The Cape of Good Hope in southern Africa was once feared by ships because of its treacherous cliffs. Today it is a breathtaking natural paradise.
The Cape of Good Hope at the southwestern tip of the African continent is one of our top 10 sights of South Africa. Located a good 40 kilometers from Cape Town, the Cape is not, as many assume, the southernmost tip of Africa (that's Cape Agulhas), but the southwesternmost.
The Cape of Good Hope juts like an arrow into the maritime borderland between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The spectacularly shaped peninsula with its steep cliffs picturesquely frames a paradisiacal white sandy beach where turquoise blue waves break.
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The treacherous Cape of Good Hope
As idyllic as the cape may look, it is in fact dangerous. The rugged rocky landscape of the cape stretches for many kilometers below the surface of the sea. Over the course of history, countless ships have fallen victim to the stone peaks and edges, some of which are only half a meter underwater, depending on the tides.
In addition to these shoals, the unpredictable strong winds that can drive a sailboat into the devastating rocky landscape, even if it is far enough from the coast, were also dangerous. For this reason, Portuguese fleet captain Bartolomeu Diaz, the first to circumnavigate the southern tip of Africa in 1488, named the dangerous headland "Cabo das Tormentas," "Cape of Storms." Silent witnesses to these pitfalls are the wrecks of more than 20 ships that still lie on the seabed off the coast of the Cape of Good Hope.
Why "Cape of Good Hope"?
There are two theories for the name "Cape of Good Hope". Supposedly it comes from the Portuguese King John II, who (rightly) hoped to have finally found the sea route to India.
Moreover, the sailors who were on this route were hopeful, after seeing the continent bend significantly to the east, that Africa would soon be circumnavigated and thus an extremely dangerous part of the journey would be behind them.
Breathtaking nature of the Cape
Since 1939, the Cape of Good Hope with its breathtaking plant diversity has been under nature protection. At 1,300, the number of plant species in the nature reserve even exceeds that of the whole of Great Britain. Orchids, ericaceae and proteas, the national flower of South Africa, are spread across the hilly landscape of the Cape in colorful carpets.
The wildlife of the Cape of Good Hope is not quite as spectacular, as the food supply on the rugged island is relatively meager, but the striking headland is nevertheless populated by zebras, eland, baboons, ostriches, turtles, lizards, snakes and 150 different species of birds.
Tip: There are also poisonous snakes at the Cape of Good Hope, such as the king cobra and the puff adder. They are quite skittish and usually flee at the first sound of a human, but still caution is advised! Much more annoying are the curious to aggressive baboons, which should not be fed under any circumstances. For safety, the car windows should also remain closed.
On the road at the Cape of Good Hope
The nature reserve at the Cape of Good Hope covers almost 800 hectares and can be explored on numerous hikes. To appreciate the unforgettable beauty of the Cape, you should take at least 3 hours. The best place to start is Cape Point, from where you can continue to the Cape of Good Hope.
15 minutes by car after the park entrance, you can take a three-minute cogwheel train ride or a walk to the lookout point at Cape Point. From the viewing platform at 214m above sea level, to which the famous bus "The Flying Dutchman" used to go up, you have an overwhelming view over the Cape of Good Hope. Perhaps you will also discover in the dense fog the ghost ship "The Flying Dutchmen", which has haunted the Cape forever since the shipwreck of Captain Hendrik van der Decken.
The one-and-a-half-hour hike along the Shipwreck Trail, which leads to two shipwrecks, is also highly recommended. Buffel Bay is a great place for a swim or picnic break, and with a bit of luck, the fountains of whales can be spotted far off the coast of False Bay.
Besides the numerous beaches and the spectacular coastline with the highest cliff in South Africa (249 meters), the Cape of Good Hope has other sights to offer. For example, the "Blockhouse", a lighthouse built in 1857, which was switched off in 1911 because it was rarely visible anyway due to the dense fog at the Cape. Two monuments, the "Dias Cross" and the "Vasco da Gama Monument" commemorate the important seafarers of the past.
Official site of Cape Point including opening hours and entrance fees