Discover the Cape Point national park with its dramatic cliff sides towering over the oceans. Fatima Anter of Thebe Tourism that manages the reserve’s popular funicular and restaurant, tells us more.
Cape of Storms (and shipwrecks)
Over the centuries, the gale-force “Roaring Forties” that can blow around the Point have resulted in 26 recorded shipwrecks.
The most visible are the M.V. Nolloth, which sank in 1965 and lies on the beach at Olifantsbos, and the Thomas T. Tucker, which sank in 1943 and lies stranded on the rocks off Olifantsbos Point.
Cape of Lights
In 1860, Cape Point’s first lighthouse began emitting 2 000 candlepower. Built on the highest point 238 metres above sea level, it turned out to be the least suitable site for the lighthouse, where low-hanging clouds obscured its light.
A second lighthouse, 87 metres above sea level, was completed in 1919 and electrified in 1936. At 19-million candlepower, it is still to date the most powerful light in Africa.
Cape of Ghosts
This coast also has its ghost stories, the best known being the Flying Dutchman, a Dutch East India Company ship whose captain, in 1641, legendarily made a pact with the devil that his ship would survive Cape Point’s gale-force winds even if he “had to sail until Doomsday comes”.
Through the centuries, countless tales from crews aboard other vessels tell of a mysterious ghost ship that periodically disappears into the coastline’s mist.
Cape of Climbs
Before the building of a road in 1915, and then later, in 1996, the popular Flying Dutchman funicular (today managed by Thebe Tourism), an arduous climb was the only way to reach the lighthouse at the pinnacle.
Here, climbers would also sign a guestbook, which – prior to 1915 – saw an average of only 70 entries per year! These days, the 585-metre funicular makes the ascent a breeze.
Cape of Primates
Baboons have long been a popular attraction within the reserve. Five distinct troops exist in the area, and range in size between 14 and 30 members.
Interestingly, the baboons of Cape Point are the only ones of their species to forage for seafood
Cape of Flora
Known as fynbos, one of the world’s six floral kingdoms is to be found in the Cape Province.
With over 8 000 species of plants in it, one of the best places to see this kingdom in abundance is in the Cape Point Reserve.
Cape of Flames
A fascinating fact about fynbos is that it is both fire-prone and fire-dependent. In other words, fynbos needs to burn every few years, both to release its seeds and periodically clear space for certain species to grow that may, over time, be crowded out by others.
And it is not just humans to blame for fynbos fires: lightning has been known to cause fires in the reserve, along with sparks from falling boulders.
Cape of Soldiers
Once a private farm, in 1939 Cape Point for a while became the property of the South African military, just after the start of World War II.
At the tip of the African continent, and expecting the worst from the war, six top-secret forward observation posts (FOPs) were built along the length of the reserve.
They were operated by the Special Signal Services of the 61st Coast Defence Corps – said to be composed almost entirely of women.
Cape of Horns
Found nowhere else in the world except within the fynbos kingdom, antelope known as bontebok, were once so abundant in the Cape that early colonists considered them vermin.
Their slaughter soon decimated their numbers. Following the World War II occupation of the reserve, bontebok were introduced as a way to entice visitors to Cape Point, and today there are around 200 to be found here.
Cape of Pioneers
The first known adventurer to sail around Cape Point and make the journey from the cold Atlantic to the warm Indian Ocean was Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias with his crew aboard two ships – the São Cristóvão and the São Pantaleão.
While he missed the landmark by hundreds of kilometres on his attempt to find a passage to India, on his return he discovered Cape Point, naming the turbulent waters around it Cabos das Tormentos – the Cape of Storms.