It is a windy afternoon when I arrive at L’Agulhas, but the beauty of the little town has already captured my heart. It has three things I love: scenic views, the beach and tranquility.
The place I would call home for the next four days was Agulhas National Park.
Set on the Agulhas plain in the Overberg region of the Western Cape, it spans 21000ha.
It’s a great spot for mountain bikers, anglers, fynbos research, and anyone who wants to escape city life. The park was founded to protect the lowland fynbos and wetland system at the southernmost tip of Africa. It has a rich culture and diverse marine and bird life.
At the cosy Cape-style rest camp where I stayed, each self-catering chalet has a nice lounge area with a television set, dining facilities and a bedroom. With its unique tourism offerings, it comes as no surprise that the national park continues to be a haven for a number of tourists, both international and local, who find solace in its unique history and beauty.
Lighthouse precinct tour
I met Emmarentia de Kock, a conservation officer, at 9am to tour the lighthouse precinct. The lighthouse was built in 1848 and is the second oldest in South Africa. Based on the design of the Pharaohs of Egypt (280BC), it houses Africa’s only Lighthouse Museum. It was declared a national monument in 1973 and last year recognised as an International Historic Civil Engineering Landmark. You can climb up to take in the full view of the park. Rumour has it that there are ghosts in the lighthouse, “friendly ghosts” according to De Kock. In 2014, an international group of visitors said they saw a man painting.
One of the visitors was so livid that they were sent up when the Lighthouse was being painted but when front office assistant, named Chandre Behr, told him that no one was painting, he and the group were shocked.
De Kock took me to the southernmost point where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic, marked by a stone cairn. It attracts tourists from all over the world. The coastline here has become known as a ship graveyard featuring 125 wrecks, the most visible of which is the Mishu Maru 38. The Taiwanese trawler was washed to shore in 1982 and in 2008 high seas lifted the wreck closer to shore. Besides the Maru, the other ship wrecks can not be seen, which include Geotryder, Juno and Beacons.
Later, we drove to the Sanberg mountains, which is popular with bikers and hikers. The next day, we went on a wilderness drive along the Strisbaai-Elim route to the other side of the park. On the 60km drive we spotted eagles, horses and ostriches. Emme showed me some of their accommodation offerings, each more unique than the next. Tortoises were all over the route, and Emme and I would often stop and pick them up to place them safely away from the road. Apparently when you see a lot of them, it is a sign of rain that is to come that day.
The salt pans, once a well-known salt manufacturing spot, showcases a diverse range of bird life. I enjoyed the 3km hike along the rest camp. There are also the Two Oceans 10.5km and 4.5km hiking trails.
Rietfontein is one of the oldest Strandveld farms. Its cottages have solar power for lighting and gas for cooking. Each has one bedroom with two single beds and a bathroom with toilet and showers. Units for two start at R780.
Bergplaas is on the northern slopes of Soetanys Mountain, overlooking the Agulhas plain and Nuwejaars wetlands. The Bergplaas guest house can accommodate 10 people and has four bedrooms and bathrooms. Each bedroom has two beds. Units start at R1590 a night.
Rhenosterkop is north of the Agulhas dune field on the Agulhas plain in the Overberg dune strandveld. The farmstead comprises four typical Strandveld buildings. Accommodation starts at R780 and a unit caters for two people with facilities similar to Rietfontein.
Lagoon House has four bedrooms and a bathroom.
For enquiries, e-mail [email protected] sanparks.org or call 0284356078, Emmerentia De Kock: 0284356078 or Derick Strydom, tourism manager: 0284356078.
How to get there: Access is via the N2 highway, between Cape Town and the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth. Turn off at Caledon and pass through Bredasdorp if coming from the west. From the east, leave the N2 near Swellendam and pass through Bredasdorp to get to Cape Agulhas.