I was shocked recently to hear someone say that there is nothing to see or do in the Cape Point Nature Reserve. Well, one could say there’s almost nothing but 7750 hectares of pristine nature and some of the world’s most fabulous views, and that’s exactly how it should be.
It was once a farm, probably the most isolated in the Cape. Then in 1938 it was established as a reserve and in 1998 increased in size and turned it into one of the most visited attractions in Africa. Unfortunately for those who don’t know any better, and for large buses that are not permitted down most of the side roads, many visitors drive straight to the old lighthouse, take a few photos, rush down again and around to the Cape of Good Hope to pose briefly in front of one of the world’s most famous signs, and then they drive straight out again to the next item on their list of things to see. But they haven’t really seen anything!
A visit to Cape Point should be more leisurely and here are a few things we recommend.
There are more than a dozen short walking trails, most of them easy. Check the brochure you receive at the entrance and get some more at the visitors info centre. The Cape Point Slingsby map is a gem filled with useful information and tips.
Take the first road to the right after the entrance and follow it all the way to Olifantsbos. This is where we always see the larger mammals such as the rare Bontebok and Cape Mountain Zebra, the largest antelope in South Africa, Eland, and the smaller Grysbok, Grey Rhebuck and Klipspringer. Park your car and take a walk to the beach!
The Shipwreck Trail. This treacherous coastline has seen the demise of many ships and parts of several of them can still be seen. This highly recommended 5km circular trail starts at the Olifantsbos parking area and offers wonderful sea views. Don’t be tempted to walk on the boulders, they are loose.
Stop at the Buffelsfontein Visitors’ Centre, which was once the farmstead, to learn more about the marine life, the history and the conservation of the Reserve. This is great for children who will delight at the whale skeleton and we always encourage a stop here when there are children on our tour. Pick up a few brochures and drop your coins in the honesty box!
The lighthouses are worthy of a visit – but this is how we recommend you see them: If you don’t want to walk up the steep slope, take the Flying Dutchman funicular but then walk down (good walking shoes help and your thighs will love you for it). Before you start the descent make sure you’ve explored each of the cliff view-points – these are the highest coastal cliffs in South Africa so you can’t miss out on that. Be sure to look out for the sea cave which is thought to be the deepest in South Africa.
When you’re done with the lighthouses, don’t drive to the Cape of Good Hope for that photo, walk there along the top of the cliffs above Dias Beach. You’ll need to have your driver collect you at the bottom. The walk is not long and starts just opposite the shop.
Lunch? The Two Oceans Restaurant, at the main parking area, is an absolute must. The views are to die for, in the right season you will probably see whales below, and the food is excellent – there are not many restaurants in such an amazing location!
There’s also Buffel’s Bay with its beach, picnic and braai spots, boat launch, rock pools, and the lovely tidal pool. Before you leave, take the road towards the peak and explore the cliff walk – it’s not for those who suffer vertigo but affords amazing views.
The last detour you should make is down to Bordjiesrif. Take the left road to see the old lime kiln. There’s also a huge tidal pool for your last dip. You won’t find any buses there – they’re not permitted down that road!
As in many parts of South Africa, Cape Point has some very colourful names … how about… Hell’s Gate – Judas Peak – Pumpudding Rock – The Lazy Lizards – Lumbago Alley – Blind Man’s Corner. We’re sure you will find more!
The Cape Point Nature Reserve is paradise for nature and bird lovers, photographers and anyone who appreciates pristine natural surroundings. Maybe it’s best that most people rush in and out again, it leaves the best parts quieter for those who like it that way!
One of our favourite Facebook pages is What’s the Point – these lovely people live near the Reserve and do some really great work promoting it to the world. Have a look at the wonderful photos they share and feel their passion for Cape Point! Also click here for their website full of info.