PICS: The rich history of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve
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Cape Point is renowned for its stunning views and being a must-visit stop on any tourist itinerary to the region but it is more than just a beautiful setting to take a selfie in front of the 100 year old lighthouse.
It is a place filled with a rich history that’s not particularly well-known.
Even though Cape Point is one of South Africa’s most popular tourist attractions drawing thousands of people all year round, it has gone through massive changes since the first visitors in 1877.
The first road was only built there towards the end of 1915, so prior to that people had to hike just to see the lighthouse.
Today, visitors can choose to catch a ride on the Flying Dutchman Funicular, the only commercial one of its kind on the continent. With a 16% slope,
travelling to a height of 87 metres, the Flying Dutchman can fit 40 passengers per cart at a time.
In the peak season 450 people per hour go up to the lighthouse. The track is 585 metres long, and it takes approximately three minutes, providing breathtaking views.
The natural beauty of Cape Point belies the dangerous waters of the area.
With 26 recorded shipwrecks around Cape Point, it is hardly surprising that this is as feared a stretch of ocean as anywhere in the world. Much of the blame can be attributed to the two submerged reefs of Bellow’s Rock and Albatross Rock.
The legandary Flying Dutchman
Even though there are many famous shipwrecks, perhaps the most famous is not one at all – that of the legendary Flying Dutchman.
The story goes that Captain Van der Decken was determined to get home from a successful trading mission for silks and spices in Indonesia in 1641. However, the Cape of Storms lived up to its reputation with the weather making a turn for the worst as they approached Cape Point. It is believed
he swore an oath: “I shall round this damned Cape, even if I have to sail until Doomsday comes.”
The waters miraculously calmed but the ship and crew vanished without a trace, doomed to sail the seas around Cape Point forever.
The area forms part of the Cape Point Nature Reserve, founded in 1938. Sixty years later, in 1998, it was incorporated into the Cape Peninsula National Park which is a veritable treasure trove of natural beauty, boasting more than 1 100 species of flora indigenous to the area.
During the whale season from July to October visitors can spot these massive mammals on their annual migration past Cape Point.
Cape Point is not the southern most point of Africa
Contrary to popular belief, Cape Point is not the place where the cold Benguela Current of the Atlantic Ocean and the warm Agulhas Current of the Indian Ocean collide, producing the visual effect of a line in the ocean.
The meeting point fluctuates along the southern and southwestern Cape coast, usually occurring between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point. However, the
strong and dangerous swells, tides and localised currents around the point contribute to its feared reputation.
Cape Point also has curio shops, a restaurant and hiking spots.
The Nature Reserve opens at 06:00 and closes at 18:00 Monday through Sunday.
Entry is R303 for adults and R152 for children, but for locals who present their original South African ID the price goes down R76 per adult and R39 per child (under the age of 12.)