Western Cape Tourist AttractionsThe Cape Point
Bartholomeu Dias, the Portuguese seafarer, was the first to sail around the Cape (in 1488). On his return voyage, which must have been particularly stormy, Dias stopped at the south-western tip of South Africa, and named it Cabo Tormentoso, or Cape of Storms. King John of Portugal later gave it the name Cabo da Boa Esperança, or Cape of Good Hope. Another Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, rounded the Cape on 22 November 1497 on his way to India.
Where? Cape Point, Cape Town, South Africa
When? Open daily.
How? Call the visitor centre on +27 (0)21 780-9010
The journeys of these explorers led to the establishment of the Cape sea route. This meant more regular sailings around the tip. It also indirectly to led to a number of casualties along these unpredictable shores. Today, shipwrecks and stone crosses bear testimony to the treacherous and challenging historic sea route.
The lighthouse at Cape Point is the most powerful on the South African coast. It has a range of 63 kilometres, and beams out a group of three flashes of 10 million candlepower each, every 30 seconds. But, through history, mariners had taken a rather dimmer view of warning beacons around the Point.
A lighthouse was built In 1857, on Cape Point Peak, 238 metres above sea level. The equipment for the lighthouse had been shipped from England. However, because of its high position, clouds and fog often obscured the lighthouse. In fact, for an alarming 900 hours per year on average, its light was invisible to ships at sea at a certain angle.
After the Portuguese liner Lusitania ran aground on 18 April 1911, the lighthouse was moved to its present location above Cape Point, only 87 metres above sea-level. A stone replica of Vasco Da Gama's cross which was planted there in 1487 stands tall on the hillside above the beach. It marks the spot where the Portuguese explorers had come ashore.
On the night of 18 April 1911, the Lusitania, a ship of 5 500 tons, with 774 people aboard, struck the Bellows Rock below the lighthouse. TheThomas T Tucker was a American Liberty Ship, built in 1942 and was intended for carrying troops and supplies during World War II. Relying on a faulty compass, she hit a rock in thick fog near Olifantsbos just off the Point.
The Phyllisia, 452 ton Cape Town trawler, struck the jagged rocks just 100 m off the rugged coast of the Cape Point Nature Reserve at about midnight on 3 May 1968. Eleven of her crew reached the shore in life rafts, but 14 still remained on the trawler. Two South African Airforce helicopters lifted them from the craft.
The Nolloth, a 347 ton Dutch trawler, ran aground, surround by jagged rocks in rough seas after she was struck by an unidentified underwater object. It is believed to be the Albatross Rock.
Funicular: Zoom to the top of the Point
Hop aboard the funicular and you’ll be whisked away on a scenic trip to the view site near the old Cape Point lighthouse. Over time, the means of transport to the view site changed from a diesel bus, named after the “Flying Dutchman” ghost ship, to an environmentally friendly funicular, the only one of its kind in the world. The entire funicular has been produced from South African resources. 27 different safety features ensure practical and safe operation 24 hours a day. There are two funicular cars which travel from the parking lot to the view site, just below the lighthouse.
Global Atmosphere Watch Station:
The South African Weather Bureau, together with the Fraunhofer Institute in Garmisch, Germany, maintains a research laboratory at Cape Point to monitor long-term changes in the chemistry of the earth‘s atmosphere, which may impact upon climate. The laboratory, which was architecturally designed to blend into the western slopes of Cape Point, is one of the World Meteorological Organisation‘s 20 Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) stations. It monitors environmentally important air components, including trace gases like ozone, methane and carbon dioxide, as well as solar radiation and various meteorological parameters. The air at Cape Point is regarded as being particularly pure for most of the time, thereby providing insights into such phenomena as stratospheric ozone depletion and climate change.
Two Oceans Restaurant:
From Two Oceans Restaurant you’ll take in sweeping views of False Bay, way below. The restaurant, perched high above the crashing waves, has been designed to ensure that all guests can enjoy the incredible vistas.
Buffelsfontein Visitors Centre:
To really get to know Cape Point and its attractions up close and personal, a visit to the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre is an essential stopover. Here you’ll be treated to a wealth of artefact displays, and audiovisual presentations that will keep you spellbound. Well researched and beautifully laid out information material will interpret all aspects of the area's natural and cultural wealth for you.