Now you see the Point

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Copy of CZ Cormorants [1]

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BIRDLIFE: A group of cormorants enjoy the rocks and the waves. Pictures: tim rolston

Cape Town - Cape Point is perhaps one of the most popular tourist venues on the Peninsula. The views from the Point are spectacular, particularly if you take the light keeper’s walk on a clear day, you can take in the entire curved vista of False Bay all the way to Cape Hangklip, perhaps spot a visiting whale or two and see the white spume of churning water around Bellows Rock which has claimed more than a few ships, most famously the Lusitania back in 1911.

However, over the years I have come to appreciate that there is far more to the Cape Point reserve than the views or the stories of shipwrecks and lighthouses. The focus has been so fixatedly on the Point itself, with its funicular railway and curio shop that the rest of the reserve to my mind hasn’t received the attention it deserves, perhaps because to make the most of it requires a little effort.

It is all too easy to drive through the park on the way to the Point and see nothing but a desolate landscape of low lying rock and scrubby fynbos, but take the trouble and there is a wealth of fauna and flora to delight us.

I have over the years done a good many walks within the reserve, and each one has proven more interesting than one might imagine. This past week I headed out to a part of the coastline that I hadn’t covered previously, a circular route from Platboom along the Atlantic side past “Neptune’s Dairy” and on to the Cape of Good Hope, where a sign board proudly declares it is the most South Western point of the continent.

One of the great advantages of many of the hikes within the reserve is the chance of seeing all manner of land and sea-based animals and birds as well as those creatures that inhabit the coastline. It is incredible what you come across.

Not all the animals of interest are large, there are millions of sand fleas jumping on the beach, the sensation not unlike perhaps walking through a field of corn kernels which are in the process of popping. I suppose that this might be a little disconcerting for the squeamish among us but these tiny arthropods rather fascinate me. They hide under the sand during the heat of the day and spend their nights cleaning the beaches of all manner of organic detritus, mostly kelp which has been washed up by the surging tides.

Copy of cz JackalBuzzard

SOARING HIGH: A Jackal Buzzard

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Walking quietly along the boulders I frightened a bontebok which hadn’t heard me coming over the sound of the ocean waves. Fortunately it didn’t run far and I was able to get some nice photographs – you are far more likely to see these buck when on foot, one of the many advantages of leaving your vehicle and heading off along a hiking trail. On the rocks there were gulls and oyster catchers and large numbers of cormorants, many drying their wings in the summer sunshine after the morning’s fishing session.

A bit further along the path, another surprise, and a family of ostriches, the babies appearing more like fluffy toys than actual wild creatures. Then I also came across some female ostriches wading in the surf, surely that must be a rather unusual sight and certainly something new to me. They seemed remarkably at home in the water although they didn’t linger overly long.

Once on the cliff top pass I came across numerous rock agamas, their bright blue heads bobbing in display. As I approached the car park and its attendant tour buses, there were a lot more visitors about, enjoying the splendid scenery above Diaz Beach but I couldn’t help thinking, missing out on much else the reserve has to offer. Eventually I was on the tar heading back towards my vehicle. All too often such walks in the reserve result in a lengthy trek along the road, rather uninspiring stuff but on this route, after a relatively short way, one can pick up a track that is part of the two-day hike within the park and head along a small footpath back to the beach.

On the return leg I spotted a jackal buzzard sitting on the rocks and he soared into the bright blue sky as I approached. What a wonderful walk, so many different animals and birds and such glorious view all along the coastline. Cape Point is more than just a lighthouse, there is much to see if you are prepared to take the time and put in the effort to get up close and personal with its inhabitants. - Sunday Argus

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