Search for Cape Agulhas on the Internet and you’re likely to see an image of the iconic candy-striped lighthouse that stands sentinel over the stormy seas at this, the southernmost tip of Africa.
Cape Agulhas is where the warm Indian Ocean meets the cold Atlantic Ocean and the unending churning of water results in choppy and unpredictable seas that have become a bit of a graveyard over the centuries for passing ships.
Portuguese sailors named the area Cabo das Agulhas, meaning Cape of Needles, for the strange lack of deviation from magnetic and true north on their compasses.
The area is rich in bird and aquatic life, along with an interesting cultural heritage, a place where ancient people once trapped fish. Nowadays, it’s a place where some arrive purely to stand at the southern tip of Africa, while others begin their 8000km journey of Africa to its northern crown somewhere in Tunisia.
Top 6 reasons to visit Cape Agulhas
1. Explore the Agulhas National Park that includes the 1849-built lighthouse and adjoining museum. Look out for the ancient fish traps still present on the beach west of the lighthouse. Take a walk to the Meisho Maru Japanese trawler that wrecked here in 1982.
2. Spend a few days on the beach soaking up the sun on this mostly unoccupied stretch of coastline. If you care to swim or surf, travel a short distance to the lengthy 14km beach at neighbouring Struisbaai.
3. Hike the 3-hour Spookdraai (ghost corner) hiking trail to appreciate the pristine flora, of which around 300 plant types are only found here. The trail has fine sea views and baboon troops are a fairly common sight. Look out for the female ghost at the sharp bend!
4. In keeping with an eco-friendly vision, the designers of the spectacular 18-hole golf course at the L’Agulhas Links Golf Estate have ensured that the greens and fairways perfectly compliment the surrounding natural vegetation. Visitors are welcome to enjoy a round.
5. Soetendalsvlei is Africa’s most southerly freshwater lake and the second largest lake wetland, visit to enjoy the vast birdlife and many species of frog, some endangered, that use the lake as a feeding ground.
6. Hitch a ride in a fishing trawler to watch (and help) the fishermen catch fish on the shallow Agulhas Bank that extends 60km out to sea and is bursting with coastal pelagic shoals.
Cape Agulhas is 205km away from Cape Town International Airport. There is a small airport at Andrew's Field nearby for chartered flights. Car rental agencies are based in the nearby towns of Hermanus and Swellendam, and at the airports to hire a vehicle, or you could order a rental online. Cape Town shuttle service operators transport visitors between the airport and Cape Agulhas, however, it’s more practical to hire a vehicle.
Did you know?
The southernmost tip of the African continent is not directly below the brass cairn, the furthest point is roughly a kilometre westwards.
Waves of 30m in height have been known to build up in the seas around Cape Agulhas, caused by high winds and fast moving currents. Many a ship has been engulfed by these waves to disappear without trace.