie, Voorstrand, and Oep ve Koep, for breakfast in the cute little garden with Kobus’ delicious bread straight from the oven. Try The Noisy Oyster for a different take on things.
Contact Lighthouse Services: 021 449 2400
Words: Greg Landman
Pictures: Jaco Voges