Cape Point is the kind of destination everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Wild’s Arnold Ras headed to the Point early one summer morning to find out what this part of the Table Mountain National Park has to offer.
The information brochure you receive at the entrance to Cape Point quickly makes it clear that one day is far too short to see and do everything at the Cape of Good Hope. There’s an abundance of hiking trails, incredible beaches, 7,750 hectares of fauna and flora, fishing and diving spots, and of course 40 kilometres of coastline. To make the most of my trip, I decided on five top activities for the day at Cape Point. My first stop: Olifantsbos, a short drive from the main gate.
1. Shipwreck Trails
The Olifantsbos turn-off is the first one on your right. Head to the parking area, grab your hiking gear (hat, boots, enough water, waterproof jacket, map and sunblock) and remember to stay on the designated path at all times. Here I saw tortoises aplenty, and at a distance even a few baboons busy harvesting shellfish from the rocky shores [read more about this unusual behaviour in the summer 2015/2016 issue of Wild].
My main goal was to reach the wreck of the Thomas T Tucker. This American ship collided with rocks in November 1942 while trying to avoid torpedoes. The second wreck waiting to be discovered is the Dutch coaster called The Nolloth (pictured above). In 1965, the ship struck an underwater rock and the captain decided to run the ship ashore in an attempt to reduce fatalities.
This nostalgic trail stretches five kilometres with a duration of about two and a half hours. Lots to see, so take your time and approach the experience as a leisurely walk rather than a hike.
Do make a quick stop at the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre where you will be assisted by one of the park’s knowledgeable rangers for expert advice on the area.
2. Buffels Bay
The Buffels Bay picnic area and tidal pool provide the ideal setting for a family braai or outdoor fun with friends – complete with ample trees for shade, braai facilities, toilets and even a launch pad for small boats. Within walking distance from the tidal pool, you will find the Diaz and Da Gama Cross celebrating Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeu Dias, who were the first explorers to reach the Cape. As a city slicker I was especially drawn to the serenity, expansive view and fresh air. All you need is a picnic basket and a swimsuit to create an unforgettable experience.
3. The Flying Dutchman
With the Flying Dutchman funicular – named after the legend of the Flying Dutchman ghost ship – you reach the upper lighthouse area, situated 585 metres from the lower station, within only three minutes. Quick, easy and a lot of fun. The nifty funicular whisks tourists to the top every three minutes and accommodates 40 passengers per car. You can book either a return or single ticket – with a single ticket you will have to choose between walking up or down. Fees: R58 (adult return), R48 (adult single), R24 (scholar return) and R18 (scholar single). The funicular operates daily from 09:00 to 17:30.
Video courtesy of Cape Point South Africa
4. Cape Point lighthouse
This remarkable lighthouse stands 249 metres above sea level and rests on the highest section of the peak. The lighthouse’s popularity definitely stems from its magnificent bird’s eye views, but do not spend too much time behind your camera lens. Take the time to appreciate the sounds, sights and splendour of the Point. Did you know that the lighthouse beam was once 19 million candlepower strong? Today its beam boasts 10 million candlepower with three flash-pulses that can warn ships 63 kilometres away.
5. Two Oceans Restaurant
Situated near the lower funicular station, the Two Oceans Restaurant offers splendid views across False Bay. The staff is friendly and the service sublime. On the menu you will find mouth-watering breakfasts, West Coast crayfish, Franschhoek trout, sushi, lamb rib chops and decadent desserts. Trust me, this was my last stop for a reason: After all that excitement, a great meal was the cherry on my Cape Point cake. Two Oceans Restaurant is open daily from 09:00 to 17:00 and the kitchen closes at 16:30.
How to get there
From Cape Town follow the M3 in the direction of Claremont. Continue on the M3 until you reach the Muizenberg/Fish Hoek turn-off. Turn left and continue to Muizenberg. On this scenic coastal drive you will pass Kalk Bay and the naval village of Simon’s Town. Continue along the coastal road to Table Mountain National Park’s Cape Point entrance on your left.
Entry times and fees
During summer (October to March) the park opens at 07:30 and close at 18:00, and during the colder months (April to September), visitors can enter between 08:00 and 17:00. Fees: R125 (adults), R65 (children), R130 (day cycle permit), R130 (boats) and R60 (fishing).