Cape Point is one of the country’s most popular tourist sites, but many people who visit here are unaware of the secrets and fascinating facts that have helped to make this unique rocky promontory what it is today.
Here are 12 surprising facts you may not have known about Cape Point:

  1. The Cape of Good Hope Name
    The name Cape of Good Hope dates back to the 15th century, when Portuguese sailor Bartolomeu Dias became the first European to view Cape Point while in search of the southern tip of the African continent. According to historical records, Dias first named the region Cape of Storms, owing to the tumultuous weather and treacherous waters, but later, after a suggestion by King John II of Portugal, it changed to the more optimistic Cape of Good Hope.

  1. Plant Life at Cape Point
    The Cape Peninsula’s rich and diverse plant life has earned it eight World Heritage Site accolades from UNESCO. The Cape Floral Region makes up only 0.5% of Africa, and yet it is home to more than 20% of the continent’s plants. In fact, there are more floral species in the Table Mountain National Park region than all of the United Kingdom. You’ll find many of these while at Cape Point – recent estimates suggest that there are over 1000 species of plants in the Cape Point region, of which at least 14 are endemic.

  1. The Old Lighthouse
    There are two lighthouses at Cape Point, only one of which is still in operation as a nautical guide. While still a popular tourist attraction, the old lighthouse built in the 1850s no longer functions – it sits too high above the ocean and is often covered by cloud. Ships approaching from the east could also see the light too easily, often causing them to approach too closely. Because of this, they often wrecked on the rocks before rounding the peninsula. In fact, it was the wreck of the Lusitania, on Bellows Rock below the lighthouse in 1911, which prompted the construction of a new, more effective structure.

  1. The New Lighthouse
    The new lighthouse at Cape Point is one of the most powerful on the South African coast. Its lights have a range of 60 kilometres and each flash has an intensity of 10 million candelas.

  1. Table Mountain National Park
    Cape Point actually lies within the same national park as the famous Table Mountain – aptly named Table Mountain National Park. The Cape Point section of Table Mountain National Park covers approximately 20% of the national park, and on a clear day you can see the back of Table Mountain from various vantage points.

  1. Climate Research
    The air at Cape Point is among the purest in the world, and thus it is home to one of Global Research Watch’s (GAW) atmospheric research stations. GAW is a global network established by the World Meteorological Organisation to monitor trends and changes in the Earth’s atmosphere.

  1. Icebergs Spotted off Cape Point
    While rumours about iceberg sightings at Cape Point are mostly untrue or a case of mistaken identity, according to Dr John Rogers, the British Navy officially recorded an iceberg sighting off the coast of Cape Point in the 1800s. It was just 60 nautical miles away from the peninsula.

  1. Nearest Landmass to the South
    Even though on a clear day you feel as if you could see to Antarctica from Cape Point, it is at least 6,000 kilometres away.

  1. Bird Life
    Cape Point is home to a large number of species of birds. According to Africa Geographic, twitchers have recorded over 270 species in the region, ranging from tiny sunbirds through to the sizeable ostriches. The coastal plant life at Cape Point supports warblers, canaries, and shrikes, and it is common to see an array of seabirds. You may also be lucky enough to spot a Verraux’s eagle, or the rare Western reef heron and Baird’s sandpiper – both of which have been spotted at Cape Point but not seen before in South Africa.

  1. Dias Cross
    The Portuguese government erected two prominent crosses at Cape Point that serve as a navigational aid – when lined up, the crosses point to Whittle Rock which was a major shipping hazard in False Bay. There are two other beacons in nearby Simon’s Town that provide the intersection point.

  1. World War II Radar Listening Stations
    With shipping losses on the increase in 1942, the South African military erected two small aerials that projected a narrow radar beam capable of detecting German U-Boats rounding the peninsula. Remnants of these and other military structures – including a canon on Kanonkop used to warn Simon’s Town of approaching vessels – are still visible at locations throughout Cape Point.

  1. The Flying Dutchman
    Legend has it that ghost ship the Flying Dutchman haunts the oceans surrounding Cape Point, unable to make port and doomed to sail the turbulent seas for eternity. One of the earliest reported sightings of the Flying Dutchman Funicular came from King George V in 1881, but several Simon’s Town residents claim to have seen the ship in more recent years. While the myth likely has its roots in 17th-century nautical folklore, these days you can sail to the foot of the old lighthouse in the funicular of the same name.

Part of the Table Mountain National Park that extends from Signal Hill in the north all the way to Cape Point in the south, the Cape of Good Hope is not the southern tip of Africa, despite lying at the south-west corner of the Cape Peninsula, just a little south of Cape Point on the south-east corner.

Cape Agulhas, roughly 150 kilometres southeast of here, holds this title instead. The Cape of Good Hope, however, remains a significant headland in the sense that from here one travels more eastward than southward, and it is not hard to imagine that rounding of the cape in 1488 was a major achievement.

This said, the Cape of Good Hope is one of two world-renowned landmarks within the Table Mountain National Park, the other is Table Mountain. These two familiar attractions are what draws thousands of visitors to Cape Town, not a new attribute to the Cape of Good Hope that functioned as something of a beacon for sailors for years and is still widely referred to as ‘The Cape’ by sea farers.

Table Mountain National Park boasts global recognition for its rich, varied and utterly unique fauna and flora. This is the only place on the planet where, essentially within the metropolitan area of Cape Town, one finds such a heady mix of rich bio-diversity and incredible beauty.

Most visitors to Cape Town regard a trip to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point (the tip of the Cape peninsula) as obligatory. This part of the park is home to an array of fynbos, over 250 species of birds, buck, baboons and Cape mountain zebra.

There are numerous picnic spots, paths on which one can set off on foot or mountain bike, and tidal pools on almost isolated beaches.

Source: SAVenues

Come stay over at Mariner Guesthouse in Simon’s Town and take advantage of this great offer to visit the Cape of Good Hope at Cape Point this weekend!

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14 September is the start of #SANParksweek and we are celebrating it at Cape Point – remember to bring your SA ID to claim these specials at #capepoint only valid until 19 September!. http://capepoint.co.za/specials-galore-at-cape-point-during-sanparks-week/

The Cape Peninsula (Afrikaans: Kaapse Skiereiland) is a generally rocky peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean at the south-western extremity of the African continent. At the southern end of the peninsula are Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. On the northern end is Table Mountain, overlooking Cape Town, South Africa. The peninsula is 52 km long from Mouille point in the north to Cape Point in the south.

The courses of the warm Agulhas current (red) along the east coast of South Africa, and the cold Benguela current (blue) along the west coast. Note that the Benguela current does not originate from Antarctic waters in the South Atlantic Ocean, but from upwelling of water from the cold depths of the Atlantic Ocean against the west coast of the continent. The two currents do not “meet” anywhere along the south coast of Africa.

The Peninsula has been an island on and off for the past 5 million years, as sea levels fell and rose with the ice age and inter glacial global warming cycles of, particularly, the Pleistocene. The last time that the Peninsula was an island was about 6000 years ago. Soon afterwards it was joined to the mainland by the emergence from the sea of the sandy area now known as the Cape Flats. The towns and villages of the Cape Peninsula and Cape Flats now form part of the City of Cape Town Metropolitan Municipality.

The Cape of Good Hope is sometimes given as the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Thus the west coast of the Peninsula is invariably referred to as the “Atlantic Coast”, but the eastern side is known as the “False Bay Coast”. It is atCape Point (or the Cape of Good Hope) that the ocean to the south is often said to be divided into the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Indian Ocean to the east. However, according to the International Hydrographic Organization agreement that defines the ocean boundaries, the meeting point is at Cape Agulhas, about 200 km (120 mi) to the southeast.

Similarly, Cape Point is not the fixed “meeting point” of the cold Benguela Current, running northwards along the west coast of Africa, and the warmAgulhas Current, running south from the equator along the east coast of Africa. In fact the south flowing Agulhas Current swings away from the African coastline between about East London and Port Elizabeth, from where it follows the edge of the Continental shelf roughly as far as the southern tip of the Agulhas Bank, 250 km (155 miles) south of Cape Agulhas. From there it is retroflexed (turned sharply round) in an easterly direction by the South Atlantic, South Indian andSouthern Ocean currents, known as the “West Wind Drift”, which flow eastwards round Antarctica. The Benguela Current, on the other hand, is an upwellingcurrent which brings cold, mineral-rich water from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean to the surface along the west coast of Southern Africa. Having reached the surface it flows northwards as a result of the prevailing wind and Coriolis forces. The Benguela Current, therefore, effectively starts at Cape Point, and flows northwards from there, although further out to sea it is joined by surface water that has crossed the South Atlantic from South America as part of the South Atlantic Gyre.  Thus the Benguela and Agulhas currents do not strictly “meet” anywhere, although eddies from the Agulhas current do from time to time round the Cape to join the Benguela Current.

Cape_peninsula

 

Cape Peninsula (red)

Information source: Wikipedia