08 November 2011

Cape of Good Hope - For Nature Lovers

Cape of Good Hope - For Nature Lovers



Cape of Good Hope, part of the Table Mountain National Park, always features on the tourists "must see" list when in Cape Town mainly because it is the southernmost tip of the Cape Peninsula and the views are spectacular. If the visit to the end of the peninsula is all you have time for, do it - it is well worth the trip.


For those with more time on their hands, a slower pace will allow you to see the beautiful smaller "fynbos" as well as proteas, ericas, pincushion etc. Colourful and striking when in bloom these flowers also attract the brightly coloured sunbirds and sugar birds. Watch for grazing buck or zebra, the ostrich with baby chicks or the male ostrich running as if the devil himself was after him! Nothing in sight for miles, so why did he take off?  A huge bird who eats anything in his path, including stones, does not need a reason to act silly!


Just a short drive from the entrance gates, there is a fairly large parking area which leads to a short, scenic walk. This walk is fairly rocky in places so take care not to slip and fall on a VERY hard rock, like I did. The camera escaped injury but not so my shin which ended up with a lump the size of a boiled egg in about 2 secs flat!

The views are great as one can see the houses down at Smitswinkel Bay as well as further towards Cape Point.

This semi-protected area is reached only on foot or by boat if you intend to dive some of the wrecks in the area. Imagine carrying heavy groceries down the steep hill! This tiny hamlet does conjure up visions of lazy summer days, swimming, snorkeling, sundowners on the rocks, with the fresh ocean breeze to cool you down after the heat of the day. Or snuggling under the duvet in winter listening to the rain beating down on the roof and the waves crashing on the rocks below. The reality of that steep climb back to the car lessens the romantic ideal somewhat for me!


You can also hike to Cape Point from this point but, be warned, it takes 6 hours! Sunscreen and water are a must. For the serious hikers, there is also a 2 day hike starting at the entrance gate. Brochures are available at the entrance gate and an overnight hut is available.


Back in your car, take the circular drive - lovely shows of plant species and the odd ostrich or two. You may alight from your car at any stage in the park - just please don't ever feed the baboons. They are wild animals with VERY large teeth!




There are over 1100 species of indigenous plants in this reserve with both coastal and inland "fynbos" found here.  Many of these are tiny and can only be seen if you get out and look!




Branch off whilst on the Circular Drive route and detour to Gifkommetjie - the hike in this area is called "Hoek van Bobbejaan" Trail and it is a 3 hour Circular hike. The views from here are stunning with many interesting rock formations.


Bartholomew Dias first set eyes on Cape Point in 1488 and next came Vasco da Gama. There are two navigational beacons in the park named Diaz Cross and Da Gama Cross in honour of these early explorers. There have been many ship-wrecks in these waters due to stormy seas and dangerous rocks hence the name "Cape of Storms" by Diaz. Whilst the two oceans, the cold Benguela current from the West Coast and the warm Indian ocean from the East Coast are supposed to meet at Cape Point, this is not strictly true as this happens geographically at Cape Agulhas, the Southern tip of Africa. Given the crashing of the waves at Cape Point, it is the more romantic notion!

Drive down Rooikrans Road for the False Bay Viewpoint. During whale season, whales can be spotted as they come close inshore to calve. The mountains across False Bay are visible on a clear day with the Rooi Els/Hangklip Peak being the tiny tip at the end.

 

The next stop can be Platboom - this offers an easy walk along the beach and sand-dunes and it could be one of your choices as a lunch picnic spot. The sea birds are all over in this area and take off in huge flocks as you approach but they soon settle down again and can be studied if you sit close by and watch their behaviour. There are some swimming areas and kite surfers also use this beach but only do this if you are experienced and preferably with a local who knows the beach and currents.

We came across a Memorial for Kirk Cottrell who died on 10th July 2001 whilst surfing in this area. Kirk was an American from South Florida who re-located to Kommetjie in 1997, 5 years before his tragic death. A total lover of all water-sports he owned Island Water Sports in USA. He became a missionary and joined Christian Surfers Ministry in South Africa. An untimely death of a young man who left behind a wife and 3 children. 


Larger birds are seagulls, cormorants, and ibis with smaller species such as terns also scurrying about in the sand! Watch out for sand-fleas on parts of this walk - they can bite and the bites will be very itchy! But they won't bother you as you walk.

The walk offers all sorts of interesting sights such as this huge wooden trunk - with its strange markings. We wondered what it had been used for and where it came from? This is also a lovely cove for a swim.

 

You can walk as far as you wish on this part of the beach as it heads towards Gifkommetjie. Or just enjoy a leisurely ramble, swim and picnic! Platboom is one of my favourite areas of Cape Point - it has enough of interest to make the walk fun, lovely dunes, soft sand, shells etc.


For those in your own cars, be warned that there is congestion at the parking area of Cape Point. Tour Operators abound at the end of the road - Hylton Ross and African Eagle are established and well-known in Cape Town  - however, there are many other smaller companies who also offer good service. The Tour buses only go to Cape Of Good Hope for those famous photos with the sign, Cape of Good Hope and then to the carpark for you to ascend to the viewpoint. A funicular or bus can save your legs the steep climb but it's more fun to walk up and enjoy the views as you do so. The restaurant is usually very busy so service may be slow. Alternatively, you can buy sandwiches/pizza/drinks in the shop next door. 

Enjoy your time in Cape Point!


© Judelle Drake


No comments: