Sailors have always faced rounding Cape Point with trepidation. But reaching its pristine nature reserve by road is an easy, beautiful drive…
Words: Petra Vandecasteele
Pictures: Paul Godard, Gregor Rohrig and supplied
It’s a place of splendid biodiversity, is Cape Point Nature Reserve, one with varied flora and fauna, as well as alleys, bays, beaches and rugged cliffs and, from its highest point, spectacular views over both the Atlantic and Indian oceans.
But among these surroundings you also have to imagine how the first explorers must have felt when they braved the waters to round this famed navigational landmark, The Point – Bartolomeu Diaz called it the Cape of Storms when he first rounded it in 1488.
The reserve is now a piece of paradise for nature lovers and anyone with an interest in maritime history – Sir Francis Drake aptly described it as ‘the fairest cape in all the world’ – but there can’t be too many a sailor of yore who approached The Point without a modicum of fear. Its waters were notorious for turning treacherous and for their violent storms and lethal rocks, often concealed in dense fog, and it was for very good reason that those who rounded it successfully described it as ‘surviving’ the journey.
As such the reserve is also the graveyard of many a sunken ship, with 26 shipwrecks recorded. One of the most famous shipwreck tales is of a ship attempting to round Cape Point on its way from Holland to Jakarta in 1641. It was wrecked in a terrible storm at The Point and the story goes that the Dutch captain had ignored the pleas of his terrified crew to abort the journey into Table Bay, and instead he lashed himself to the wheel, swearing that he would sail around Cape Point, even if it took him till doomsday.
It certainly seems to be doing exactly that. His ship, known as the Flying Dutchman, never docked, but ever since some sightings have been reported by sailors, who have seen a ghostly ship in the area, glowing in the night as it tries to round The Point, or lure other ships to their doom.
Did you know?
- The reserve is situated 60km south-west of Cape Town, in the southern section of Table Mountain National Park.
- The area is part of the Cape Floral Region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- The reserve is 7 750ha rich in flora and fauna. It is home to Cape mountain zebra, eland, red hartebeest, bontebok, and baboons. There are also some 250 bird species.
- Allow ample time to enjoy the scenic coastal route. You can also overnight in one of the cottages on the reserve or in the surrounding area.
- The Green Bus departs daily from Cape Town city centre to Cape Point and picks up travellers at Hout Bay, Noordhoek and Simon’s Town Station. It operates on a B50 blend of BioDiesel (used cooking oil) so you’ll be supporting a greener environment.
- The Good Hope Nursery in Scarborough, opposite the reserve entrance, stocks fynbos and other indigenous plants.
- Visit the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre to find out what plants and animals to look out for in a particular season.
- Walk the shipwreck trail to view some of the 26 recorded shipwrecks around Cape Point.
- The Cape of Good Hope Overnight Hiking Trail is a circular route of 33.8km that starts at the entrance gate. Overnight accommodation is in a cottage at Rooikrans.
- Join a free guided walk on selected Sunday mornings.
- Test the waters: go diving, surfing, kayaking, swimming, angling or exploring the tidal pools at Bordjiesdrif and Buffels Bay.
- Bring your mountain bike.
- Discover cultural and historical spots, including monuments to early explorers such as Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeu Diaz.
- Watch the whales on their annual migration during the winter months.
- Enjoy the three-minute ride with the Flying Dutchman funicular – named after the legendary ghost ship – that travels up to the viewing point below the old lighthouse.
- Enjoy a picnic on the beach.
- Treat yourself to breakfast or lunch at the Two Oceans Restaurant and enjoy its magnificent views of False Bay.
- Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre (SANParks) for information on activities, permits, accommodation and bookings. [email protected]
- Visitor centre at the funicular [email protected]; www.capepoint.co.za
- Two Oceans Restaurant [email protected]; www.two-oceans.co.za
- The Green Bus www.thegreencab.co.za