Agulhas means ‘needles’ in Portuguese and is testament to the razor sharp reefs where many ships went to a watery grave giving the region the moniker “The Graveyard of Ships”. The region is popular with hikers and photographers for its dramatic scenery. The region also draws many birding enthusiasts, anglers and naturalists due to its ecological diversity.
A lost paradise
Thos early castaways would have found a very different Cape Point, where herds of Elephant roamed and pods of Hippo honked in the rivers and dams. Large herds of Bontebok, Cape Zebra and the Quagga roamed the region. It was known as “The Serengeti of the South”. However, during the colonial era all of the big game was hunted out. Today, there are few large mammals that call the Agulhas national Park home.
Fantastic birding opportunities
The park forms part of the Cape Floral kingdom and has some of the greatest diversity of plant species on the planet. This coastal fynbos clings to this windswept and rugged coastline. The region is also a sanctuary for many species of birds. In the fragrant fynbos visitors should keep a look out for Cape Sugarbirds and Orange Breasted Sunbirds. The Agulhas Long-billed Lark is a rare bird that is found only in the Cape Point.
Around 230 species of birds are found in the region and the park also contains one of the largest lakes in the country Soetendalsvlei which is home to many species of water birds including Pelicans and Greater Flamingos. This combined with many pelagic species means that Cape Agulhus is a great destination for birding enthusiasts. Visitors can also see populations of rare Blue Cranes (South Africa’s national bird).
Out and about – sights and attractions
Visit the Agulhas Lighthouse
A popular activity is visiting the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse which is the second oldest (working) lighthouse in Africa. It was built in 1848. The old lighthouse keeper’s house has been turned into an interesting navel museum which offers a glimpse into the nautical history of the region. Visitors can climb the 71 steps up to the top of the 23 meter high lighthouse and admire the view.
Visit the Bredasdorp Museum
In the nearby town of Bredasdorp, visitors can visit the Bredasdorp Museum which is a maritime museum which focuses on the many shipwrecks in the region. Since 1673 there have been over 130 ships wrecked off the Southern Cape coast. The museum is a treasure trove of nautical memorabilia and miscellanea from anchors to old bottles and coins.
The coastal fynbos in the park is unique and is said to contain the greatest diversity of bulbous plants in the world. The best time to visit the park for the flowers is between August and September which is when many of the flowers burst into bloom. These walks are also a great opportunity to see some of the regions species of birds.
Adventurous Hiking trails
The Spookdraai Hiking Trail or ghost hiking tail is aptly named due to the many shipwrecks off the coast and perhaps the coastline is wandered by the ghosts of lost seafarers. The trail takes visitors to many of the regions historical landmarks and passes many of the area’s interesting natural phenomena. The trail is circular and takes around 2 hours to complete. The trail is well signposted and a map can be purchased at the Tourist Bureau at the lighthouse.
The Rasperpunt Hiking Trail is another circular trail that starts at the Meisho Maru Shipwreck. The walk passes through the beautiful coastal fynbos, past interesting rock pools and up one of the dunes. The walk is a great opportunity to see original stone fish traps constructed by the indigenous Khoi people. From the top of the dune you can enjoy wonderful views of the surrounding area. Between June and November this walk is a wonderful way to spot whales.
Looking to escape the hustle and bustle of tourists looking for whales in Hermanus, escape to Cape Agulhas and enjoy whale watching in the peace and quiet. One of the best places to try and spot whales is from the Rasperpunt Hiking trail mentioned above.
Discover the wine route on Africa’s southern tip
A short drive away from the Agulhas National Park is the town of Elim which is at the centre of the southernmost wine route in Africa. As this region is where the currents of the warm Indian and cold waters of the Atlantic meet, a unique climate is created and this creates a cool growing season for grapes. This means that the area produces some of the most unique wines in the world. Spend a day visiting some of the wine farms and enjoy a wine tasting or two.